How to Choose the Best Surf Skateboard – And Why You Should Care

best surf skateboards

Surf skateboards, aka surf skates, are a special kind of beast.  Not your normal skateboard, not your longboard, they claim to be the closest thing to surfing on the asphalt.  Since the late 90s, these things have been growing quietly in parallel to the longboarding world.

Surf skateboards are rarely mentioned in discussions among longboarders, who typically see them as distinct animals.  Surf Skateboards take the concept of carving and pumping to a level unparalleled in the classic longboarding realm due to their unique truck designs. These designs truly make them the best skateboards for surfing the streets like riding a wave.

Surf skateboarding (surf skating) is a very appealing sport for new riders, seasoned longboarders, and ocean surfers alike.  If you’re curious about what surf skateboards are and what they allow you to do, or if you’re already sold on the concept but are not sure the options that exist on the market and how to choose the best surf skateboard for your needs, read on.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand exactly what and whom surf skateboards are for, what kind of riding style they enable, what skills and techniques you’ll need to master, which brands and models are available and what the key differences are between them.

What the heck are surf skateboards?

First appeared in the late 90s, surf skateboards are special skateboards/longboards designed to emulate the dynamic and motion of riding a wave on a surfboard.

You might say they are a special kind of skateboard, as they’re typically short with smaller wheels.  However, they’re usually wider than a street skateboard, and because they have lengths of up to 40″, one may also argue they’re a special sort of longboard.

What really differentiates surf skateboards from “regular” skateboards and longboards is their special moving front truck. Normal trucks only turn along their kingpin axis :

Surf skateboard trucks, on the other hand, add an extra axis of rotation by mounting the truck on a rotating arm, allowing it to girate in an additional plane compared to a normal skateboard/longboard truck.

A good way to understand this is by looking at this animation from Waterborne :

As you can see, the Surf Adapter allows a normal truck to turn along an extra vertical axis, in a plane parallel to the deck.   Likewise, the front truck on most surf skateboards is either attached to, or integrated with, a similar kind of rotating arm.

Such pivoting trucks enable the nose of the board to shift left and right as the rider shifts his/her weight between rails, and allow more dramatic transitions from rail to rail.  The board is able to turn much more dramatically due to the amplitude of movement of the nose, while the rear truck acts as a pivot point around which the board rotates.

This gives you something similar to the way a surfboard evolves on the wave, with the fins in the back acting as a pivot while the rider keeps shifting from one rail to the other to make the board move faster.

Update: here’s an updated animated gif from Waterborne featuring the newer version of the Surf Adapter.  I thought it was worth including since it illustrates well how surf skates work:

Best surf skate adapter

Who are surf skateboards best for?

If you are a surfer

Skateboarding was initially started in the 70s to keep surfers riding on land when the ocean went flat.  Surf skateboards go one step further, allowing surfers to actually use and improve their surfing skills on land.

So if you’re an ocean surfer, a surf skateboard can be a great surf trainer for you.  Many surf schools use these boards to help learners master surfing maneuvers, much easier to break down and demonstrate on land than in the water.

Surf skates are a great learning tool because the body motion they involve is much closer to surfing than riding a regular skateboard – keep reading for more about this.

If you’re a longboard skateboarder

As a longboarder, you probably know there are many different riding styles, from cruising to freeride to downhill to freestyle etc.

Among them, carving involves performing continuous flowing turns on your longboard, drawing imaginary lines, leveraging any small incline to keep going.   Pumping also involves short turns, but with deep body weight shifts that transfer energy and speed into the board and keeps it moving without having to foot push or ride downhill.

Both carving and pumping require a very lose and turny front truck and a rear truck that provides stability and pivoting capacity.  For this reason, surf skateboards can be considered the ultimate choice for these styles.  If carving and pumping are your thing, then a surf skate is definitely a possible option (though not the only one).

Note that surf skates may not be the best choice for long distance carving or pumping, because the extreme looseness (which varies among models) make them less efficient for riding on large distances.  See this article on distance longboarding and this one on longboard pumping.

If you’re a newbie

If you’re new to skateboarding and longboarding altogether – and you’re not an ocean surfer – you may be wondering whether you should get a surf skate as your first board.  Here are a few considerations to think about :

  • Surf skates are A LOT of fun, but they’re not nearly as stable and easy to start on as a large, stable, classic drop-through or drop down longboard (see this post about choosing a beginner longboard)
  • Some surf skateboards are more stable than others, as you’ll find out below (hint: do NOT start with a Swelltech, Yow, or Smoothstar surf skate as your first board unless you’re very talented or very patient)
  • If your aim is to only ride in small spaces such as a driveway, small yard, or small parking lot, then a surf skate may make sense as your first board since it’ll allow you to make tight turns in a limited amount of space – something you typically don’t get on a classic longboard.
  • If your goal is to use your first board for commuting, long distance cruising or traveling, or riding down hills, then a surf skateboard is likely NOT your best choice.  See this article on choosing the right longboard for you.

Are surf skateboards for kids only?

If you’ve been watching surf skateboard videos, you’ve probably seen kids (“groms” in surf talk) slashing and ripping driveways, street banks and drain pipes with great agility.  Like this grom from my neighborhood :


So you may be wondering, are these surf skateboards good for older, heavier, or less fit riders?

The general answer is “yes”, as depending on your age and fitness level, you will be riding the surf skateboard differently.

As I mentioned previously, surf skates are less stable and harder to handle than classic larger longboards.  One important factor is the size of the deck you choose.  Bigger / heavier / less agile riders should typically go for a larger deck (e.g. 36″ and up), which typically provides more stability – albeit at the cost of some turnability.

