Author Topic: My experience with the Starboard Ace GT unlimited, and now I'm thinking custom.  (Read 1164 times)

robon

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Luc Benac and I were talking back and forth last year on trading my Sunova Expedition for his 2015-Ace GT, for a trial period. So, I packed up, headed to Luc's place near Vancouver BC to try the Ace. However, after lifting my board and taking it out for a paddle, Luc thought my Expedition was too fat, too heavy, and just not sporty enough for Howe Sound ;), and I ended up going back inland with two boards instead of one, and it's not a trade lol.

I have had the Ace GT out multiple times over the winter and here are my thoughts, and I also wanted to hear from those who own an unlimited, and get some tips if I ever go the custom route. Photofr and Luc and a few others commented on the forums regarding the Ace, so I will try not to go too overboard.

What I like:

The 2015-ish Ace GT is listed at 17'4" x 28" is light (about 31 pounds) for an unlimited, and after adding a carry handle, it's easy to carry to the water, and get on and off the truck. This board needs at least two handles. On the water it's also quite responsive for it's length and relatively easy to maneuver. The rocker on the Ace is not extreme, it has better glide than my previous 14' boards, and is a bit faster on flatwater. The Ace also seems faster straight upwind than my previous boards. There is not a ton of volume up front, but it goes over and through waves well, and carries decent glide upwind. Of course the Ace is good downwind, and it picks up glides on very small waves, and just takes off when you catch bigger stuff. I do a lot of exploring and the Ace has a lot of tie down options up front, and you can add extra tie downs in the standing area as well. With probably 95% of my paddling or more being solo, I always look for a board that does well in all conditions, and even though the Ace is billed as a DW board, it can actually be a go to, every day board also.

What I don't like:

The extra length doesn't necessarily translate into added stability. This vintage of the Ace isn't what I would call unstable, but takes some getting used to, and you have to trust the secondary stability. For comparison, my Sunova Expedition has more primary and secondary stability at 14 x 28.5". As noted in years past, this Ace isn't actually 28" wide, and it is only 27.5" wide at the widest point at the outside of the rails. Water squirts through the scuppers continuously and you are always standing in a couple millimetres of water up front and this is somewhat annoying.

I find the Ace to be noticeably more work to keep a bearing in cross chop and quartering than other 14' boards I have owned and tested. Going to a smaller fin helps with this, but it's more work regardless of the fin. At this length, there seems to be more surface area to get pushed around, even though the board has a fairly low profile. I don't think the flared out pin tail helps either in quartering and cross chop, although I have heard in other comments that it might help, but I don't believe it.

Overall, I really like this board for every day paddling, and it has got me thinking what I would want to change if went the custom route. First, I would keep the same shape and width, but would want the width to continue a little further back, and I would seriously consider going to a thumbnail over a pintail to reduce the surface area facing waves from the side, and this may add a bit of stability as well. Given that I paddle almost exclusively solo, I can give up a touch of flat water speed, and DW release for more stability in quartering and cross chop conditions. There would be a few litres in volume increase with a bit more width, which would help in packing gear.  I would want venturi scuppers if I stuck with a recess this deep to reduce the amount of water on the deck.

That went longer than I wanted, but any thoughts are appreciated.

« Last Edit: March 26, 2020, 08:24:08 PM by robon »

robon

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A few more pics.

puget sound

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Good review. Thanks for posting this, Robon.
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Luc Benac

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Mel, it takes a bit to get used to the feeling of the Ace. One day it clicks and then it feel really stable. it might take longer at 200 lbs than at 170 lbs  :) You have the engine to move that baby at speed. 110% in agreement with scuppers. If the deck could stay dry.....You can also try the Aercor fin that I suggested once you are comfortable with stability. Excellent in side wind.
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robon

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Mel, it takes a bit to get used to the feeling of the Ace. One day it clicks and then it feel really stable. it might take longer at 200 lbs than at 170 lbs  :) You have the engine to move that baby at speed. 110% in agreement with scuppers. If the deck could stay dry.....You can also try the Aercor fin that I suggested once you are comfortable with stability. Excellent in side wind.

Thanks Luc. Itís a fun board. Another thing I should have mentioned as a positive,  is the durability to weight ratio. Starboard did a good job with the construction on this version of the Ace. I have whacked the board on rocks and a few other things and itís holding up well. I found the limit to the NSI carry handles this year and that limiting factor is cold weather and brittle board paint. One day it was a few degrees below zero and a lot of ice formed on the deck of the Ace. When I was carrying the board out of the water, the handle ripped off. So, the NSI pads held, but the paint didnít. Easy enough to fix with some sanding and the handle has stayed on since and no board damage.

As far as stability goes, Iím getting used to it and a with a pintail and round rails, itís  not that surprising the Ace has some roll. In one of the pictures above on the river, it actually got very rough for several kilometers on a DW stretch, and I hit some decent drops at one point and stayed dry when the currents started converging with the waves when I hit a bend on the river.  Its the side chop that makes it more challenging. Itís fun paddling the Ace on rivers. I will shed a few pounds of winter weight soon and stability will increase a touch more.

