After reviewing the findings of this test, Starboard believe that the board we were supplied with may not be consistent with their production 76 and could have a problem with either the fin positioning or the shape itself (see the official response below). The board is currently being returned to Thailand to be checked and a new replacement is being sent to us to review.
Starboard have come on pretty strong this year with their Quad theme. Having had an extremely successful wave board known as the EVO, it was a bit of a surprise to find they were now dropping this and replacing it with a Quad fin wave board. It was clear that they had confidence in the new set-up.
We have already released a ‘First Impressions’ of the 81 Quad, which we got on with pretty well, so it was going to be interesting to see how its 76 litre counterpart was going to hold up. To add a bit more interest to this test, we chose to test the ‘Quad Convertible’ which comes as a Quad fin, but includes a single fin track and blanking plates for the quad fins, so that the board can be used as a single fin. The Quad convertible is only available in Wood construction, not in Starboards super light Wood Carbon.
To start with we tested this board as a Quad fin. Like the 81, this board has loads of grip in a straight line and goes upwind amazingly well. It sits quite ‘nose down’ in the water and feels quite planted, but is controllable and has power off the fins to push against, particularly in lulls and white water etc. It doesn't have the same release and ‘free feeling’ as a single fin, but also doesn't feel overly sticky or slow considering it has 4 fins and an extra fin slot!
On the wave, things are a little different. We actually had quite a lot of problems with the bottom turn on this board initially. It has a tendency when pushed hard to stop turning. This is particularly noticeable in any turn when your weight is a bit further back. For instance, when overpowered or trying to snap hard around into the section of a small wave the board seems to stop turning and almost trip the rail. After some discussion with Starboard, we realised that we had been supplied with the wrong fins for this board. Instead of the 15 & 12cm fins, we actually had 16 & 11cms. So we swapped to the correct fins.
With the correct fins, the bottom turn was a little better, but we now found it almost impossible to sail in a straight line without spinning out. Overall, it seemed to us that the bigger fins (16 & 11cm) seemed to work the best, so we put these back in and got on with the test.
Ignoring the bottom turn, there is actually quite a lot of nice features of this board. There is the straight line performance, but also on the wave, it holds speed incredibly well and less experienced riders were able to get more turns per wave out of this board than any other, so long as they didnt try to push too hard. The top turn is also good, being much tighter than a single fin and offering more grip than a twin. It is also very good in backside turns, where the fins give good grip to really snap it around on that wide, stable tail.
After spending a good deal of time on this board, we have concluded that on the wave, when going front side, the board is actually pretty good if you do a slower, wider bottom turn and aren't too powered up. Its when you try and snap it tight or are carrying a lot of power in the sail that the problems occur. Less experienced riders may find this ok, but advanced riders will have to adapt their technique to mix a slower, wider bottom turn with a more aggressive, tight top turn.
But it's not finished there, because this board can also be used as a single fin. So, we removed the 4 fins, inserted the blanking plates and selected our 21.5cm MFC 2K quiver fin to try the board in single fin set-up.
And wow, what a surprise we had! Straight away it feels very, very similar to last years EVO, which did so well in our test. In a straight line it rides a little more free and a bit faster than the Quad. It doesn't go upwind as well, but it does have a more lively exciting feel.
On the wave, it has all the merits of the EVO. It feels compact and wide underfoot, holding speed well through the turns and turning with good predictability. The bottom turn is so much better than in Quad mode, allowing you to drive the board as hard as you like without worry. The top turn isn't as tight as the Quad, but can hold its own against the other single fins in this test.
After sailing this board in single fin mode for some time, we were left wondering when we would actually use it as a Quad. The Quad goes upwind a little better, has a tighter top turn and holds a little more speed through the turns, but is considerably disadvantaged by the unpredictable bottom turn. The single fin is more exciting in a straight line, much more predictable on the wave and generally feels like a more polished and fun board to sail.
We get the impression that as a Quad, the 76 isn’t quite as refined as the 81 we tried previously. It has merits that are unmatched by other boards in this test, but the unpredictable bottom turn is an issue which we would struggle to offset against the good points of this board. As a single fin however, this board is a whole different prospect and one we liked very much. For those who thought the EVO was dead...it isn’t. It’s now called the Quad convertible.