What are the most popular surf skate brands out there? Is a pioneer like Carver still dominating the pack, or has a younger challenger like YOW or Swelltech taken over?
A few weeks ago, I created the world’s first surf skate survey on this site and collected about 200 quality responses. In this post, I share some of the key results of the survey. While some were expected, there are also a few surprising revelations in the ongoing and raging battle of the surf skate brands!
Overall most popular surf skate brands: Carver still dominates
Roughly a third (34%) of the surveyed respondents ride Carver surf skates! That’s quite a large share considering the fact that the next most popular surf skate brand, YOW Surf, is chosen by only 14% of the respondents:
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Among the Carver surf skater, 65% ride the C7 truck while 53% choose the CX (about 18% use both). It’s interesting to note that 12% of the Carver riders also ride YOW. See a later section for a detailed comparison of surf skate brands.
The following are some of the custom or lesser-known brand surf skate setups the respondents often ride on:
- Loaded deck with Carver CX trucks
- Sector9 deck with Gullwing Sidewinder trucks
- Soulboardy surfskate deck with slide trucks
- DaSilva Mia deck and wheels with Jucker Hawaii Rugged trucks
- Oxelo ( Decathlon) Carve 540 Bird
- NKD cloud 9 surfskate
- Regular Powell deck with Gullwings trucks + Waterborne
- Obfive surf skate
Favorite surf skate brands by riding level
Skateboarding skills and experience typically influence your choice of surf skate brand. In our survey, 1/4th of respondents were complete beginner skaters. Among them, over 20% ride a Carver setup (63% C7 and 45% CX). Hamboards comes next with 6% of the beginners.
As many as 25% of riders with under 1 year skating experience ride Carver surf skates (C7 and CX about equally). Unlike the complete beginners, however, many of these post-beginners (19%) ride YOW.
Among surf skaters with 1-5 years of experience, 50% choose the Carver surf skate brand (65% for the C7, 50% for the CX). And here too, about 20% also ride YOW surf skates. Miller, Swelltech, and Curfboard each get a 6-8% share.
A majority of the more advanced skaters (5+ years skating experience) also favor Carver (42%), and about 12% ride YOW. The Curfboad, Smoothstar, Slide, and Waterborne surfskate brands each get about 8% of the advanced rider group. Most advanced Carver riders use both the C7 and CX trucks.
|< 1 year||25%||19%||5%|
|1 – 5 years||50%||19%||8%||6%|
Most popular surf skate brand by board sport experience
Another important factor that can impact your choice of surf skate brand is your experience with board sports in general. Over half (55%) of the riders surveyed were ocean surfers, 36% longboard skaters, 34% snowboarders, and 17% street skaters.
One might think surfers would choose a different surf skate brand than snowboarders and longboarders. Astonishingly though, the proportion of Carver surf skate riders is roughly comparable across all the boardsport groups (33% to 38%). Likewise, a similar share of each group (12 to 14%) chooses the YOW surf skate brand. Of course, many riders practice more than one boardsport.
Among Carver riders, 60-66% of surfers, longboarders, and snowboarders ride the C7, while 50-60% ride the CX. Street skaters, however, tend to ride the CX more than the other groups (75%).
Aside from Carver and YOW, surfers also ride Smoothstar, Swelltech, and Hamboards. Snowboarders also ride Swelltech and Smoothstar, while longboarders also use Smoothstar and Curfboard. Street skaters generally stick to the Carver and YOW surf skate brands.
Most popular surf skate brand by age group
Most (80%+) of the riders surveyed were in the 20 to 50 age range. In the 20-35 group, close to 40% are Carver surf skate riders – here again, about 65% C7 and 45% CX. Next comes YOW at about 15% of the respondents, followed by the Smoothstar surf skate brand with about 5% each.
Riders aged 35 to 50 were 36% Carver, 20% YOW, and 7-8% each for Smoothstar, Miller, and Curfboard.
The 50-60 age group also favors the Carver surf skate brand (40%), but 20% of them also use regular trucks mounted on the Waterborne surf adapter.
Surprisingly, only about 25% of kids aged 15 to 20 ride Carver (3/4 of those use the C7). About 13% choose the Swelltech surf skate brand. The rest of the sample is split between YOW, Miller, Smoothstar and a few custom setups and alternative surf skate brands (e.g. NKD).
Most popular surf skate brand by rider size
Surf skate brand choice is also impacted by a rider’s weight and height. Based on the survey results, among riders in the most frequent weight range of 75-85 kg (165 – 187lb), about 36% choose the Carver surf skate brand, while 17% report riding YOW. Another 8% slash on Smoothstar.
Among heavier riders (85+ kg), about 1/2 also choose Carver – mainly the C7 – while a few also ride Swelltech, Miller, and Hamboards surf skate brands.
Most of the taller riders (42% were 1.85m or taller) also choose Carver, predominantly the C7 truck. Smaller shares of these tall riders ride Swelltech, Miller, Hamboards, Curfboard, and Carveboard (all with roughly the same share).
Most popular surf skate brand by riding style
The survey also revealed the most popular surf skate brands based on riding style. The styles listed were:
- Surf training: using a surf skate for improving your surfing
- Easy surf carving: relaxed riding based on pumping and tight carves
- Pump & commute: pumping your surf skate distance or pump tracks
- Skatepark: taking your surf skate onto ramps and into bowls
|Easy surf |
|Pump & |
Carver is once again the favorite surf skate brand across all styles. Skatepark riding was even more dominated by Carver with 44% of respondents reporting riding their boards at the park.
