Choosing The Best Surfskate: Everything You Need To Know

how to choose the best surfskate

Surfskates are amazing skateboards for carving, pumping, slashing in back alleys, banked driveways, drainage ditches, bowls and ramps.

Carver Skateboards, YOW Surf, Swelltech, Smoothstar, Hamboards, Slide are some the top surfskate brands out there.

carver, swelltech, smoothstar, slide, hamboards surfskate Google trends comparison

A look at Google Trends gives an idea of how the brands compare for popularity (caveat: the exact choice of search term affect the results)

Beyond the leaders, newer, more affordable surfskate brands are emerging, some of them offering good quality boards for beginner riders.

Which surfskate should you choose for your needs? This is a challenging question as it depends on your riding type and goals, your size, and your board riding skills.

In this post, we go over the main criteria for choosing the right surf skateboard for your needs, and we look at the best-suited surfskates for each type of riding.

Also check out my ultimate surfskate selector tool!

1. Slide Surfskates

Slide Sufskates are easy to carve, stable and safe for newbies, and ride low enough for surf commuting.

Slide surfskates are adequate for beginner skaters and surfers, as well as for older riders. They’re very popular with female riders looking for a “surfier” experience than a regular longboard.

The Slide surfskate truck, now in its third generation, is very versatile and easily adjusted to meet most riders’ needs. Its built-in anti-wheelbite mechanism makes it quite safe. The rear truck has been improved to complement the front (the Slide truck kit includes both).

Slide surfskates are a great option for surf-style commuting. In addition to surf maneuvers, they are particularly suitable for transport due to their highly stable and smooth ride.

Slide has been making boards since 1966. Their surfskate decks generally have wide and stubby outlines, many with swallow tails.

Best surfskate for: beginner, skatepark & street

Check out my in-depth review of Slide skateboards here

2. Flow surfskates

flow surfskates

Flow surfskates offer a loose surfing and pumping ride with wheelbite stoppers and a very low ride.

Flow Surfskates are a newer brand by the team who makes DB Longboards. Their good quality 7-ply decks feature attractive progressive shapes fine-tuned for surf-style carving.

The Flow surfskate truck is spring-based, similar to the first generation Slide truck (which is now up to v3). Although more simple than others, this affordable truck works really well for loose and relaxed surf carving and pumping as well as surf-style commuting.

The Flow truck has stoppers that prevent wheelbite which makes it a safe truck for beginner surfskaters. The noticeably low lean-to-turn ratio provides a very responsive and turny yet stable riding feel suitable for all levels.

The Flow surfskates may not best-suited for hardcore performance shorfboard training, they offer a very stable and low ride that make them great for some distance pushing and pumping.

Best surfskate for: beginners, distance pushing, distance pumping

See my complete review of Flow Surfskates here

3. Miller Division Surfskates

Miller Surfskates are designed for easy riding and don’t require high boardriding skills to start carving.

The Miller Division XRKP II surfskate truck is a “normal” bushings-based RKP system albeit with a greater kingpin inversion angle compared to a regular longboard truck.

The result is tight-turning yet highly stable boards that allows surf maneuvers when riding fast. The truck also makes these boards suitable for ramps and street.

The simple bushing-based design, although it offers a more limited rotation angle, requires a lot less maintenance and provides more stability than spring systems. Playing with bushing hardness also lets you fine-tuning the truck for your specific size and riding goals.

Miller Decks range from 29″ to 33″ in length. The mount holes in all the decks and trucks allow for adjusting the wheelbase by up to 1″.

Best surfskate for: beginners, skatepark & street

Check out my complete review of Miller Surfskates here

4. Carver surfskates with CX truck

carver CX surfskates

The Carver CX offers a very stable ride, high pumping ability, snappy turns, but with a higher ride.

The Carver CX surfskate truck is a regular bushings-based (no spring) longboard truck but with a reverse kingpin angle set at 90º – a lot more than for normal longboards. This allows the hanger to pivot a lot further than a normal truck.

Surskates fitted with the Carver CX truck are much more accessible than many spring-based trucks for beginner riders. The standard RKP bushing system offers stability and confidence. Yet, the CX is very easy to pump for speed and naturally leads to agile and even snappy turns.

Because of its stability and pumpability, surfskates equipped with the CX are suitable for distance pumping as well as for skatepark riding. The kingpin nut can be tightened for even more stability at speed. The CX is a relatively tall truck, however, not ideal for pushing.

Best surfskate for: distance pumping, snappy carving, skatepark

Check out my complete Carver Skateboard comparison guide

5. Globe Surfskates

Globe surfskates are turny but safe, pumpable, flexier than average, and low enough for pushing.

