A few years ago I lived next to a couple of bespoke boot makers in Surry Hills. the brothers, Polish jews, had some amazing stories - one escaped the war by fleeing to Russia, the other managed to bluff his way living in the Father Land, pretending to be a German, then had a career performing as a German officer for Italian war movie remakes. They then run into each other by chance while waiting to emigrate to their new lives in Australia.
They'd made shoes for everyone; Frank Sinatra, Kerry Packer, Sammy-Davis Junior. I've always regretted not ordering a pair...
I've thought about ordering a board from Mark Stone for years too, but kept procrastinating; would it be too heavy? what about the resale? would it suit the East Coast? would a polyester board survive? Could it have the R&D input of a production model etc, etc.
I finally ordered a 73 litre Keel Quad, 7'4” by 21 1/2”, (224 X 55cm) and it's the best board I've ever used.
To call it unusual looking would be an understatement. Basically, it looks like a retro, twin fin fish that's been stretched in the middle, with a very large, very pronounced swallow tail that's probably around 5” deep between the V. The back footstrap ends at the apex of the V so you've pretty much got water sitting immediately behind your back bolt.
I will admit to some serious reservations but after a couple of chats with Mark decided to go ahead and place the order.
I'm delighted I did.
From the get-go it felt super-well balanced and up really early. With the marginal conditions close in at Wanda in the cross-off NE it meant I could get more jumps in a day than I pulled off all season, previously. I guess the wide, swallow tail creates the lift here but it was definitely efficient.
The get-up-and-go was fantastic for getting onto the waves too. I've previously assumed there would have to be a trade off between ease of getting onto the wave and subsequent looseness when riding it, this board proved otherwise.
It was awesome! Bottom turns felt really solid and drivey, top turns nice and loose with no worries about getting the tail sliding out if necessary, with the pivot point feeling nicely placed under the back foot. I reckon any board that can come out of a gybe with speed is going to be a good time on the wave. Whether cranking hard or going more drawn out it felt really comfortable.
I think it's also worth mentioning how good the polyester construction feels. Unlike epoxy there is none of the chattery, clattery board-on-water-feel. It's much more comfortable, almost serene, and gave me a sense of having more time. A few years back I had a hollow Evo that had a similar quality. I don't know if a wave board can have the same flex characteristics as a surfboard due to the greater thickness but that's what it reminds me off. I'm sure there is a marginal weight disadvantage with fibreglass but on the water it was irrelevant and more than compensated for with the better ride. The weight is probably what my wetsuit would absorb when it gets wet and of no consequence to the performance.
It's also the first quad I've used that lived up to the claims that have been touted about them (fast, loose, drivey, early planing, great upwind ability) without some of the idiosyncrasies that other quads have had.
This board is the bomb. The advantages of getting a custom; I've got a board that has been built as a light-winder for my light weight frame (66 kg); previously I've had to buy high-wind boards for average weights. I've got a board that feels like it's gong to work for me, not one that's been designed to fit the marketing profile that some European demographic deems to be fashionable this season (the vagaries of which have meant my previous two boards have ended up being worth a quarter of their retail price within eighteen months).
In terms of R&D - having one of the best wave sailors on the planet riding your boards has got to be informative. Considering the production cycle that governs the mass produced boards where designs take over a year from testing to production it's nice knowing mine is same design Jaeger is riding now.
I can't really speak about longevity as yet but I usually upgrade every couple of years so to me it's not so much of an issue and for all I know it could outlive all of us. But the bottom line is, for me, now, getting out for a sail is increasingly rare, so when I do I want it to be great.
Life's too short to ride bad wave boards!
If you've ever thought about getting a SSD board, I can't recommend them enough. Mark is great. Patient, informed and obliging. I got a board with a killer spray delivered to my door for significantly less than a pop-out from the shops. If you live this way and wanna have a go, I'd be stoked to give you a lend, send me a note. Mark Stone is a designer and artisan of the highest order and it would be great to see more of his boards out and about.
