Swelltech Surfskate Review: The Ultimate Surf Trainer

swelltech surfskate review

Swelltech’s surfskates are special longboards specifically designed for surfers. They provide one of the closest experience to wave surfing in the market. Surfers widely vet the Swelltech surfskates and consider them among the best surf training tools out there.

Most riders agree the Swelltech boards actually ride more like a shortboard surfboard than a regular longboard. The feeling of surfing stems from the patented surfskate truck system as well as the surfboard-like deck shapes.

Coming at $220 and $260, the Swelltech surfskates are reasonably priced relative to other surfskate brands in light of their unique surfing capabilities, the quality of their surf truck, and their great deck designs.

UPDATE: this is my latest video review of the new Swelltech Jaimie O’Brien Banzai Pipeline:

The Swelltech surfskate riding experience

On a surfboard, the surfer rotates his/her upper body and pivots off of the fins for doing sharp turns. The front of the surfboard moves freely right and left, so the surfer can slide the board to the side for pump and speed.

The Swelltech surfskate truck emulates this motion by enabling a 360º rotation, while the rear truck acts as stable a pivot point similar to surf fins.

Thus, unlike regular longboards, the rider uses his/her upper body to pull the board into turns. The 360º rotating front truck also lets the rider quickly face the board in any direction and pump for speed.

The truck greatly helps beginner surfers position their body for surf carving and pumping. It also helps more advanced riders improve their surfing.

The feedback from riders of Swelltech surfskates is overall quite enthusiastic. There are two groups of Swelltech rider, the surfers and the surfer wannabees.

Surfers’ experience on the Swelltech

swelltech surfskate riding experience

Experienced surfers who acquire Swelltech surfskates generally get comfortable carving, pumping and sliding very quickly, even though many have little to no skateboard/longboard experience and come in expecting a sketchy riding experience.

Many surfers feel the Swelltech surfskates are not meant for skateboarding but for surfing when not of the water. They are great for surfers who’ve never ridden a skateboard.

They all agree the feeling of riding a Swelltech board is very similar to surfing, and rave about being able to take their surf carving and pumping to the streets, skatepark bowls, and hills.

One of the main benefits they see in the Swelltech is the ability to practice surf maneuvers over and over, whereas in the water the number of attempts is typically limited due to scarce waves and crowds.

The Swelltech boards are extremely responsive and pumpable, generating speed fast. Due to the way they behave, riders are forced to use a good surfing position and motion for carve effectively up and down driveways, blowing out the tail, or doing layback turns without crashing.

As a result, after a few weeks to a few months, many surfers report great improvements in their surfing level, e.g. with regards to picking up speed, carving deeper, performing better snaps/off-the-lip through improved body rotation.

In short, the Swelltech surfskates are particularly good for practicing surf pumping and carving for those with limited access to decent waves.

Non-surfer experience on the Swelltech

Non-surfers who ride the Swelltech surfskates typically have some longboarding experience. For these riders though, it can take a bit of time to get used to the free-moving front truck and learn to ride the board.

Once they do, however, the carving experience feels amazing – and the main reason they picked the Swelltech. These riders generally also learn from watching the surfers shred on these boards.

Riders new to surfing and surfskating appreciate the sharp turning and carving, decent top speed, and smooth ride the Swelltech offer.

Most experienced longboarders who own a Swelltech compare it favorably to other surfskates like YOW, Smoothstar, and Carver.

Like the surfers, these riders enjoy pushing down a hill, performing deep and precise carves, and throwing the tail for snaps in skateparks and bowls – which is what the Swelltech is primarily designed for.

New surfers also like the Swelltech surfskates because they help them learn how to do a good pump and get more speed for riding down the line.

Swelltech riders also mention the great full-body workout they get from riding the surfskates. Slashing around the neighborhood doing continuous surf carves and snaps give your core muscles and quads a good run.

The Swelltech Surfskate truck system

Swelltech surfskate truck system full rotation

As I mentioned, the surf-like riding experience you get from a Swelltech surfskate largely derives from the spring-based front truck system.

