Karl Kruger: A Challenge of Immense Proportions

Karl visiting Joe’s shaping room to design his new board.

Karl visiting Joe’s shaping room to design his new board.

Karl Kruger is preparing for a 1,900 mile journey through the icy the Northwest Passage, unsupported and solo on a custom BARK stand up board. His longest paddle to date is 766 miles, so this will be his longest expedition by far. Last month, Karl met with Joe to discuss the specs for his new board, which will need to carry 200lbs of gear and withstand harsh, icy conditions.

To learn more about his experience paddling and upcoming journey, we interviewed Karl and have shared his answers below.

1. How did you get started paddling?

My father was a talented canoeist. He grew up in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York. He was born in 1909 to an Algonquin mother and Austrian Father. He was fortunate to be born into a very strong paddling/ water culture. He passed that on to me. I don't remember the first time he pressed a paddle into my hands. He shaped me my first paddle. We hunted by canoe, traveled by canoe, and just plan old messed around in canoes a whole lot while I was growing up. He gave me a one-man canoe when I was about 9 years old. That boat and I had some adventures. Rivers, lakes and even on the Ocean one time up on Nova Scotia. That was my first time paddling saltwater...I LOVED IT!!!

2. What have you learned about yourself in the process?

I've learned about every nook and cranny. The water life, much like climbing or any other endeavor where you are forced to bump into and mingle with the infinite power of nature. I've learned how to ask for help at the same time as learning how to be self-sufficient. I've learned the value of surrounding myself with like-minded people. Namely, I've learned about the power of community. I have also learned that I do my best work when I am swimming in the unknown...when I wake up and have NO IDEA what is going to happen next. It can be scary, but also incredibly liberating experience. It is pointless to worry...you just simply DO. Just keep DOING. It feels really good to be in that stripped down place. 

3. What excursion are you preparing for?

I am preparing to SUP the Northwest Passage. The route I am aiming to accomplish is about 1,900 miles. Depending on ice conditions, I will leave in late June or early July.

4. What does the Northwest Passage represent for you?

The Northwest Passage represents a challenge of immense proportions. Nobody has ever Stand Up Paddleboarded through the passage. The sense of the unknown is very strong. I am reading all the books I can get my hands on to learn all I can. I have a lot to figure out. There is a lot of mental preparation, as well as logistics planning. This trip also represents the potential for me to add my voice to the chorus of voices speaking up about the realities of Climate Change. Climate Change is real, and the Arctic is changing more rapidly than anyplace else. 

Various Northwest Passage Routes

Various Northwest Passage Routes

5. What gear are you bringing with you?

Not much. A gun for the bears...a RO water maker, tent, stove, clothing, bear fences for sleeping time, a SatPhone, GPSs, solar panel, VHF Radio, two paddles, and a bunch of food...

6. Why BARK? 

Joe is a master. The first time I ever paddled one of his boards, it was an immediate fit. The fact Joe has been a prone paddler and Waterman for so long is evident in his shapes. I believe there is a strong connection between his years prone paddling, and the fact that his shapes are so good. His knowledge of water and board shape is visceral. Starting with his hands. Not to mention, he's just a damn good human. I'm proud to know him.

7. What are some achievements you are proud of?

I am insanely proud of my Daughter Dagny. She is a strong Watergirl, sailor, and paddler. She has a mean stroke, and is a promising little Grom. She has a beautiful seat on her horse, Tappy, also. I'm proud of my paddle up the Inside Passage to Alaska during the 2017 R2AK also. That was an incredible trip. I had a lot of fun.  

8. What are 3 things you hope to accomplish in the future?

First...I want to SUP the Northwest Passage. After that, I am looking forward to captaining a two-year science expedition aboard SV Ocean Watch. THAT will be a fulfilling trip. I'm excited to be supporting scientists as they gather data about the health of our oceans, and communities that depend on them. I really want to sail to Greenland...and do some Skiing and Standup Paddling there.

More on this exciting adventure to come- stay tuned.

You can check out more of what Karl and his family are up to here on his website. We’re so excited to see what’s to come!

Zanes' New ECOBOARD Quiver


We recently teamed up with EcoBoard to set up Zane Schweitzer with a new quiver for 2019. We spoke with him on why he wanted these boards, and why this technology!

-Why all these different boards?
”Success is when preparation meets opportunity. So it’s really nice to rock up to the beach on any day not only being confident in our own abilities but also allowing that confidence to translate into my equipment. Just as a golfer has the right club for any shot, having a quiver of boards like this allows me to be ready for a variety of waves and conditions!”