YOW also comes second for all surf skate styles, with strong 16-17% scores for surf training and for pump & commute. Smoothstar is also quite popular for surf training (10%). For skatepark, the YOW, Smoothstar, Slide, Curfboard, and Waterborne surf skate brands earn similar scores.
Surf skate brand comparisons
Besides revealing the most favored surf skate brands for different types of riders and different riding styles, the survey provided some highly valuable insights regarding the way riders comparatively perceive the different surf skate brands.
The following sorted and cured list of comments will hopefully come in handy for you if you’re trying to decide on the next surf skate brand you’ll be riding!
Carver vs YOW
- Carver CX vs YOW: Carver wins in quality and longevity, YOW is closer to surfing. The CX is a more versatile setup that is better for cruising and has better top pumping speed than the YOW, but it has less radical turning abilities. The YOW can be better for parks/bowl depending on rider preferences.
- Carver C7 vs YOW: YOW is too loose, too surfy, very hard to push for getting from point A to B. Carver is better for commuting.
- Carver C7 (Oracle) vs YOW (S4): Carver pumps better, while YOW is looser and can carve very tight turns. YOW is a bit closer to a surf feeling than Carver C7. You use the hips more on the yow due to the greater amount of turn
Carver vs Smoothstar
- Carver CX vs Smoothstar: Carver wins in quality and longevity. The CX is more versatile, the Smoothstar is more specialized for surf training. The Swelltech is much looser and closer to the real thing. The CX, however, is easier to ride. Also, Swelltech is a better surf trainer but is no good for distance. Carver is the opposite.
- Carver C7 & CX vs Swelltech (Camo & Hybrid): Swelltech is harder to learn, but is more fun after you master it. I don’t ride my Carver boards anymore and love my Swelltech.
Carver vs Curfboard
Carver CX vs Curfboard: Curfboard is much more sensitive. I spend more time on the carver, but Curfboard may help you improve surfing after a while. Curfboard is bad for skate parks
Carver vs Carver
The C7 is more flowy and has more surf feel than the CX. However, the CX is better for commuting. The CX is also lighter and has more lean. The CX is easier to slide with and feels more stable. The C7 is more responsive.
Carver vs Miller
- Carver C7 vs Miller: Miller is great for street riding and skatepark
- Carver CX vs Miller: both Carver CX and Miller are good for street riding and fun in a bowl. Miller is cheaper but lower quality, Carver is quality-built and very pleasant to ride.
Carver vs Slide
Carver C7 vs Slide: C7 is closer to the surf feeling than Slide. Slide, however, does provide a relatively similar experience to the C7 for about half the price, and is one of the best surf skate brands you can get for the buck.
Carver vs Alpha Revenge
Carver C7 is smoother and tighter turning
Carver vs Hamboards
Carver surf skates are smaller with a snappier response, while Hamboards are heavier but with a fluid and relaxed type of ride
Carver vs Waterborne
See this section of my post on surf adapters for a comparison between Carver and Waterborne.
Swelltech vs Hamboards
Swelltech (Camo) vs Hamboards (Bamboo Fish): both are great fun for different turns, Hamboards feels more like sup surfing while Swelltech more like a shortboard. Swelltech rides great on both small and large ramps, while Hamboards needs much larger ramps due to its size.
Swelltech vs Slide
Swelltech is much harder than Slide for pushing, riding fast or downhill, and getting from point A to B.
YOW vs Smoothstar
YOW and Smoothstar are very comparable, both good surf skate brands for surf training. Both are highly responsive and maneuverable, namely compared to the Carver C7 – both lack the stability of the C7 of the back foot truck for strength training.
YOW and Smoothstar both give you a radical surfing feel. Smoothstar rides a bit smoother and may be a bit sturdier. It’s also more adjustable than YOW.
YOW vs Slide
Slide is more stable and easier to push, while YOW is more responsive and slashy. YOW is better for surf training, Slide for commuting while carving. Both YOW and Slide are made in the Spanish Basque Country, but Slide seems to be a bit better quality.
YOW vs Hamboards
YOW is better for shortboard surf training, Hamboards wins for longboard surf training.
YOW vs Waterborne
Both pump very well but the Waterborne surf adapter allows for tighter turns.
YOW vs Curfboard
YOW rides quite high off the ground, which can cause knee strains for sustained pushing. Curfboard is better suited for pushing.
Waterborne vs Curfboard
Curfboard is not really as good for surf simulation compared to Waterborne, though it’s still fun to skate. In skateparks and pumptrack, Curfboard does not always feel safe, namely on edges.
Hamboards vs Waterborne
Hamboards are nice for flowy and wide carving, though Waterborne pumps easier.
Long island vs Smoothstar
Both are easy to carve and pump
Slide vs Oxelo (Decathlon’ surf skate brand)
Oxelo Carve 540 bird vs Slide Gussie Avalanche: Slide has good handling while still being quite stable. Works great out of the box. Oxelo is fun and good value for the money but lower build quality vs the slide.
Swelltech vs Swelltech
Swelltech Hybrid Camo vs Swelltech JOB Pipeline: JOB is twitchy and agile. Hybrid camo feels more stable but is much heavier and longer. They are both super radical but the JOB is better for riding easy parks and doing tight maneuvers.
Based on my survey, it seems Carver is still the dominating surf skate brand on the market, with a majority of riders of all skills and size and with doing all kinds of riding style choosing the brand. YOW appears to be a rising challenger. Other quality surf skate brands like Smoothstar, Slide, Swelltech, Hamboards, and Waterborne are increasingly valid alternatives for riders looking for different riding feels for different styles and budgets.