Assuming you pick the right size board for you, depending on your physical build and condition, it may take you a couple hours to a few days to get the hang of it.  Once you do, however, you can really have a blast riding this thing everywhere.

Carving and pumping are probably the most exciting and stimulating skating activities you can get into without tons of skills and without much risk of injury – unlike freeriding / downhill or freestyling / skatepark.  For this reason, a surf skate can be a good option for an older rider, assuming you’re willing to put in a bit of effort initially.

Be aware that carving and pumping on a surf skate gives you an insane workout that will exhaust the heck out of you, working muscles you never knew you had – some riders have claimed to get close to a 6-pack after riding their surf skateboard for a while.

Surf skateboard riding

Carving and pumping

As I mentioned, surf skateboards are designed for carving tight turns and pumping – they’re often referred to as carver boards.   The swiveling front truck allows you to carve really tight turns with an extremely short turning radius compared to regular longboards.  This lets you easily turn tight corners and slalom around obstacles.

Effective pumping is the other unique aspect of surf skate riding: the special front truck lets you propel your board and pick up speed by doing rail-to-rail shifts.   One of the most astonishing abilities of the best surf skateboards (e.g. Carver boards) is that you can actually pump uphill from a still position – something few normal longboards can do.

This clearly shows how powerful these trucks are for generating speed purely based on body motion.

Surf skate stance

The typical stance on a surf skateboard is similar to that on a surfboard, i.e. your feet about shoulder width apart, with your front foot slightly behind the front truck and your back foot right on top of the rear truck.

In most cases your feet lie perpendicular to the deck, although this depends on the type of surf skate you’re riding : some designs revolve around toe-heel shifting to get the board moving, while others involve more of a full body motion – in this case, angling your front foot slightly can help you get the right motion.

More about this in the section on surf skate models.

Surf skate maneuvers

The maneuvers surf skateboards are designed for are different from classic longboarding – e.g. cross stepping, nose riding, kickflips, shuvits …  Surf skate riding emulates surfing, so a lot of the techniques you use are surfing based.

You can of course ride a surf skateboard like you do a regular longboard, but there are a couple of things to be aware of :

  • The moving front truck makes tricks such as nose riding or riding fakie harder
  • Leaning hard on the rails is the most effective way to leverage the power of a surf skate
  • Traditional freestyle and skatepark tricks can be awkward on most surf skate setups

Remember, surf skateboards are designed for quick and tight turning, deep carving, and pumping like a surfboard.  To really make the most of your surf skate, you need to learn some surfing-related techniques.

Bottom turn

In surfing, a bottom turn is the kind of hard, deep powerful turn you make after taking off on the wave and dropping down to the bottom of its face.   You lean hard onto the rail, shifting most of your weight into it.

bottom turn on a surf skateboard
Bottom turn

Surf skateboard designs allow you to perform similar deep turns, typically a prerequisite for subsequent “top” turns or snap.

Bottom turn. Source: smoothstar.com

To go into bottom turn, you need a little speed, e.g. a slight incline.  As you get into the turn, you bend your knees and lower yourself on the board, leaning heavily onto the rail that’s on the side of the turn.  This pressing and crouching is called “compression”, similar to a spring.

Then as you exit the turn, you “decompress”: again like a spring, you push hard to extend your knees and “unroll” and open up your body, releasing energy into your board.  The main purpose of a deep bottom turn is this “compress/decompress” motion which impulses speed to the board in preparation for the next turn.

Top turn

In surfing, most bottom turns (performed at the bottom of the wave) are followed by a top turn, sometimes call “off the lip”, performed at the top.   On a surf skateboard, you do your top turn as you reach the top of the bowl, the V bank, or whatever incline you’re on.

top turn on a surf skateboard
Top turn

For the top turn, you leverage the speed gained from your bottom turn, and push off the lip/edge, opening up your upper body,  to complete an S-turn and start heading down again (after heading up to the top edge).

top turn on a surf skate
Top turn

Note that you can learn to perform a “top turn” on flat ground – in this case, “upward” and “downward” refer to an imaginary slope/wave, what matters here is the body motion and weight shifts.

Snap and cut back

While a top turn is a smooth, S-shaped turn performed at the top of the wave, a snap is a very sharp angle turn in which you push your board around, spinning it almost 180º, typically slashing your fins out of the water.

snap on a surf skateboard
Snap
cut back on a surf skateboard
Cut back

On a surf skateboard, a snap is performed by pushing the back of your board out hard, sliding your back wheels, shifting your weight onto your front truck to offload the rear truck.  This is a radical move commonly used in surfing.

Best sruf skateboards snap or cut back
Cut back / snapback

A cut back is similar to a top turn (a snapback is closer to a snap) but instead of doing an S-turn and continuing forward down the wave, you actually perform a U-turn and then ride back in the opposite direction.  The purpose of a cut back in surfing is to get back closer to the curl – the energy zone of the wave you’ve gotten too far away from.

Surf skateboard features

What are the features to consider when looking for the right surf skateboard for you?  Well, obviously of a lot of the aspect come into play when choosing a skateboard/longboard also matters for a surf skate.  But let’s briefly look at a few features that are specific to these road surfers.