I was supposed to be going to Vancouver for a concert May 3, but everything is on hold with Covid, but it would have been a good time to try the Aerocore fin. Hope all is well out there:) hopefully we can get out this summer.

« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 10:17:05 AM by robon »

tarquin

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I guess in those conditions,rivers,you want a different shape board. Maybe the round rails are better. Sharp,square rails would catch more. You must have pretty good balance to be paddling in those conditions!

robon

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I guess in those conditions,rivers,you want a different shape board. Maybe the round rails are better. Sharp,square rails would catch more. You must have pretty good balance to be paddling in those conditions!

Thanks for commenting. My balance is ok but not anything special, and falling in sometimes is part of the game. Especially on rivers and water ways that always have changing conditions around here. There is always a trade off and I definitely prefer boards that have some rocker, rounded edges for at least three quarters of the length of the board, and this seems to help a lot with quartering, side chop, and paddling in mixed currents. The trade off is primary stability can be decreased if a board has rounded rails for the length of the board, and that also leads into a narrower or pin tail. Depending on the design of the bow, including rocker line, tracking and flat water speed can be impacted too.


tarquin

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Always lean down river! I guess if you keep the weight on your down river foot it will help.

burchas

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That went longer than I wanted, but any thoughts are appreciated.

Not long enough to form meaningful thoughts ;) but I have some based on my experience going through several custom shapes:

1. I usually identify the main function the board is going to have and the usual conditions it will preform this function in.  I spec around that. You really have to be honest with your self. My first 2 shapes included things I saw my self doing but never really materialized in reality so I ended up with a compromised shape that could have done the things I mainly do much better.

2. I'll identify the features I like most in the boards I currently own or have intimate knowledge of and try to mix it in if applicable. Not only it made my custom board feels more familiar, I think that certain consistency helps with progression. It would also be very helpful if a third party is entrusted with the custom shape.

Touching on few things you mentioned:

- Since I'm alone 95% of my time on the water as well, it certainly gives me the freedom to paddle shape I like most for the conditions I'm in without being concerned with keeping-up with others.
- I can only assume that since you tried to keep it short, the negative statements that made it in are the one affecting you the most so: rolling rails, water on the deck, length, unpleasant in quartering and cross conditions and more packing room on the back.

With that in mind I would have second thoughts about keeping the Unlimited Ace shape for my custom board but as I mentioned, not enough to go on, so I could be totally off.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 12:59:11 PM by burchas »
in progress...

robon

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Hi Burchas,

Thanks for the comment and keep the feedback coming with your own experience. I find in this era of online perusing, the longer the initial comment, the less feedback you tend to get. I was a bit tired when I wrote the initial post and there was some rambling.

Additional info about myself. Height: 5'10.5"/179 cms. Weight: Around 210-212 pounds/96-97 kilos right now, and I'm several pounds lighter when I'm in good shape about 200-205 pounds.

I paddle in all conditions on high volume rivers in the area on my hard boards, ranging from low to swift current, going down and upstream. The lakes around here are no more than 6-7 kilometres at the widest, quite fjord like in appearance,  with plenty of cliff faces, so lots of backwash, and chop, and the lakes get churned up very quickly. A couple lakes in particular having highly variable, frequently windy-gusty conditions where you can be on glass, and/or easily waist high+ waves in an outing, and be battling headwinds, side winds, and side chop for hours.

Paddling solo means very few shuttles, so as you know, the longer you are out, the higher the likelihood of encountering adverse conditions. My reality is frequently paddling into headwinds, and fighting side chop consistently. The pay off going on long solo outings is sometimes having a long DW run, but the conditions are frequently sloppy and confused where I paddle.

I rolled the dice on the ACE because going custom would cost considerably more than what I paid, and now I have a much better idea of what I want-would want, but the ACE GT is pretty good overall for it's vintage.

What I like about the ACE is it goes up wind fairly well, is quite good on the flats, and is very good in lined up conditions DW. This is my first experience with an unlimited, and while I may be making faster time in side chop and quartering conditions, it is without a doubt, more physical effort to keep a bearing in side winds and side chop than the 14 boards I am very familiar with, such as the V3 Naish Glide and Sunova Expedition. I am getting used to it, and I wouldn't say it's unstable in direct side chop, but regardless of trusting the secondary stability, the Ace is is just not as stable in side chop as my Expedition, and my old Glide. With that said, I feel relatively stable on the ACE, and this will just keep getting better.

I'm wondering how much flat water speed I would lose keeping the outline slightly wider, and losing the pin tail? I would stay in the 27.5-28" wide range and as mentioned, would consider a thumbnail tail. Possibly a pin tail, with reduced vertical width?  I would also like someone with more knowledge to explain how a pintail on the Ace, this wide (tall out of the water, would NOT increase surface area, making it more difficult in cross chop, quartering conditions? I have read previously comments on line that the pin tail on the Ace can act like a rudder of sorts, helping in adverse conditions, and I just don't see it. I understand a pin tail providing cleaner release on flat water, and DW, but if you look at the out line of the Ace GT unlimited, the pin tail is largely out of the water, so to me, it would increase the surface area exposed to side chop, side winds, etc, and make it more difficult in these conditions. 

