Review of the Starboard 11’2 Astro Blend Zen

Finally spotting a dry patch between the clouds, I took to the Union Canal this morning in our demo Starboard 11’2 x 32 Astro Blend Zen. This is the first time I have actually been on the board myself and I must say, I was impressed.

Unpacking the bag, the Astro Blend comes with 2 fixed blades on the underside, protected by grey armbands in the bag. In addition there is a US fin box and a removable fin, which has to be screwed into position (NB – no screwdriver is required although there is an ‘x’ in the top in case you wish to use one). The board itself features a very comfortable handle in the middle plus a handle at the stern for strapping your paddle in position should you wish to indulge in a spot of Yoga or similar. The Eva deckpad is comfortable under the toes or should I say dinghy boots as it is only 6 degrees outside!

(for those of you interested in what to wear when paddling in the winter, I wore the O’Neill Women’s Psychofreak 5mm winter wetsuit at the weekend, but today I was just in winter jogging leggings, a base layer and rash vest under my buoyancy aid along with Sealskin waterproof mitts, Gill Dinghy boots and my trusty Wonky Woollies hat).

Nearly back, bridge 57The blue and orange isn’t as garish as I first thought, they actually sit well together and the blue is the predominant colour on the rail. Needless to say Mr Tikki Man features on the nose and on the bottom of the board for maximum exposure.

The blue pump comes in pieces for flat packing and features a sturdy foot rest which slots onto the bottom of the pump chamber. A red switch allows you to alternate between double chamber action and single chamber pumping when the going gets tough – this allows you to pump the board relatively quickly and efficiently to the recommended 14 PSI.

The Astro Blend talks itself up as a crossover flatwater to wave ‘all round’ board and on the flat, if slightly windy, canal this morning, it glided smoothly between strokes in a fairly straight line. I did pick up some vegetation on the fin, but that’s only because I kept stopping to take photographs and drifting to the side.

In terms of this stretch of canal, the entry point was ok although quite high to the water. Sitting on the edge my feet were only just flat on the board which meant getting the board back out was going to be a challenge. However, there is a little promontory which provided the perfect stepping stone in and out at water level.

Bridge 59 - family of swansThe canal meanders slightly alongside the railway line (which would provide excellent fun for my 3 year old passenger although he wasn’t with me today) and views over Hallglen. In fact, had I continued a little further, I might have made it to the big tunnel which is near to the Milk Barn Café – perhaps one to remember for the summer when I’m more in the mood for their lovely ice-cream.

Today, it was back to the van for hot chocolate before heading home for a warming shower! Strava tells me I did 3.9km in about an hour which will teach me not to slow down for the family of swans at bridge 59.

Remember you can try the Starboard 11’2 x 32 Astro Blend Zen at our upcoming demo days on 22nd November at Park Bistro (Linlithgow) and on 28th November at Bardowie Loch (at the Sailing Club). Drop me a line [email protected] for more information or to express your interest.

For more information on SUPing on the canals, head over to the Scottish Canals website. In theory no advance notice is required although, there is a form you can complete to let them know you will be on the water. Scottish Canals maintain many miles of waterways and always appreciate any feedback so if you spot something that may need attended to, please get in touch with them direct.

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