I did this interview with Joe Bark last month over the phone. I just learned about Joe while getting more and more into the SUP distance paddling arena. Joe is famous for his paddleboards and is now expanding into stand ups. He’s got a new 14′ SUP racer coming out from Surftech in the future and we got the scoops in advance. I haven’t gotten any date for the board release but it hopefully will be by Q1 2009.
Transcript: (Scroll down to listen to the interview)
Evan Leong: What’s the Surftech one going to be in your words?
Joe Bark: Just a really good all around board, whether it’s dead flat or really good bumps in any direction and it’s stable, and it seems to penetrate through the chop but it runs really good and just a really good board. (0:00:23.) I think we were just real lucky on it.
Evan Leong: It’s 14′ by what?
Joe Bark: It’s 29½” or 29″+ and has really responsive rocker on it and releases nice, with just tiny bumps, so tiny and you’re catching them. Even xxxx (0:00:53.4). Just a really neat board, I’m really excited about it. I have had several people try it and the demo day [at Outdoor Retailer Expo] really went well. People look so excited about it. (0:01:06.9)
Evan Leong: In California where you guys race, are there trade winds or a lot of bumps or not really?
Joe Bark: It’s usually flat. Some of the races have downwind but very few and even if you get them, when we do get a downwinder it can really be good, but it’s usually a day late or a day early of the race, but there is really good downwind but on the race day, usually it’s not happening. Usually it’s just a flat California run.
Evan Leong: How is the Surftech board gonna work in Hawaii especially like in this Hawaii Kai run or Maliko on Maui where there’s a bit of bumps and wind and especially in xxxx (0:01:52.8) side shore with kind of cross winds?
Joe Bark: It should work pretty good from the feedback we’ve sent some boards over and we’ve got some of those guys trying out now and they’ve been very happy with them. So the feedback is coming back from all over and it’s really good (0:02:09.0) Well, the stand ups are changing by the day. When you shape by the time you put it on the water, it might not be what you really wanted at that time. Because you know the sport is growing so fast and it’s changing. Your goal is (0:02:24.5) to have_____ speed and stability where as lay down water paddle, knee paddling paddle board (0:02:28.1) traditionally, you can handle that same board in most conditions, be it California board or Hawaiian board. Where as the stand up (paddle board), you almost see a quiver. If it’s going to be a side chop this much you might give up a little speed to go on a little wider board. And some guys are really agile they can handle a narrow board and it doesn’t bother them at all. The other guys can’t get any direction or power unless they get a total stability, so it’s really tough. It’s a tough way to figure out who wants what, but as long as you got stability and speed that’s going to do it. (0:03:03.9)
Evan Leong: So the boards that are here in the island, are those customs (custom made) or is that Surftech’s.?
Joe Bark: No, they’re customs like the one that Pete Johnson just bought, it’s the one that run in that Shay (0:03:15.3) raced in that North shore race, the Hennessey’s race (0:03:18.1) and then a friend of Mark Rushlow? (0:03:19.4) set me up with Kalai Fernandez (0:03:21.6) he just got one; I guess he put it in the water yesterday and that was a 14′. Jim Russi has a 14′ as well. There’s a 16′ that Pete Johnson had is what won the xxxx race (0:03:37.1). With the same exact boards stretched to 16′, I’ve started with that board at 12′, tried at 13′ it went good, tried it at 14′ it went good, went 15, 17, 18 then 18-6 and they’re all just stretched out and very stable. I’m not putting a rudder on those 14′ because they seem to drive and control, be able to _____(0:04:04.2) with the glide without washing out. So the 14′, I’d rather not put rudders on but the bigger board I’d put the rudder. But it’s all personal preference I’d put rudder on short boards as well, some guys order them. (0:04:15.1)
Evan Leong: What are you riding personally?
