Starboard Atom Wood Carbon - windsport.com, October 2009
Let's get this straight right from the start, the Atom is NOT just another "interesting concept" from Starboard. This board is a super-fun freeride shape that is accessible to a wide spectrum of the windsurfing population. However, the idea of riding the Atom "strapless" may be a fad to put this board on the map... so the windsport test team decided to take it to the next level as you will find out below! According to Starboard the Atom is 30% thinner than any other board currently on the market in this size. And we're told that this ultra-slim design allows for maximum manoeuvrability and reactivity.
The Ride #1: Straps Outboard with large stock fin
This setup give the Atom a more classic freeride feel. It allows it to track well in a straight line and haul upwind like a champ. Speed lovers would prefer the faster ride of a Futura but the performance in this setup definitely exceeded our initial expectations. The ample width and large fin allows it to plane up pretty quickly for the 99-litres of volume. This is the ideal setup and an ideal small board for sailors who typically use big sails and live in lighter wind areas.
At a glance
When the Atom first arrived on our doorstep we weren't too sure when to take it out. With a quoted volume of 99L we thought we'd better wait for a good Force 4 and stick a 6.0m crossover sail on it. But with its 68.5cm width and 36cm fin, surely we could stick a 7.5m and go cruising in lighter winds? Needless to say we opted to give it a go both ways.
The Ride #2: Straps Inboard with small wave fin
Moving the straps inboard and sticking a small wave-shape fin in the box (although we found a Tuttlebox wave fin to be quite difficult to track down these days) loosens up the ride remarkably. Freeride becomes "freemove" as the Atom transforms into a classic freestyle wave ride. The flat deck and low-nose ride allow for a confidence inspiring freestyle feel that will impress anyone looking to throw down old or new-school tricks.
The Ride #3: Strapless with large stock fin
At first you may be a little nervous heading out "strapless" on the Atom with a big upright fin driving your ride...well there are a ton of benefits. The stock fin allows you the ultra-cool sensation of moving your feet around to various places on the board while you're riding: keep them close together on the rail and hike upwind; move the back foot back against the foot-pad ramp to push against the fin for more drive upwind; centre your feet slightly more forward and inboard for a loose and carvey ride. The large fin allows you to ride stapless with a larger sail (7.5 no cam for sure and maybe even up to 8.5-metre) and vastly improves the early planing. The only downside to riding strapless is it isn't for amateurs or the faint of heart. You have no straps to give you a confident attachment to the board through chop; however, we found that your brain tends to make you automatically sheet out and not surpass a sensible speed.
The Ride #4: Strapless with small wave fin
Throw in a small wave or freestyle fin and gain a ton of confidence when riding strapless through chop. However, you lose any hope of spinout recovery (although you will still stay dry as the board is pretty big and wide)and quite a bit of early planing ability. The Atom is still fun to ride this way but you do lose the need to move your feet around on the deck...you'll find that simple toe and heel pressure is sufficient to carve the board through ultra loose manoeuvres.
Bonus Ride: SKYHOOKS
Designer Tiesda You challenged us to see how far we could push the limits of the Atom so we grabbed some "foam skyhooks" off an AirRush kiteboard (finally those kiters can give something back!) and screwed them into the front and back inserts to try the first ever strapless aerials. Head tester, Derek Rijff (pictured), found the experience of Willy Skippering with skyhooks to be, "scary as hell but amazingly fun." Because the "hooks" screw into only one insert you can twist them to however you need. Now, we challenge Starboard to come up with the perfect add-on accessories for the Atom!
The most innovative thing about the Atom comes when carving it strapless. Without footstraps you loose the ability to have any upward pressure on the windward strap to help set the leeward rail into the carve. Instead, you need to place both feet on the leeward side of the centreline and carve either toe-side or heel-side like a skateboard or snowboard. This feeling is most dramatic when using the big stock fin and it allows you to play around with different foot positions and stance-widths to affect the way the board carves... endless fun!
With straps, the Atom jibes in a typical freestyle wave manner. It is easy to set the rail start the carve and this board is very capable of planing all the way through the jibe rewarding better technique with more exit speed. Anyone learning to jibe will find that the Atom still can tolerate a fair amount of back foot pressure but more speed is maintained when weight is kept forward.
Jumping & Freestyle:
The Atom displays freestylewave-type or better pop. We found it to be capable of new-school aerials and this gave us the idea to try taking the footstraps off and screwing in the skyhooks.