  • Truck turning angle: how much the front truck is able to rotate on the swivel arm.  This is a key factor in the surfing feel you’ll get on the board, as discussed earlier.
  • Truck wedging: affects the angle between the truck’s baseplate and the deck.  Wedged pads are often used between the deck and the front truck to modify the angle between ground and wheels when turning.  This also affects the board’s pump ability.
  • Truck resistance: for those surf skate trucks that use springs, the amount of resistance of the spring is important in the carving feel.
  • Truck height: some surf skate trucks are higher off the ground than others, which affects the stability and versatility of the board.  Higher rides may turn faster but may be harder to ride over longer distances and at greater speeds.  Lower boards may suffer from wheelbite in extreme turns.
  • Axle width: also a determining factor in wheelbite and pumpability.
  • Rear truck: the width, height, and geometry of the back truck affect the surf skateboard’s ability to pivot around “its fins”, which in turn is a key point in surfing.  A bigger, higher, stiffer truck generally works well with most surf skate front trucks.
  • Wheelbase: distance between front and rear truck.  Smaller wheelbase means tighter, more critical turns.  Many surf skateboards models offer short decks (around 30″) for a shortboard feel.  Depending on your size though, you may need a longer deck for a correct stance.  This can provide more of a longboard surf kind of feel.
  • Concave: deck concave plays a critical role when carving hard turns and radical surf maneuvers like snapbacks or 360 slides, as the concave is what keeps your feet locked-in.  Concave is typically less critical for longer surf skateboards since the rider tends to do less extreme turns on them.
  • Wheel width: wider wheels provide better grip and stability, while thinner wheels allow for faster transitions between turns and more slidability (less traction).
  • Wheel hardness: while soft wheels absorb cracks and bumps well and have better traction when turning, harder wheels are faster on a smooth surface and break into slides more easily.

The best surf skateboards on the market

Now that we’ve looked at the most important features in a surf skateboard, let’s turn our attention to the leading surf skateboard brands in the market today.  In the following sections, I will recap key information about each brand.

Please note the opinions and evaluations I share about the different boards are my own, so take them with a grain of salt.  Your choice of surf skateboard may differ from me and any other rider based on your own preferences, height and weight, level and experience, and riding environment.

For each of the brands, I’ve included a “slider” kind of graph that reflects my own assessment of how each board is positioned in terms of skate vs surf riding feel, using a scale from 1 (pure skateboarding) to 5 (pure surfing).

Keep in mind that a higher mark does NOT indicate a better board, just a different style.  A “surfier” board may be much harder to push and cruise on than a “skatier” one, and not as fast or pumpable uphill as a “mixed” board, while a “mixed” board may be snappier and better for airs than a “surfier” one, etc.

UPDATE: since this article, I’ve published another article which compares the top surfskate trucks on the market. Check it out as well if you want to dig deeper into which surf truck is the best suited for you.

SwellTech SurfSkate

Price range:  US$ 200 – 260

The SwellTech surf skateboards are real little surfboards on wheels – literally judging from the great shape and design.  Take a look at the legendary 34″ Jamie OBrien – see it here on Amazon.

swelltech surfskate jamie obrien review

Jamie O’Brien (image source: Swelltech)

The Hybrid Camo is a slightly longer deck at 36″ in length with a 21.5″ wheelbase. See its price here on Amazon.

swelltech surfskate hybrid camo review
Hybrid Camo

The Premiere Blackout is Swelltech’s largest surfskate with its 40″ length and 23.5″ wheelbase. See its pricing here on Amazon.

swelltech surfskate premiere blackout review

More important than the boards’ looks, the “Swelltech Truck System” enables one of the closest riding experience to surfing on the market, with a 360º rotation capability that enables the rider to point the board in any direction.

swelltech surf skate truck

The front truck is loaded with both external springs for hard carving and internal springs for stability in pumping.  It comes with wedged risers that tilt the truck backward, resulting in smoother rail to rail transitions and high pumping efficiency.

The front truck allows free movement of the front of the board, while the back truck, a regular, narrower reverse kingpin truck, acts like surfboard fins, i.e. providing a stable pivot while the front spins freely.

On a SwellTech SurfSkate, you gain momentum through back foot pressure (vs front foot on some other surf skateboards) which is similar to surfing.

The free moving front trucks teach you to keep the board on the rail, just like in the water or on snow.  It lets you make critical turns by doing full body rotations, emulating top to bottom surf-like motion as opposed to side-to-side, toe-to-heel wiggles.

Check out this 18-second video :

Swelltech SurfSkate boards are really nice for surfing mellow ramps and low-grade inclines, e.g. at the skatepark, providing a compelling surfing experience.

Be aware that the super loose front truck results in relatively low stability, making it harder to kick push for everyday transportation – this board is designed mainly for pumping, so kick pushing and maintaining speed will take a bit of practice.

Depending on how you ride, you may also experience some wheel bite, a normal consequence of having a very loose turning truck.

If you haven’t yet, check out the Surfskate Jamie O’Brien on Amazon.

Slide Surf Skateboards

Slide

UPDATE: since this article was published, I’ve written a separate in-depth post on Slide skateboards – check it out here.

If you’re looking for a less expensive yet quality surf skateboard made at a reputable European skate manufacturer, you may want to look at Slide’s surf skateboard product lineup.

Created by a Taiwanese surfer and skateboarder who designed and engineered the Slide truck, the board uses a spring-loaded multidirectional truck with similar function to other leading surf skate trucks.

Slide has partnered with Australian surfboard equipment company Hot Buttered, a world-renowned brand in the surfing world founded in 1971, which has been manufacturing skates and trucks since 1987 (“OZE” brand).

Hot Buttered, in turn, works with Sancheski, a family-owned company in Northern Spain which has been building skateboards since 1966, making it one of Europe’s oldest skateboard manufacturers.  Sancheski is in charge of the Slide brand for Europe.

