Before I even start please keep in mind that this is just my opinion and I am very willing to hear everyone that has an opinion about this topic.
To me the 12’6″ is like racing unicycles. Sure you can do it, but should you? When I think racing, I think of going as fast as you can. Not going as fast as I can on a unicycle. When the 12’6 category started a lot of the motivation was so that the surf guys could race too. 12’8″ also being the size that Clark made their tandem blank, which was the blank of choice at the beginning. Nowadays nobody uses a 12′ 6″ for wave riding and no serious racer aspires to use a 12’6″ some day, unless you want to compete in the elite division of the BOP. I realize a lot of people look at the 12’6″ as a stepping stone, as well as a more economic way to find out if you’re really going to like racing at all. The problem is that once you do discover that you like it, your stuck with a 12’6″, and don’t kid yourself, you are going to like it. How many people can you think of that have tried downwinding or even flat water racing and not enjoyed them selves? I can’t think of one. Either the experience, the exercise or the people involved in this sport are too fun.
Now if your rationale for using it at the BOP elite race is so that you can surf it back in, then I say if you really are elite then you should be able to surf a 14′ race board back in. Plus I think the benefit to the wow factor could increase watching people trying to manage the larger boards through the surf. I also think it would level the playing field for the larger guys, and I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the larger guys, I don’t race in that division so there are no selfish motivations for this point. I honestly don’t think it will change the results much but it could play a factor.
From my perspective the 12’6″ is becoming an overbearing compromised design that neither progresses the sport nor continues to serve a functional need. I think the moment it is retired from all racing divisions, designers will be able to focus on designs that make sense to either the stock division (14 ‘) or the open class ( 16′ plus). If companies feel they need to accommodate an entry level racer they can just offer a wider version of their top of the line board as well as a cheaper construction like the Naish guys do.
To me racing is Nascar or Formula One. In motocross it’s 250 or 500 not 125’s, in stand up it’s 14 and open. Having the 12 foot class makes it hard on the racers to accommodate all the classes and it’s more difficult on the manufacturer to build all the classes and needlessly expensive to the retailer who has to figure out what to stock. I realize there are numerous classes to race cars in and all of them I’m sure are a lot of fun, and the same with motocross, but if we are going to put professionals out on the water for ever growing purses, let’s put them on professional equipment, not over compromised designs that don’t maximize the potential of the sport.
I look forward to any feed back or at least I hope to spark some good discussion wherever you might have an opinion.