RM Paddle: Jack Bark - From Tasmania to Canada and in between

Crossing Channels, Part I

RM Paddle Series - Jack Bark: Crossing Channels, Part I

We were able to track down the paddling protege, Jack Bark, in between downwind runs up in Lake Tahoe, CA.  Jack Bark is making quite a name for himself in the paddleboard world, not only as a talented athlete with some impressive podium finishes, but also as a shaper, explorer, and all around humble waterman.  Jack was kind enough to share what he’s been up to lately and tell us about his upcoming plans and the lead-up to the Molokai to Oahu Paddle Race.

RM: Jack, when did you start paddleboard racing?

JB: I guess I got started when I was 10 years old paddling with my dad.

RM: What was your first race?

JB: I did the Rock-to-Rock when I was 14.

RM: Solo, when you were 14! Does that make you the youngest?

JB: Yeah, I think I was 14.  But Parker Dunbar did it when he was 13 so I think he’s still the youngest.

RM: What is your favorite Race?

JB: Molokai is my favorite - going island to island, is pretty cool.  The ocean out there just feels so much gnarlier with the conditions and all the water moving around.  Plus the huge competitive field makes it tough.

RM: What is your favorite training paddle or routine you like to do?

JB: I’ve been doing a lot of interval training lately and doing a lot of long races to get in the distance training.  The intervals are fun; I get to train with some buddies - Hogan Inscore, my dad, and Slater Trout - although he’s mostly on a Stand-up.  

RM: Do you have a formal team?

JB: No, we just get whoever is free on the weekend to put together some workouts.  It’s fun to get a little crew together, like Chris [Aguilar], my brother Sam, my Dad.

RM: Does being the son of famous paddleboard shaper add extra pressure when you are racing?

JB: Not really.  There aren’t too many younger kids racing prone still; it’s mostly Stand-up.  Prone is building and there will probably be some more getting into it.  There’s a 19 year old named Fletcher from Australia that will be racing Molokai this year and he’s a good guy.  I’ve talk to him a couple times.  He’ll be racing on a Bark, as well.

RM: I imagine being part of the paddle scene from such a young age is pretty cool.  What are some of your early memories of those days?

JB: Looking back it was cool to hang out with those guys and at the time I didn’t even realize who they were - just friends of my Dad’s.  Some of them turned out to be these underground big-wave Hawaiian surfers and famous lifeguards and watermen.  It was pretty cool to be a part of that and getting the chance to know them.

RM: I know the whole family is pretty fired up on paddling, do you have any family rivalries or traditions you can share?

JB: Haha.  No, everyone’s just pretty supportive.  Sam has been ripping with surfing, and he’s definitely better than me on the surfboard these days.

RM: I know you’ve been getting on a plane a lot over the past year between races in Hawaii, the paddle with Brad Gaul and and Zeb Walsh to Tasmania, the Canada trip.  How were those trips?

JB: I was stoked to be invited by Zeb to do the Date with the Strait.  It was a dream of his since he was a 15 year old nipper.  His mom was telling me he’s been talking about paddling that strait forever.  We were out there for 8 days and paddle 6 of those days.  It was gnarly.  If we saw those conditions back at home, we would have said “No way are well paddling in that!”  The currents were crazy because out there in the middle of the strait it’s only like 100 feet deep where the Catalina Channel is like 2 or 3 miles deeps so the currents rip through there.  There were crazy currents and cross chop with 2-4 waves peaking up.  There was one day where it was like 6-8’ seas and it was just sloshing around and the nose of our boards were just going everywhere.  It took some time to recover from the mental toll it took out there.  You would feel like you just did the Classic and then go to bed only to wake up and do it all over again the next day.  That feeling of going to bed knowing you were going to do it all over was pretty tough.  But it was amazing.  The channel is dotted with 150 little islands with mutton birds and penguins and you could just walk along the shore a get abalone - without even diving - and then feast at night.  One night we stayed on one island that was only like 3 football fields across.  It was amazing and a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of such a cool thing.

RM: How was the Canada trip?

JB: The paddle was a  3 day paddle [sponsored by Men’s Health]. Day 1: 40 miles; Day 2: 27 miles; Day 3: 20 miles.  Each night we would camp out in tents. It was put on by a guy named Simon Whitfield, who has won a gold, silver and bronze for the triathlon in 3 olympics and we did it to raise awareness for mens health, to show that staying active is key as men get older.  Day one was a long channel crossing, followed by a 15 miles paddle against a 10 knot headwind, and 3 knot current.  Fortunately, Day 2 was more mellow, only 26 [miles], and not too much current. Day 3 was the coldest. George Plesk and I had full suits, booties, gloves, and hoods on, fighting wind, rain, and water in the mid 40s.  In all, we paddled from Vancouver to Victoria.

RM: GNARLY!!!  I think you proved the point that you were staying active!

RM: You have gotten the support of some solid sponsors?  How has that helped you with paddling and racing?

JB: I’m blessed to have such great sponsors despite how niche paddleboarding is as a sport.  My sponsors have supported me enough to allow me to travel to places like Australia, Canada, and to a bunch of races.  My current sponsors are Hurley, Maui Jim, Vertra, Bark Paddleboards, Surftech, and FreeStyle Watches.

RM: What are you racing on these days?

JB: I’ve been racing the Surftech Commander this season, especially for Molokai and Catalina.  It’s cool that we’ll have Zeb, Hogan from Maui, and Fletcher all racing on the same board [at Molokai] so it will be all about ability out there.

RM: Besides paddling, what are some of your other ocean passions?  

JB: I’ve been diving quite a bit since the surf was so small this winter, especially during lobster season.  Hogan Inscore and I got quite a lot of bugs.  I’ve also been surfing the Bark 10’6” race board - those things go insane in the surf and you can ride anything!

RM: It seems like you must spend about 6 hours a day in or on the water, what do you do when you’re on dry land?

JB: I’m shaping a lot now - mostly prone boards and a few SUPs.  We haven’t run out of orders for a while so I haven’t had much time to experiment with any new designs.  We have a ton of prone paddleboard orders right now so it’s cool to see that resurgence.  I’m fired up on shaping short boards - especially anything that I can surf myself.

RM: Do you want to make any shout outs to sponsors or those that inspire you?

JB: A shout out to my Mom and Dad.  Thanks to my Dad for getting me into paddling.  I had no idea my life would be where it is today and I couldn’t do it without him.  Thanks to my Mom and the whole family for all the support!

RM: Thanks, Jack!

Check back for Part II for more of Jack Bark's Training Secrets!

photo: Chris Aguilar, www.finfilmcompany.com

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