AirPlane 285, WindsurfJournal (France), November 2015

Air in your board, wind in your sail… Introducing the revolutionary AirPlanes 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 on Windsurf Journal.com.

Starboard AirPlane 285: “Another dimension!”

Length: 285 cm
Width: 90.0 cm
Tail Width: 56.5 cm
Thickness: 12.0 cm
Weight: Equipped 14.80 kg / Naked 13.40 kg
Fin: Drake Freeride Power 42 + Drake Shallow 22 (Tuttle FAST Box + FAST US Box)
Sail range: 2.0m² – 7.5m²

The AirPlane experience begins as we receive the board: the box is much smaller than a traditional board’s box. As we open up the box, we unwrap a very nicely finished board, rolled up in its bag with all of the accessories well stored. We didn’t get an instructions manual (these will be delivered with the production boards) but after a quick look at the board and its accessories, we quickly figured out how to assemble this inflatable windsurf board. The hardest part was figuring out which way to fit the Tuttle box system. The double-action pump delivered with the board is efficient and inflating is hassle-free. Make sure you don’t forget to fit the mast track insert in the opening to begin with as air pressure maintains it in position. The footstraps are already fixed on the board so there isn’t much else to do except insert the Tuttle box in the opening and finish inflating to lock the box in position. The second part of the inflation process is a lot more complicated! 18 PSI are required to get a stiff board and that takes a bit of hard work!

On the Water:

We did it, the board is now inflated and ready to go. Let’s have some fun! We were lucky enough to try the AirPlane in relatively strong winds with a 5.0m² sail and the board got planing very well. The Drake Freeride Power 42 cm fin provides lift, yes, but also a lot of traction. On the beach, some may doubt the strength of the fin box but these doubts are quickly forgotten as you start planing for the first time. The board behaves well in a straight line although the nose does sometimes get caught by a strong gust. Overall, it remains easier to control than a lighter board. The jibe process is exactly the same as on a traditional hard board, with more speed at the exit due to the thickness in the tail. We were even able to track upwind and ride a bit of swell. A very enjoyable moment with this inflatable windsurf board, although we should have inflated a bit more (all the way to 18 PSI) to push it even faster. It’s also very nice to be able to move around the board whether you are tacking or practicing old school freestyle thanks to the inflatable deck, which is very reassuring.

In SUP mode, the volume of the board allows to take children on board to cruise around. However, be careful when paddling near the shore to avoid hitting rocks or reef; the fin is a 42 cm long freeride fin, not a short SUP fin.

We also wanted to try the board and its ability to plane in marginal conditions with a bigger cambered sail (a 7.3m²). Obviously, the AirPlane 285 wasn’t designed for these light winds but it still performed well. We could easily imagine ourselves cruising on lakes or by the shore. There is traction to push against and get the board planing although the board is a bit heavy and there is slightly more drag than with a hard board. The width of the board is also very reassuring and provides a level of stability that is similar to the current school boards. And once on the water, you can almost forget that you are sailing on an inflatable board as you can adjust the mast base position in the mast track, fit a real Tuttle box fin and go pretty damn fast!

If inflating can be a bit long and cumbersome, deflating takes less than a minute. As soon as the air valve is opened with the pin positioned down for deflation, the board starts to deflate immediately and the fin, its fin box and the mast track can be removed as wall pressure decreases. Only thing left to do is roll up the board from the tail (the air valve is located in the nose), put it in the bag with all of the fittings, tighten the rope, close the bag and carry it to the trunk of your car. Yes, you read correctly, the trunk of your normal car, no roof rack or trailer required.

Conclusion:

It’s brand-new, it’s innovative and it works quite well! A true do-it-all board, for windsurf schools and families with a lot of room for progression. It’s true that there are other boards out there that can accommodate a rig but the quality of the accessories on the AirPlane translate into easy planing fun and the glide is there. The fin is a real Tuttle box, and the mast base position can be adjusted: clearly another dimension compared to what’s available out there at the moment! Starboard have hit the nail on the head with this board.

Who’s it For?:

This AirPlane 285 isn’t really designed for thrill-seeking freeriders who want to get rid of the transport hassle of a hard board. It’s more of a board that fits into the quiver of a family man who holidays at the beach as the board can be used as a standup paddle but also for teaching or intermediate riders looking to enjoy a bit of planing. Obviously, it can also be pushed for speed and racing with friends with bigger sails when the conditions allow it and that’s the strength of this board! It’s the perfect board for those looking to use it with their families, teach a friend or just blast on the water.

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!