Just to say this isn’t some obscure, no-name Chinese brand making copycats for a quick profit – even though the boards are actually built in China (like most others) under Sancheski’s supervision.

Sancheski has been continuously improving the design and quality of the products, leveraging its extensive experience in skateboard manufacturing. Improvements include the boxing of the spring to protect it from dirt, the addition of rubber pads for smoother carving, and improved materials quality.

Last year Sancheski also changed the wheels for softer, stone-grind ones for improved traction, stability, and slide control.  This year, they introduced brand new revamped models with nice pastel colors.  They’ve also made Slide replacement parts readily available – something that had been problematic in the past.

Like most competing surf skates, Slide’s moving front truck allows the rider to pump and generate speed really well like they would on a surfboard.  The 165 mm Slide truck is very stable, making it a good choice for new surf skaters of all ages.

Slide surf skate truck

The Slide truck is highly adjustable: you can easily tighten up the internal spring for normal cruising and commuting, or loosen it if you want to carve and pump like on a surfboard – using the provided Allen wrench to adjust the front bolt on the truck.   The rear truck is a standard aluminum 165 mm truck.

The boards have a nice retro look and provide a pretty good surfing experience when riding on flat ground and small inclines.  Riders are generally happy with the truck’s pumping ability, although it may not carve as deep as some other surf trucks.

Slide surf skateboards provide good value for money, being quite cheaper than leading competing boards while still offering good quality craftsmanship.  Check out these two models (click on the images to view their price in Amazon) :

If you’re new to surf skateboarding, or you’re on a budget but want to practice your surf skills on land and have a blast carving surf-like turns on a surf skate truck, you may consider giving Slide a spin.  You’ll get a nice looking decent quality deck and a pretty good surfing feel for an unbeatable price.

Carver surfskates

Price range: US$ 185 – $280

Surf skate scale 4
C7 truck
CX truck

Carver pioneered the surf skateboard in the late 90s and has paved the way for many other surf skate companies, remaining a leader to date.

They offer a wide range of high-quality decks mounted on a choice of two different surf skate trucks, the C7, and the CX.

The C7 has a spring loaded swivel arm that allows the nose of the board to move from side to side.  The truck is extremely adjustable, with multiple levels of advanced tuning to get the feel you want – either tighter or really loose. Check out the price for the C7 here.

carver C7 truck

The CX is a more regular reverse kingpin truck without a swing arm.  It’s a “hybrid” surf and skate truck, but its special geometry and light weight make it more pumpable and tighter turning than most normal RKP trucks. See the price for the CX here.

Carver CX truck

Both the CX and C7 are designed to provide a surf-like experience.  The CX actually turns sharper and is snappier than the C7: the C7 feels like a single fin surfboard while the CX is more like a shortboard.

Nevertheless, the CX is more stable than the C7, hence better suited for normal longboard riding.  With the C7, it’s easier to pull tight turns off the back foot, or slide the “fins” (back truck) by putting more weight on the front foot.

Compared to the Swelltech, the C7 handles speed better but is slower to initiate turns due to more constrained movement.  Its turning radius is wider and requires harder leaning into turns, as the Swelltech responds better to pressure.

Both the C7 and CX are easy to learn on and great for city pumping and some distance riding – though you should expect quite a hard ab and leg workout.

While the CX is typically considered better for cruising and moving around, both can be used at the skatepark – choose the C7 to surf the bowl or the CX for skate tricks and airs.

Many surfers love the C7 – Carver is the official surf trainer for 7 international surf teams for the 2020 Olympics. Some hardcore surfers, however, feel that Carver boards ride more like a skateboard than a surfboard due to the side-to-side wiggling motion it involves (vs full body rotations).

For this reason, these riders tend to opt for surf skates with freer front truck movement and a bigger focus on body rotation and back foot pressure – which they consider closest to surfing.  

The majority of Carver riders, however, rave about the boards’ very high quality and long-term everyday use.

If you go for a Carver, make sure to choose a deck length well suited for your size: you want to be able to stand with your feet at least shoulder wide, else you may find it hard to pump and balance.  If you’re a taller rider, go for a longer deck, even if that means a wider turning radius.

Check out Carver’s Amazon store.

UPDATE: check out my new complete review of Carver skateboards for a deeper dive into these awesome boards.

Smoothstar surfskates

Price range: US$322 – 345 (completes)

Smoothstar is an Australian brand which markets surf skateboards using a truck adapter with a swing mechanism, the Thruster System.   The Thruster adds an extra axis of rotation to the trucks, similar to other surf trucks we’ve seen earlier.

Like the Swelltech, the Thruster adapter has an internal spring that provides resistance and response to the skater’s body rotation and pumping motion.  The spring combines with the bearings inside to enable smooth rail-to-rail transitions and creating a pumping motion.

Smoothstar primary focus is on surfing functionality.  They tout their boards as being significantly different from products like Carver’s (they’re actually quite adamant about it).  They emphasize their boards truly emulate surfing as opposed to wiggling back and forth as on competing boards – generating speed but not in a true surf style.

They published a comparison test between their Thruster and “another” surf skate truck (likely the C7 ?) which concludes the Thruster turns more, is stronger, has more carve from wedging, offers better transitions, and allows more radical tricks.

Smoothstar’s surf skateboards have indeed gained good recognition among surfers and surf coaches, who praise the surfing feeling of pumping and carving they get on the boards, including longer wheelbase models.

