Trying to choose between a Swelltech Surfskate and a Carver for your next surf skateboard?
Like so many other riders, you’re facing a tough choice! While Carver is the undisputed pioneer, Swelltech Surfskate is one of its serious challengers on the surf training front.
So which of Swelltech Surfskate vs Carver should you choose? Carver boards are generally more versatile and better-suited transportation, Swelltech Surfskate boards, on the other hand, are frequently chosen for true surf simulation and radical shortboard maneuvers.
When comparing Carver to Surfskate, however, it’s also important to differentiate Carver’s CX and C7 trucks, as they offer different riding experiences.
Surfskate vs Carver: why compare them?
Carver and Swelltech Surfskate are both leading U.S surfskate brands. While Carver has pretty much grandfathered the surfskate since 2006, Swelltech Surfskate has imposed itself on the market since 2011.
The main reason for riders being torn between the two brands (among others) is that their surf skateboards are positioned differently on the skate-vs-surf spectrum – see my complete surfskate guide. While Carver offers land surfing boards for all-around use including normal city riding, Swelltech Surfskate seeks to make highly specialized surf training tools.
UPDATE: check out my new in-depth review of the Swelltech surfskates
In general, both Carver and Swelltech Surfskate boards will help your surfing by helping you build up your balance, body positioning and sequencing, leg and core strength, stance, arms use… A lot of things generally translate well from land riding to ocean surfing.
Riding either a Carver or Swelltech surfskate consistently will give you the familiarity you need after you pop-up on your surfboard on a wave. Riding a Swelltech will also greatly help you build your muscle memory for rail-to-rail transitions, bottom and top turns, cutbacks, snaps etc, as the feeling is very close to that of a surfboard.
Practicing on your Carver or Surfskate for 20-30 minutes/day, e.g. 5-10 hours per month, on sidewalks or parking lots, can dramatically speed up your surfing learning curve and help you become a decent surfer faster in a year or two.
As you grow past the initial stages of learning to surf waves, however, the Swelltech will be a great tool to help you take your surfing to the next level.
Surfskate vs Carver: key differences
Swelltech Surfskate boards visually resemble scaled-down surfboards, which is their most attractive design feature. The Swelltech Surfskate truck (formerly known as V-Truck) rotates a full 360º, making these surfskates incredibly maneuverable.
On both Swelltech and Carver skateboards, the stable rear truck acts as a pivot point which allows the rider to use their upper body to pull the board into turns. The Swelltech, however, has a complete free motion front truck to mimick the movement of a surfboard around its fins.
The Carver C7, like the Swelltech Surfskate, also uses a swing arm and a torsion spring in the front, although with a more limited turning angle. The geometry of the truck, however, results in a different type of flowy surf feel.
The Swelltech’s full-rotation truck tends to make Surfskate boards more radical but less stable than Carver. They’re also harder to get moving through pumping. The latest version of the Swelltech truck reduces that gap somewhat, however, bringing the experience a bit closer to Carver’s C7.
CORRECTION: the Swelltech is extremely pumpable including uphill, however, a surf-style full-body motion is required to gain momentum. In contrast, the Carver can be pumped through mere rail-to-rail toe-to-heel shifting, making it easier for beginners and non-surfers to start pumping.
The Carver CX is closer to a regular skateboard truck as it uses urethane bushings instead of springs. Its special tall geometry, however, makes it much surfier and pumpable than regular RKP trucks.
Surfskate vs Carver: getting from A to B
Riders often like Carver skateboards because in addition to surf training, they can be used comfortably for regular skate commuting. In contrast, newer riders generally find it harder to commute on a Swelltech Surfskate due to the super loose front truck, which tends to create speed wobbles.
Kick-pushing on a Swelltech Surfskate is also trickier compared to a Carver. On a Swelltech, putting too much weight forward on the nose can make the board nosedive (more on that later). At first, the easiest way to push on a Surfskate is “Mongo” (with your non-pushing foot in the back instead of the front).
After a while, however, you’ll typically get used to positioning your front foot behind the front truck for pushing, resulting in better stability – although the Swelltech does remain much more turny.
Some riders still enjoy cruising on their Swelltech Surfskate, but use big large drawn-out pumps for picking up and maintaining speed. Riders often enjoy riding Swelltech surfskates on declines.
Carver skateboards (both C7 and CX) are more stable than the Surfskate overall, and typically a better option for covering longer distances. They are also easier for beginners to learn on compared to Swelltech due to stability.
Surfskate vs Carver: performance surfing
True performance shortboard surf feeling is where the Swelltech Surfskate generally shines compared to Carver. As mentioned, the Swelltech front truck allows full free movement of the front of the board, while the stable rear truck anchors the back of the board like fins on a surfboard.
The free-moving front truck gives the Swelltech Surfskate much more lean, resulting in a body position similar to surfing or snowboarding when edging hard.
So while Carver boards (both C7 and CX) are more beginner-friendly and stable, the Swelltech Surfskate often takes longer to get comfortable on for non-surfers, but then offers great rewards in terms of close surf simulation once you learn the tolerances.
