Exclusive behind the scenes with Starboard HQ on their NEW Carbon Fin range

In this exclusive chat with Starboard HQ about their NEW range of pre-impregnated carbon twill fins, the team explain the detailed process that goes into making such great kit. You may not realise the process that goes into the production of your favourite Starboard items, however here you can read first-hand the passion that members of the design and production department have for their roles at Starboard. As we know, Starboard kit also speaks for itself with the Dream Team taking regular podium spots across the board of SUP disciplines, the super talented Dream Team also test and report back to Starboard HQ, making them an integral part of the design process. This perfect circular feedback balance between the art of design and the talent of the athlete, helps produce some of the best kit in the world.

A very warm welcome to Starboard HQ from TotalSUP, so who is behind the scenes at HQ?

Together our Starboard HQ team came together to write this article, and each of us have our own roles within the fins, paddles and accessories department.

The team behind our fins, paddles and accessories are:

  • Film Wattanasuntron; Product Design Manager for Paddles and Accessories at Starboard SUP.
  • Roman Borisov; our newest member to the team, taking on a new role as Paddle and accessories manager.
  • Chongsak Chitchamrasrat (Tom); assistant for paddles and accessories.
  • Ollie O’Reilly; SUP Brand Manager.
  • Trevor Tunnington; Product Design manager for SUP and Wingboard.

The new range of Starboard Carbon fins looks and sounds amazing! Are you allowed to tell us about the design process?

Starboard has built hundreds of thousands of paddles over the years, and have achieved the most winning paddles in the industry, taking countless podiums and wins at world-class events with our standard production paddles. With this experience and knowledge, we have used this research and technology to improve our fins.
The prepreg technology allows us to control material usage and resin absorption. The ultra-lightweight fin is 50% lighter than our previous fin, and it offers better flexibility and durability. The trailing edge is super sharp, with a clean hydrodynamic profile of 0.4mm thin.

All our composite fins are handcrafted, which involves a lot of work at our factories. We focus on ensuring that each fin is of high quality, employing a double QC check system that involves both the factory and Starboard working together.

The design process begins with team rider feedback. Our latest prepreg fins were tested by our Dream Team riders such as Benoit Carpentier, Zane Schweitzer, Daniel Hasulyo and Rai Taguchi. The brief was to achieve their targets in terms of increased speed for our Race range or more drive in the surf for the best performance in the waves.

In-house at our Thailand Headquarter office, Starboard has a team of expert shapers who create our own master shapes for team riders to test.

After the test results are approved and signed off, the fin master is scanned to create the final 3D file. This file is then used for the printing of parts to ensure that the surface and shape on both sides are smooth and symmetrical. This process is carried out by a CAD engineer to ensure the best precision in the final design.

I wonder if paddlers realise the amount of work that goes into their equipment, what does it take to work on a project like the new pre-preg Carbon Fins?

The carbon fin is a handcrafted product, involving several individuals working on different processes. Here is a summary of each step:

  • The Core: Using high-grade lightweight core, cut by CNC machines to ensure accuracy.
  • Sanding: Smooth on both sides, preparing them for the lamination process.
  • Fabric Preparation Process: Carbon Prepreg Fabrics are carefully selected based on their properties.
  • Lamination: Following Starboard Layup specifications, the laminate team arranges each layer on an aluminium mold step by step, applying pressure to ensure that the fabrics lay flat without any bubbles.
  • Press Process: After the mold is closed, it is placed on a heated mold press at a high temperature.
  • Trimming and Sanding Process: The surface is checked by the QC team to ensure that it has settled and that the carbon texture is even without any bumps or holes. The trailing edge is sanded to 0.4mm thin for the best release possible.
  • Finishing Process: Finally, the surfaces are precisely sanded, and we apply a special clear coating. For the fin to be fit for production, the final weight must reach our specifications and each fin is closely checked by our QC team.

Cutting the core with precision machinary

Sanding the core, preparing for lamination

What sets these carbon fins apart from others, why should they be on a paddlers shopping list this year?

When testing the latest carbon fins on our test trip in Bali, we couldn’t believe the difference. Compared to other layups, the prepreg construction was so much stiffer and reactive in the surf, vastly improving our boards performance. Before testing we were skeptical if our hard work into these fins would only make a minor difference, but after testing multiple boards in Bali we are astonished at the improvement in performance. Between the stiffness of the prepreg layup, and the super thin trailing edge for speed – we believe that we have some of the best surf and race fins in the world; not only the world of SUP but the Surfing industry as well.

Left: Prepreg carbon materials. Right: Lamination

What were initial reactions, have you tried them yourself?

Every fin in the Starboard range first is tested and approved by myself and our product team. Once we are happy with our design we send a range of prototypes to our team riders. So far our team has given us fantastic reviews on the latest fins. Currently we have two fins available for racing. The Flash and Flash+ are much thinner than the previous race range of fins and are designed to work in all racing conditions from flatwater to ocean chop.
We are proud that our Flash and Flash+ fins use our 3K Carbon Prepreg layup, and we are able to achieve a fin weighing in at a super light 124g (our previous fins were 240g and we believe that the flash and Flash+ fins are the lightest on the market).

Arranging laminate on an aluminium mould

Who is going to be using them this year on the race/ surf circuit?

Every race board is supplied with our Carbon Flash and Flash+ fins, and we hope to see most of our Dream Team using our fins. Some riders have previous promotional agreements in place with other brands, but we have heard from many of our riders that they are excited to use our fins in competition.
For SUP surfing events, Benoit Carpentier and Zane Schweitzer both choose to use our fins, using our new Prepreg carbon wave fins for their events.

Heated mold press process

Do you have advice for people choosing their fin set up for both race and surf?

What we have discovered through our R&D process, is that full carbon prepreg fins are vastly stiffer than hybrid fins. We felt an instant performance benefit in the surf when we first tested this new layup, and after fine tuning in production, our fins are better than ever. We have tested our fins in a range of constructions and prepreg makes an unbelievable performance difference.
For racing, we have had multiple Dream Team riders’ feedback into this design – and we and our team feel that these fins suit not only flatwater racing but ocean downwinding and technical racing. Try our Prepreg fins and let us know what you think!

Finishing process and the final product

Thank you so much to all at Starboard HQ for this super insightful process! If you would like to keep up to date with all the Starboard news online then you can check out their FACEBOOK, and WEBSITE, they also have a great BLOG with many current topics and kit advice!

About the Author

Emily Evans

Emily is a SUP Athlete hailing from Wales UK, she is a qualified SUP coach through British Canoeing and Waterskills Academy. When Emily isn’t training or pursuing her day job in construction she enjoys exploring the topics of SUP and sporting performance through the medium of writing.

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