We’ve seen the surfskates are designed to mimic the unlimited movement of a surfboard. This is achieved through the coupling of a completely free-moving (360º rotation) front truck, and a stiff standard skateboard rear truck that acts as a stabilizing pivot point similar to the fins on a surfboard.

The free motion in the front allows the rider to accelerate the board easily by shifting his/her weight from rail to rail (pump for speed) like a surfer does across the face of the wave.

The free-moving front truck and rigid rear truck are what allows the rider to use their upper body for pumping the board, leading with the shoulders to perform carving turns and cutbacks.

In addition to the full-circle rotation, the 60º pivoting capacity of the front truck makes it possible for the rider to carve very deep turns in any direction and with any amplitude, while still maintaining full control.

The Swelltech trucks are known for their strength (exclusing the springs, see below). The 2019 and 2020 versions have been much enhanced compared to older versions of the truck:

  • The front truck has thicker external and internal springs, allowing the rider to put more pressure on their front foot and drive harder into carves, while offering more stability and smoother pumping.
  • The front axle has been made wider, allowing for more grip and turn before carves, and increasing rail control for easier sharp cutbacks.
  • The front truck is fitted with an angled riser than changes the rotation angle, resulting in smoother rail transitions and more efficient pumps.
  • The rear truck has been widened (closer to the front) resulting in better weight distribution between the two as well as easier pushing.
  • Use of thicker and wider double-barrel bushings for more stability and improved range of motion for surf-style carves.

Swelltech truck caveat

While the Swelltech surfskate truck system very effectively reproduces the motion of a shortboard on waves, the springs in the front truck get under a lot of pressure during radical surf-style moves, and often tends to break after a few months.

Many riders cringe at the springs breaking often, as setting up new springs is a bit of a pain – even though they only around $2.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the Swelltech trucks come with a lifetime warranty, so Swelletch will replace them at no cost in case of breakage.

Also, the upgrades made to the 2020 versions of the front truck have improved the lifetime of the springs.

Swelltech surfskate wheels

Swelltech wheels

The Swelltech wheels that ship with the surfskates are now larger 70mm wheels that allow the board to roll faster.

The wheels also have a wide 55mm contact patch (sharp-lipped) and soft durometer (78A) for maximum traction in deep carves, as well as good shock absorption for rougher pavements.

To break traction and slide with these wheels, the rider needs to do extreme surf-style maneuvers such as snapbacks, roundhouses, off-the-lips or layback turns.

The wheels have an 8mm offset core, effectively widening the trucks, which adds to the surfskate’s stability and grip and allows the rider to carve harder, while giving the front truck springs more protection.

***

So I’ve discussed in some depth the Swelltech surfskate’s riding experience and how the truck system is at the core of this experience. In the rest of this article, I’ll do a brief review of Swelltech’s gorgeous surfskate decks.

Swelltech Surfskate Jamie O’Brien review

Swelltech Surfskate Jamie O'Brien 2020

Swelltech’s flagship Jamie O’Brien (J.O.B.) pro model is a 36″ deck with a performance surfboard outline. The new model is longer than the previous version (36″ vs 34″) with a lengthened 22″ wheelbase (vs 21″).

Given its size and wheelbase, the J.O.B. is generally a suitable board for riders who 5 to 6′ in height, i.e. with a relatively wide stance.

The long and wide foot platform, effective concave running along the whole length of the deck, and 7.5″-wide squash tail, make efficient surf pumps and deep surf carves easier and more natural.

The large soft 70mm wheels also help you better lay out carves much better as they offer all the required grip and roll. The big wheel wells cut into the bottom rear part of the deck prevent any wheelbite on the back truck – a regular, not-so-tall TKP (skateboard) truck.

The Jaime O’Brien’s slightly rockered nose and roomy tail, fitted with a thick, hard and rubbery traction pad with a foot stopper in the back, facilitate radical snapbacks and tight slide turns.