Postscript: Took it out at Wanda last weekend in the S'Wersterlies
, so cross-on. Normally, my least favourite sailing direction and one I feel I totally suck on. However, going down the line felt great. The board had the volume to handle the bottom turn and come through the section with speed and was loose enough to crank back up the face. I had a blast! Bring on the onshore mush!!
Mark has been making great boards for quite some time, I love his technology.
It's not very different from production boards, still has the benefit of modern sandwich construction, with the advantage of closed cell foam! (no bung needed, water doesn't get sucked in)
I make my own the conventional way, but only because I bought a huge block of styrene before I became aware his super light weight urethane blanks were available.
shamless plug, on my behalf,
I couldn't agree with you more, my SSD is fantastic its a couple of season and the construction is bullet proof and the ride is silky smooth.
I have a thruster for sale. I'm only selling as i have lost the kg and don't need this size 95 litre in my quiver any more. Time to move it on. I use to use this board bump & jump with a 6.3m and wave sailing onshore mush or side shore with 5.8 and 5.2. listed in buy and sell at present.
It truely is a sick board, will only buy customs from now on, with stone, OES and nude shaping custom boards in Oz to what ever you desire, ill never buy a mass produced bog job agian.
73 liters? Wow! What do you weigh? 55 kgs?
yea i love my stoney now i got a 120 litre keel quad 'prong'
this is my 107
Nice review Murray, you best come over to wa next Jan with me to test it out at Margs!
THE best looking boards ive seen (on the web) them SSDs.
Q. Can someone explain - how are SSDs made (technology / material wise) compared to a production board, or other custom board makers?
wouldn't say that really answered the question but from as has already been said they are using polyester resin instead of epoxy...
I would think the construction is similar to production boards, with apparently different kind of foam blank, and looks like they are using wood instead of divinycell for the high density layer. The boards I saw looked like there were mostly using glass not carbon.. which leads to quite a heavy board but this isn't necessarily a disadvantage.
Great review Murray! Loved the intro too BTW!
How does she go speed wise when blasting around?........The reason I ask, is that I am wondering what she would be like on those cross-on days where there is wind but the waves don't materialise as well as they could for riding, but the extra speed is good for the jumps.
Like you, I have been thinking about getting an SSD for sometime, always seeming to stay with the pop outs from the big names for the same reasons you mentioned.
That fat swallow tail looks completely retro - I surf a 6ft quad fish with a similar fat swallow and love it for getting me through the fat sections, but the tail width doesn't hamper in steep surf with the quad fins.... it is a great surfing experience on this board.
Look forward to having a closer look at it if you come up to the MNC again this summer.
hey Adam, I reckon it would be great at Middle Rock - the direction is very similar to Coronation Beach near Geraldton where SSD are made. In my limited experience of Coros there's more cross-on jumping opportunities than riding opportunities and I reckon it would excel there. As I said in my review, the board got planing really early, which was great at Wanda where the NE is cross-off so very sketchy on the inside, so good jumping is normally pretty rare. I also think multi-fin boards jump really well and seem to give you a bit more control as you take off.
I've had my Stone 68L thruster since Jan 2010, and it has done back to back seasons in WA and Tenerife, that's like 5 summers and still going strong!! I weigh 68kg and use this as my 1 board, and sails from 5.3 to 3.7. People worry they might be a little bit heavier because of the construction, but these boards will plane up as early or usually before any of your light production waveboards! And the best part is with the Polyester construction you get a super smooth ride and are able to make some mistakes in the air without worrying so much about your board snapping!
I have used alot of Marks boards, from a 57L thruster upto one of the big 90L keel tail quads. All the boards plane super early but are so easy to turn, even when over-powered! Something I love about them is the amount of speed they give you through the bottom turn, projecting you into the top, even more noticeable on the new keel tails!
Mark said it's fat and chunky
Haven't got it yet but will chuck a few pic is up when its here
Grat review Action, love the bamboo deck!
and of course, SSD has had the asymmetrical / toe in issue wired for a long time....
interesting vid of Mark constructing Jaeger's new one:
What is the price range??
What is the price range??
Prob best to check with Mark - 0429381849
Mark Stone <firstname.lastname@example.org>