Starboard are another brand with a ‘dream team’ of pro freestylers, contributing directly to the R&D of the production board range.
For 2009 Starboard have focused on making the Flare (freestyle) range faster, lighter, narrower and shorter.
There are three models in the 2009 range: 88, 98 and 106 litres, offered in two constructions (wood and wood carbon). We tested the 98 litre model in Wood Carbon construction.
"At the top of the R&D agenda for 2009, Dream Team Taty Frans, Nicolas Agkaziyan, Kiri Thode and Sara Quita Offringa have set ambitious goals for the new freestyle range, working with Tiesda You to produce the World's lightest freestyle boards and the most advanced shapes possible." – Starboard website
There is no doubt that Starboard put a great deal of thought into the detailing of their boards. The Flare is no exception and achieves a GOLD quality rating with the following scores.
Whilst we found the Starboard (Drake) straps a bit stiff for our liking on the wave boards, they are much nicer on the freestyle board, where a bit more feel and grip is required through spinning moves in the air.
Starboard is the only brand not to use a power box in their freestyle board. Instead they have opted for a US box. It’s your call whether you prefer this or not!
2 bonus points are scored for ‘Other Extras’ for having a double screw option on the rear strap (spreads the load on the screw and insert) and offering a recommended mast track position setting.
At 236cm, the Flare is one of the longest boards in the group and one of the narrowest at 63cm. This is an unusual departure for Starboard who often opt for wider and shorter plan shapes in their designs.
The tail width is however a bit wider, measuring 42cm (at 30cm from the tail), it is the second widest of the group.
As always, the Starboard is one of the lightest boards in the group and at 5.89kg is beaten only by the smallest of margins to pole position by the Fanatic.
The Starboard fits within a group of boards (Fanatic, Goya & Mistral) that we couldn’t separate for performance within this category. There are subtle differences to the way they perform, but for a set level of sailor, his/her success in manoeuvres is likely to be the same with all of these four boards.
On the plus side, the Starboard is a little less responsive than the Mistral which makes it more forgiving of unpolished technique but on the negative side, it is slightly smaller and less stable in the slide than the Fanatic and Goya. It's impossible to call and the differences are so small that personal preference will be the overriding factor for which board you prefer.
For very advanced moves (shakas, ponches, switch stance and combos etc) the Starboard benefits from its good carving abilities and smaller, more nimble size.
It isn’t quite as responsive and ‘slippery’ in the slide as the Mistral (the group leader for this category) and the domed deck, whilst great for blasting isn’t quite as nice for switch stance manoeuvres where a flat deck allows your foot to sit easier. It will however match all other contenders for performance within this category.
The Flare scores well for carving. Together with the Mistral, these two boards definitely feel smaller than the other four boards in test and to some extent the good carving can be attributed to this.
It doesn’t quite rival the Fanatic for ultimate carving performance but is right up there with anything else and is even nimble enough for the odd wave ride if conditions allow.
The Flare is the best board in this group for general blasting around and bump and jump. First off it has a unique domed deck (which can be seen in the photos). This makes life so much more comfortable on your back foot than any of the other boards in this group and makes the board great fun for popping jumps and forwards etc without the pain associated with flat decks.
There is no doubting the board is fast. Apparently they have borrowed aspects of the iSonics rocker line and the similarities can be felt. It is not only fast but also extremely controllable at speed. In fact, the rougher conditions get, the faster this board becomes in relation to its competitors.
Compared to the other boards in this group, the Starboard feels smaller. The longer narrower nose also contributes to this feeling.
It feels very light and stiff underfoot and as mentioned above, the domed deck is unique and absolutely brilliant for everything other than switch stance manoeuvres.
The pads are excellent and the straps are good. As we mentioned in our wave board test, they are on the stiff side but this seemed less of an issue on the freestyle boards where it can actually be quite nice to have a slightly stiffer strap to improve board control in the air.
The Starboard comes standard with a Drake Cross-over 24cm fin. Because of the ‘bump and jump’ characteristics of the board, the fin is well matched, however for proper freestyle you will need something smaller. We used 18 and 20cm fins but you can go as small as you want. Starboard is the only manufacturer in this test to provide a US box, which allows for some fin adjustment. We have to be honest and say we didn’t experiment with this much. We worked mostly around the middle position and had no complaints.
We used the Flare with sails of between 4.7 and 6.2m. For our 80kg testers, it coped fine with these sails but was definitely more suited to the smaller sizes. If you are 80kg + and want freestyle performance, you may wish to consider the bigger 106 flare if you spend most of your time on 5.3m or bigger.
Again, Starboard need to be commended for marking a ‘recommended’ position on their mast track. This position worked well although we found ourselves nudging it about 1 cm further back on the smaller sails.
The Starboard shines as a freestyle board that can also be fun in small waves and bump and jump conditions. It is best suited to sailors under 85kg or smaller sails (under 6.0m). Try the 106 model if you weigh more than this or want to use bigger sails on a regular basis
A 20cm (or smaller) fin for new school freestyle.