A new snowskate company, Opala Snurf Club, has just appeared out of thin air and become quite the topic of speculation among the snowskating circles.
Never one to miss a beat, @OregonDead , our buddy Eric, and I headed down to Bend, Oregon for a gear test.
The Opala Snurf Club 125 cm “Slurfer” subdeck is laid-up with traditional poplar and fiberglass sandwich construction. The subdecks are manufactured internationally on the same production line as Nitro and Ride Snowboards. As such, the beefy ABS sidewalls and slick-looking TPU top sheets give the snowskate a quality feel in the hand. First impression: it’s a sturdy, well-built, and fully sealed product that would very likely hold up through a decade of heavy use.
Under the consultation of Adam Bennett, legendary former owner of Florida Powderskates, Opala designed their camber profile with “Dolphin Geometry”: a banana rocker shape with a little pinch of camber under the trucks.
There are two sets of threaded inserts that provide the option of either front mount or back mount. The complete setup (on 1/23/22 retailing around $370) includes an old school shaped topdeck, cushioned ½ inch black foam grip, Rocker Trucks, and an Ungi Bungi leash.
As we were driving up to Mount Bachelor, my initial thought was, “Conditions yesterday were so boilerplate deathslope we were running race skis on blue ice with the cranky old TGR fucks. Why am I on my way to go demo a powder snowskate?
My curiosity got the better of me, and to my surprise, despite the rocker profile and relatively straight sidecut, the board held edge just fine on the ice. Dare I say, the Opala would make a nice one-skate quiver for a strong-bodied all-mountian freeride athlete.
I managed to get a few glorious turns in the pits of pellet ice on the sides of the heavily trafficked runs, and although they were brief, they left me with an impression that the Opala would freaking rip in hero-day conditions.
One thing to note is the sharp difference in board handling between the two mounts. When I received the board, it was mounted in front. I took two runs and went straight to the tool bench to move the mount to the back position.
If I can’t shut this thing down toeside without washing out on the hockey rink, no one can. Tweaking the mount to the back position gave me full command of the effective edge, and I was able to dominate both toe and heel. One day, I’ll playfully slash the front mount through pristine powder or pitted spring corn….
I ran her down the (steep and shady) North side of Bachelor and saw how she handled on the “snow asphalt”. A pretty tough test for a powder skate, but the board handled it with no problem. I even felt confident enough to grip the run and open up to max speed for a few thrilling moments. It’s undeniable; the Opala 125 Slurfer can ride hardpack. It’s a versatile board that can probably handle just about anything.
Who are these Opala people, really?
I got a chance to interview the mysterious owners of Opala: Sean Panella and Ken Coffey. One day many years ago, Sean was a blossoming snowskater that wandered into Pluto Sports – a snowboard shop in Knoxville, Tennessee. Because the shop was sponsoring a snowskate snake race in Washington State, the Serpentine Massacre, they were carrying top of the line snowskate gear. Check it out on their website: http://www.plutosports.com/snowskate.htm
Sean got a great deal on a Florida Powderskate and began riding it on the rope tow at Cataloochee. He loved the board so much that he reached out to the company. Bonded by the fact that they were like literally the only snowskaters in a massive swath of the deep south, him and Adam developed a long-standing friendship.
Eventually, Sean moved to Oregon to ride bigger mountains, and Adam began phasing out of board-building to focus on other priorities. Sean had a surge of entreprenurial passion and asked Adam to pass him the torch. Gracefully, Adam helped Sean reinvent his “Dolphin Geometry” for Mount Bachelor conditions, and Opala Snurf Club was born.
This is where Ken Coffey comes in. He’s a legit fashion designer with a talent for graphic design, marketing, supply-chain systems for the outdoors industry, and of course, a sincere obsession with snowskating.
My impression of them is that Ken and Sean are positive-attitude savvy dudes that are super stoked on getting the company off the ground. Their love of the game has them well-positioned for success. Fun fact: Opala is already rotating a fleet of rental snowskates at Hoodoo. They’re doing aggressive R&D, so we can expect a few new things from them in the future.
If you'd like to buy an Opala Slurfer for yourself, they are available for purchase on their website at https://opalasnurfclub.com/ , for purchase in snowboard shops around Bend, or for rental at Hoodoo Ski Resort.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about the gear test.
Thank you to Ken and Sean for the rad demo, @DominatorJacques for the morning hype speech, Eric Lyons for the editing, and the women's steam room at the Bend Athletic Club.
Photo credits: istockphoto, @opalasnurfclub instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/opalasnurfclub/), Pluto Sports website, and Opala Snurf Club website.