What is this sustainable technology?

”Last year in 2018 I approached uncle Joe sharing my interest to use more ocean friendly materials for my quiver of big wave boards. Most my crafts including the boards I compete on the world tour with are already EcoBoards, so I am confident in many of these new innovations in sustainable surf technologies and they are proving to be at the forefront of our new generation in high performance surf sports. Not only are these  performing at world class levels but they are sharing the importance for us surfers to take responsibility for our personal environmental impact. As a surfer who likes to work hands on with shapers, these materials are much more comfortable to work with as they are not nearly as harmful for our health.  
All these new boards for my 2019 quiver are Level One ECOBOARDS, made with Bioscience resin from Resin Research!”

Where are you going to be surfing these boards? 
”The biggest boards in this quiver 8’8”- 10’7” will be called to action for XXL days 15-20ft+ at Pe’ahi, Waimea and other spots right at home, along with Mavericks, Nazare and Pico Alto to name a few locations around the world. My step up range from 6’2”-8’ will be the boards I ride on the rising swell anywhere from Pipeline and Puerto Escondito, to Teahupoo and Honolua Bay on waves anywhere from 3-15ft Hawaiian. The Longboard will be my go to board for those days I feel like staying busy in small waves and working my footwork. All these boards vary in not only size, but as well the style they are ridden with! For 2019 I plan to use my Bark Boards in competition at Pe’ahi for the Ultimate Waterman Competition. I’ll also be making my first appearance to the WSL Big Wave World Tour events with hopes to qualify! 
There’s another big wave paddle in and/or tow surf event I’ve been invited to this year in Oregon and Spain. 

Aloha and Mahalo,
Zane Kekoa Schweitzer”

We’re pretty stoked on how these boards came out, and can not wait to see the waves Zane will be riding on them very soon.

Hunter Pfluegers' Road to the ISA Distance Gold!

Hunter bring it home for team USA. Photo: ISA

Hunter bring it home for team USA. Photo: ISA

This last month, Hunter Pflueger and many more top paddle athletes raced for their countries at the 2018 ISA SUP and Paddleboards World Championship in Wanning, China. Australia took home the gold, the US won silver, and Hunter raced like he never raced before. Here’s what he had to say about his trip and his first, (and definitely not last) gold medal!

“This whole crazy adventure to China began one night while I was sitting in my dorm at the University of San Diego. My phone rang, and it was my dad. He asked if I had seen the message from him (I hadn't yet), he told me Steve Shlens called, USA needs a male prone paddler for 2018 ISA in China. Right when I heard those words so many thoughts started running through my mind. Right when I got off the phone with my dad I Immediately contacted Steve. He filled me in on what the logistics would be. Fast forward to November 22nd and I am boarding the plane to China. The forecast was looking good, almost a little too good to be true. We would have 20-30mph winds for the distance race, ideal for some mental downwind runs. Turns out the reason why the wind was so good was because there was a typhoon on the way. This flipped the script and now competition dates would be moved around. First, we would race the technical (3 miles) then we would race the distance (11 miles). 

      On the morning of the technical momentum was with Team USA. Before my race, our junior Sup racers, Ryan Funk and Jade Howson, both put on a show taking home the gold. I was pumped. 

       The tech race began with Lachie Lansdown (Australia), Daniel Hart (New Zealand), Jadon Wessels (South Africa) and I taking charge and breaking the pack. Last time I raced in the ISA tech race I had been dropped right off the start so just to be up there and to be able to hang with the top pack was super cool. As the race went on the positions between the four of us rotated constantly, but somehow, I was able to stick in there. When the final lap came all of us were still neck to neck. I was on the far left, closest to the buoy, but farthest from the waves that we had been catching to get to the buoy faster. I was about half way to that buoy when I looked back. I didn't see any waves, but I also knew that even a small bump could change everything. I decided to gamble and skip the waves and straight shot it to buoy. It paid off as my competition had to paddle farther to come back toward the buoy as I made a break for it. Lachie was hot on my heels though. I had maybe 10-15 yards on him. As I sprinted in toward the finish line, I thought I had it, my first gold medal. Mother nature had other plans though. A quick glance to my left and here comes Lachie on the smallest little swell possible. So small in fact that it does not reach me. We hit the beach, he was about half a board length in front and from there I watched him out sprint me, winning by three seconds. Exhausted from 30 minutes of racing I was too tired to be upset, I had just got my first ISA World Championship Podium! More importantly though, I had finally challenged Lachie, something I had been trying to do ever since I first raced him. That was the real victory for me that day. 