Globe’s Onshore Series surfskates are equipped with the Revenge Alpha II surf truck, a fast-turning truck that provides a tight turning radius and fluid, efficient pumping.

The Revenge trucks ride lower to the ground and so are better-suited for pushing than the average surfskate truck. The front truck has built-in locking tabs that constrain the truck rotation to avoid wheelbite, making it safer (albeit less extreme) to carve on.

While most surfskate decks are built from maple wood, Globe decks include some fiber layers (“Fiber-Carve”) that add a bit of flex, adding to the rebound and energy of the trucks in pumps and turns. These aspects make the Globe an interesting option for everyday surf-pumping and commuting.

Best surfskate for surf commuting, easy carving

Get the Globe Costa surfskate on Globe’s website ($190)

6. Sector 9 surfskates

sector 9 crescent wave park

Sector 9 surfskates offer a distinctive carving feel, a stable ride even at speed, and a high ride.

Sector 9 surfskates come fitted with the Gullwing Sidewinder truck, a long-standing, reputable truck with a double kingpin system and special soft bushings.

Unlike other surfskate truck systems, the Gullwing uses the same truck front and rear which allows you to “dig” the entire board rail in turns – vs just the front truck area. This results in a distinctive easy and fluid carving feel.

Sector 9 combines a wide range of deck sizes with the Sidewinder, from shorter ones for driveway slashing to longer ones for carving at higher speeds. The soft 69mm Top Shelf wheels are designed for strong grip when leaning in carves.

Best surfskate for: distance pumping, fast surf carving

See the Sector 9 Crescent Wake Park (above picture) on Amazon

7. Carver surfskates with C7 truck

carver c7 surfskates

Carver C7 surfskates provide a flowy, classic surf type ride with very smooth turns and energetic pumps.

The C7 truck is spring-based with a swing arm mechanism pushing against a spring in turns. It features a second axis allows that makes for a wider rotation than a normal truck and hence more dramatic carves.

The second axis also allows you to generate speed and momentum by snapping the board nose while pivoting around the tail with a fluid motion.

The C7 is highly adjustable as both the spring and kingpin can be stiffened (less turny) or loosened based on rider level and riding style.

Best surfskate for: classic surf training, fluid surf pumping

Go to my complete Carver surfskate comparison guide

8. YOW surfskates

YOW surfskates

YOW surfskates and adapters offer a very loose and radical riding experience for experienced boardriders.

The Yow is a surfskate adapter, a turning mechanism that features a torsion internal spring system to add turning capability to any standard skateboard or longboard truck. YOW surfskates provide extremely fluid and tight turns and pump.

Many riders choose a YOW surfskate for surf cross-training. YOW surfskates are considered much closer to a surfing feel compared to more all-around surf trucks. The YOW, like the Swelltech and the Smoothstar, is preferred for surfing bowls and for radical shortboard maneuvers.

On the flip side, YOW surfskates are much less stable than say Carver or Side, namely for learners and for riding fast. The YOW adapter’s turning mechanism can be locked for regular cruising – though the ride height is not the best for pushing.

Best surfskate for: shortboard performance surf training

See my YOW surfskates in-depth review

9. Swelltech surfskates

swelltech surfskates

Swelltech surfskates sit all the way at the surf end of the surf-skate spectrum.

Not only do Swelltech decks look like real mini-surfboards but their multi-spring truck can spin a full-360º and tilt a whopping 60º, making the boards feel like true surf shortboards.

The Swelltechs have a lot of lean which provides that “digging the rail” feel. They can turn on a dime by pivoting on the stable rear truck. The decks are longer with more wheelbase than most surfskate. This combined with the powerful V-shaped surf truck allows you to pump really efficiently and perform both flowy and extreme/snappy surf turns.

The Swelltech differentiates itself through its huge rotation angle and backfoot-driven riding. It can feel unstable at first but the new version of the Swelltech truck has gained a lot in stability and can now be carved down small hills and pumped on longer distances.

Best surfskate for: shortboard surf performance training

Check out my complete Swelltech surfskate review

10. Waterborne surfskate adapter

waterborne surfskate adapter

Waterborne makes any skateboard very tight turning and pumpable albeit at the cost of a higher ride.

Unlike other surfskate brands, Waterborne is (so far) better known for its surf adapter than for its futuristic complete surfskates. The Waterborne adapter system has a turning arm similar to Carver C7 and YOW, however it uses a bushing vs a spring, giving it a very different feel.

Mounting the Waterborne adapter between a deck and front truck turns a regular cruiser or longboard into a surfskate. The adapter significantly reduces turning radius, improves pumping on flat, and allows for much tighter carves. It also enables surf snapbacks and tailslides.

