Starboard Touring review: my 12′ 6 x 30″ island of bliss
Two days ago I picked up a Starboard Touring SUP board. If you’re not yet a paddler and are wondering what the difference between a touring sup and a ‘regular’ SUP is, a touring SUP is the board you’ll be shown if you walk into a shop and tell them you want to get a board for exploring, flat water cruising, stowing gear on deck for camping and fishing, fun racing, downwinders, up rivers, in fact anything apart from hard core wave riding. BUT! As I shall demonstrate, if you really want to glide in waves that are too small to surf, this is the shape you need.
There’s quite an interesting anatomy to a touring board. First up, look at that nose. It’s a sort of displacement design, meant for piercing chop when chop is there, and when it isn’t, it lies very flat on the water to increase waterline and stop you from pushing water, and consequently you glide beautifully with each stroke of the paddle. It completely works; tonight we paddled out of Newquay Harbour, explored the cliffs around the Newquay Bay, met some friends already out paddling off the coast near Lusty Glaze, went round to Whipsiderry, through the Porth Headland tunnel and back round to Lusty, through loads of rocks and then home. It took just one hour.
That pointed nose also promotes ‘tracking’; this means you get to paddle a lot more strokes on one side without the board steering off course. You want this because switching sides with your paddle over and over on a long trip is not efficient. Also on the nose section there is a raised up area like a watershed, and that’s exactly what it is. When paddling in the open ocean or windy conditions, water can wash over the nose of the board and that messes with your paddling. The watershed makes the water run off quicker and the board recovers quicker from swamping.
If you’ve already paddled a rounded, lower-in-the-water surf style SUP out of the wave zone, you’ll be able to jump on a board like this right away and stroke out for the horizon. When you’re stood still, you might find it feels a bit more ‘tippy’ than a wide, low surf SUP, but that’s just the artifice of primary stability afforded by wide flat boards. When you rock the Touring from side to side, or take a bit of sideways chop, it actually becomes more stable than a round, wide, thinner railed board and that’s because of the higher side walls presenting a greater surface area to the water when the board’s off balance. That’s called secondary stability and in real life it translates to this: you think you’re going over, you go ‘wooah’, wobble a bit and the board corrects itself. Another benefit to the higher ride height is that it keeps water off the board and your feet dry
Boards like this are less manoeuvrable than surfy type SUPs and require more positive action on your part i.e. you have to step further back on the tail to affect a kick turn. But that more ‘planted’ feel that the Touring gives you is a benefit. Firstly as we’ve seen, it lets the board track better. Secondly, it’s becomes a lot easier to hold position such as when you’re rafting up to a harbour wall or boat, or navigating through tight rocky areas where you wouldn’t want to hit anything. When you’re feeling too lazy or too overburdened with kit to step one foot back you can easily 180 the board with a good sweep stroke.
I passed this board around to a few friends who were experiencing SUP for the very first time at Crantock Bay SUP Club (more on that in a future post!) and without fail they hopped on, assumed the stance and started paddling, turning and cruising about. There’s no great trick to handling a Touring board.
Is it really that good?
We’ve paddled six days out of the last seven without wetsuits and haven’t gotten a chill. In fact, we’ve been getting very hot, sweating, like you do when you’re running on a hot day. Sometimes we take Camelbaks for rehydration on long hauls. Paddling outside of the wave zone (I’m reluctant to call it ‘flat water’ as often it isn’t) is ADDICTIVE. It’s like cycling in the way that it just grabs you, but it’s better than that. A beautiful board soon becomes more than a board, it becomes your boat, your island, your sanctuary. It is your own little world and you are the master of it, going where you want to, standing upright, seeing things, safe from harm, mobile and able to travel far and without effort. You will quickly see things from angles that no one else before you has. You’ll discover new places.
I’m just waiting to clear my work commitments (editing SUP International Magazine no less) and then I’m off on a monster paddle. I’m going to get the tide right, paddle out of the harbour, turn left and go as far as I can in two hours. Then I’ll phone Kate to come and pick me up. I had a boat once, it was fun but it lost me a fortune. In the last week, I’ve notched up more miles on the SUP than I did in that boat in two years. We’ve gone from Loe Beach to Truro and back again, 13 miles round trip, up the River Fal. What a way to see the river; so quiet, stealthy, and you can see everything!
The high pressure is set to hover over us for another week at least. I bet I’ll go further on the Starboard Touring than I do walking on my own two feet.
Oh, and while I forget, here’s a little video of this board in action in some ankle high waves. Perfect!