I really like the shape of the nose on the ACE, and it's quite similar to my Sunova, and I like the rails overall. The scuppers on the ACE are not good (water consistently squirts in) and that would be something that would have to work in a custom. The water drains out fairly well in rough conditions, but having wet feet all the time, even in warm, glass conditions, is not good.

As far as a partial dug out vs recessed goes, what is your preference? The Ace isn't as deep in the standing area as the current crop of clogs are. Would it be more beneficial to go with a recessed deck with a thumbnail tail as opposed to a dug out?

Thanks for your input. I believe Talldude has spent a lot of time on unlimited boards too, so maybe he will chime in.



« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 01:59:29 PM by robon »

Luc Benac

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I was supposed to be going to Vancouver for a concert May 3, but everything is on hold with Covid, but it would have been a good time to try the Aerocore fin. Hope all is well out there:) hopefully we can get out this summer.

Come over when this crisis has blown over. The Aercor is not going anywhere so you will be able to try it on nasty Squamish side-chop/cross-wind.
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burchas

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I paddle in all conditions on high volume rivers in the area on my hard boards, ranging from low to swift current, going down and upstream. The lakes around here are no more than 6-7 kilometres at the widest, quite fjord like in appearance,  with plenty of cliff faces, so lots of backwash, and chop, and the lakes get churned up very quickly. A couple lakes in particular having highly variable, frequently windy-gusty conditions where you can be on glass, and/or easily waist high+ waves in an outing, and be battling headwinds, side winds, and side chop for hours.

As it turns out, these are the exact conditions I started out and spent countless days suping. I can see some of the situations where you'll full in love with the Ace GT. I loved it in flat water, small organized downwind bumps and upwind. If my reality was a prominent short period steep and confused bumps and heavy side chop/wind I would find it hard to commit to such a design. Another big shortcoming for this design in my view is the added surface area due to its length where a lot of it is concentrated in the front. When you pushing against a swift current and lets just throw in some side chop/wind for good measures because that's what we get like it or not, all this extra surface area is your enemy and will slow you down considerably and will fatigue you a lot faster, especially with the added roll the board has.

So these are some negatives, mostly related to the fact the board is unlimited. I have some more thoughts on my ideal shape but I have to form it a little more. I can say that overall I would favor the 14' variety for these conditions. If that looks anything close to your reality I'll be happy to dig a little deeper. I'm following your lead in "I find in this era of online perusing, the longer the initial comment, the less feedback you tend to get" ;)
in progress...

robon

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Thanks Burchas,

You pretty much nailed it and itís more of a nice to have than need to have proposition with short period slop and chop here. With that said, the flatwater glide and upwind performance of the Ace is just so nice. I had read the online comments about the glide, but I really noticed when I watched Luc paddling the Ace for the first time, and it was apparent the glide and flatwater speed is a notch above a typical 14 footer. I can make more gains on the water by improving my fitness  but the shortcomings of the design will still be there. Weíll see how it pans out but itís been a fun experiment so far.

I also agree there is a large bias in volume distribution and the Ace has an elongated narrow section in the back end that begins almost immediately behind the standing area. I would still be interested to see the differences a bit more volume out the back would make as well as a different tail design.

Going back to 14 footers and you had brought up the Rail in another thread... I tried hard to secure a 14 x 28 Rail from the first sale but they were sold out on the mainland and getting one to Canada from Hawaii was too costly. Jimmy was great to deal with and we had some good conversations. Looks like no 28 wide Rails are left from this latest run. I also tried hard to get my hands on a 2018, 14 x 28 Naish Maliko last year, but could not find one in North America. A 26Ē would likely work fine but I wanted a 28Ē for longer paddles. Going custom with a hyper nalu tuned for my conditions is tempting but I have too many boards and not enough money. Time to liquidate lol.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2020, 10:22:48 AM by robon »

burchas

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Well, you have that Ace GT and it looks like you already put it to good use. From what you described it seems you have variety of conditions it will be a joy.
And what about the Sunova Expedition? You never mentioned what prompted you to ditch it. If it's just the need to reinvigorate the water experience no need to expand, however, it would be helpful to know which features you'd consider migrating to a custom design?

Since you brought up glide, different tail design and we are back on 14' here is something for you to process:

http://www.savageriver.com/sups/edge



I'm thinking hybrid design that mixes the Edge with the Ace will really hone the experience. Notice the open tail design, that with slightly sloped deck will keep your deck dry
in progress...

robon

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I still have my Expedition and it does well for just about everything. The biggest downside of the Expedition at 28.5" wide would be the weight at 33-34 pounds, so it's a bit sluggish off the start, but is a well mannered board. It also looks very nice imo. I would like to test out the Sunova Allwater, Ocean, and All-round, at 27" wide to compare between full dug outs and an instep deck.

Going custom for 14' board is just a thought if money was no object, and to have a homegrown custom design in a slimmer profile that handled well in rough conditions. The Hyper Nalu designs are beautiful and Area 10 ordered what seems to be a very durable board in the lay up he chose.

The savage river boards look interesting and I agree marrying the design of the Edge and Ace, with an open tail would probably work really well.