The J.O.B. pro model deck boasts a beautiful black-stained wood on the top side with Jamie’s name, and Swelltech’s logo printed in turquoise letters on top of the fine-coarse grip tape (for comfy barefoot riding).

The bottom side of the J.O.B. is the most attractive part with a stunning picture of Jaimie deep inside a huge Pipeline barrel printed on about 2/3 of the deck – the last 1/3 being the same black stained wood as the top side.

Overall, this is a truly gorgeous and high-performance surfskate. Stay tuned for some riding videos on my Youtube channel soon.

Check out the price and reviews for the Swelltech Jamie O’Brien Banzai Pipeline on Amazon.

Swelltech Surfskate Austin Keen pro model review

swelltech surfskate austin keen

The Swelltech Austin Keen pro model is named after the skimboarding world champion and boardsports star Austin Keen. Keen has an explosive and spectacular style on a surfskate like on a skimboard, a wakesurf, etc.

The Austin Keen pro model is 33″ long, the shortest and most compact surfskate in the lineup. It’s the recommended model for shorter riders up to 5’10 tall who can ride it comfortably with a narrower stance.

The Austin Keen has a relatively stubby shortboard outline with a snubbed nose and a 7.5″ swallow-type tail. It features a nice concave running along its length for secure foot lock-in in tight turns and snappy maneuvers.

The Austin Keen has a 20″ wheelbase, short enough for sharp carves and snapbacks but long enough for carving down a steeper hill with good stability.

The Palms version of the deck has attractive palms graphic on the bottom with Austin Keen’s logo and an alternate dark wood and kaki background color. The top has a khaki stripe across the mellow grip tape. It comes with a traction pad you can keep or remove.

Check out the price and reviews for the Swelltech Austin Keen Palms here on Amazon.

Swelltech Premiere surfskate review

swelltech surfskate premiere

The Premiere is Swelltech’s original deck and the largest in their lineup at 40″ by 9.75″ wide. Being a bigger longboard, it’s particularly well-suited for taller riders e.g. 5″8 – 6″4 tall.

The new version of the Premiere has an even longer wheelbase at 23.5″ which matches a true surfboard stance. As a result, with the Premiere, surfers can really cross-train for surfing using their actual surf stance without the need to adapt their stance in the waves when performing the maneuvers they practiced on land.

The mid-rail width is also wide enough for the whole foot to fit between the rails. The outline becomes much thinner in the rear section, ending with. the 7″-wide tail. The thinner back makes it easier to carve pump and do snappy turns on this board despite its size and weight.

This is a good choice for bigger riders, but also for those who want to carve comfortably on a larger deck for a longboard like feeling without losing the ability to do very tight turns.

The Premiere Blackout version has an attractive black-themed look featuring a glossy black wood bottom with the Swelltech name printed in white across the deck.

Like all models, the Premiere comes fitted with the Swelltech surfskate truck and the soft and grippy 70mm wheels with smooth ABEC 7 bearings.

See the Swelltech Premiere Blackout’s pricing and reviews here on Amazon.

Swelltech Surfskate Hybrid review

Swelltech Surfskate Hybrid

The Hybrid is a mix between the Jamie O’Brien pro model and the Premiere – it has the 36″ midsize of the former but its outline resembles the latter. Like on the Premiere, your front foot fully fits between the rails.

Similar to the J.O.B., this surfskate is best-suited for 5 to 6′-tall riders. So how does it differ from the Jaime O’Brien pro model?

  • The Hybrid has a slightly shorter wheelbase at 21.5″ (1/2″ shorter)
  • The Hybrid has a wider middle section, thinner nose, and sidecuts/thinner rear section. The J.OB. has a more continuous outline.
  • The Hybrid has a much wider tail (8.5″ vs 7.5″), diamond-shaped (vs squash

As a result, the Hybrid rides slightly differently compared to the J.O.B. even though they are both the same length and have a nice concave for foot lock-in – which surfskate is better is a matter of personal choice.

