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Tona is the brainchild of pro rider Andre Phillip, board shaper Dereck Camacho and Kitescoop.com founder Adam Anton. For 2015 Tona is offering three twin tip models and in the new year, a directional in two sizes. Marketing Manager Leo Chen tell us a bit more about what makes the company tick and what changes and additions will be made to Tona’s 2015 products.
The idea for Tona was formed in 2007 and the first production board, the Driftwood was launched in 2010. What made Tona go for it and what type of competitive edge do you believe the company has over other brands in the market? We know we’re kind of the new kids on the block, so to speak. But, at the same time, the individuals who make up the heart and soul of our company have been in the industry since the beginning. Dereck Camacho has been custom shaping all manner of boards, surf, kite, heck even skateboards since he was 16. Now, he’s shaping for us. Adam Anton started up Kitescoop.com way back in the day and now is in charge of all the art for Tona. Last but not least you have Andre Phillip (Dre) who has been riding and styling it out since before Autofocus came out on dvd; he’s been in the industry since 1999. That’s over 15 years of rubbing shoulders with everyone in the industry which has really allowed him to become immersed in the culture of our sport. The point is, we have a lot of experience that has finally come together and gelled as an organic brand. But really, we don’t like to think of ourselves as a brand or a team, we’re one big family.
What made us go for it? You know how sometimes you’re craving a pizza and Domino’s or Papa John’s just isn’t going to cut it? You’re craving something, that you know how to make and you know how to execute, but you can’t just grab it off the shelf. So what do you do? You get off your lazy butt, you fire up your oven and make your own darn pizza. Well, these guys had the experience and knowhow, and were all looking for a feel in our boards that just wasn’t quite out there yet. As far as a competitive edge? We know we’re not a huge company, we know we might not have as much cash to toss around, but what we do have is passion. Every single person who is involved with Tona came together not because we were recruited, but because we volunteered. We love the boards that we build; these are the boards that We want to ride day in and day out. Passion is something you can’t coach, you can’t design, and we hope that we manage to convey the passion and stoke we have for Tona in every single product that we release. We are doing this, because this is a sport we love. it’s a bond that brings us all together and helps shape our product.
How does your R&D process work and does Tona adhere to industry product release cycles? The process really starts with a round table discussion with what we really want to build and achieve with a certain product. Dereck then takes these kind of nebulous ideas and solidifies them into prototypes for our testers to go at. Dereck has been shaping in this industry since the very beginning with DC Boardz, so he brings a lot of experience to the table. He’s got a nice little workshop set up in Florida — kind of a mad scientist’s lab for kiteboarding. He’ll build out prototypes and ship them out to our testers and riders. The dude’s a machine, but what really impresses me is how intuitive he is with shaping. He knows how the tiniest changes are going to affect board feel and performance. Some Zen board shaping, yoda stuff going on that I won’t even begin to pretend I can understand or replicate. Well, that’s why he’s our shaper.
Obviously, guys like Dre and Jake Kelsick have a huge impact at this stage. Those guys really put our boards through the ringer. The prototypes first need to meet the approval of our riders, which is a tough first step. For a guy so laid back and chill, Dre is a perfectionist. Once they pass, we also need to test all our different sizes, because making a 142 from a 138 isn’t just a simple matter of scaling it upwards. Or, at least we don’t believe it should be. Once that happens, we then go to the factory and try to figure out a good way to mass produce the board. There’s a lot of back and forth here as we try to balance cost and performance for the end rider. We believe that boards should be fun to ride, but we’re also not going to make you mortgage your house to buy the latest and greatest Tona.
We’re a bit unique in our release cycles. We don’t believe in giving you a new color on a board every year and charging you an extra $100 while telling you it’s going to change your life and blow your mind. Dereck likes to call it an organic release cycle. He’s always tweaking and working with the factory to make little things about the boards better. We release new boards when a significant change happens (like the new Driftwood), and if we’re just updating the graphics with minor tweaks like with the newest pop, we’re upfront about it.
The Driftwood is the industry’s only production kite-specific skate. For 2015 it has a new shape. How did the change affect performance and why would a rider prefer this type of board over a skimboard? Skates and skimboards handle differently. Think of a kite skate as basically a skateboard in water. You can ollie it, you can hit features like rails and sliders with it. Guys like our rider Jason Stone are busting out backside big spins and Varial flips. Skimboards are more slanted to light wind riding and small waves and have a much more slidey feel than what a skate will offer.
The latest Driftwood got a bit wider, we gave it a bit more junk in its trunk. We also slapped on a EVA deck with a concave built in, so it really locks in your feet. Both of these were added to make the skate a bit more accessible to people. It planes earlier, it cuts upwind better and the kicktail gives you a bit more leverage.
The Flow was introduced to the market in spring 2014 and was inspired by Dre’s love of surfing. Where does this board fit in your product line? The Flow is our newest twin tip, and yes Dre is the heart and soul behind this board. It’s just a great feeling board in general. The reason we say it’s inspired by Dre’s love of surfing is really the feeling you get from this board when you’re carving or turning. A lot of this has to do with our hourglass concave on the bottom. You get this nice, deep concave at the tips that tapers down and flattens in the middle of the board and then widens again at the other side. This gives you the ability to throw some awesome edge to edge carves and also lets you go from locked in grippy to smooth and flowy just with a simple weight transfer. It’s a unique feel. The more flexible tips also allow you to really press out when you’re hitting sliders, but the stiff middle section makes it so you’re not losing energy and sacrificing pop.