Joe Bark: I just busted out a couple of new 18-6’s that I was really impressed with. In fact, I was so worried I’d lose them in the freeway because I just wanted to get back to the shop and figure out what made it so good. I just put it in the water two days ago and I was really impressed with the speed and when I first jumped on it, it was just so stable, before I took a stroke I thought, how this would be faster? But it was so stable and it ended up xxxx ((0:04:40.6) super fast. By far the fastest board I’ve made. And no one has been on that one. Another one that’s just about the same, I took to the demo day in Utah and had really good response on that board for speed and it was just so stable. I personally need some stability out there because I’m always on the edge. I’m always thinking I’m going to fall, always wasting energy bouncing so I need extra stability but that was my 27″ wide and it was bloody stable.(0:05:13.5)
Evan Leong: How about where there’s a lot of ocean swell? How would it be you think?
Joe Bark: Really good, that’s the board I would actually put the rudder on. I built it for rudder gliding so I’d rather put the rudder on when I test (0:05:07.0) it so I’m going to actually ship that (0:05:30.0) to Hawaii next week after I use it in Tahoe (0:05:32.8) this weekend. I put a GPS back on it and have a couple of guys try it to make sure that I’m not dreaming but it’s really fast. My first run was just better than anything I have ever done. So I’m taking time. Time doesn’t lie so I’m doing a couple of test runs on it just to see how much faster it really is. (0:05:54.1)
Evan Leong: How does that work? Are you sending it to your team riders and you’re checking it out?
Joe Bark: Yes. There’s a bunch of guys here who have a good idea of what’s going on so I built something to let them check it out, give me feedback and they’ve been giving great feedback, better than I can give. Because I have so many years on just old lay down (0:06:10.6), prone (0:06:12.5) and knee paddling but I haven’t really checked with the guys if they put more time (0:06:16.2) than myself and all the stand up stuff that I’m doing is pretty much on open ocean. So I like the bigger boards, 16 the 18, got a couple of 19′ 6″ almost 20′ or 21′, I’m working on it right now, have proven to be really fast. It’s not something for the everyday paddling, kind of specially made board but just try to work on some speed stuff on flat water. (0:06:41.0)
Evan Leong: What do you say for someone who’s more all less novice or a beginner who just wants to get out there and catch bumps as much as possible, to go the distance? What would you recommend? (0:06:54.6)
Joe Bark: Stability for sure, but there’s a new 14′ we have in the works right now, at Surftech, it’s one of the few boards that I shaped and tried and had it tested by so many people. I normally build the board in stand up world and it’s already outdated. This board I think will be around for a long time. I need the feedbacks but I’m 100% really positive. It’s just the greatest all around board, it just fits in the bump, it’s light enough to jump it (0:07:25.6) without having to take 3 strokes to speed up, really easy to turn, surfs really well, _____ glide (0:7:34.2), it’s just a really good board in all conditions.
Evan Leong: What is it that makes the 14′ different from the other ones?
Joe Bark: We based it on originally when stand up (paddle surf) was so new, and were all kind of guessing. I think I got myself lost by going so much speed, I forgot stability or going so much stability I forgot speed. The more I get involved in testing the board, the better feedback I get once I hear somebody tell me about it, I understand what they’re talking about. By having some good guys paddle the boards, it really cut the time down on learning what works. By being able to glass them on the water quick, (0:08:18.3) you saving much time on the feedback and response before you start the next one. That’s actually one problem, you build the board, by the time you get on the water, you’ve already lost the idea and you’re moving on to something else. (0:08:32.0) so it would be really nice to have it on the list, shape it (0:08:33.3) and put some glue and pull it out the same day, and then test it and you save all that time.
Evan Leong: How did you get in to all these anyways?
Joe Bark: Stand up just came because a lot of my paddlers were wanting to do just stand up paddling races or some distance touring and stuff, because we both xxxx (0:09:00.3) paddle boards over the earth, people thought: “those are fast, I want something I can stand on?” So I was up for building them and all you got to is be stable and fast, and let’s define the line on how much stability do you want or speed and vice versa. But it’s a huge growing sport. It’s growing so fast I can’t believe it. It’s really hard to keep up with all those orders, it’s fun we’re doing it.
Evan Leong: For the beginners what kind of tips you can give them on paddling or things they should be thinking about?