     After a couple days rest, we all lined up again for the distance race...and there were bumps. I knew I had to seize every opportunity to put pressure on the other guys. Three laps totaling 11 miles, it was going to be a grind, with flat, down and side wind all mixed together. The race played out similar to the tech race. The same pack of four separating, shooting off at the start. One lap down and we all stayed together. I was feeling fresh. As we finished the second lap, I knew I would have to make my move soon. I was not about to leave it to a sprint finish again. When the time came I executed my plan. Lachie stuck right next to me though as we made our way into the downwind section, where he excels. There I had to focus on every little detail to not give him any ground or opportunity to break away. Finishing the downwind and going into the upwind I had to put my head down and grind. I had a little gap and over the course of the final third lap, I was able to grow it slowly. I ran up the beach completely stunned at what had happened. I had won the 2018 ISA Paddleboard World Championships distance race. Not really sure what to feel, I was just content with how everything went. 

    All in all, China was amazing. It is always great to catch up with friends from other countries and to be a part of Team USA and take home an overall of 2nd out of 26 countries was the cherry on top. A huge thank you to Bark Boards for always looking after to me. Best boards and even better people.”


           Hunter Pflueger 

***All photos by ISA.

2017 Catalina Classic

Highlights and stories of the 2017 Catalina Classic. This video is made possible by Bark Paddleboards and Easy Reader News. Additional footage from Klein Creative Media, Chris Barrios and Slader Bark. Primary Shooting: Chris Aguilar. Editorial: Chris Aguilar / Fin Film Company Primary Shooting on Panasonic GH5

Chris Aguilar captured the action from this years grueling, current filled Catalina Classic. It was a tough year of racing with everyone who crossed the line leaving a winner. Max First took the win for his third time, Katie Hazelrigg took home the women's stock victory, and Lachie Landsdown also won his third stock victory. congratulations everyone who was out there!

Jacks Oregon Adventure

Jack was up in Oregon this last week for the Gorge Paddle Race, and ended up scoring some pretty fun conditions. This is what he had to say about his paddles up there.

"Pat Towersey and I got up to Oregon Wednesday afternoon, and immeditaly wanted to hop in the water. The wind was blowing 15-25, which looked epic, but the locals were saying it was nothing. We borrowed some stock boards from Big Wind Paddle Shop and got a ride to the start of the 8 mile downwind course. We had a fun paddle, feeling out the course and getting some sweet runs. Thursday we had to go work in Portland, but Friday was when I scored. Pat had to leave town, and so Kai and Ridge Lenny and myself got in the water at around 11:30 for a run. It was blowing about 30-40 this day and was absolutely going bonkers. There were breaking waves all over, and it was just stacking up. I've never seen waves like this before, and having them in a river running against the current made them really stand up and hold a lot longer. It was so fun that after this run I went straight back up and met Slater and Dave for another run. This one was a bit smaller, but equally as fun! 100 yard runs all the way down the course.

Saturday we were treated with glassy conditions, and a sky that looked like something out of Star Wars. It was bright orange from all the fires around the area, and it made it super hard to breathe.  I decided to enter the SUP race, and borrowed a Surftech D2 to race on. That race was so brutal, and i was happy just to finish and bring up the rear.Ate that, and with the expected forecast for Sundays downwind race, I wasn't too stoked to race more flat water. 

We woke up Sunday to glass again, and they kept pushing the start time back hoping for wind, but it was useless, it was going to be another flat day. Thats when I decide to call it and I paddled across the Gorge into the White Salmon River in Washington. It was so fun paddling up the river, and eventually turning around and riding the flow and a few rapids back down. Its all about the adventure! Cant wait to get back up there next year, or sooner!" #weliveforthis #keeppaddling

ISA World Paddle Championships in Mexico 2015

This last week, Team USA went down to compete in the SUP and Paddle board World Championships in Mexico. Included in the team was Candice Appleby, Carter Graves, Jack Bark, and Steve Shlens, along with many other amazing athletes! The team dominated, winning 6 individual gold medals, 2 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals. The team won overall, for the first time in 4 years, taking the title off of reigning champions from Australia. Here are some photos from Bark paddlers from the week long event! Congrats team USA!

All photos from ISA. You can check out video highlights and the full gallery here. 


