Starboard All Star SUP Suit – £420
The ‘All Star SUP Suit’ is part of Starboard’s impressive range of 2016 clothing and apparel, some of which is available in the UK. Having never used such a suit before, the SUPboarder team were keen to test whether this SUP suit really does do what it’s designed to do – allow you to paddle in all conditions while staying warm and dry. Starboard UK gave the SUPboarder team a suit to use through the start of 2016, and here is our review of this interesting bit of kit…
The promotional video that Starboard used to launch the suit was featured on SUPboarder last September. We then asked the question ‘Is the Starboard All Star SUP Suit the answer?’ After several paddles in vastly different conditions Chris Jones from SUPboarder is close to an answer.
About the suit
The suit is a tailored one piece with a long waterproof zip at the front and a neoprene / velcro closure around the neck, with waterproof latex cuffs at the ankles and wrists. Velcro tabs at the waist allow some fine tuning of fit. There are no pockets on the suit so keys etc will need to be in a waterproof pouch around the neck or stored elsewhere. The suit we had was understated in charcoal grey and dark blue, with orange flashes and reflective tabs on the wrist and ankle adjustment. Starboard branding was low key with three small Tiki men and two Starboard logos.
The fit of the large sample on our tester (193 cm tall and around 100kg) was good. The legs were a little short but fit around the waist, chest, and arms was spot on.
The suit is made from a breathable and waterproof fabric (there are all sorts of figures to back this up on the Starboard website!) The actual suit is very well finished with very neatly stitched and glued seams, as you’d expect from any high quality waterproof outer layer.
What’s it like to paddle in?
First impression, it’s a bit like a high tech boiler suit, the latex ankle seals were surprisingly easy to get my large feet through and fitted snuggly around my ankles. There’s a little bit of a wiggle needed to get into the suit but once on it was a great fit, the wrists as easy as the ankle seals. The zip is chunky, a lighter weight version of those used on full dry-suits.
In use it is extremely comfortable. As advertised there is no flapping but unlike a wetsuit there is a little rustling as you move about, the same as wearing a Gore-Tex hardshell. Launching from a beach means a walk to get deep enough to clear the fin, as expected no water got past the ankle seals. When paddling there is no restriction to movement, the material stretching as needed.
The most important part of that first paddle was to fall in, several times to throughly test the waterproof-ness of the neck seal and that zip. And they work, very well. As a waterproof suit it traps air when in the water so is far more buoyant than any wetsuit and through several dunkings and a swim I stayed dry. Out of the water in winds gusting well past 20 knots I stayed warm.
Subsequent paddles have been in varied conditions from wet and wild to seasonally cold to unseasonably warm. In the conditions that the suit is designed for, cold weather, it performs very well and became my first choice when heading out the door with a board and a paddle. It has excelled on cold windy days, typically with air temperature around freezing and winds between 10 and 20 mph. When conditions are warmer then you do heat up in it and unlike a wetsuit there is no option of getting wet to cool down. Although the neck seal is easy to open one handed and the zip is great for ventilation that defeats the point of the suit, to fall in with the neck open would quickly fill the suit chilling the paddler.
When testing an inflatable PFD I stayed virtually dry despite pushing the suit far past it’s intended purpose, if training then you’re going to hop back on your board as quickly as possible after a swim, not stay in the water bobbing about for photos. The base layer I had on underneath the suit was only a little damp around the neck after prolonged periods in the water. Very impressive.
Using the suit highlights one challenge, one that many viewers of the promotional video commented on. The feet. I’ve been using a pair of winter neoprene boots with the suit which isn’t ideal as my cold, wet feet could do with a solution to match this suit.
Pros Warm, understated, well made, waterproof clothing for the serious paddler.
Cons Price, availability in the UK.
The SUPboarder verdict
It’s a very good bit of kit for the right conditions, and in the UK that would be most of the winter. Not to be confused with a dry, or surface immersion suit, it works well to keep the paddler dry and warm. It is comfortable and very well made and I don’t want to give it back.
For a cold weather paddle you maybe used to wearing a winter wetsuit and you will therefore be aware of the compromise needed when paddling hard, get in occasionally or overheat. If you use a summer suit in really cold weather you have the opposite problem, get in and get cold very quickly. The All Star suit is a very well thought out bit of winter training kit that addresses these problems. It won’t be for everyone because of the cost but if you can try one you are likely to be very impressed.
Find out more about the All Star Suit on the Starboard website here.
Words – Chris Jones | SUPboarder.
Images – SUPboarder and Mike Lister Photography