So What's The Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board?What's the best inflatable stand up paddle board? We get asked this question quite frequently. Truth be told, there's no "best stand up paddle board" - but there are a few contenders for boards that do everything well. The Starboard Astro Whopper 10' happens to be one of these boards. It's buttery smooth, predictable, well constructed, backed by a great company and priced reasonably. Because we specialize in selling retail items for river-centric sports, we're always eager to stock SUP's that perform well in whitewater. Starboard is a brand that builds traditionally shaped SUP's that CRUSH it on rivers. This includes surfing, down river paddling and even racing. Why are they so good for river use? The reason is because Starboard SUP seems to have found the perfect storm of SUP manufacturing. They have a high level production facility, with on site expertise and management, 18 years of manufacturing experience, and most importantly, the "Dan Gavere factor." If you want to know what the Dan Gavere factor is, hop on a 10' Astro Whopper, take it for a surf and paddle it downriver...and then you will know. Here's an informational rundown on that focuses on the Astro Whopper, as well as a few other inflatables in their lineup.
STARBOARD ASTRO WHOPPER 10' PROS:
- THOROUGHBRED LINEAGE: Starboard has had a reputation for making top echelon wind surfing boards for almost 20 years. They build the boards out of the Cobra facility, which is one of the best. Starboard was also the first company to use brushed carbon fiber, which has a higher strength to weight ratio than traditional epoxy boards, yet it weighs 30% less. Also, the Starboard pro team is second to none. With world class riders (like Dan Gavere) giving regular feedback, it's pretty easy to come up with solid designs. In short, 18 years of refinement equals great designs.
- QUALITY CONTROL IN MANUFACTURING (HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS): Starboard has a design facility in Bangkok Thailand. Sven Rasmussen (owner) lives on site, which does wonders for the company's quality control. Starboard is literally able to create, shape and produce a new design in a couple of hours, and then test it at their on site R and D facility. Their proving grounds includes a flatwater pond, and water skate park (tow rope) for all different types of testing. Because of the expedited nature of their product testing, Starboard is able to stay ahead of the curve in regards to progressive designs.
PROGRESSIVE TECHNOLOGY: There are quite a few reasons to take a look at the 10' Astro Whopper for the river SUP realm. For starters, the boards inflate up to 18 lbs, and have been tested in the 22/23 lb range. The high pressure capability in combination with construction method (starboard uses approx. 20% more tensile filament than other brands) creates a VERY stiff platform.
The boards are also built with static negative rocker, which is a reverse rocker (looks like camber on a ski) on the center of the board, that loads when you stand on it. This creates correct rocker, and keeps the board from looking like a banana when paddled. Also, the rocker profile in general is as close to perfect as you can get. Many SUP's have a flat bottom and a kicked up nose. The reason for this is because it's easy to fabricate a flat board with a little bit of kick rocker on the nose. It is very difficult to construct a board with a progressive rocker profile (from close to the center of the board, all the way to the end of the nose). This requires a high tensile rail band - which the Starboard has.
So what is the result of the progressive rocker on the nose, as well as a rockered tail?
The Astro Whopper just feels right. It turns easily, paddles over river features rather than plowing through them, and surfs like a dream (especially for a 10' x 35" inflatable SUP). The nose is rockered just enough to be able to surf river waves with troughs that are steeper than traditional longboard waves, and the tapered / rockered tail allows the Astro Whopper to turn easily down river, and carve solid turns when surfing. If learning to river surf is as much of a priority as down river paddling - the 10' Astro Whopper should be the first board that you look at.
In this photo you can see slight tail rocker as well as the well defined progressive nose rocker.The tapered tail helps with performance. The board turns easier downriver, and makes for easy carving when surfing.Top the Whopper off at 18 PSI. Lots of internal filament and 18 lbs of pressure create a super stiff (and light) board. The board has even been tested between 20-25 PSI.One more shot of the progressive nose rocker. You can see how the rocker begins quite a ways back from the tip of the nose (as opposed to right at the tip).
