Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Skinny on Barks!

More on the latest Bark boards . . . the Oahu boys Aaron Napolean, Guy Pere, Scott Gamble, Rob Stehlik, Pete Johnson, Reid Inouye and myself have been training and racing on Bark 18s. At Wet Feet we have had the pleasure to closely examine all of them. To the casual observer the 18′ Barks appear to be the same, sleek with a beautiful carbon bottom, colorful top and canoe like displacement hull. But after checking out all the boards that have come to Oahu there are obvious and subtle differences Joe has been putting into the boards to customize it for each rider. The first batch had a clean rolled bottom, much like a one-man canoe but wider. Although heavier, these boards are some of the fastest in flat water and the North Shore races. Rob took second to Aaron, who was on a much lighter double concave bottom, at the recent Haleiwa Joe’s race and I won the Solstice race on one – mostly because a lot of the fastest guys weren’t there! You would think the heavy board would be slower, but in the right conditions with the clean simple bottom it maintains the glide further once you get it going. It does however take a lot of muscle to make work. From this model Joe evolved into the double concave bottom and made the boards much lighter. This has served well in the bump, especially conditions like in the Hawaii Kai run. Some of the boards have very subtle concaves while others are more pronounced. Some have more rolled noses and tails while others are more knifey, some have more rocker while others are straighter. The concaves allow the board to be more stable when narrower and help the board to drive forward on the glide instead of yaw. This makes for a more positive surf down the bump vs. a washy feel. Joe does an expert job at blending all the variables to make magic boards. He is truly a master shaper and has made a LOT of standup race boards so he knows what works and what doesn’t. The result on a downwind run is an easy entry into the bump and an ease of maintaining speed to stay with it as it splits and reforms. The boards have proven themselves in local racing as they are most often in 1st and 2nd place with a hefty sprinkling in the top 7. While a Bark may not be as fast as a planing hull like the Raaphorst and Naish in the big bump it comes pretty close. The kicker is the start and end of most races are flat till you get to the good wind. So the Bark typically will get a lead then the planing hull might catch up but once you near the finish line the Bark will catch up or pull away. As always the motor is way more important than the boat, but if you get a Bark you won’t be able to blame the equipment if you don’t do well in a race!

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