If you’re looking for a street surfing longboard, chances are your goal is to achieve on concrete a riding feel similar to surfing or snowboarding.
Street surfing is becoming increasingly popular, and many longboard brands are coming up with highly surfy boards, some of them even referred to as surf skateboards.
Whether you’re already a surfer or snowboarder, or you’re simply attracted to the perspective of surfing the streets on a longboard, there are some important things you should for picking the right street surfer board for you.
What is a street surfing longboard?
There is an incredibly wide range of longboards out there. Each longboard is designed with one or more riding styles in mind. Some are designed for mellow cruising, some for downhill speed, some for tricks and jumps, some for artsy dancing, some for effective commuting…
Since recent years, there’s also a growing number of longboards built specifically for street surfing, i.e. riding as if on a wave or on snow. But what exactly does that mean?
When you’re surfing on a wave or carving down a snow slope, your main purpose is typically to make beautiful turns in the wave or in the snow – wide, smooth turns or tight, snappy turns. Surfing and snowboard are primarily about turns, aka carving.
On a surfboard, all it takes is a slight pressure on one rail to make the board turn (some turn faster than others depending on the board’s shape). Likewise, on a snowboard, frontside or backside turns are performed by leaning onto the front or back rail of the board.
When surfing the streets on a longboard, you want to replicate that amazing feeling of carving. For this to be possible, you need a very responsive longboard that has the ability to turn extremely well when you shift your weight onto on rail (edge), similar to a surfboard or snowboard.
Street surfing: pumping and carving
Besides carving, street surfing also includes another essential aspect called pumping. Pumping is the way proficient surfers garner speed on a wave, through a body rotation motion starting with their shoulders and propagating down to their feet.
Likewise on a longboard, pumping is the ability to keep your board rolling simply through body rotations and successive rail-to-rail transitions (heel to toe). Street surfing is a combination of pumping and tight carving to emulate surf maneuvers on the face of a wave.
Pumping is a fundamental ability of the street surfing experience: you want to be able to pump your longboard on flat or even uphill and keep moving without having to kick push with your foot. This, along with the extreme turns, is what differentiates street surfing from regular longboard skating.
For a longboard skateboard to provide a good carving and pumping experience, it needs certain special features for the deck (the platform you stand on), the trucks (the metal parts that make the wheels turn), and the wheels. Let’s review these features.
Street surfing longboard trucks
I’ll start with the trucks because they’re the most important component of a good street surfing board. The trucks play an essential role in giving a longboard a surf-like feel.
Generally speaking, surf-style longboards have a very responsive and tight turning front truck, along with a stable rear truck. Often, the front truck is a so-called surfskate truck, or surf truck, a special longboard truck designed to provide that surf experience.
Many surf trucks (though not all) have a spring mechanism that makes them much turnier than regular longboard trucks – the latter use rubber bushings to bring the truck back to neutral position when turning.
There’s a broad range of surf trucks for street surfing out there, ranging from more stable models focused on pumping, to extremely loose ones for radical surf turns and cutbacks.
The Carver C7, a popular example, offers a fluid type of ride comparable to that of a classic surfboard. The Carver CX, on the other hand, is snappier but relatively stable for a balanced mix of pumping and tight turns.
The YOW surf truck is very loose and much less stable, designed for extreme surf turns. The Swelltech, another popular surf truck, is the closest to a shortboard feel, ideal for hardcode surf training.
As I mentioned, the rear truck in a street surfing longboard setup is a stable truck, as opposed to the uber-turny front truck. Like on a surfboard, its acts like the fins in the water, stabilizing the back of the longboard as the front of the board turns freely.
A surf truck set generally includes the tight-turning, spring-based front truck and a regular (TKP or RKP) bushings-based longboard truck for the back.
Some regular longboard setups (which don’t use a surfskate front truck) also work well for street surfing – see below.
Street surfing longboard deck
The deck also plays a role in how surfy a longboard is, namely through its length and wheelbase (distance between front and rear trucks). The shorter the wheelbase, the tighter-turning the board, and the easier it is to pump on it from a standstill.