Smoothstar surf skateboard
Smoothstar completes

Smoothstar allows you to purchase the Thruster adapter for use with your existing deck and trucks [UPDATE: apparently the company no longer sells the adapter standalone, though last time I checked it still appeared to be available on the Australian site].

smoothstar thruster surf skate adapter
Thruster

Some Smoothstar riders, however, do think the deck sits a bit high off the ground and have a high center of gravity due to the extra layer the adapter adds.

Some riders compare it to the C7 for surf style riding.  While the C7 is more stable and ridable for everyday city commuting and pumping, the Thruster offers deeper carves and more of a surfy feel.

All in all, if you’re a surfer (or wannabe) and want something a bit looser and perhaps a bit closer to surfing than a C7, you may want to give the Smoothstar a shot.

Yow surf skateboards

Price range: 273 – 296 euros

Surf skate scale 4
Yow

Yow was started 4 years ago in the Spanish Basque Country.  They offer a surf skate adapter for converting your skateboard/longboard into a surf skate.

Yow’s surf skateboards have been improving and are gaining traction in Europe, namely among longboard skateboarders.

What’s unique about Yow is that all parts of their surf skates are manufactured locally by HLC, one of the biggest skateboarding factories in Europe that’s located in the Basque Country.

Yow’s Surf skate System v3 comes in two versions, S4 (thinner resistance spring, for lighter riders) and S5 (thicker spring, for heavy riders).

yow surf skate truck

While the riding feel on a Yow mounted truck is closely inspired from the Smoothstar and C7, Yow has the added advantage of coming with a locking pin, which lets you instantly turn your board back into a regular skate/longboard.

In addition to the surfskate adapter, the brand offers an attractive line of complete surf skateboards.

yow surf skateboards

When comparing Yow vs Carver, for example, Yow offers a much looser and shortboard-style riding experience but at the cost of less stability, similar to Swelltech. See the comments at the bottom of this post for more detail about how they compare. See Yow surfskate prices here on Blue Tomato.

Wrapping up

hopefully, this overview of the surf skateboarding landscape has helped you get a clear idea of what surf skating is, who it is for, and what the main brands and products on the market are.

If you’re a seasoned surfer, you may go for a surf skate complete from Carver (with a C7), Swelltech or Smoothstar.  If you’re more of a traditional skater/longboarder, you may prefer to replace your current front truck with a surf skate truck or slap a surf skate adapter between your truck and deck to turn your longboard into a surf skate.

If your goal is to get into surfing or use your skate as cross training before hitting the waves, you’ll opt for a free moving truck with lots of turning.  If you also ride your board for transportation and cruising around the city, however, you may look at a less extreme, more stable truck such as a Carver CX or a lockable Yow front truck.

Finally, if you’re a new rider and are not willing to fork out the big bucks for one of these expensive little guys, you may choose a less expensive alternative like Slide to familiarize yourself with surf skateboarding and learn the basics of rail to rail carving, back foot driven surf turns, and effective pumping for speed.

Note: for a more detailed comparison of the top surf trucks out there, also check out this other article.

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49 comments

  • In this article you mentioned Waterborne surf adapter to demonstrate how surfskate trucks work. How would you rate that truck in your 1 to 5 skateboarding vs surfing scale? Do you have experience how it compares to similar style adapters from YOW and Smoothstar?

    Thanks

    • The Surf Adapter has a quite fluid natural feel, unlike others it uses a bushing instead of a mechanical spring. On the skate-to-surf scale I would say it’s also a 4 or 5. Quite easy to ride in a straight line though, and pretty stable at higher speed.

        • I’d say it’s totally different. YOW and Smoothstar have the exact same truck geometry. The Surf Adapter is better at handling high speed though.

  • Hey,

    Very useful information. Thanks so much.

    I am struggling between which to buy still though.

    I am currently deciding between YOW and Carver C7. Can you please tell me what the differences are between them please?

    Cheers,
    Ely

    • It really depends on your goals, do you want to cross train for surfing ? Or do you want to carve and pump for long durations ? Both the C7 and Yow are really good carvers and both can pump uphill. Yow is looser so it’s a matter of preference. The body movement is different too, more leg work for the Carver vs more core for the Yow – although you can learn to use your core on a Carver as well. For longer distance pumping I would probably go with the Carver, more comfortable and stable. Learning to ride a Yow or similar is harder for beginners. Your wheelbase and your back truck also play an important role, though. In short, I would choose the C7 for more versatile use, and the Yow for more looseness and super quick turns but less stability. Just my 2c

  • Thanks for the comprehensive article! I have been using a Carver C7 set up with sharkie wheels. I had tried a cx at the park and was impressed at the speed achievable with fewer pumps though more effort.

    I have tried looser rear trucks and tighter spring in the C7, VS tighter rear truck and looser front kingpin and spring and can’t seem to find a good set up for pumping better speed.

    I am trying to pump harder VS more rpm per se to get speed.

    I have searched but can’t seem to find answers on what effects on pumping the adjustments of the kingpins and spring do.

    Can you help?

    • Hey Eric, can’t really comment on the specific impact of tighter/looser front/rear trucks on pumping on a Carver, but in general, a looser front truck (and if possible with some wedging) and a more stable rear truck (dewedged) works best for pumping, that’s how I set them up on the topmount pintail I use the most for pumping (Bear trucks). Other than that, pumping is strongly affected by wheelbase, a shorter wheelbase will mean faster acceleration and low top speed, and a longer wheelbase means slower acceleration and high top speed from pumping alone. Hope this helps!

    • FYI here’s what another rider said: I think for me the kingpin is quite loose and spring a bit tightened works best, but I agree that C7 just aren’t best for pure pumping.