On the design front, the Hybrid Camo has a pretty cool dark green camouflage graphic theme with jungle-style motifs on the bottom. This compares to the awesome Pipeline barrel photo the J.O.B. features.

Like the J.O.B. and other 2020 Swelltech models, the Hybrid comes with a quality traction pad and the super-fast and grippy 70mm wheels.

It’s worth noting the Hybrid is a more affordable surfskate with a suggested retail price of $220 vs $260 for the J.O.B.

See prices and reviews for the Swelltech Hybrid surfskate on Amazon.

6 comments

  • Thank you Jesse. I’m considering buying a swelltech board but am really struggling to chose as they are all priced the same in my country. I’m qui tempted by the premiere as it seems to me by watching the videos that it’s the board that allows you to make the tightest turns. The new banzai model is also available and seems to have new features. So for you which one do you prefer to ride? I’m also quite small 171 cm would that be a problem on the premiere? Thanks mate!

    • Hey Fabien, Swelltech is awesome bro, it’s now by far my favorite board for surf cross-training! Regarding your choice of model, as usual the answer is “it depends”… The Premiere is quite a huge board at 40″, it’s going to be super-comfortable for you given your size but if your goal is to do snappy surf turns, it may be too big for you. You probably know the 33″ Austin Keen is the smallest in the lineup, that would be the most radical option for a rider your size. I guess it would work best if you’re an already experienced shortboard surfer looking to take your surfing to the next level. If not, the 36” JOB Banzai Pipeline is a good middle ground I think. That’s the one I’m riding and I’m 6’1 so it would still be a relatively big and stable board for you, but you can definitely do really tight turns including 360s. By the way, the new truck is MUCH more stable and easy to handle than the previous versions.

      So to recap, for you I’d go with the Austin Keen if you’re a hardcore surfer, or the JOB Banzai if you want a good progressive board to learn on and work on your surf carving and pumping. I probably wouldn’t pick the Premiere as it’s really big for your size and you might outgrow it faster.

      Just my 2 cents! Aloha

      • Thank you so much. I’m actually not a surfer yet. I’m riding a 29′ yow at the moment and was seduced by swelltech by looking at the videos. You’re mentioning the Austin keen but the the video didn’t show any of the snappy turns. The board looked like it was struggling to move sharply even when Austin was putting a lot of weight on the side. That’s what made me want to go for the premiere : the videos featuring the premiere were the ones showing the snappiest turn and the most surf like motion. And I like the idea that this board allows you to have the real surfing stance (even if I am not surfing yet haha). Too bad to be small, I might go for the banzai then. Thank you again

        • Hum I haven’t tried the Austin but I doubt it’s any less snappy than the Premiere since it comes with the exact same setup, just a shorter wheelbase (if anything that should make it snappier) and slightly different outline. Perhaps it’s due to Austin’s style? Anyway I’m a long-time surfer and I feel my stance on the Banzai is very close, so it should be the case even more for you since you’re shorter. Best of luck!

  • Very nice guide! I’m considering buying a SwellTech. I’m 179 cm and 77kg, im considering buying the previous JOB (the new one isn’t available in my country yet)
    Would you recommend me to wait for the new JOB model or get an hybrid?
    Thank you in advance!

    • I think the Hybrid and the JOB will both work well for your size, they’re about the same length with very comparable wheelbases (1/2″ difference). Personally I like the JOB’s continuous contour and artwork a bit better, but that’s a matter of taste – the Hybrid’s camo look is pretty cool too. The only thing is the big 70mm wheels on the JOB are awesome, whereas I’ve seen the Hybrid set up with 65mm wheels. Smaller wheels may slide better but I mostly like to pump and deep carve, so bigger (and grippier) wheels work best for me.
      All in all, if you can’t get your hands on the JOB I’d say definitely go for the Hybrid – you should get the same awesome surfing experience, just order a set of bigger wheels if like me you want super-smooth carving.

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!

Affiliate disclaimer

Ridingboards.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.