In addition to the Surf Adapter, the Rail Adapter can be mounted on the normal rear truck to make it more stable by adding extra lean to it. This allows keeping all 4 wheels on the ground in tight carves, leading to smoother rail-to-rail transitions and a surfier feel.

Best surf adapter for: shortboard surf training, distance pumping

Check out the Waterborne Surf Adapter here on Amazon or see my article on surfskate adapters here

11. Smoothstar surfskates

smoothstar barracuda

Smoothstar makes surf trainers aimed exclusively at the shortboard surfing crowd rather than skateboarders.

The brand positions itself as pure surf training vs surfskate. Their super loose and surfy Thruster surf truck uses a compression spring to closely replicate surfing motion.

The Thruster truck has a wide turn range and is designed to be highly responsive to upper body movements. While the majority of surfskate trucks will also respond to a full-body motion starting at the shoulders, you can typically get away with simple heel-to-toe, rail-to-rail shifts.

That’s not the case for the Smoothstar (or Swelltech) which requires more of a pure surfing motion to get going. The completes are also tuned specifically for such pure surf feel (the Thruster truck is not sold separately).

Best surfkate for: shortboard performance surf training

Check out the Smoothstar section of my post on the best skateboards for surf training

12. Carver surfskates with C5 truck

The C5 is a smaller version of the CX that combines street & park abilities with surf style riding.

Carver surfskates equipped with the C5 surf truck ride much lower than CX-powered boards. Like the CX, the C5 is also a bushing-based RKP truck with a 90º angle kingpin. In the C5, however, the kingpin is flipped and the hanger is significantly shorter and narrower.

The C5’s smaller height and width make it suitable for mounting on small cruisers and even street decks. It’s designed for a mix of traditional street skating (ollies and kick flips), skatepark transitions and grinds (without hangups), and very stable surf-style carving, pumping, and critical turns.

Best surfskate for: street, park & ramp, driveway slashing, city surf commuting.

Check out my complete Carver Surfskates guide here

13. Surfeeling surfskates

surfeeling surfskates

Surfeeling is a lesser-known surfskate brand (though in business for over 20 years) from Brazil. They offer attractive quality surfskate decks fitted with carefully designed trucks at affordable prices.

Surfeeling’s decks are among the few to currently include fiberglass in their construction for lighter weight and increased durability. They have unique surf-inspired designs focusing on optimal foot positioning with larger widths and elliptical concaves.

The bushings-based Alpine surfskate trucks are built to last and allow for sharp curves, high carving return, and effective pumping. They come in two versions: the K1 for radical surf turns due to a turny-vs-stable front/rear setup; the K2 has a similar front and rear truck and is suitable for learning riders thanks to the built-in anti-wheelbite range limiters.

Best surfskate for: beginners and commuting (K2), shortboard surf training (K1)

Check out my in-depth post about the Surfeeling surfskates here

Key criteria for choosing a surfskate

There are many different types of surfskates, including within a given brand. Unless you have a lot of experience, it’s quite difficult to know ahead of time the kind of riding feel a surfskate has without testing it.

The ideal surfskate should offer power and flow, fast pumping, tight turns, durable quality parts, if possible at a relatively affordable price.

Let’s look at the main features to consider when trying to understand the kind of riding a surfskate will give you.

Surfskate truck type

There are two basic types of surfskate truck systems used for the front truck of a surfskate: bushing-based and mechanical spring-based.

Bushings are conical rubber (urethane) parts found in regular skate/longboard trucks. Some surfskate trucks like the Carver CX and the Miller XRKP use extra bushings for their turning mechanism – bushings are used to pop the truck back into position in turns.

Most surf trucks, however, include a swing arm compressing a mechanical spring in the front truck to push the arm back to neutral position in turns. That’s the case for the Carver C7, YOW Swelltech, and many others.

Spring-based surf truck systems are typically the surfiest with the most rotation and flowing, but they also come with drawbacks such as lower durability. Note than spring trucks also use bushings for cushioning.

Surfskate trucks from different brands differ in number of springs used, spring thickness, stiffness, and geometry, all key variables that differentiate a surf truck from another.

Surfskate systemProsCons
Bushings-basedSimple design, durable, easy to tune by replacing bushings with softer/harder onesCloser to the traditional skate trucks feel, not as wide turning. Bushings wear out fast
Spring-basedHighly responsive and flowy, turning angle up to 360º, close to surfing feelFrequent spring breakage, hard to find parts, harder to tune

On most surfskates, the tail truck is a regular skateboard truck (albeit specially tuned) whose role is to work as a pivot and stabilize the rear, like surfboard fins, allowing the front truck to move freely left and right for extreme turns.