      • Thanks. I have definitely settled as well on a tighter rear, almost cranked down kingpin. Still trying to see if pumping with more force against the tighter spring and front kingpin actually translates to more speed from the effort.

  • Hey,
    Thanks for the info!
    What are the major differences between YOW (without the pin), SurfSkate and Smoothstar? I’m an intermediate surfer who wants something as close as possible to a surfboard.
    Cheers!

    • Hey Nils, I’m a surfer as well, each of the three have a different feel primarily based on how loose and how far the front truck turns. The looser and turnier the truck the more surfy feel, while more constrained trucks make for a more skatey feel. That’s what I tried to measure with my “skate vs surf” scale in the article. For me, Swelltech is probably the loosest /surfiest of the 3 with its 180º truck, though there’s ongoing debate about this – Smoothstar also focuses primarily on surf training and is used by surf coaches in Australia. Surfier skates, though, are harder to ride and pump on for longer distances beyond a parking lot or driveway session, so that’s also something to consider. Everyone has their own preferences and riding goals. Personally, for surf training I prefer the Yow because I don’t like a board that’s super twitchy, but of course that’s just me (I mainly surf on a 7’0)

  • I’m a newbie for surf skate , I love to ride around at the street , I am thinking to get the swelltech , what do you think ? Thanks

    • The Swelltech is great but the front truck spins 180º which makes it super loose and turny, maybe not the best option for getting started unless perhaps if you’re already a seasoned boarder (surf or snowboard). The Yow is another very loose surfskate, great for a surfier experience. It also depends on what you want to do primarily, e.g surf driveways and small parking lots (Swelltech, yow, Carver CX), cruise some distance while shredding (Carver C7, Slide), or ride park and pool (Slide, CX, Yow).

      I think the Slide is a good choice for a newbie as it’s cheap yet good quality, stable enough for learning and for cruising around town, yet it allows some good surf-style carving and pumping. Check out this post https://www.ridingboards.com/slide-skateboard-review

      In case you haven’t seen it I have another post on surf trucks and surf adapters, in which you’ll get roughly the same answer: https://www.ridingboards.com/best-surf-truck

      Whatever you end up choosing make sure you get the right length/wheelbase for your style and size / weight.

      Hope this helps! Ride on

  • Thank you so much for the time and effort put in this huge amount of info !
    It’s the first place on the netwith as much detailed explanations, and I”m looking for weeks already. I’m not leaving comments in general but you deserve it a 100 times. RESPECT!!!

    I’m 51 and used to skate when (a lot) younger. I was first attracted towards longboarding as my aging bones seem to keep me away from skateboarding again. Then I discover surfskates, which I didn’t know even existed.

    Now I think that would be the best way to get back to it. I would like to be able to reasonnably cruise my board (I live in the country, the town is miles away) but most of the time I think I will use it on big parking lots. There is also a skatepark next town (but no bowl …)

    I got mostly interested in the carver Proteus (30′), the carver haedron (also a 30′ deck) and the yow Pukas La Loca (33′).
    I’m 1.75m, 65kg.

    Do you have an idea on which would seem you the best option?
    I thank you very much, and wish you a great one !!!

    • Hey thanks for your kind words! Really glad you find the article useful. If you want to cruise to town a few miles away I suggest you go for a longer deck as pumping on a 30″ may get you tired after a short while. 33″ sounds like a good choice but be aware that the Yow truck, like the Swelltech or Snoothstar, is really loose and good for surf training but less stable and so not so good for distance pumping. The carver CX is typically better for punping longer distance. The Haedron nº6 33″ might be a good option for you with its slightly longer wheelbase than the nº3. I personally enjoy cruising distance on my 34″ Loaded Poke with Carver CX (I’m 1m86 – 80kg). Looser trucks and shorter decks are great for shredding small spaces, driveways, small parking lots, park & pool. It all depends on your own riding goals.
      Also check out my post on Carver boards and this other one on surf trucks. Best of luck, ride on!
      Jesse

  • Hi,

    Very nice article, thanks.
    I started riding on a 41″ drop through not too long ago (I’m 40 btw). I tried out a Carver a friend has and I hated it for some reason. Felt too unstable.
    A few weeks later, during a week of beginner surf classes, the instructor asked if I wanted to go to a skate lesson. I was “oh, not a surf skate again, I hate those”. But he told me it was not that bad and I just needed to get the hang of it. I did go and after a few tries I was ridding it, then slowly carving. It was amazing. The next day I was passing the surf store and couldn’t resist and got myself a Miller surfskate (31″ I think).
    I since then left my other skateboard behind and have such fun on the surfskate. I also get to do it by the beach, and that is a plus. I just pop the trunk and here I go. I’m quite poor at it, but who care? I have fun.
    On a little side note, I recently started to do yoga, and it’s incredible how a lot of the times I’m working the same areas of the body I need for surf/surfskate. Younger guys probably won’t notice it much, but us older dudes feel things more…
    Have fun.

    • Thanks for your comment João! Agree, surfskate is really addictive once you try it! And yes, really good core workout, and great surf cross-training. I did test some Miller surfskates again a couple of weeks ago, I think they’ve gotten much better than they used to be, namely due to improved bushings. They’re easy to find in Europe particularly in Spain and Portugal, and they’re like half the price of the Carvers. I also like to ride larger decks with surfskate trucks for longer distances, you can pump on them for hours, I like it better than kicking. Keep riding, keeps you forever young 🙂 !

  • Woow, man! Such an informative and helpful article! Thank you very much for puting this up on the net! All the blessings!