Joe Bark: Make sure that stability is there. If they don’t have stability, they’re not gonna have fun. A higher energy (0:09:41.3) would give something so stable, they can’t go on anywhere, there’s no glide, there’s no performance. So I think just testing the board, the biggest mistake is buying a board without testing it. There’s so many demo days all over, when you see the board you can actually test it, before you put it in the water and that’s the biggest thing I hear: “I bought this board without trying it, I should have tried something first”. And that is basic, try something, because some people run on 80 lbs. can ride something (0:10:11.4) and somebody will say: “well you’re just like my height, I’ll try that” and they don’t have a clue. There are so many people out there who are so good at stand up (paddle surf) that they think what they can do, we can do it too. Some people just have natural ability. So I’d say try the board, go out on demos, there’s demos days all over from different manufacturers and jump on one and try it all. Any user can do that. At demo days there are enough boards you can try something before you buy it.
Evan Leong: The 14′ would it be okay for heavier guys, 220-240 lbs.?(0:10:44.5)
Joe Bark: I’m 210 lbs. and we had 130 lbs. women on that board flying on it and all the way to some guys 240 lbs. – 250 lbs. on that board and they were just stoked. I’ve shared it with so many people on that board. I think it was a board that we used to ride for a long time (0:11:05.0)
Evan Leong: What was the experience at the Outdoor Retailer then? (0:11:08.1)
Joe Bark: It was good. It was a 100% positive feedback on the board. I’ve never seen so many people on stand ups in one spot. They were just pumped up and stoked. I think we had more demo days across the country and all over. I think it’s really growing even faster, I mean, it’s been in the ocean for a long time, now it’s going to the rivers and the lakes, waterways and reservoir. It’s amazing how fast the sport’s growing and there are a lot of people who likes to ride the waves now, a lot of people who just wants to get out touring the long distance and there are a lot of people who want to do both. (0:11:46.9) But the neat thing about those rivers and stuff and lakes (0:11:52.0), it’s hot out there and people want to be in the water. You see a lot of people are jumping off the kayaks and canoes from _____ (0:11.58.3) only to be part of the water or be in it. It’s all good, no matter what you’re on out there, it’s all good, but I think from the input I get from people is: “I saw it and had to try it and now I’m hooked.” It’s like an untapped sources, some lakes they go to (0:12:5.0) there’s plenty of people doing it. Other people they’ve never even seen it. We’re kind of hitting different legs? (0:12:22.5) and stuff, it’s been a great response, every time we go, we sell all the boards as approximate as the ones we keep as no one knows the (0:12:29.0) next demo there. But it’s a great 14′ I’m really, excited about it. (0:12:33.5)
Evan Leong: Is there any difference when you make a board for California race versus a Hawaii one?
Joe Bark: Yes, I’ve seen a different board. To a point that there are some boards really cross nicely, a board that I’m gonna build here for just flat water racing would not work very well in Hawaii and vice versa. If you can a board that works good (well) in both, but I do specialize some boards for the sprint races that are coming up, I’m building some flat water boards built just for flat water sprints. As the race gets longer, you definitely have to have stability as your body can start giving out. You have to have stability to compensate for that. The boards are designed for the individual, but that 14′ is gonna cover such a huge volume of people, it’s gonna cover most of the paddlers out there. (0:13:24.2)
Evan Leong: So the 14′ out here has no problems connecting the bumps?
Joe Bark: No. I don’t think there would be any problems connecting the bumps. The feedback when I sent those boards over: put this in the water and have some guys try and get some feedback. And the feedback was great. (0:13:38.1)
Evan Leong: Cool. So these guys are experienced races already?
Joe Bark: From experience all of them are beginners. The input was good all the way. (0:13.47.3)
Evan Leong: Are you thinking of a launch date or did they?
Joe Bark: No, they didn’t tell me exact launch date but I got so many phone calls since the demo day in Utah. I’m excited about it.