Surskate truck style

What is commonly referred to as “surfskate truck” doesn’t always mean an actual truck. Some surfskate systems like the Carver, Swelltech, and Slide do include a complete skateboard truck with the surfskate mechanism built-in.

Thus, the truck system includes all the normal parts that make up a truck – baseplate, hanger, kingpin etc. For these, all you have to do is mount the whole truck system onto the deck and you’re ready to ride.

Other surfskate systems, in contrast, are “surf adapters”, that is, surfskate turning mechanisms you mount in-between a normal skateboard or longboard truck and the skateboard deck.

YOW and Waterborne are awesome examples of surfskate adapters. You can purchase a standalone YOW S4 or S5 surfskate system and use it with your existing deck and trucks.

Likewise, the Waterborne system includes a “surf adapter” for the front and a “rail adapter” for the rear that you mount between your existing TKP or RKP trucks and your deck to turn your normal board into a surfskate. Learn more about surfskate adapters here.

Most surfskate trucks come in a set that includes a front and a rear truck. As mentioned, the rear truck (e.g. Carver C2) is typically just a regular TKP skateboard truck tweaked a bit to work optimally with the surf truck.

Surfskate truck height

Truck height is also an important differentiating factor between surfskate trucks. The taller the truck, the more leverage in turns and “pumpability” it has, but the less stable and pushable it is as you’re riding higher off the ground and you need to reach out further to push.

For example, there’s almost a 3/4″ difference in height (baseplate to hanger) between the Swelltech and the Slide trucks, resulting in very different riding. The bushings-based Carver CX is shorter than the C7 but taller than the C5. The Slide and the Flow are among the shortest surfskate trucks out there.

Surfskate truck looseness & angle

One of the first things you notice about a surfskate truck is its looseness, as you must immediately adjust your balance and moves. A very loose truck is generally more challenging to ride. Looser generally means less stable but turnier, while tighter means more stable but less turny.

A surfskate truck’s geometry and turning system determine how loose the truck feels. Most trucks offer adjustment settings for tightening or loosening the truck. The availability (number of nuts) and effectiveness of such adjustments vary from truck to truck.

An related important characteristic of a surfskate truck is its rotation range or angle. Some trucks (e.g. Slide) can rotate 60º while others have an 180º, or even 360º rotation (Swelltech), allowing for uber-radical surf maneuvers.

Surfskate turn vs lean

Turn vs lean is important for any longboard and is also something to consider when choosing your surfskate. “Turn” designates the amount of rotation you get in the wheels for a given amount of pressure on a rail. “Lean” refers to the amount of deck sideways tilt when you turn.

Lean:turn ratioRiding experience
HighHigh deck tilt in turns, limited wheel rotation (wide turns)
LowHigh wheel rotation (tight turns), low deck tilt

Some surskates have a lot of turn with limited lean (the deck doesn’t tilt much but the wheels rotate sharply), while others are just the opposite. Whether you want more lean or more turn depends on your riding style, goals, and level.

Surfskates with more lean tend to feel more like a surfboard. Those with more turn require less effort for carving and pumping and provide more stability at speed. The body motion on a low lean board centers more around the hips vs the shoulders.

Surfskate length & wheelbase

Besides surf truck characteristics, the deck’s size is an important consideration when choosing the right surfskate. Though there are no clear rules, your choice should be based on your height and weight, level, and riding styles. Here are a few pointers:

  • In general, bigger riders need a wider board to accommodate larger foot size, and taller riders should go for a longer deck to match their wider stance
  • Shorter decks or decks with shorter wheelbase typically make for tighter and faster turns – e.g. for driveway slashing. Conversely, a longer wheelbase gives you more leverage for pumping and more stability at speed, but will result in wider turns.
  • A shorter wheelbase allows easy pumping from a standstill or for riding uphill, but can quickly get exhausting for distance. Longer wheelbases are better-suited for distance pumping but require more effort to pick up speed at first.
Shorter WBLonger WB
CarvingFast and tightWide and flowy
PumpingFast start, uphill, tiresome for distanceSlow start, higher top speed
DistanceRequires more effort, tiresomeMore efficient
SpeedLess stable, wobblyMore stable
BowlBetter for lots of turnsBetter for fluid riding
SurfingRadical, shortboard styleFlowy, classic style

Deck size & construction

Surfskate decks are generally relatively short and wider (stubbier) than regular cruisers for foot space, typically about 30″ long by 9″ to 10″ wide with different types of tails (see below).