The rocker line eats up chop too. So if your local spot isn’t exactly the glassiest of playgrounds, then the Flow will really help smooth things out. The Flow is a board that really likes being powered; it really comes alive when you’re lit up. Some boards, when you’re right on that hairy edge, start feeling squirrely and jittery but not the Flow. That’s where it likes living. What I personally think makes the Flow so awesome is just how effortless it makes everything feel. You think, it does. It’s like it knows what i’m thinking. This board is also amazing at the cable park. More and more cable parks are popping up all over the place. It’s a great place to dial in your skills when the wind isn’t blowing, and the Flow gives you a board that will work just as well behind the kite as behind the cable. Part of this is due to its deeper rocker line which keeps you from sliding out on landings at the cable.
For 2015, the Pop was slightly modified. Why and what will fans of this board most notice? The latest generation pop has stronger insert blocks than before and a brand new colorway/graphics, courtesy of Adam. The shape of the board and its ride characteristics have stayed the same. We’ve been upfront about this in the marketing of this board. If your original generation pop is still riding strong, then we say stick with it. We built them to be bombproof so it could last. That being said, maybe you dig Adam Anton’s new graphics this year, or just like how this particular shade of blue really brings out your eyes. If that’s the case then feel free to pick up an awesome board.
We felt like the pop rode in a manner that we really enjoyed, and didn’t feel the need to tweak it too much this time around. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from riders and eventually, yes, we will refresh the shape. But, for now we will let it stand.
How would you recommend a rider choose between the Pop and Flow? We actually have a video about that! It’s a question we get a lot. (Watch pop vs Flow video) the way I like to explain it to people is, think of the Flow as a cadillac and the pop as a souped up muscle car. The Flow is a nice cush ride through chop, it turns smoothly, pops effortlessly and just . . . Has flow. It’s a much cruisier ride, more of a point and go kind of feel to go upwind rather than edging as much. And, oh man, the landings. When you’re coming in hot, that rocker line and the flex in the tips just saves your knees. I also have yet to find a board that is more fun to huck off of wave kickers. If you ever watch Dre ride, I like to think of the Flow as Dre’s avatar in board form. It makes things so effortless, and its laidback and smooth. It personifies everything that makes Dre, Dre.
The pop on the other hand is just aggressive and fast. It loves to go hard. I joke that it’s a board that’s always turned up to 11. All that speed and the deep rails that give it that locked in feel, translate to a super fun board with massive pop, thus the name. It hauls upwind effortlessly. People laugh when I tell them my 138 pop is my light wind board. I mean it’s a beefy board. But I’m 145 lbs, 5’ 8”, and even with heavy boots on and a 12m C-kite, I’m going upwind and screaming along as soon as you start seeing those whitecaps.
Tona will be launching a new line of directionals in spring 2015. What’s coming down the line? We don’t want to give away too much but we’re really excited. We’ve built up a couple of prototypes that have been Dre approved. The eventual plan is to offer up a whole line of surfboards, but for now we’re hoping to release one board in two different sizes. This board will be built to handle average size conditions. Down the line, we’ll be looking at flat water cruisers and some crazy double overhead boards, but for now this baby is gonna be able to handle your average day at the beach.
Like I said, we don’t want to reveal too much at this stage, but we’ve finalized the shapes and now we’re working on trying to get them durable enough so they can take the abuse of kiting. the goal with these is to give riders a board that is fun with or without a kite.
Why do you think it’s important to offer directional boards that riders’ can both kite and surf on? There are some that don’t think you need a traditional longer board since the kite gives you speed. We believe that a properly designed surf board can be fun both behind a kite and paddling in. Yes the kite can give you speed, but we also don’t want you to have to lean on the kite like a crutch to pull you out of situations. Our target audience is a person who wants to use the kite to pull themselves into a wave, park the kite and forget about it while they concentrate on riding the wave.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Yea, actually. So because of Dre’s background and Adam’s involvement with Kite Scoop we get a lot of questions like, “Do your boards work with straps?” This question comes up a lot also because our boards are sold without any bindings or straps.
The answer is yes. Our boards work great with straps. Dre has actually been teaching kids in Antigua on our boards with straps. Sure, personally we think it’s more fun to ride with boots, but that’s a personal decision. Just because we like doing it, doesn’t mean everybody has to do so. Our boards were designed to work well with boots or straps and have been extensively tested with both. You might want to size down a bit if you’re not going to go with boots, as boots do allow you to carry a lot more power, but really our boards are all about the fun factor, however they’re attached to your feet. The last thing is, we truly believe our boards are a pleasure to ride. That being said, all the text on this page does nothing to prove it; talk is cheap. So, that’s why we have an extensive beach ambassador network across north America. If you visit our website, you can actually go and search for a friendly face near you: https://tonalife. com/rider-reps/
These guys and gals should have demo boards ready for you to try out and ride. We figured, the best way we could spread the happiness that our boards give us, is to get them on as many feet as possible. So, don’t be shy, reach out to the closest beach ambassador and see if they can schedule you in for a demo.