July 31, 2012
Jack Bark was sick. The 18-year-old paddleboarder arrived in Hawaii last week to compete in the arduous 32-mile Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard World Championships with a head cold that made breathing difficult.
When the race began at dawn Sunday morning, Bark wasn’t even thinking about winning. He was just hoping to finish. And when he finished, 5 hours 28 minutes and 16 seconds later, he wasn’t thinking he had won.
Bark was happy just to have competed in, and completed, the race. But he had also just become the youngest paddler to ever win the stock division of Molokai.
“Super cool,” Bark said in an interview Tuesday from Hawaii, where he was still trying to get his head around the fact that he’d won Molokai. “Especially waking up the morning of and still not feeling good, I was just hoping to finish.”
Bark, who is the son of legendary paddleboarder and paddleboard maker Joe Bark, said that things felt better as soon as he got on the water Sunday morning.
“I felt a lot better than when I was on land,” he said.
He finished on 59 seconds ahead the second-place finisher, Australian Zeb Walsh, in the stock (12-foot) division. Australian Brad Gaul won the unlimited division with a time of 4:43:54. Bark finished ninth overall. Another South Bay local, Palos Verdes resident and former Catalina Classic winner Sean Richardson, finished 22nd overall, in 5:48:38. His dad finished 55th, in 6:43:03.
Molokai is an equally prestigious but very different race from the revered Catalina Classic, the local paddleboard race from Catalina Island to the Manhattan Beach pier. Though the two events cover the same distance, Molokai is a rougher race, requiring not just paddling but the ability to combat and take advantage of the big Hawaiian swells.
Bark said he fell off his board three times, battling swells that were consistently 8- to 10-feet. But he also said that he found it easier than the mostly flat water paddling of local events such as the Rock to Rock (from Catalina to Palos Verdes) and the Classic.
“A lot of water moving for sure, big open ocean swells,” Bark said. “It’s challenging in some ways, but it’s definitely easier than Catalina because half the time you are sitting up on your board riding a big wave. It’s more resting time than Catalina, when you are paddling the whole 32 miles.”
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