A while back we got a chance to demo an older model flat water Bark 18′ SUP side by side with the SIC F-18. I went with Randy Lui-Kwan and we switched off. These boards were very different even though they are both 18′ displacement hull models. Also, the Bark was a bit older, I think from early 2009 or late 2008. The picture above shows the F-18 on the left and Bark 18′ on the right.
The F-18 has a number of versions although the model in the picture is made off of a male mold and is a cross between a production version and custom. You can order custom models of the F-18 although I think this one is the most popular.
All Bark’s that aren’t made by Surftech are customs. Every one is different. The one we demo’d for the day had a very flat rocker and was made for Guy Pere who I think is under 180 lbs. Both Randy and I are at least 200 lbs.
It’s hard to tell from the pictures but the noses are really different. The F-18 is more round under the nose, like a canoe, where the Bark is more like a boat type nose and is more ‘piercing’ like. I don’t know how to better explain this. I should have taken better pictures.
The Bark deck has deep cutouts where the feet are with a middle spine for rigidity. This lowers the rider’s center of gravity and makes the board very stable. It also allows the water to flow over your feet when turning on rail, especially for heavier riders.
The steering system for the Bark is way different than the F-18. The F-18 uses under deck wiring, just like an OC-1 canoe. The Bark uses a paddleboard type tiller system. The tiller system is on deck and can have steering pedals on both sides. Forward to back adjustments for the steering pedal are easy, just move the rubber O-rings and move the pedal.
I like the rudder on the Bark where it has a fixed front portion and movable rear rudder, just like an airplane wing. I’m not sure if it’s more responsive but it looks cool.
Here’s my take on both boards from the day. We were in light wind conditions, 10 mph and under and small bumps.
The Bark is very stable and the word that comes to mind is ‘pleasurable’ to paddle. This version was made for a lighter guy in flat water North Shore of Hawaii conditions and I think that’s where it will excel. Due to the flat rocker, this model didn’t have the acceleration in the bumps that I expected, although there weren’t many bumps to choose from. The steering is responsive and the board glides really well. There isn’t much ’surfing’ feeling although it’s easy to keep a decent average pace. This board paddles really straight. It’s not uncommon to paddle 7 or 8 times on one side before having to change sides.
The F-18 is a bit more tippy than the Bark. It takes a little getting used to the feeling of being so high in the water and the round bottom. That said, after some time riding it, you’ll get used to it and then that tippyness becomes speed in the bump. This board has much more lively feeling. It doesn’t track as straight as the Bark but when you get in bumps, it takes off and keeps on going. It feels lighter to paddle and more agile in the bumps. I’ve also had a lot more runs on this board so I know it’s fast.
Both boards are made for different conditions and that’s where they seem to excel.