If your main goal is to practice shortboard-like surf maneuvers, a shorter deck is a better choice. On the flip side, a shorter wheelbase will make it harder to maintain good speed through pumping, and pumper the longboard on longer distances will require more effort.
Besides wheelbase and length, other factors impact a longboard’s street surfing capabilities. Wider decks offer better foot comfort and hold, and some amount of concave (raised edges) makes tight carves easier.
A kicktail also helps with quick steering and surf snapbacks. A wider nose allows surf tricks such as noseriding.
In general, street surfing longboards have a classic directional cruiser shape best-suited for surf slashing. Many specialized surfskate brands further boast a surfboard-like look (wider with a pointed nose, surf graphics, etc) though that’s not technically a requirement for a street surfer board.
Street surfing longboard decks should be relatively flat or with mellow concave to allow free moving of the feet when performing surf maneuvers. The grip tape should also not be too coarse for the same reason.
Street surfing longboard wheels
Longboard wheels for street surfing should generally be larger, softer, and squared-lipped. The reason is that surf shredding involves very tight turns and ongoing pumping, so good traction is an essential quality for the wheels.
Larger wheels, e.g. with diameter 65mm or more, provide faster roll and more speed. Wheel size, however, needs to be adapted to the size and shape of the deck to avoid wheelbite. Most surfskates have wheels between 60 and 70mm.
Softer wheels, e.g. 70A in durometer, stick to the ground better, offering more grip in tight turns as well as better cushioning when rolling over cracks and bumps. Some advanced surf maneuvers, on the other hand, involve sliding the back of the longboard, which is easier to do with harder wheels (e.g. 78A duro).
Besides hardness, the lip profile of the wheel also plays an important part in the traction vs slide mix for street surfing. Sharp-lipped wheels with a wide contact patch offer more traction, while rounded or beveled lips are better for sliding.
Bearing quality is also important for street surfing. Good quality bearings allow for faster and longer rolling when pumping. Built-in shields help protect the bearings from damaging sideways forces when sliding the longboard during radical snapbacks.
So which longboard should I get for street surfing?
Now that you understand what street surfing is and the main qualities to look for in a street surfing longboard, you may still wonder how which longboard to choose for surfing on concrete.
It’s a pretty hard question as there are many many options, and so many factors at play such as your size and weight, your experience level with longboarding, your experience with other boardsports such as surfing, and the kind of riding you want to do.
If you have a street skater history and want to get into street surfing, one option is to get a good surfy cruiser like the uber-popular Landyachtz Dinghy ($140-$180) or the fantastic new Loaded Coyote ($200). These two boards are compact and very nimble, high-quality, great for carving the streets and surfing bowls while doing ollies and kick tricks. Pumping is not really part of their DNA, however.
If your goal is to get into surf-style pumping and carving while still enjoying a stable and comfortable ride for getting from point A to B, the Flow Wedge is a very good option – an affordable ($160) but good quality entry-level board, suitable for beginner street surfers.
Slide surfskates also offer a similar level of stability but a bit more capabilities for more technical surf turns, surf pumping, and bowl riding, though at a slightly higher cost (< 200$).
Swelltech, in my opinion, makes the ultimate street surfing longboards with the closest feel to ocean shortboard surfing. These boards, however, are best suited for more advanced riders or for those with some boardsport experience, as they are quite unstable. They’re priced between $220 and $260.
A longboard fitted with Carver trucks is also a good option for surfing the streets. There are many boards to choose from, but I’ve personally been very happy with my Loaded Poke and my Loaded Omakase fitted with CX trucks. Both give me an awesome street surfing + pumping and commuting mix.
Still confused or torn between different options for your street surfing longboard? Drop me a line, I’ll try to answer and help you based on my knowledge and experience.
Also, check out the comments on this site (use the search box) as many many questions have already been asked and answered.
(1) Featured image courtesy of Swelltech @surfskate_brasil