Evan Leong: I can imagine because I’ve just started doing this downwind style. Before I look at this drudgery, this is gonna be just like running, but once I’ve learned, you get the timing and everything, you catch this bumps, the surfs got to be good for me, I want to go surfing now. (0:14:20.2)
Joe Bark: I’m pretty much novice in the distance and time out there. I’m on the tail end of the learning curve, I’m not fast and I don’t have that great ability of balance. I watch these guys ride the waves, I just like to watch them, and they’re so good. If I’m gonna surf, I still need to surf on my big long board but for doing downwind stuff, touring and my goal is to go long distance touring where many of xxxx (0:14:48.3) for a few days, like find the right spot to do it. I really like the touring and the workout, the long distance racing on the board is more my thing. (0:4:59.9) and just to work out is pretty fun, winter comes on I hope to get to the cold water and I’ll do more stand up and will paddle board. I’m still doing paddle boarding more than stand up (paddle surfing); I try to mix it up.
Evan Leong: How did you get into paddle boarding?
Joe Bark: As a kid, I’ve always heard about the Catalina classic (0:15:18.9) and I was around those kids, I was 16, a couple of friends and I went over there and paddled it, just borrowed lifeguard paddle boards and then I moved to Hawaii after high school, I didn’t know anything about paddling, so I moved back to California and I was 23 and they brought back the Catalina classic (0:15.39.3), and I’ve paddling it since 1983 every year. It’s one of the reasons I’m doing it next weekend. I hope I can do it forever. I’m just not faster by any means, I just enjoy it.
Evan Leong: When did you start shaping boards? (0:15:54.4)
Joe Bark: In 1982 I did my first paddle board. I’ve raised my own boards from day one. It just grew back then when I shaped the board, it was like I’d shaped two and my buddy would say: “you want to paddle Catalina?” (0:16.08.2) and I’d say: “I’ll give you this board if I do it with”. So I had someone to do it with. It was a small group of us that we’re doing it (0:16:14.7), is 18 the first year when I did it, then next year was 19, 21 and 23. I never want to hit 32; it was like I saw all the paddlers. And every paddle board was on the coast, if you saw them, you know who it was, we’ll know. There are so many paddle boards going, it’s just amazing. You can go to races with 200 or 300 paddlers there. It has become so popular and there are 70 races are on the coast, 20 season’s right here in Santa Cruz and San Diego. Anything from a period to period, mile to mile, to reach Catalina county classic (0:16:50.6) We’re actually putting on drag races, heat races, man on man races where there are heats of 10 on the same board, boards are provided and top 5 will advance and just 200 yard dashes. That’s for stand up (paddle surfing) and paddle boarding. It’s gonna be really fun, with different venue because it’s a spectator sport, and we’ll some full grudge matches with bodies really sprinting this hard as it is with the distance. That will be a fun event that we will put on, but more than anything, I’d like to see more stand up (paddle) races put on by stand up people because those are they guys who are like myself who’d like to race stand up, but it’s hard, you got to decide you will race that day. I’d love to see just a short race like at 10:00 race and a 12:00 race, you can do both, or Saturday stand up race and on Sunday, paddle race. There are a lot of people that want to do both races, (0:17:39.8) and want to compete in both sports. Hopefully more events come where people kind of structured event (0:17:46.9) for the stand up and they can structure along with the paddle boarders, so you can do both. (0:17:51.0)
Evan Leong: You’re in pretty good shape if you’re doing two races in one day.
Joe Bark: No, I’m not in good shape. I just like doing it. There are a lot of guys I’ve been paddling for 20 years and there are a lot of guys who’ve been around and they’re not going to give up paddling. It sure would be fun to do both, like doing the Catalina race one weekend. The next weekend do stand up race and vice versa (0:18:14.2) You got to choose, it like an ice skier who ski his whole life but does like snowboarding and you got choose what you do that day. (0:18:25.1)
Evan Leong: Did you do the Molokai Race?
Joe Bark: I did it about five years ago and it was a flat year, had a good run and the board worked really good so it was ok and it was flat. I’m hoping to come back and do Molokai (race) next year. I’m gonna train for it, it comes down to how busy I am. It’s so busy during the summer for paddle board surfs trying to find time to even get into the water. But maybe we can get the sport done in winter time (0:8:50.7) when talking about the order of events, so that can free me up. I’d love to go in the north shore run and Maui and do the Molokai run there.
