Words: Julia Spadaro
Photos: Andrew Miller
Snowboarding has been influenced by surf culture since its inception. A shared lust to experience the elements on a board and a prioritization of fun over everything brings these two communities together under the umbrella term "boardsports." The similarities are undeniable. At the crossroads of these pastimes emerges a subculture reminiscent of snowboarding's early days, dubbed powsurfing.
Justin Clark, known more commonly as J. Stone, is a bona-fide entrepreneur masterfully perfecting a balance of fun with hard work as he helps progress the rhythmic art of riding snow without bindings. His brand, Stoney Surfers, was created in 2013 out of a love for powsurfing, a dissatisfaction in the shapes and board options available, and a drive to take matters into his own hands. Out of a handbuilt press and a woodshop in his Salt Lake City basement--with some tolerant roommates--and months of trial-and-error, grew an entirely custom powsurf brand that integrates design input from customers with advanced shapes and features derived straight from the mother of it all--surfing.
"What I love about powsurfing is that it gives you that 'first kick flip' feel, you know, that exciting feeling you get in your stomach that maybe people who have been snowboarding for a long time have sort of lost," Stone says. "I got into surfing a few years ago, and I was really stoked on all the custom-shaped surfboards that were out there. The whole idea is to be able to work with someone to make them the board of their dreams."
The process is simple. J. Stone's latest creations exist through his Instagram page @StoneySurfers, where interested patrons shoot him a message to receive an email with his catalog. He then works with them to pick out the shape of the board, the wood veneer topsheet, the base color, grip pad, and any and all other details. Once it's dialed, he shapes the board based on height, weight, shoe size, and the expected riding terrain. It's 100 percent custom, and it's 100 percent crafted with customer satisfaction in mind. The process can take anywhere from 18 to 27 hours for J. Stone to complete, using a formula very similar to laying up a snowboard.
Accompanying the many options for customization, what sets Stoney Surfers boards apart is the addition of fins. It seems like a no-brainer. For those who enjoy a calculable and steady ride, the inclusion of fins is an act of genius. But because the fins are easily removable, a looser feel is accessible with a few turns of a screw.
"As far as I know, I'm the only person who puts fins in powsurfers. I think that makes all the difference in how they ride," Stone says. "If you hit any sort of variable snow, the board slips out from under you, but the fin just gives you that little bit of extra control and grip."
J. Stone prides himself on his meticulous attention to detail, one of the primary reasons he remains a one-man-brand among his chaos of balancing responsibilities as a manager of Milosport board shop, a tech rep for Salomon Snowboards, and a mechanical engineering student at the University of Utah.
"I want the quality to come as best as it possibly can in each and every board, so that's why I've always just kept doing the boards myself without having anyone help me. It's a little time-consuming but it's definitely worth it to hand shape every board," Stone said. "Making the board is obviously like making anything. When you're done with it, it's such a cool feeling."
As snowboarding evolves to more serious contests and bigger tricks, its soul remains in the enjoyment of a turn and the grassroots of the surf culture it emerged from. J. Stone possesses a similar soul. He invites a challenge with an unshakable vision and values the satisfaction that comes from the process of creation. A website is in the works, and be on the lookout for J Stone's favorite shapes for sale in Salt Lake City's renowned Milosport.
"I'm all about just going out and having a lot of fun with your friends, and if I can make someone a board they're absolutely in love with because they got to be hands-on with the design of it, and they get to have a board made specifically for them, I think that's so awesome. There's nothing like the look on someone's face when you give them their board after you've shaped it for them."