Note from the editor (The Mullet): Kathy has been a Mullet contributor and is the first one in our group who has had extended time on the Surftech Bark Vapor. Kathy has been paddling in the Washington DC area, organizing events and instructing for years, so we trust her perspective. Anything she writes isn’t going to be because of some tasty coolade. That said, here’s the review:
Surftech Bark Vapor
I have a new love in my life, a work of art created by Joe and Jack Bark, the 2016 Bark Vapor.
This summer, when I first laid eyes on the nose of the board as it was coming out of the van, I thought to myself that Joe might think I paddled prone, I even asked if it was a prone board. He said something like, “No, it’s something new I’ve been working on” and kind of gave me a “trust me” look. It was a spectacular California morning and I was about to go paddling in the ocean I love, with a man I have the utmost respect for so I smiled and said a little prayer, “Please God, don’t let me fall off in front of Joe.”
Everything about the nose would suggest, at least to me, that it would slow down the board. It’s rounded and doesn’t cut through the water the way that a displacement nose would. Not only that but the rocker in the nose actually shortens my waterline by about 10-12 inches. As I was effortlessly gliding over the water, there was a lot of splashing and noise but did you catch the use of the word “glide”? Yes, it glides absolutely beautifully.
The day I had the pleasure of riding it for the first time, the ocean was glass so it wasn’t unexpected that it would glide but with the narrow design, the soft rails and no cockpit or recessed deck, (more like tiny compression spots for my feet), I was worried about stability, not so much that day but in thinking about the water I paddle in the most. In that moment though, it was completely wasted energy and I was in love. I knew I was going to buy that board or ask Joe to create another one for me and that was that. I was still a bit unsure of how it would do in the water that I paddle in 95% of the time, the windy, choppy, constantly changing tidal waters of the Potomac River but honestly, I didn’t care if I couldn’t make it perform in my conditions at home, I just wanted it because I knew even if nothing else, it would be fun in the downwind conditions and the occasional time I could get it to the ocean into some surf and of course, because it was came with awesome Joe Bark karma.
photos courtesy of Stand Up Paddle DC
I was incredibly grateful when Joe said he would sell it to me after it was shown at Outdoor Retailer and sure enough, it appeared in DC just a few weeks ago. I have been riding it exclusively since then. After a few really windy days and a couple 15-20 mile paddles I have found that I am not having to make directional changes as a result of the nose “ruddering” in chop and wind. The soft rails make the board very sensitive to weight placement, so minor directional changes happen by shifting weight rather than adjusting my stroke resulting in my energy being used more efficiently in moving the board forward.
The other thing that is very important to say is that this board fits me. It is the most narrow board I have ridden, only by an inch, but that inch allows my body to paddle in an ergonomically efficient way so there is less stress on my body and the power that I am generating goes exactly where I want it to. On top of that, I was spot on with my prediction for riding it in downwind conditions. I don’t want to exaggerate what those conditions are here but imagine about 15-20 mph winds working with the current or tide but rarely are all three working together. I’ve never had a day of “connecting bumps” but I have had many days of managing them and managing them on this board isn’t that at all… it is so fun I just grin ear to ear and wonder how I ever got to be so lucky.
All that said, the best board for you is the one that fits you in the conditions you paddle in the most and this one just happens to fit me perfectly. If you want to demo it in DC, message me at [email protected]. I am going to race it at the Chattajack so you can get on it there too.
A quick disclaimer here, no one asked me to write this but I love sharing what I love and I love this board.
For more of the technical information about it or to have Joe shape one perfectly fit for you, message him at http://www.joebark.com. If you are interested in the Surftech production models, please contact your local retailer for a 2016 delivery timeline.
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