Most surfskates are built from Canadian maple with a varying number of plies – more plies means a stiffer and more durable deck whereas fewer plies results in a thinner, lighter, and slightly flexier deck.

Deck shape

Aside from size, shape must also be factored in when choosing the right surfskate. There’s obviously the aesthetics of the board – brands like YOW make stunning looking surfboard-style surfskates, Hamboards has classic longboard surfskates, and Carver has boards that mimick legendary surfboard designs (e.g. Al Merrick and Lost Surfboards).

Beyond looks, however, a surfskate deck’s template (outline) is also functionally important. Surfskate commonly feature shortboard, fish, classic, vintage, or progressive shapes. The shape affects how much wood you have under your feet in different parts of the board, which in turns influences your ability to pump, carve, and draw tight curves.

Tail and nose shape also play a role in a surfskate’s riding feel. Tail shape can be square, squash, diamond, rounded, pin, swallow. Wider tails (Miller, Smoothstar) add back foot leverage for surf maneuvers and for bowls and ramps.

The nose may be pointed, rounded, or blunt. A fuller nose lets you ride on the front truck for more responsiveness and radical slides.

Kicktail and concave

In additional to the tail’s shape, kicktail angle affects your ability to do quick turns and snaps as well as ollies and curb hopping. Some surfskates boast a relatively flat tail while others have a much steep one.

Some surfskates e.g. Swelltech boards also offer a nose kick for confident 360s and tail slides.

Surfskates often have relatively mild overall concave to allow free foot movement in surf maneuvers. Some boards, however, have added concave in specific areas to support radical snapbacks and aerials. Some Carver decks, for example, have a molded “nose spoon” which hugs your front foot for more pumping power. Smoothstar has deeper concave for improved foot grip in critical turns.

Surfskate wheels

Surfskate wheels focus on traction, roll speed, and high rebound for energy feedback in pumps. Softer wheels have more grip while harder wheels roll faster and slide easier.

Most wheels used on surfskates have diameters in in the 62-70mm range and durometer 78A to 81A (also based on rider weight), and special high-rebound urethane formulas.

Examples of wheels focusing on surfskate riding include Carver’s 69mm / 78A or 81A Roundhouse, Globe’s 78A Roundabout, and Sector 9’s 69mm Top Shelf.

***
Photo credits:
(1) Featured image: Surfeeling Surfskates

6 comments

Hey fellow boardrider, want to post a comment or question? Due to the ever-growing number of comments on this site, I've moved them here:
As always, I try to answer as many of your questions as possible. Since the forum is better organized, other riders may also help answer your questions. You can still post comments here if you want to but from now on, I'll mainly be monitoring the forum. Ride on!

  • Great article! Learned a lot. Any plans on doing an in-depth review of the Globe boards with the Revenge trucks? Interested in these since they claim to ride low.

  • Really like this article. I would really like it if you could do a piece on surf skate bushings for CX type trucks and a review on the NKD surfskates.

    Regards,
    Hayward

    • Hey Hayward, thanks for the good words! In case you haven’t seen it, also check out my newer in-depth article on choosing the right surfskate here.
      About the bushings, funny you should mention this, I just ordered a bunch of awesome bushings from Loaded to test with the CX. I’ll keep y’all posted!

  • I’m an old (40) skater and later surfer who hasn’t done either 7 to 10 years. I now live nowhere near a beach. And have been craving to surf again. I saw these Surfskates and I’m intrigued. Saw your review on the Flow and I want to make a purchase but also saw that ZFlex has made a board with the waterborne on it a 31 and 40. Wanted to start here before I jump into a swell. I’m thinking about a carver c7 as well. Also saw the surfeeling on Amazon. Curious on you thoughts and best direction to go. I’m 5’11 220

    Thank you
    Jason Hirons

    • Hey Jason, well the Carver C7 is probably the most reliable and durable board and will support your weight without issues. The C7 is less stable than the CX but you’re not a newbie boardrider so you should get the hang of it real quick, I would say pick a bigger deck e.g. 32″.
      The Flow is nice but it’s kind of twitchy and I haven’t seen it ridden by heavier riders yet, it’s an entry-level, generic brand truck so you may want to double-check the sturdiness – works fine for me at 180lbs but who knows.
      Zflex + Waterborne never tried it, just be aware that it will be A LOT looser and turnier than a C7, plus it will be high off the ground due to the truck + adapter height – taller ride height means more turn and less stability, so build your skills!
      The Surfeeling is pretty cool and nice for mellow surf training, but here again I really don’t know how well it can withstand bigger riders – I would drop the Brazilian team a line to ask.
      HTH

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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