2015 Performance Race Board Test

Types of SUPs:
Starboard All Star
Bark D2
Naish Javelin LE
Infinity Blackfish
SIC X-14 Pro Lite
SIC X-14 Pro

Test team:
Steve Gates: 65 years old, 5’9”, 150 lbs.
TJ Gulizia: 39 years old, 5’10”, 165 lbs.
Jon Davies: 39 years old, 6’0”, 190 lbs.
MacRae Wylde: 51 years old, 5’10”, 170 lbs.
Ford Huntington: 17 years old, 5’11”, 175 lbs.
Don Wiley: 53 years old, 5’9”, 152 lbs.

Conditions:
Smooth water with a light breeze

A few words about our Test Team:

“With an amazing array of new 2015 high performance race boards in our shop, I wanted to get the best read possible on how these boards compare. I rounded up a very experienced group of guys with plenty of SUP races under their belts over the past decade. Among the group we have multiple wins and podiums all over the U.S., including Battle of the Paddle, Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, Oregon Open Ocean Classic, Round the Rock, Willamette Cup, Carolina Cup and more. We have all paddled a ton of boards over the years and were stoked to get together and chase each other around on some of the fastest fourteens on the planet. As you can see from our comments we have varying impressions of the boards. This is good and as it should be. ” -Steve Gates

 

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Starboard All Star 14′ x 25” Custom Carbon 269 L. 25 lbs $3399:

Steve: This All Star is very fast and slippery feeling. Not the most stable, but the glide and acceleration are excellent. It would be best-suited for advanced and expert paddlers up to +/- 185 lbs. who want a fast board in a wide variety of conditions.
TJ: Fast! This board speaks to me. The one characteristic that stands out is the flex pattern. Positive and negative “yaw” allowing the board to get to maximum speed from a dead start. Not the lightest, but certainly one of the fastest. Best for paddlers who want to excel in a variety of conditions – very versatile.
Jon: Nice water release, glides well. I like the new deck height. Fairly stable, great top end speed. This was my favorite board of the test. Best for a flat-water race.
Macrae: This is the go-to, all around board. It has the ability to perform in any conditions. No matter who was on it, it seemed to perform, and it had the fastest GPS time of any test. It’s a little taller than last year’s, and has a distinct, stiff feel when you get on it. Very stable and tracks well. Best for a medium-to-large person who expects to paddle in many different conditions. My favorite.
Don: This and the Bark were my favorites. When the All Star got up to speed it had a balanced and consistent feeling in all directions relative to the light wind and chop from other boards. Tracking didn’t seem to be affected by the wind. It would be a great race or all-around board for someone my weight or above.
Ford: Incredibly fast and responsive board. It really cuts through the water with ease. Fast acceleration and is able to hold a steady, fast pace. It’s best suited for anyone looking to really bring their overall athletic ability up. Whether you’re working out or racing, the All Star doesn’t disappoint in any areas. I’d say you need relatively good balance to paddle a board like this. If you like recessed decks (some people don’t) then this is the board for you.

 

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Bark D2 14’ x 26” Pro Elite 238 L. 27 lbs. $2449

Steve: This board has characteristically smooth Joe Bark feel. Effortless and quick, it’s fast, stable, and easy to turn. It would be best for intermediate to expert paddlers +/- 180 lbs. who want a fast, stable board in even bumpy conditions.
TJ: A great addition to the Bark line-up. The D2 is as fast as any of the 14’ x 26” boards tested, the low profile shape is great in crosswind conditions, and it doesn’t get pushed around. The tray (standing area) is comfortable with contours under foot, allowing the paddler to feel their position on the deck. Best for paddlers up to 185 lbs., looking for a fast 14’ race board that excels in dead flat to crosswind.
Jon: Nice mix of stability and speed. Loved the extended flat deck surface. The long, narrow nose seemed to cut the water well without inhibiting turning. Broad tail should allow for some downwind ability. While it may not be the absolute fastest, it was really easy to paddle. Best for a mid-sized paddler in flat to moderate conditions.
MacRae: Fast, comfortable board. There will not be any tricks in learning how to ride it. It is quiet and slices through the water with ease. The top-end speed was great, it was easy to sit in the draft train. It’s quite stable and tracks well. The best part of this board is there’s nothing wrong with it! Would work well for medium-to-large people looking for a race board that’s easy to paddle.
Don: This board stood out for me. It had a light, agile, close-to-water feeling that I didn’t quite get with other 14-footers. Very stable for its width, easy to sink for pivot turns, still quite secure. The nose buried in chop a few times when I moved towards the front of the deck pad, but I couldn’t tell at all by feeling. The white bottom paint is a bonus for someone whose board spends a lot of time on the roof of a car. It would be a great race or all-around board for light paddlers. I think it would be fine for down to 130 lbs. or so.
Ford: The D2 was as stable as a 26” with the responsiveness of a board much narrower. Felt solid underfoot, and turned extremely fast. Best suited for anyone. I’d say it would be a great first race board or a board for someone who’s been racing for years.

