One week ago today I made a decision to stop procrastinating and buy a better board. Not just a better board but possible and arguably one of the finest inflatable boards on the market. I spoke to the very helpful staff at New Forest Paddle Sport Company no settled upon the Starboard Astro Racer 12’6″ X 28″. It is a serious bit of kit and was even more delighted that I got a deal that included a paddle bag, starboard coiled race leash and also a Starboard Bolt Hybrid Carbon race paddle.
I have to say that this is serious stuff….I am now committed to training hard and ensuring that the investment will not be wasted. I could not wit for work to be over on Friday evening, racing home to see my kids and racing out the door to pick up my new kit. Sean at New Forest Paddle was spot on and did not open anything, handing me the Stanley knife as soon as I walked through the door and pointed me to the box in the corner of the room…It was Christmas, going through all the packing and revealing MY new board. I was so excited, I think I hid it well, my instinct was to go YIPPEE and dance around the place, but I resisted the urge. Once the board was unpacked came the next big task, measuring and cutting the paddle down to size. I was left to do this myself and I am glad I was, it is akin to. Samurai forging his own sword or a Jedi making his own lightsaber. A right of passage that, if possible and confident all paddlers should go through. I careful wrapped electrical tape around the shaft, took the saw nod me my guidelines. Then the job was done. A spot of glue and the paddle was ready for the water.
I rushed to the waters edge at Keyhaven and pumped up the board, the glorious new board smell wafting on the summers evening. It was every bit as good as I remembered it to be when I tested it a month ago. The difference is this time the board is mine. The board coupled with the phenomenal paddle was amazing. Unfortunately, my balance was slightly off as I was coming down with a cold so was not at 100% and took a tumble into the drink. Fortunately the water was warm and forgiving. I enjoyed my paddle and enjoyed testing the paddle and the board and together they make a fantastic coupling.
Let me tell you about the Starboard bolt paddle. It has an oval shaft, which is so very comfortable to grip, it has been designed in conjunction with Connor Baxter and carries his signature, it has a rough edge by the top of the handle which always for grip if performing his ‘choke down’ paddle stroke. (There is a you tube video of Baxter being interviewed and he demonstrates this technique better that I can explain it https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7PG-0PrPoQ ). The bode is a composite of carbon fibre and foam and is amazingly light, I mean really light, it feels like your holding a fluffy cloud! Despite it weighing less than a feather blowing on the breeze, it is possible to get quite sensational power through it. Set a 10 degree angle the catch is phenomenal and it glides through the water with ease, delivering amazing control and thrust. I have used 6 paddles in my time paddling, each one better than the last. But this will quite frankly never be beaten. It is sensational, it is feather light, responsive and a pure joy to use.
For me, space constraints require me to have an inflatable and I can’t imagine any other board being quite as good as this. With a FCS fin box system it beats, hands down, the slide and clip of my old board and some other race boards out there. It is light when inflated but has near the rigidity of a hardboard. The dual stringers running down the centre provide strength. The board itself when paddled is best paddled at speed , it likes to go fast, after last that is what it is designed to do. But, it always is forgiving at low cruising speed. When I toppled off, I was at a 80 degree angle to the water almost vertical before the board released its grip of me and drop me in the water. People had time to mock, jest and offer advice before I eventually went in.
I am still in training for the Bournemouth Pier to Pier as the original date was cancelled due to bad wether and now re-arranged for August 7th. Father that the training begins to use this board with the most appropriate gusto that it deserves. I am planning on a winter training schedule and possibly some winter races with BaySup. But I think my announcement on to the race scene will be Head of the Dart 2017. That is my aim, that is my plan…..bring it on!