So if your goal is to whip the board around and do extreme surf maneuvers like riding out of turns backward, with practice you can achieve that on a Swelltech Surfskate. That’s why some riders, after trying a Surfskate, never go back to Carver.
Some riders compare Carver to a fish surfboard while Swelltech Surfskate is closer to a performance thruster. Carver allows more drawn-out turns, while Swelltech allows snappier cutbacks. Others, however, argue the CX also allows for very snappy moves, even though it’s not nearly as loose as the Swelltech. More on that below.
In general, fans of the Swelltech Surfskate praise the true surf feel it offers. One caveat: some pro surfers argue swivel front trucks (such as Swelltech and C7) will teach riders to wiggle their foot to gain speed and turn, which is the opposite of a surfboard.
Surfskate vs Carver: flowy surf, park, and bowl
The Carver C7 truck is super flowy and provides a classic surf feel with big cutbacks and wider carves, e.g. on a longer 32″ deck. Although it does not have the free rotation of the Swelltech Surfskate, it’s nice and loose and feels like riding down the line on a classic surfboard.
The C7 offers comfortable pumping over longer distances, particularly on a deck with a longer wheelbase, which results in a more stable feeling and more efficient pumping.
Though good riders may enjoy riding the C7 in a bowl, many find it too loose for that and prefer the CX which is more stable and hence a better fit for bowl runs. Decks with shorter wheelbases (e.g. 16″) will enable tighter turns and transitions for skate parks, bowls, and rolled curbs.
Due to the instability and extreme turns, riding the Swelltech Surfskate in a bowl or on park transitions requires solid skills. With the right skills, the feeling is often compared to riding a performance surfboard in fast hollow waves.
Surfskate vs Carver: the bad things?
The Swelltech Surfskate’s main strength, the truck’s full 360º rotation, is also its main issue for learners, as hitting a rock while riding can easily send you flying out in the air.
Another negative of the Surfskate is the board’s tendency to “nose bog” if you put too much weight in the front of the deck. However, this issue has improved with the shorter noses on the newer Swelltech models such as the J.O.B.
The Swelltech truck’s larger range of motion allows for tighter turns compared to both the Carver CX and C7, though at the cost of lower stability. The wheelbase also plays an important role in the turning radius – longer wheelbase = wider turns even with the Swelltech truck.
On a Carver, you can use very small pumps to get the board moving, which makes it easy for a beginner to get started. Once you get familiar with it, though, the somewhat limited range of movement of Carver trucks (compared to the Surfskate) won’t really let you do the kind of hard edging you do on a surfboard or snowboard (and on a Swelltech).
Surfskate vs Carver C7 vs CX
A Carver skateboard can be made to feel closer to a performance surfboard – and so to a Swelltech Surfskate. For example, using a 28″ deck with a 15″ wheelbase and a C7, and keeping both the rear and front trucks very loose (but the swivel arm tight).
You can tune the turning radius by first adjusting the tightness of the rear truck, then adjusting the front truck to the point you get a snappy enough feel when riding on the edge.
Riders who use such tuned Carver setups often feel they get just as much turn as they do on a surfboard, and comparatively tend to find the Swelltech Surfskate unnecessarily squirrely.
The Carver CX is more versatile than the C7 with more stability for pushing, downhill, or skatepark. The C7, with its swing arm (the CX is bushings-based) has a smoother feel with more aggressive turns and long, fluid drawn-out lines – vs pumping down the face and doing radical snaps for the CX.
Both the C7 and the CX are great for surf training, though in less radical ways than the Swelltech.
Surfskate vs Carver: downhill
Many riders use the Swelltech Surfskate primarily on hills and feel it handles just like a surfboard in these conditions. It provides a very enjoyable ride and makes it easy to shave off speed by sliding when riding downhill.
As mentioned earlier, however, putting too much weight on your front foot will make the Swelltech Surfskate very unstable, and if you’re still learning, may result in rail bite [UPDATE: this is no longer true with the new version of the Swelltech truck].
On a Carver, in contrast, you can put as much weight as you want without any risk – your board will simply become less reactive and harder to pump.
Hitting a rock riding downhill on a Swelltech is also more hazardous – it’s often compared to catching the front edge on a snowboard. In many cases, it will stop the board dead and make you crash.
To recap, riding downhill on a Swelltech Surfskate feels generally less secure than on a Carver but will give you an experience closer to shortboard surfing. The Surfskate can be a good choice for doing advanced surf training on very smooth and clean surfaces.
Like me, you’ve probably come to the conclusion there’s no clear-cut answer when trying to choose between Surfskate and Carver. They’re just made for different riders with potentially different riding goals.
People frequently choose Swelltech Surfskate for hardcore surf training and radical maneuvers. Carver C7 fans love the classic fluid surf feel yet stable pumping. CX lovers favor the versatility of being able to pump and carve, commute distance, and ride park and bowls with ease.
Of course, each of the three (Swelltech, C7, CX) can do many of the things the others can, given the right skillset, wheelbase choice, wheels, riding surface, etc. Get out there and experiment!