 

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Naish Javelin LE 14’ x 26” L. 20 lbs. $3999

Steve: Deceptively fast, very smooth and quite stable. As a wider board, it’s more stable, but it’s also the lightest and really responsive to each paddle stroke. Turns easily. It would be best for intermediate to expert paddlers up to 200 lbs. that want a single board for a wide range of conditions.
TJ: Very stable, comfortable standing area, and light! One of the lightest constructions offered at only 21 lbs. I like the flat deck, no water pools, and it’s easy to run around on. Best for anyone looking to compete at the highest level and stand atop the podium!
Jon: Nice flat deck with a great traction pad. Seems plenty fast but position on the board is critical. I really like everything about it except the low-pointed nose, which tends to dig into the water if you’re not careful. Seems best for larger paddlers, flat water only.
MacRae: This board is super stable. It feels wider than 26” but paddles well in flat water. It seems like the nose is designed to go over the water rather than a wave piercing through the water – to make this work you have to stand a bit further back than on other boards. It can catch in a draft train, but once you find the sweet spot it tracks well and is fast. This board can support anyone, but it might feel big for a small person, and a larger person would be rewarded for testing different fore and aft positions.
Don: Unfortunately I didn’t give the Javelin a fair chance – I found it kind of squirrely and had a tough time staying in a draft train. In hindsight, I was standing way too far forward, this was putting the nose too deep in the water and causing it to wander from side to side. Next time I’ll stand a little behind the paddle. This board would’ve been fine (maybe ideal) for my weight if I’d stood farther back.
Ford: Naish always makes a solid board. And the 2015 Javelin still holds that same standard Naish is known for. Fast and stable in all conditions, his board is great for anyone over 150 lbs. It’s also a great board for some of the bigger guys looking for stability without compromising their speed.

 

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Infinity Blackfish ST 14’ x 26” Custom Carbon 22 lbs.

Steve: This board is an attention getter with a custom carbon look and three-fin configuration. It’s light, fast, and moves well in smooth water. The lifted nose allows for excellent control in rough conditions. Best for: advanced to expert paddlers up to 190 lbs. wanting a downwind capable, all-conditions race board.
TJ: This custom board is different than any other SUP I’ve paddled. It is by far the most stable 25” board I’ve ever paddled. The three-fin configuration is interesting, effective for stability, tracking and speed. It feels light and nimble, but the water that “whiskers” off the nose is different than boards with a piercing nose. Excels in bumpy water, and will get you to the front of the pack at “moto-cross” mass start races. Best suited for anyone looking for stability in a narrow width. Versatile for bumps and downwind runs too!
Jon: Very stable and easy to paddle. It has a curious but pleasant water release. The unique fin setup is intriguing. Not sure who it would best be suited for.
MacRae: Just looking at the board you can’t help but think wow – that is different! The narrow nose, wide and thick tail, and three fins is certainly a different configuration from what we’re used to seeing. Rides well over water, made the most splash of the test. Speed-wise, it was right there with all the others. Because of the big tail, this board seemed really stable. Easy turns. It seemed to come out of the water with each stroke – it surged ahead. My impression was that a bigger paddler with a powerful stroke would be best for this board, but the volume and stability could support anyone.
Don: Hmm. It had a different feel but I’m not sure why – probably because I was psyched out by thrusters on a race board. It hung in the draft train well and responded well to sweep turns. Pivot turns took a little more effort than the others. I felt like I was a little too light for this one – maybe best for 160 lbs. and up.
Ford: Interesting board. At first I wasn’t sure what I thought of it but it definitely grew on me. The Blackfish seemed very rigid in the water. Kick turns were very comfortable on this board, most likely because of the tri-fin setup. If you like a board that can hold its speed and accelerate when you need it to, this is for you. It’s very different from any board I’ve ever been on, but I could see anyone looking for something different really enjoying it.