Matt Becker at Mavericks

Mavericks went off last week, and Matt Becker was ready for it. He ended up getting a few big bombs. This is what he said about the historical day of surfing.

"December 20th was such a heavy day. It was a dark gloomy day, with a ton of action packed into it. There was so much going on with skis, drones, and tons of boats and spectators out there all to watch and support some of the most progressive big wave surfing I've seen. We pulled up in the early morning and the first wave we saw was some poor guy straightening out on 25 footer. There was good, clean, consistent big surf all day... and the performance level was through the roof. There were so many good surfers and good waves ridden , it's hard to say who stuck out . First to my mind would be Nic Vaughn, Jamie Mitchell, and Shawn Dollar. They snagged the biggest waves of the day in my opinion. Anthony Tashnick, Kyle Thiermann, and Pat Gadauskus all got same insane waves. There was a huge Hawaiian presence this swell also; I watched Francisco Porcello, Shaun, and DK Walsh get some unreal bombs... you wouldn't have ever guessed it was their first session out there."

Surftech in Tahiti!

Morgan Hoestery, Allison Riddle, George Plesk, and Jack Bark went to Tahiti for a week, and this is what they came back with.

Sunday Sessions with Morgan Hoestery

Morgan Hoesterey is starting The Sunday Sessions, a new video of people having fun in the ocean every week! Here's clip number one! "Hanging with Jack Bark is never not fun. Especially when there is a downwinder involved. The Davenport Downwinder in Santa Cruz is one of the most fun things I have ever been lucky enough to do, and paddling next to a super stoked Jack Bark just makes it all that much better. A few days before this year's Jay Race in Santa Cruz, Jack and I (along with Joe Bark and Chris Aguilar from Fin Film Company) managed to sneak out for a bit to catch some open ocean waves..."


Catalina Classic 2014

This years Catalina classic was a brutal race. An early wind, and a south swell made the race anything but easy. Max First put the pressure on from the start, and took the win in the Unlimited Class with a very stacked field of paddlers. Lockwood Holmes came out of nowhere to break the stock record, with a new time of 5:45:59. Also in the stock class, Cater Graves finished first in the women's, also breaking a record, with a time of 6:08:05. Congrats to everyone who crossed the finish line. Amazing accomplishment. Video by Chris Aguilar and Fin Film Company.

Molokai2Oahu 2014

The Molokai2Oahu paddleboard race this year was amazing! There were great race conditions, and each division was stacked full of fast athletes. Matt Poole took home the men's UL division on his Bark unlimited. Jack Bark and Carter Graves also won the Stock paddleboard class on the Bark Surftech Commander. Check the full results here. Congrats to all who finshed the race, amazing accomplishment!

Thanks to the amazing sponsors and to all the men and women who volunteered to make this one of the best races out there!

A Date With The Strait

This past March, Zeb Walsh, Brad Gaul, and Jack Bark took on the challenge of a lifetime. To paddle from Mainland Australia to Tasmania, a 300 kilometer journey through some of the wildest seas in the world. After settling in after completing their world record paddle these are their thoughts on the trip.

Zeb's take:
This paddle was a dream I have had for like 10 years. After Molokai, I hit Jack up to do it and he was super keen which was classic cause he knew nothing about the Bass Strait before hand! Haha. Once I had locked Jack in, I rang Brad. I knew if Jack and I were in, there was no way Brad was going to let us go without him.
So we had our team and in my eyes there was no way we could have gotten a better team to paddle this Strait. Brad pretty much hasn't lost a race in the last 2 years. Jack, well, he is the skinniest kid I know but probably the only person I know that, if he wanted, he could equal Jamie 10 straight Molokai wins but on a stock board.
We made it hard for Brad by making him paddle a stock board and we were lucky enough to have the great Joe Bark give us 3 New SurfTech Commanders to paddle. So it was all set to take part in what was probably the biggest adventure we had done to date.
So the biggest part of the trip was the paddling. We are all distance paddlers but what we were looking at was six Molokai2Oahu paddles in eight days. I thought we all could do it before hand but after the first day I will be honest I started to worry a little bit. haha. After two lay days of bad weather we did the last five days straight and it hurt. But if it was easy it wouldn't have been an adventure. We got to learn about one and other and ourselves and we can do what ever we want as long as your willing to hurt your self a little. It was the hardest but most satisfying paddle I have ever done and I can't wait for the next one!!
For me in the end I was so stoked to fulfill a dream that everyone told me wasn't possible, and to share this with Jack & Brad and our support team. I don't think I can write how it feels for me. But I will say this isn't the one and only crazy paddle adventure we will have together! The sky is the limit and with the friends we have everything is possible.