Evan Leong: Would you do it on your stand up or would you do it on your paddle board?
Joe Bark: On my paddle board. I don’t think I can ever make it on my stand up (paddle board). I don’t know how these guys do it, probably because they got the endurance. The neat thing about paddling is at least when you’re tired your still lying down you don’t have a balance problem. I don’t think my body will hold up that long.
Evan Leong: On your paddle board, do you rather have that rudder or not?
Joe Bark: On the paddle boards, yes. I prefer anything over 14′ to have a rudder. (19:27.1)
Evan Leong: Is the rudder similar to that of the little foot rudder you put on the F16 or it’s different? (0:19:33.1)
Joe Bark: I never personally checked that out too closely on that board, but it’s probably similar on the bottom, I don’t know how the mechanism works, but it’s probably very similar how it stirs, you just touch it with your heel or your toe and it springs back to center. (0:19:46.4) on the bigger board it’s very important.
Evan Leong: It definitely makes it easier in a cross wind especially.
Joe Bark: Exactly. So the cross wind is very important.
Evan Leong: What’s new coming out that we can afford to?
Joe Bark: It’s changing by the day. That sport, stand up (paddle surf) is changing and I think you will see more races, more people on the water doing the same stuff. I think you’ll see a lot more guys doing some distance stuff on them doing some bigger boards. I’m getting a lot more orders for the bigger boards: 17′, 18′, and 19′. We’re gonna see a good season, like I say, I’m the wrong guy to ask about the wave riders because I don’t know many of them. Most of the boards I build are 12′ and 20′ more on the racing and touring boards (0:20:39.8). But I’m getting more orders from the big long distance boards and from all around the countries. It’s gonna be a fun year.
Evan Leong: It’s been pretty crazy.
Joe Bark: It’s been good though.
Evan Leong: That’s cool. I’ll see if I can get a search Kalai 0:20:57.3) to see if I can get on that board too.
Joe Bark: Yes, I’m shipping a couple of boards there next week; we’re actually right up to Catalina. If you want to give me call back in a week or two, I’ll tell you where I’ll go and I’ll definitely make sure you could set up, and give you some runs. (0:21:0.9)
Evan Leong: The bottom on it, are you running a concave, flat…
Joe Bark: On that one, we’re not doing a concave. If it’s really worked out good in a flat bottom, or just a diamond / tie them on (0:21:20.) you wouldn’t feel you ________ on it (0:21:22.8). It’s got a little bevel (0:21:23.7) on the rail, a down rail so it tracks nicely and doesn’t wash out. It’s got some tail rocker and lift and it has a nice rocker, like a gun rocker, if you stretch the gun to 14′. It looks good just standing on the water. A lot of times you put the board on a rack and it looks different, you put the board in the water once you stand on it that gives you the true look of the board.
Evan Leong: When you ride it, is it like the other one so you want to stand a little back pass center then once you get going, stand in the way at the back because it’s a speed spot? (0:21:56.5)
Joe Bark: No. On this board you’re standing more on the center. On my bigger board you’re standing at about a foot to 16″ back, but on this board you’re more on the center than my bigger boards (0:22.08.5)
Evan Loeng: So this board, you don’t really have to walk it front to back too much?
Joe Bark: No. For whatever reason, it’s got a really good balance on it. We got lucky on this board. We’re working on something special, sometimes you’re working on something special and it doesn’t come out like it. But this one, it came out better than we thought it would. It’s one of those boards that can be around a long time, it’s going to be a standard, and it’s going to be a ________?(0:22:32.7) a board to have. I have several people try the board, who have been doing stand up (paddle surf) for a long time, they’ve tried my fast boards which are much faster with the 18′ but tippy. I think this is the board for all around, everyday. Try to get the biggest volume of people on this board. (0:22:54.8)
Evan Leong: Right on. Can’t wait to try it. (0:22:57.4)
Joe Bark: Right on.