Launched in 2008 on the small island of Antigua, former pro rider and World/Triple-S Champion Andre ‘Dre’ Phillip, friend and artist Adam Anton and shaper Dereck Camacho, started Tona as a boutique brand specializing in twin tip boards only. 2019 represents a big year for the company as it brings to market its first kite, the Stratus, and introduces a new board to its lineup. California ambassador Leo Chen shares the latest Tona developments with us.
TONA HAS TAKEN THE PLUNGE AND IS ENTERING THE KITE MARKET WITH THE ‘STRATUS.’ WHAT MADE THE COMPANY DECIDE TO GO FOR IT AND WHAT KIND OF RIDERS AND CONDITIONS IS IT IDEALLY SUITED FOR?
We’ve been eyeing a Tona kite since the beginning and have been testing our kites for over two years because we really wanted the perfect product. We didn’t want to just be one of those small companies that ends up slapping our logo on an OEM rig, we wanted this kite to truly feel like a Tona kite. What really pushed us over the edge is we finally found a factory that was willing to work with us closely and really help us tailor the kite’s feel.
We wanted a kite that was easy to relaunch and friendly, but still had the ability to create predictable, powerful pop and was stable in gusty winds. The Strata is the result of our R&D— an all-around kite, bridled 4-liner meant to be a freeride/freestyle crossover. A do-it-all wonder.
This is a kite that Dre and Jake are comfortable bringing to the park, but our Barbados testers are comfortable bringing into the waves. If you’ve watched Jake’s YouTube videos, you can also see it’s pretty darn good with a foil too.
If I had to choose one word to describe the Stratus, it would be ‘versatile.’ I remember taking the prototype into a storm session and feeling at ease with how our bridle just absolutely ate up the gusts. It has a great wind range and does a great job of sitting at the edge of the window and cutting you upwind in marginal conditions. Relaunching is, ‘pull that outer line;’ trivial. We also focused on how the kite behaves while unhooked. It’s super stable in the air, does not feel like it’s on the edge of backstalling
on you, yet generates a predictable pop that really rips you off the deck. Just because we’re new to the kite game doesn’t mean we skimped out on the details like kook proof connectors and self-rescue handles on the wingtips. Bridle adjustment points allow for the user to tune their own responsiveness, whether they want the stable locked in feel for a park session or a quick lively feel for a loop session.
Our bar and safety were designed with comfort and ease of use in mind. We have an above bar depower clam cleat and a very intuitive push away safety. The oversized chicken loop makes hooking in and out trivial, should you decide you want to progress down that path.
2019 IS A BIG YEAR FOR TONA WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF ANOTHER ALL NEW PRODUCT, THE JOY RIDE. WHERE DOES THIS BOARD FIT IN YOUR LINEUP AND WHO IS IT IDEALLY SUITED FOR?
The Joy Ride is a brand new freeride-oriented board built from the ground up. We wanted a board that a beginner could ride but also wouldn’t hold them back in the long run. It had to be something that was strong enough to slap boots on if they wanted to, but was designed with straps in mind. We engineered a carbon layer to keep the weight down but focused mainly on ride quality and ride feel.
The Joy Ride still has got great pop if you want to really load it up, but it cuts upwind aggressively when you need it to. This is still a Tona board after all—we were not going to put out a lifeless freeride board for the sake of rounding out our lineup. The Joy Ride is a lot of fun to ride and will progress with you. We even kept some of the Tona signature features like a user tuneable ABS rail and of course the signature Tona ride quality. Our goal here was a fun lively board that anybody can pick up and have a great session with. We’ve had some incredible feedback from our test team and we even have a couple of schools who will be teaching with this board now— it’s that intuitive. We also have a dedicated 145cm light-wind specific Joy Ride to really maximize your water time. This is a board meant for someone who is looking for a fun easy board, who may be looking towards boots in the future but isn’t quite sure just yet.
GIVEN THAT TONA IS KNOWN FOR ITS HARD CHARGING LINE OF TWIN TIPS, HAVE ANY CHANGES BEEN MADE TO THE OTHER BOARDS IN YOUR LINE?
The new Pop 2.0 and Flow 2.0 are out. These boards are refinements over our previous generations and are both wood core, super durable wakestyle/freestyle boards with a sintered base and user tuneable ABS rails. The Pop 2.0 is a refinement on our first twin tip. We kept the explosive burst off the water and the really locked in ride feel thanks to deep channels that the original Pop brought to the table. This whip loves being ridden hard and can take a beating. This is the board that Jake Kelsick rides and we worked closely with him to modify the glass layers to really tune the flex pattern to his preferences. We stiffened the mid and refined the feeling in the tips so you can really press into those rails. The Pop is a board that grips down hard, loads up hard and also hauls upwind extremely well thanks to the bottom shape. The new graphics are also pretty darn gorgeous.
The Flow 2.0 is Andre Phillip’s signature twin tip and my own personal favorite board out of our lineup. It’s meant to embody the way Dre kites. The signature double concave on the bottom stays, giving grip, but also great side to side smoothness. We modified the insert blocks a bit this generation to really make sure this board was as durable as possible. It has a bit more rocker than the original and a bit more flex in the tips. This is a board that can load up effortlessly, give you forgiving landings and eats chop for breakfast. Its super fun to hit wave kickers with on the coast or just to have a freeride session in the flats, throwing down air tricks. This is the first board I snag out of my quiver.
A new Eden is coming down the pipeline soon. We are building out prototypes now and have switched back to a wood core and have come up with a brand new shape for this dedicated women’s board. Stand by for more news on the Eden soon!
TONA HAS NOT ONLY ADDED A NEW KITE AND TWIN TIP TO THE 2019 LINEUP, BUT NOW HAS FOOTSTRAPS TOO, THAT LOOK A BIT LIKE SOMETHING YOU WOULD WEAR AROUND THE HOUSE. WHAT’S WITH THE SLIPPER LOOK?
The Slippas are our brand new footstraps. We designed them from the ground up to be a super comfortable, cush option for people. They come with our Joy Ride board but can also be purchased separately and paired with the Pop and Flow. These are two-point adjustable footstraps that give you a really locked in feel.
MAJOR PRODUCT ADDITIONS WERE MADE TO TONA’S LINE FOR 2019. WHAT’S BEHIND THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS IN DEVELOPING A PRODUCT TO BRING TO THE MARKET? DOES TONA HAVE ANY PLANS FOR DIRECTIONAL AND/OR FOILS AS WELL?
At Tona we’re not about yearly releases for the sake of releases. Island time means we take our time on stuff, and it also means we do not rush things out the door for the sake of releasing them. We know it’s been a bit, but we wanted to make sure our products really fit in with our brand DNA. At the core we are about making products that are meant to bring a smile to your face. We don’t use new expensive materials for the sake of marketing them; they are added only if they actually improve the experience of using our product. Take the Joyride for instance. We knew for a freeride board weight was important to a lot of people, so we went back to the drawing board a couple of times to make sure our carbon layup was on point and the flex pattern still provided a fun lively ride. We also want to build reasonably priced products that don’t make you take a second mortgage out when you’re trying to spring for a new quiver. We’re looking at opening up a custom surfboard option for riders interested in that sort of setup soon, and while foils aren’t on our roadmap anytime soon, never say never!