Starboard’s 2015, 8-8 AirBorn review by Atlantic Paddle Surfing
What Starboard says; … The 2015 8′-8” Air Born is a larger version of the highly regarded 2014 Air Born series range for maximum shredding in smaller surf. Thin rails and profile (thickness) combine with the width for a stable yet sensitive and highly responsive ride. Drive and acceleration, when the wave is lacking power, is provided by the mono concave bottom creating the ability to generate speed and project vertically. Although a fast rocker, it’s still able to fit in the pocket for tight carves with release coming from V in the tail for letting the fins go when desired. This board was designed for the even larger riders in the over the 180 lbs plus providing plenty of float and stability. Mono-concave throughout the boards bottom..
My first look and impression of the 8′-8” Air Born is the fish style shape with a relaxed rocker and flat deck from rail to rail. Light weight at just over 17 lbs. ( BRUSHED CARBON ) There is a continuous outline curve from nose to tail with no parallel rails. The board’s wider fish/swallow tail, flat mid section and generous width up on the pulled in nose area giving it a sweet look. This board reminds me of the older fish type twin fin surfboard shapes of the late 70’s early 80’s. ( what I learned to surf on).. You notice it as a thinner board at 3.7 inches as apposed to all the other thicker 4 inch plus SUP’s. This distributes the volume through-out the board and combined with a flatter rocker, overall width providing stability in a thinner- smaller SUP.. Allowing maneuverability. I really like the flat deck from rail to rail, not a domed type deck that limits the width of your stance, There is plenty area to move around. Being thinner with the high apex /low pinched rails allows the water to flow around the rail providing responsiveness. The flatter bottom in the midsection helps provide the stability needed along with its lower rocker, abrupt tail kick, and slight flip in the nose gives it the perfect rocker line allowing lots of glide on small mushy waves but also allowing the board to drive off the bottom and fit the wave while in the pocket. The hard sharp edged rails in the tail area keeps you locked in and helps the tail hold while turning. The deck pad added by manufacturer is a smooth alligator type texture provides lots of grip to my surprise. The tail area’s diamond textured pad and high kick pad keeps your back foot where it needs to be while driving the board on the wave.The board is supplied with 5 FCS fin boxes, quad fin set up plus a center fcs box for the option of a thruster combination. The supplied fins are the FCS Hexcel 4.7’s and 4.5. I felt these were too much fin feeling a bit stiff surfing and doing turns. To loosen up the board, I set it up with the supplied fins, 4.5’s up front and FCS Glass Flex GX side bites ( 3.93 depth). I like the feel of the flex fins and this loosened up the board allowing me to drive the board off the bottom turn. I did try the board set up as a thruster, Mick Fanning fins, MF1’s, but the board was really not maneuverable feeling stiff . The board just did not have that power, hold or drive. I felt as though the board was sluggish and provided no magic. I think set up as a thruster, the fins are too far apart, not complimenting each other or working together. As much as I’m a thruster or 2+1 fin guy, the Quad is the way to go with this board. When i did get the board in larger surf, I added the small 2.5” Knubster in the center up forward of the rear center FCS box. This allowed me to control the speed and direct the board off the tail.
The performance of the board: When I first stood on the board noticing its amazing stability. ( I’m 190 lbs ). I started paddling out into the surf, I paddled thru the waves and the board pierced right through the white water. I was not pulled back or sucked backwards as I continued to power through up and over the oncoming whitewater.. Compared to my earlier boards, which were all great (WP 8-2 & 8-10, and PR ), all having bigger boxy rails in the nose area which seemed to get held up in the whitewater making one struggle a bit more punching through the surf. The new AirBorn’s stability was great waiting for the waves. I can just stand motionless with out struggling, with out paddling ,with no tipsiness what so ever. My thought;” More work equals no fun”. So why struggle. Its all about having fun. There is that happy medium ”Where stability matches maneuverability or your going to sacrifice one for the other. To me this board has the perfect compliment of each, stability and manuverability … On our windy, choppy days the AirBorn is not challenging and still pretty stable. This reinforces confidence to paddle, stay in position to catch waves dispute the lack luster surface conditions. The board has a slight yaw while paddling. It’s what I expected especially from a small board but it does paddle easy. I did paddle the board 3-4 miles in flat water with no difficulty on several occasions and was very comfortable having no real struggle. Catching waves seems easy too. As your getting lifted up and start to gain speed you can set your feet and easily direct the board down the line. The board projects off the bottom when applying a bottom turn. You can shift your weight forward, alter your stance and trim to gain the speed needed to move across the wave making sections. When planting the paddle in the water leveraging those turns the board’s hard edges aid in sharp pivot turns . In the smaller waves the board excels too. It glides effortlessly but I can throw the nose around when powering off the tail. I have taken the board in larger clean surf, 4-5 ft and added the trailer fin to stabilize without the speed wobbles. The extra fin trailing makes for nice flow from rail to rail and off the tail. As a quad in the smaller mushy waves the smaller side bites makes the board loose for me. I can skate around the sections, gain speed when needed and I can slide the tail out when I’m way back on the tail kick pad. Keeping the board responsive. The nose lift allows confidence to drop in late and not purling, which is a good thing. The thin rails do not dig in as much as those larger thick railed SUPs that roll on edge when catching the rail… Even in the lack luster surf its hard to bury the rail. The board does perform well for me. I’m still getting use to the board and I’m sure I can play with the fins and they will make subtle changes for the better. My brushed carbon version is strong, durabile and light weight. The new hand grab makes the board easy and comfortable. While transporting to and from the beach there is no fatigue on the fingers, hand or arm. My only drawbacks; The neon bright orange in the tail that could be toned down some. But you can see the board if lost on the inside. I feel the center back fin box is set too far back on my model. Having the fins set as thruster making the fins too far apart. My opinion maybe a 8” to 10” center slide fin box so one can makie it a 2+1 fin option. I added a FCS plug on the nose for a go-pro accessory for filming and picture taking.
This board has become a go to board for me and I’m still discovering its hidden attributes. I will play around with different fins and continue to see what the board can do. I’m really impressed with the boards performance and would recommend it for the larger SUP surf rider wanting maneuverability with out sacrificing stability. If your able to get on one of these new AirBorns do so and give it a try. They do work especially on our East Coast waves. Starboard finally made a board for the larger rider allowing them maneuverability and stability in one performance SUP ..Thank you…
.The AirBorn is offered in three smaller sizes and the newer 15′ models are offered in Brushed Carbon and Wood constructions with installed deck pads.. See Starboard’s website for more info on the AirBorn and all their other products.
My rider info stats : Surfing over 35 years, Stand Up Paddling for almost 8 years and SUP surfing since then. 190 lbs, 5-10 , 50 years old, advanced wave rider…Waves usually 2-5 ft East Coast USA, from clean to windy choppy conditions, we take what we get…..Wetsuit and booties/gloves in winter for 3 months. Paddle height 77” Past boards was 8-10 &; 8-2 WP , Pocket Rocket , 9-2 / 9-6 PSH AA, 9-3 SubVector and various other boards to experiment with from 8-2 to 9-8 models..