    • Hi Marco, I’ve tested the Miller and it’s really cool, much better than it used to be namely due to the new bushings. I’m in contact with Miller Division and will probably be doing a review soon.

  • Thank you for a fantastic overview of surfskating!

    I bought a Swelltech Surfskate (JOB Pipeline model) a few months back and I definitely agree with everything that has been written.

    1. It’s definitely not a board for beginners.
    2. It’s not the right board for cruising over long distances.
    3. However, it is a fantastic tool to improve your surfing!

    Once you get used to the board, the surfing experience is uncannily authentic!

    I definitely recommend this board for serious surfers that are wanting to improve their surfing.

    • Yes, I think the Swelltech and the Yow are the trucks will give you the closest experience to shortboard surfing.

      • Hey, this is awesome info. I love my hybrid camo and JOB Swelltechs and HATE my carver cx and C7’s. If you were to recommend a similar YOW board to teh swelltech experience, which one would you say? I’m 5’10” and 185lbs if that matters.

  • Hi Jesse, thanks for the article! What do you think about Carveboard or Streetboardz(very similar) those with big wheels for improving surfing? (using them downhill).
    and another question, i have a Yow 31′ system v3 s5 trucks RKP and i weight 75kg, for a a more surfy feeling in a bowl or a wood wave, would be better a yow system s4?

    • Hey Daniele, sorry I haven’t had a chance to test the Carveboard or Streetboardz yet, so can’t comment on those! About the Yow, I would say the S4 would be more fun since it’s looser. Some experienced surf skaters I know really love the S4 in the bowl.

    • Check out this paragraph of my post on Carver boards for a comparison between the C7 and CX.

      Also, here are a couple of relevant excerpts from my exchanges with Carver:

      “I would also like you to mention that the C7 is the most adjustable truck on the market with multiple levels of advanced tuning to get the feel you want either more tight or really loose.”
      “Also please note the CX truck actually turns sharper and is snappier than the C7. C7 is like a single fin surfboard where the CX is more like a high performance short board.”
      ” I have been surfing and skating my whole life and I like a Yago at 33.75” with CX trucks as this gives me the best surf feeling on a skateboard. I think opinions will always vary and it depends on what you are riding, how you are riding, and the terrain. Around this area (Carver HQ) it is all banks and hills and not flat ground so I guess it also depends on what you are comparing.”

      As far as I’m concerned, I tried both and I confirm the C7 allows for more of a flowy surf-style riding, while the CX is super snappy and great for tricks as well. Both are very pumpable though, as mentioned above it depends on your riding style and terrain, but also on the type of deck you mount the truck on.

      Hope this helps! Jesse

  • Hi,

    Thank you for detailed information. This helps a lot.
    I bought my Icarus with Paris 180mm, but I would like more fun surfy pumping.
    I’m considering 1) using waterborne adaptor or 2) replace with CX or C7 truck.

    Definitely, first one is more budget friendly, but not sure how reliable and good fit for my Icarus, which has quite long wb compared to normal surf skates.

    Do you have any recommendation?

    • Hey, I just published this new article about surf adapters including the Waterborne and the Yow, you can check it out as well.

      I ride a Loaded Poke with a CX for my carving and pumping sessions, works really great. The Icarus has a larger wheelbase than the Poke (28″ vs 20″ I think) so it’ll be harder to pump from a standstill and gain speed than with the Poke, however once you have speed you can pump faster and over longer distances with less effort. In other words, if you want to surf and do cutbacks in parking lots and driveways, I’d say get a shorter deck, but if you want to do surf pumping while traveling on longer rides, the Icarus will be great.

      With regards to CX vs C7 vs Waterborne, all of them can work, again it depends on what kind of ride feel you want. The Waterborne and the CX are both bushing systems while the C7 uses a spring. A bushing gives you a different feel, some say a more natural one compared to springs. I think the Waterborne gives you more turn than the CX though perhaps at the cost of some stability and efficiency for distance riding. However, also adding the Waterborne Rail adapter (sold separately) on your rear truck adds more lean and stability to your board! The CX, on the other hand, is like a regular truck but much turnier. It’s more lightweight than the Waterborne. I really like it for riding distance while surf carving/pumping. I think the Waterborne Surf + Rail adapters go for about $100, still cheaper than the CX. The C7 is surfier but pricier, and again it’s a spring system so different feel, more classic fluid surfing – the spring may need replacement after a while.

      Sorry for the non-straightforward answer! If you want to be conservative, go for the CX, it will always carve and pump fine on anything, you can loosen the front truck more to make up for your long wheelbase. If you want to try something different and more radical, mount the Waterborne between your Paris trucks and your deck, you’ll still feel like your riding on your Paris trucks but you’ll become very tight turning. Jesse

      • Hi Jesse,

        Thank you so much for detailed explanation.
        I will definitely check your new post on Waterborne and Yow system.
        One more follow up question. Do you think Waterborne Rail adapter is necessary with Paris 180mm + Kegel + Icarus? Or, is it okay if I just go without it? I think there’s no option of buying them separately, so I might need to make a good decision when I’m buying it.

        Thanks again for detailed explanation.

