Bark Vapor Ghost 12’6 test drive

Sometimes you step on a paddleboard, and you immediately love it. You know that you and that board can have many exciting adventures together.

Others you don’t connect with at all. It’s doesn’t feel worth the time or energy that would be necessary to decide if it is anything that you want to have adventures on.

And then there are those boards with ambiguous adventure potential. You might not immediately be comfortable on it, but something about it grabs you and makes you want more. And if you have the time and the inclination, you might take a chance on it, and you might get rewarded.

Typically when you are searching for a new paddleboard you want something that you can have fun on today, but that will still challenge you enough that you can grow into it. If it’s too far above your ability level, it will likely be discouraging, and you can miss out on a lot of fun while you are taking your lumps. In the end it may, or may not, be worth it.

It’s no secret that my SIC Bullet 12’6 is my comfy pair of slippers. It’s my one board quiver (if I could only have one board). It’s my go anywhere, do anything board. I am comfortable and confident that it can take me anywhere I want to go. And even though I am loyal to my beloved Bullet, the Bark Vapor Ghost (the carbon version of the Bark Vapor) recently piqued my curiosity.

Joe Bark created this board as an all around board completely capable of handling chop, open water, and downwinding, while still working on flat water. It’s an interesting shape when you look at it on land and it’s even more interesting when you hop on and start to paddle.

pics from standupzone are of the Pro-Elite construction of the 14′

Maybe it’s the stealthy name Vapor Ghost that grabbed me. But more likely it’s the combination of a nose taken from a prone board, transitioning to a really flat middle section and a wide, squared tail, all at 26” wide with really rounded rails.

I was jonesing to paddle this board for a couple of weeks and got the chance on some flat water into a 10-15 knot headwind a week or so ago. That left me wanting more. From the first moment on this board, it was a very different feel from anything else I have ridden. It feels really loose around the feet with a ton of rail-to-rail movement. It feels like you have ball bearings under your feet.

The word slippery has been used to describe it, perhaps it’s because of the feeling that the bottom is just going to slip out from under you. It’s almost squirrely. It’s almost twitchy. It feels really wobbly. But somehow it’s still cool and has a ton of stability. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Other initial impressions were that it’s quick into a headwind, though it did send up a pretty good spray. It’s really comfortable on your feet, and it’s easy to maneuver (more on that later).

But chop is where it should shine, so it only makes sense that I take it to the chop to properly test it. When I need chop in RI, Jamestown is usually my “go to”.   Even on a calm day, you can pretty much be assured of a rough ride down to Beavertail between the really deep, narrow channel, lots of boat traffic, the funneling of the ocean into the Bay, and the rebound you get off of rocks that combines with the all of that to make these weird little peaks stand up in a variety or weird little ways.

From Ft. Wetherill to Beavertail I was into the wind and swell, but the tide was going out, so that added to the wonkiness. There was also more boat traffic on the way out providing some lovely wakes from the side, perpendicular to the incoming swell.

This board is great into the wind. It is very streamlined and the nose feels really light. It holds a line and doesn’t get pushed around a lot. At the same time, it doesn’t get locked in, so you can still maneuver easily if you are getting hit from the side. I didn’t expend much energy at all trying to keep things on track. It is very nimble. Where I spent the energy (and it was quite a bit of energy) was staying on the board.

The Vapor is very lively and responsive to everything going on underneath you. If you have ever spent time on an Indoboard with the cushion you are familiar with the constant little adjustments that you have to make if you want to stay up/on it. There was a lot of adjusting going on. At first I tried to compensate for all of the movement by weighting this opposite rail to keep the board trim. Eventually I started just going with the board. Obviously if it was going to result in baptism by Beavertail, I was going to adjust. But if I let the board do what the board wants to do, life is a lot easier. That’s the same way to ride the Bullet. Fighting against it is futile and exhausting. Being one with the board and following its lead is much more efficient and pleasant.

There were approximately ½ dozen times that I was sure I was going to get wet, but a brace with the paddle kept me on until the rail popped back up. The board definitely doesn’t have any trouble handling the chop. But it’s a matter of can you handle the board.

On the way back it was slack tide, and the conditions calmed down dramatically (don’t be fooled by the calm in the cove…it didn’t calm down THAT much beyond it). When I first turned around, the swells were a pretty good size, but I was having a terrible time getting on them. This is supposed to be a really good downwind board, but it didn’t approach the ease of which the Bullet picks up the bumps. So that’s definitely an area to work on.  As the conditions calmed down and the bumps got smaller, I was actually able to pick them up easily.  The board was really comfortable the whole time even with all of that holding on.

All in all it was a really interesting ride. It was one of the more challenging outings I have been on in recent years.   It will definitely take more time out there to dial it in, but this board has lots of fun adventures potential!

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