STIFFNESS, LIGHT WEIGHT AND GREAT ROCKER PROFILE....DID WE ALREADY MENTION THAT?:Real world, intelligent ideas and designs, combined with high tech manufacturing is what separates the Astro Whopper from the rest of the pack. Many people wonder why some boards are priced at $400-$600, and why others (like the Astro Whopper) cost nearly double, if not more. Here's why...STIFFNESS and HIGH PERFORMANCE:Starboard utilizes a technology knows as a Parabolic Anti Torsional System. This is a high tensile rail band that makes the board stiffer and keeps it from twisting. The red rails are compression laminated which also allows Starboard to build a true rocker profile (and not settle for what is cheap and easy to build), and keep the board stiff. If you are looking for a board that goes beyond the Starboard standard stiffness, take a look at the deluxe model. The Astro Whopper deluxe is the same shape as the fun model, except is 6" thick (as opposed to 4") which makes it 15% more rigid and gives it 50% more volume. The Deluxe model claim to fame (in regards to board stiffness) is the high tensile uni dimensional stringer that runs down the center of the board from the tip to the tail. This is a 10" wide strip of composite that runs down the entire length of the board adding even more stiffness. Starboard is the only company that is currently using a 10" wide stringer.
This is a close up of the compression laminated rails. Starboard calls this the Parabolic Anti Torsional System. Basically, it creates torsional stiffness and keeps the board from twisting. It also allows Starboard to integrate a progressive rocker profile into the Whopper.
LOTS OF GREAT FEATURES:Both the Fun and Deluxe models of the Astro Whopper come with many useful features. The grooved EVA 3mm foam deck pad provides traction and comfort.There is a sturdy D ring on the tail of the board for a leash or tie down point. The 4.5" side bite fins on the Fun model are permanent, and the 6.75" center fin is removable. The deluxe model has 3 removable fins, as well as a few more fin size options. The center handle is comfortable and evenly balanced. The deck bungees on the front of the board make bringing gear with your on an outing is easy.
The D ring is glued onto the board and has been tested under rigorous conditions. It will not peel off.Deck mounted bungees are great for a dry bag with first aid kit, camera and some snacks.Comfy grab handle balanced in the middle of the board.The Fun version of the Astro Whopper comes with 2 permanent 4.5" side bite fins, and a removable 6.75" center fin.Full repair kit includes - fin locks, all type of patch material, glue and a valve wrench.The Astro Whopper 10' Fun series come with a nice bag. The board fits in easily - you do not feel like you are doing a Cross Fit work out when inserting the deflated board.
COMES WITH A GREAT PUMP:If you've previously owned an inflatable SUP, than you know that the included pump can often be a topic of concern. Many of them fall apart after a season of use, and others are not capable of topping off boards at anything beyond 10 psi. Starboard has come up with a solution. They are including a high pressure floor pump that is capable of inflating the board from 0-18psi. The pump is only about 3.5" in diameter instead of 5" (or more in some cases). In general, the narrower the gauge of the tube set, the higher the pressure the pump is capable of generating.
The Starboard brand pump is capable of generating 18+ lbs of pressure.
STARBOARD ASTRO WHOPPER 10' CONS:
- SIDE BITE FINS ARE NOT REMOVABLE FOR FUN VERSION:The fin options for the Astro Whopper 10' Fun version are somewhat limited. The side bite fins are great, but they are not removable. The center fin does come out, but you are still stuck with the two 4.5" side bites. A lot of downriver paddlers (especially on shallow rivers) like to paddle with no fins at all because they are less likely to get hung up on rocks. Fortunately, the Deluxe model comes with 3 removable fins of all shapes and sizes - but it also costs $400 more. FYI - The plus side to having permanent fins, is that you cannot lose them.
THE DELUXE VERSION IS EXPENSIVE ($1500):If you are a core downriver stand up paddler, and want a 6" drop stitch, and ultra stiff board with 3 removable fins, you are going to have to pay for it - to the tune of $1500. There are 6" drop stitch boards on the market for 1/3 the price, but they come NOWHERE CLOSE to the quality of construction, or performance level of the Astro Whopper 10' Deluxe. Between the 10" wide center stringer, 6" stitch, plethora of fin options and full length deck pad, the Deluxe version is worth every penny, but$1500 is a lot of pennies.
R and D testing, pushing limits - all in a days work for Dan Gavere.