        • Hello, the Rail Adapter helps make the rear truck setup lean as far as the front does with the Surf Adapter. This makes sure that your rear outside wheel doesn’t lift during hard carves. More wheel contact means more grip and more speed. I definitely think you can go without it though! If you later feel the need to improve your setup for more speed, you can try reaching to Waterborne and ask them to buy the Rail Adapter separately since you’ll already have bought the Surf Adapter. Cheers! Jesse

  • Hello,

    Great article! I am a beginner, and want to buy my first surfskate.
    On your recommendation, I am considering a Slide Surfskate:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/SLIDE-Street-Skateboard-Sunset-Beach/dp/B06W56JYT1/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_6?keywords=slide+surfskate&qid=1555329928&s=gateway&sr=8-6-fkmrnull)

    But I also noticed that Carver’s cheapest board (the Triton) is a similar price:

    https://www.xtremeinn.com/extreme_sports/carver-triton9.875-cx/136944354/p

    What do you think is best for a beginner?

    Thanks for your help,

    Brad

    • Hey Brad, I haven’t tested the Triton so not sure what the deck is like. I know the Carver CX quite well though and it’s an awesome truck. The Slide surf skate is pretty cool too though quite different. Did you see my review on it? https://www.ridingboards.com/slide-skateboard-review/ There’s a section in that review where I compare the Slide to a Carver board. In short, the Slide truck is not as tall as the CX and as a result, the Slide rides lower to the ground, making it better for park and pool riding. The Slide truck is also not as loose as the CX so it’s more stable for distance pumping but maybe not as snappy for radical surf cutbacks. So which one you choose of the Slide or Triton really depends on your riding style and goals, assuming the decks are of comparable quality – wheel size is comparable, I think it’s 65mm for the Slide vs 68mm for the Triton. Hope this helps a little! Jesse

      EDIT: just noticed you said you’re a beginner, the Slide may be a good option since it’s a bit more stable and lower to the ground

  • Dude this is one excellent article thnkuuuuuuu very much . I’m looking to improve my surfing only … and have fun …. I not a beginner surfer but I am also … turn along the wave, basic turns but no really dynamic stuff… also my scateboard riding I swap feet ! So I’m after the most surfy keep my goofy surfing stance and keep learning on land . Which would you recommend ? The Yow ( still not cheap @£80) truck converter or the whole hog with the £££ swell tech or the Slide not a lot more than the Yow truck or even one of these rubber wheeled carvers like the Streets scate ? I really want something but most of my cash is just gone on a new wet suit ! Also would rather spend more and get it right … u know the deal . Thnku So Much for all this . Big Up Bless

    • Hey sorry for the late reply! The most affordable (yet quality) complete surfskates are the Miller and the Slide. Like you said, an alternative if you already have a skateboard is to just get a surf truc or even a surf adapter. The Carver C7 truck is awesome for surfing but is quite expensive, the Carver CX is cheaper but not as surfy. I would probably go for an adapter (again if you already own a skateboard), either the Yow or the Waterborne, see this post for a detailed comparison. Hope this helps! ride on!

      • I ride a smoothstar, 32.5 Joanna Defay model and its my preferred board. Got on it a couple yrs back on vacation in Aust, loved the ride from the get go and couldn’t leave australia without one. Loose, tight turns, responsive, snappy! Just like a surfboard!! Tried a carver cx set up today, made it as loose as it can get, did not like it. Its just not loose enuff, no fun! Not surfy. So if u are an asphalt surfer, seriously, go for the smoothstar.

        • Yeah the Smoothstar is one of the looser surfskates along with YOW and Swelltech (180º spin angle). The CX is a regular TKP truck with a urethane bushing (not a spring) though it does have a special geometry that makes it more turny than a regular truck. But if you want a true surf-style truck you should check out the Carver C7 instead of the CX. It’s surfy and flowy albeit not as loose as the ones I mentioned, so it’s more stable and comfy for distance. As always it all depends on your style and what you want to do on your surfskate.

          • Just got my hands on a Slide Maui wowwie as well… its a good ride for that price point for sure… just to keep a second surfskate board handy and it feels very much like the smooth star except it sits higher n it’s not as loose. I like it!

          • Yeah people often compare the Slide to the CX. I think it rides lower than Carver though, which makes it even better for ramp. Not sure about vs the Smoothstar.

  • Great article amigo, thank you. For a novice longboard surfer looking for dryland training, what would you recommend? My first thought was a 33″ or longer Carver with C7’s, or maybe a Poke with Paris trucks and the Waterborne adapter (that I can take off when I want to skate more traditionally). I feel like those options give me a little room to take steps on the board and simulate cross stepping. However since the Swelltech forces you to turn off the back foot, I’m wondering if that will be more beneficial to my longboard surf turns. What would your experience tell you is most appropriate?

    • Hey, I have the Poke and both the Carver CX and Paris trucks, with the CX I can pump pretty well though I get more of a surf feel on my Landyatchz pintail with the CX. Since you’re a longboarder, I’d go with a longer deck like 35″-40″ (Carver Haedron, a longer YOW, or maybe even a Hamboard). As for the trucks it’s a tough call, personally I find the Swelltech too twitchy, it’s mainly good for shortboard-style rad stuff but I like a more flowy carve and more efficiency for distance. I’d probably go for the C7, quite stable and flowy, or perhaps a YOW S5 (harder spring than S4). Alternatively, Hamboards’ HST truck is supposed to be great for longboard cross-training (see my article here) but I don’t have a lot of experience on it. So to recap, check out a longer Carver complete, or some other longer deck you fit with a C7, or maybe a Hamboard. Oh and the Waterborne is also an option but I can’t really say how it compares with a C7 on a longer deck.

About me

Big Kahuna

Hi I'm Jesse. All my life I've been passionate about the board riding lifestyle. Some years ago I got into longboarding, and in doing so, I discovered a whole new universe and a fantastic community. There's something for everyone in longboarding regardless of age, gender, size, and fitness level. Ride on!

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