This weekend I got an opportunity to demo a Surftech Bark Dominator for the first time (my buddy Pat ended up buying the board on the spot after riding it). I have had the Surftech Bark Competitor 12’6 ever since the very first shipment hit the mainland. It was and is a great board. Once I decided to move up to a 14’ board though, I opted to go with a custom board. I knew Surftech was working on a 14’ Dominator, but I decided against it. The specs said it was only going to be 28” wide. Considering I weigh in around 215lbs, I thought that might be a little more narrow than I wanted to go. I talked it over with Joe and he also thought I might be better off with a custom, so I could go a little wider. That was a little surprising, since he talked me out of a custom the first time, and into the Surftech version of the board (the 12’6 is 29” wide).
After riding on this new board for a few minutes, I can tell you I was extremely impressed. The glide I felt was as good or better than any board I had had ever ridden. It was every bit as good as my custom Dominator. On paper, it might even be better, considering it is at least 1.5” narrower, and I believe 1lbs lighter. My fears about the board not being stable enough for me, were completely unfounded. If it was less stable than my 29” board, I couldn’t tell it. At least it wasn’t really noticeable. I don’t regret getting a custom board, as I was able to get exactly what I want, color wise, pad wise, and Joe even put my logos on the board for me.
Having said all of that, if I was to do it all over again, I would very seriously consider buying the Surftech version instead of the custom. It is something like $500 cheaper, if I am not mistaken. That’s enough to also buy a new paddle and a nice board bag. At that point, unless you really value having a board that is individualized, it probably makes more sense to buy the less expensive model.
With the original Surftech 12’6 Bark, you were giving up some performance, as the board is quite a bit heavier than its custom built counter part (about 6lbs I believe). With this second generation, Surftech has fixed that. Their version/s are actually lighter and slightly faster than Joe’s customs (according to Joe himself), due to the lighter weight of the board.
All in all, if you are looking for a really good race board, you would be crazy not to grab this one. For the price, it would be tough to beat. In truth, I would bet many of the people that end up with it, don’t even intend on racing seriously when they first get it. The glide is so ridiculously nice, it is a pleasure just to ride, even if you are not trying to beat Slater and Danny at the BOP. In fact, this was Pat’s 4th time ever on a SUP, and I don’t see him looking to do any serious racing. He just wanted a great board, with as much glide as possible.
All in all, I have put away my disbelief in the mass produced Bark’s as being somehow inferior to the customs. Even if that was the case with the first generation Competitors, its definitely not with this Dominator.
As luck would have it, Joe called me at home last night. I mentioned to him that I finally got to demo this board. The tone in his voice audibly changed in excitement. He told me “That is the best board I have ever made. That’s why I gave it to Surftech to produce.” That right there speaks volumes to me. If you know Joe, he is not one to embelish. He and John Becker (and I believe Matt Becker too) worked tirelessly testing boards to get to this exact shape. I think Joe told me they went through 38 prototypes before landing on this one. John is even racing on the Surftech version now, instead of his custom. I call that putting your money where your mouth is. It’s one thing to say its just as good or better, its another thing to actually be a top competitor and make a switch. John wouldn’t do that if he thought it would make him less competitive.
I will try and get some more water time on the board, to do a full review, but I figured I would post some first impressions to take a look at until then. In the meantime, you can check out my review on the custom Bark Dominator here:
Description from Surftech
The Surftech Bark 14′ Dominator is the ultimate distance and race board. Light and responsive, this downwind and flat water model is suited to novice and expert paddlers alike.
Sleek, stable and quick, with a width of 27.5″, the Dominator is Joe’s most popular SUP.
Comes only in Pro Elite construction with partial carbon fiber.
Pics of my friend Pat on his new board.