Wednesday, June 3, 2015

BARK 14' Commander Review

I hate when I'm at a restaurant and the waiter drops off bread and butter and the butter is so frozen you have to use a saw like motion to get the dull knife through. Is it so hard for an establishment that has freezers, microwaves, ovens, broilers, chefs, prep cooks, servers, and busboys to make sure tables get butter that is easily spread? How wonderful does it actually feel to slice through butter that is malleable enough to spread so easily that each crevice in the stone-ground wheat bread soaks in all that artery-clogging yet delicious fat? It feels good. Not only does it feel good when butter is served at the proper temperature it tastes even more decadent. When Mike Meyers, during the SNL skit "Coffee Talk" described something as being like "buddah" (as in Land O' Lakes buddha, not to be mistaken for the fact guy who believes in nothing) that was a very, very good thing. Buddah is decadent.

The same goes for paddling. Paddling should be decadent. If you are on the right board then you will travel across the water like you are flying through a cloud. At least that is what I think the true intent of shapers should be when they create an experience for the consumer. Moving through the water should be like a knife traveling through room temperature "buddah." When you go through the water on the wrong board you can feel the friction as the water molecules cling to the board while you are trying to push it past said molecules. It's like trying to slice a dull knife through a frozen pat  of butter that slides of that tiny plate. It's infuriating! You can't even spread the butter on your bread and you get left with one bite of butter on your bread that is cold and irritating and not satisfying. Frozen butter is like being on the wrong paddleboard.

Choose wisely so you're paddling curiosities are sated. If your paddling experience isn't pleasant check yourself. Maybe the board doesn't have enough volume for you? Maybe it's too wide? Maybe it's too narrow? Maybe your stroke is off? To find the right experience on a board you HAVE TO try a lot of them. I have. Some have been fun; some have been bad. Almost all boards I have owned were for sale within a few months. That momentum has ceased. Riding the 2015 14' BARK Commander is like buddah, baby. It's awesome.

For those of you who have heard my stories from last year about boats coming over to see if I was okay while trying to paddle my 12' Commander in chop or the time this winter when tourists in Oxford called the cops about somebody being in distress out on the river, you know I have had my ugly moments when it comes to traditional paddleboarding. Now, I seem to be over the plateau. Last Saturday I took the 14' Commander out in the bumps and boats actually came over to watch! It was glide after glide and thrill after thrill. By no means am I saying Jamie Mitchell's Decade of Dominance is going to be threatened by me anytime soon, but I am saying that I have found the first board that I plan to hold onto until it disintegrates. The 14' BARK Commander provides you with all the tools you need as a paddler to do well in ANY conditions. How well one does is up to how well tuned, well oiled, and well trained one's engine is!

Stability is the biggest issue in prone. The 14' Commander has it. The board feels more stable than my 16-6 BARK unlimited. Going downwind, even in SUP, has always been my achilles heel. Not any longer. I cannot wait for nuking downwinders this fall when the wind screams out of the Northwest. The shape of the Commander caters to heavier paddlers keeping us in the saddle even when getting nudged in the rear quarter. In a race last Sunday, I was even able to get to my knees in side chop. The stability is unmatched compared to any stock or unlimited board I have ridden previously.

Because of the stability, confidence is gained in the stroke. The ability to catch bumps and even connect bumps, while of course is not easy for us newbies, comes quickly with just a little bit of practice. On my 3rd session on the board I was doing a downwinder after a 12 hour car ride. The board is that forgiving. The board is also willing to catch the slightest of bumps if you are able to put it in the position to do so. If you get the nose in the right position you will get a glide, even in the slightest bit of wind chop. It's unbelievable how much the board feels like it is willing to go to work for you in favorable current and chop.

The board is comfortable to paddle. The chest ramp is set at an angle that doesn't apply too much pressure to my spine. I could take a nap on the padding because it is so soft and thick. At 20.75 inches wide the board fits snug but not too snug. Someone a little wider than myself could feel just as comfortable in the cockpit of the 14' Commander.

If you were having any thoughts about trying things lying down or on your knees and you are over 185 lbs then you need to give the 14 BARK Commander a test drive. If anyone wants to meet to demo mine I would be happy to oblige you. I am going to have mine for a long long time. Any bad outing on this board will be due to operator error only!

Operator error is okay now. It's summer and who cares about falling in the water now? The 14' BARK Commander is so user friendly that within no time your falls will be on purpose.

Bravo, Surftech!

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