AirPlane 255, SURF (Germany), August 2015

Introducing the new AirPlane with Rail Edge technology: fully planing inflatable freeride boards, available with fully retractable daggerboards, center fin version and kids’ size. The lightest, toughest and most compact windsurf boards.

The following test was featured in the August 2015 edition of SURF Magazin.

Starboard AirPlane 255: “The only inflatable board with planing abilities”

Pros:

+The only inflatable board with planing abilities on the market; +Easy transport; +Catapult tested and approved

Cons:

Paddling compared to a WindSUP;
Our test prototype had minor fin box issues

Length: 255 cm
Width: 80.0 cm
Tail Width: 52.5 cm
Thickness: 12.0 cm
Weight: Equipped 12.80 kg / Naked 11.40 kg
Fin: Drake Freeride Power 42 + Drake Shallow 22 (Tuttle FAST Box + FAST US Box)
Sail range: 2.0m² – 6.5m²

I have to get one, immediately! Not because I need it, but I just need to try, need to know how it works.” We are most probably not the only ones with these thoughts after seeing the first short online video clip.

We had already seen and tested a lot of inflatable boards in our previous tests, but this; what we saw on the videos was in fact unimaginable: a rubber bullet fully planing. Just a few days later, we packed the first prototype available on European soil in the trunk of our car. Rolled up, the board is not bigger than a trekking backpack. And we were lucky! A few days later we got wind: Beaufort 4 strength from the West, perfect for the 7.8m² and 18 PSI out of the compressor for the board.

On the Water:

On the water, the shape feels a bit big due to the drop-stitch technology used in inflatable boards which has the same thickness at the nose and at the tail of the board. Our 255 centimeters long inflatable freerider has enough volume to support the biggest heavy weights. When you step on it for the first time, it doesn’t feel very different from a big conventional hard board. Actually, the softer deck gives a nice cushioned feeling under the feet. Hooked in the harness, I wait for the first gust which finally arrives. The Starboard AirPlane starts to get going a bit slower than a conventional freerider, but I withstand the pressure and step in the outside footstraps and then it happens: the vortex around the tail’s rails – where all other inflatable boards stick to the water – disappears rapidly and I see a clean, smooth water exit just like I would on my composite freeride board. The secret? A thin glued edge that acts as a sharp rail to release the water but that can be rolled up with the board.

Then comes the jibe. Entering the jibe, everything feels quite normal. However, I tend to get thrown off the board during the second part of the jibe. As soon as the board gets too much onto its rails, the arc of the jibe changes and the AirPlane goes into a narrow turn. Best to keep the board flatter.

What about planing through lulls and passive planing (no pumping)? Well, the AirPlane 255 prototype we had required a lot of wind to get going without pumping. But then again, our test board’s fin box wasn’t perfectly aligned, thus dragging a bit. Compared to the other inflatable boards available on the market, the AirPlane’s fin box fits into a matching hole in the board, where wall pressure holds the box firmly in place and connects the rider directly to the fin like on a conventional hard board. The fin box is compatible with all Tuttle fins. The front fin box (for kids and beginners) was positioned right in the planing area too. Small details which may have impacted negatively the planing performance, but should be corrected in production.

SURF Verdict:

The potential of these AirPlanes is there and that’s clear. The windsurfing reality; what is accepted today; is changing quite rapidly thanks to these boards. Planing with a windsurf board taken out of the trunk of a car is already possible and will be developed in one direction: straight forward.

It’s hard to find a stronger board than an inflatable one, especially for the first planing attempts. Catapults resulting in smashed or broken board noses are history. We are looking forward with the same excitement to see the first production board. Do you also need a fully-planing inflatable windsurfing board? You will decide.

Find out everything there is to know about the AirPlane here!
And for more test reviews, just head over to Magazine Test page, with more than 200 reviews going back to 2006!