 

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SIC X-14 Pro Lite 14’ x 24” 253 L. 23 lbs. $2799

Steve: The Pro Lite is fast and sleek. The glide and acceleration are impressive, as well as the speed. This was the narrowest board, but didn’t lack for stability. Very fun and very fast, this board would be best for advanced to expert paddlers under 180 lbs. looking for an elite-level race board.
TJ: Speed over stability, but manageable for only 24”! It gets to speed quick and stays there. The standing area is slightly recessed, allowing the side of your foot to find a wall to brace off when stepping back for a pivot turn. Best for light-weight riders (175 lbs. and under) looking for a fast board that will keep speed with little effort in strength, but willing to be challenged in bumpier waters.
Jon: Really more stable than you would guess for a board of this width. It’s too small for me but for someone less than 170 it would be a good alternative. Best suited for flat-water racing.
MacRae: Looks fast, was fast. This board slid through the water with ease. What I really liked was there was almost no slowing or drag as you finished your stroke. Even at speed, the board seemed to hold its momentum, and was the smallest board in the test. It’s easy to paddle. Would best suit smaller to medium paddlers, and larger paddlers with good agility. I think it would be best for someone with an efficient stroke over a power stroke.
Ford: One of my new favorite boards. Feels just like the X-14 Pro, just narrower. Has that kind of responsiveness that a skateboard or a short board surfboard does despite being 14 feet. This is the perfect board for someone my size. Best for: someone who is very confident with their balance. It’s not for anyone – it’s an extremely high performance board made for the paddler who is relatively advanced in their stroke and overall technique.

 

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SIC X-14 Pro 14’ x 26” 253 L. 23 lbs. $2799

Steve: Stable and fast, bigger guys can take this board in almost any conditions and have a great time. A proven, competitive elite-level race board. Best suited for an intermediate to expert paddler up to 200 lbs. looking for a single board for many conditions.
TJ: I paddled the SIC X-14 all last season and loved it! The SCC construction puts it at one of the lightest options in its class at only 23 lbs.! The X-14 Pro seems to have a very efficient waterline that maxes out from nose to tail, and the low profile shape doesn’t get pushed around in cross winds. Best for someone looking for a fast 14’ elite class board, for coarse racing, sprints, and even mild downwind.
Jon: This board has rounded rails, which can leave the paddler feeling vulnerable at first. Once you realize it’s actually quite stable, you can settle down and pick up speed. It’s fast – great water release and it seemed to be the best gliding. Best suited for flat-water racing.
MacRae: This board is a flat-water machine. It’s very predictable, fast, and has a good glide. The board accelerated well and was not difficult to keep at a high rate of speed. It doesn’t feel wide, but it’s very stable. Best suited for small paddlers looking for a stable, fast board, or for medium and large paddlers looking for a fast flat-water board.
Don: Great glide and tracking, and very comfortable in the draft train. It seemed to take a little more effort to make small direction changes than the others. This board is fine for m weight, but for a one-board quiver I’d lean more towards the Bark, All Star, or Javelin.
Ford: This is one of the most solid boards out there. It just feels incredible to paddle. It’s the perfect combo between a board that is fast and a board that’s quick- it can accelerate really well, but can also hold a fast pace no problem. Great board. This is best for someone who’s really looking to get faster. Its stability will throw you off at first if you aren’t used to narrower boards, but once you get used to it, I don’t think you could go wrong.

Click to go to bigwinds.com

 

 

 

Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031

888-509-4210

www.bigwinds.com