Jack’s take:
Over all, it was the wildest, hardest, yet most fun trip I’ve ever been on. To start it off, we couldn’t have had a better crew out there. Captain “Nudge” brought the most laughs to the downtime on the boat, as well as checking the weather 24/7 to get us in the best conditions possible. Having Dean Gardner out there with us was also amazing. One because he’s a legend, and two because he knows so much about the ocean and was key in keeping us motivated. The film crew we had was epic. Mic, Cormac, and Blake are all very talented at what they do and super awesome dudes. And then getting invited to go with Zeb and Brad, hands down the best stock and unlimited paddlers on the planet right now, it was a dream.
The paddling was the most brutal part of the trip putting a lot of physical and mental strain on all of us. The stretch of water between AUS and Tasi is really extreme, at its deepest its 100 meters. We would paddle days where were were only over 25 meters of water for 30k. This, factor in a 3 knot current and a 10 knot wind going against it, created some good sized waves, usually never going in our favor. I got sick for a few days and could barely eat any food. So for the 2nd and 3rd days I either was asleep or paddling. Paddling between 6 and 9 hours a day, there was no way any of us could have done it alone. The encouragement we got from each other kept us going each day. After each day's paddle we would try to explore these beautiful islands, mostly walking around like zombies, or in my case, falling asleep pretty much anywhere. We scored an epic pub for Nudges birthday on Flinders island, but we realized it was Sunday, and of course, that means the whole town is at the lawn bowling club. We ended up watching for a while, then got bored and went back to the boat to BBQ steaks and a fresh lobster some kind fishermen gave us. The islands we got to explore were the most amazing places I’ve ever been to. They were full of 1000 ft. cliffs dropping to deep blue water, crazy currents and whirlpools, and crystal clear water. We got to eat fresh abalone and fish, and grilled chicken and steaks at night. And the fact that there were penguins and wallabies everywhere was pretty sweet for me to check out. I loved bonding with the natives! : )
Over all, I’m so stoked for Zeb to have completed this dream he’s had since he was 15! Such feeling for his family to see him accomplish the paddle, something people thought couldn’t be done. Now I have an incredible friendship with Brad and Zeb and some amazing stories to go with it. 

300k Paddle Breakdown:
250k hard side/up wind
30k glassy
20k downwind

Brad's Take:
We jumped in the icy Tasman and left and it looked spectacular with the beautiful deep blue ocean underneath. A seal even followed us for an hour from Wilsons Promontory. Land began to fade behind and the further we got towards the horizon, the side chop grew. It was our first taste at how much the wind would control the paddling conditions... and the morale for that matter. Despite a relative flat swell, the winds would get so strong at times there would be three to six foot chop. Six hours of the nose going up and down through the chop, and the board getting caught in the wind while one arms trying to paddle, and the other is stabilizing the board is torturous, and heartbreaking at times. The way the currents pull in the Strait is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It can pull up to three and a half knots, almost 10km/h. For much of the first day the current was working against us, and a five-hour paddle turned into a seven-hour battle. When you get caught up in a current you just feel like you’re in the hands of Mother Nature. She’s calling the shots; you’ve just got to deal with them.
As our paddles went on, our bodies went into complete survival mode. Muscle fatigue was the first thing to rattle my body. Rashing too. Then my knees went and my neck locked up. That’s where you learn alot about yourself. The emotions came on without even knowing. One moment I’m spiraling into a really down moment and would be crying, then 5k later I’d be back on a high thinking, “How good is this?”. We all went into this felling pretty tough. Doing Molokai you have to have some mental toughness. But we came out of it enlightened.
The last day we had to gun it across the channel otherwise the weather would lock us in at the island for 3 days. This was the 66k day. It took us 9 hours. I spotted in the distance these little white things in the water. As we got closer, we saw they were 3-foot stationary waves, forming due to the tide change, in the middle of the ocean. In the end, the boat had to stay way outside of us or it would have flipped due to the currents and howling side wind.
Making it to the beach in Tasi was incredible. The feeling of winning is one thing. But this was a feeling of relief and achievement. There’s a bond between us now that’s pretty unexplainable. Everyone has a pain threshold, but it's not untill you go beyond it that you realize what’s really possible, and it proves the power your mind has over your body.