Surf Training 101: What Is a Surf Skate?
Surf skating is an essential part of our surf training programs. Learn everything about surf skates with our guide.
Surf skating is not only a way for surfers to enjoy themselves on land when the waves are in substandard conditions. It’s actually a crucial part of surf training, as what you can learn when skating may improve your fundamental surfing skills, such as balance, stability, and turning on a surfboard as well.
However, like surfing, it has many aspects that require detailed coverage before you delve into it. Of course, we cannot possibly delve into the daily routines of some of the most accomplished surf skaters, but we can at least give you some basic ideas about which surf skateboards are good for what, which surfskate brands you can totally depend on to deliver what you need, and what separates surfskate trucks from hauling trucks.
In the end, you’ll have an idea about the truck system you need in accordance with your surfing style and skills and make an informed choice when it’s time for you to purchase a street skateboard, be it for training or just fun.
Why Is It Called Surf Skate?
When the meaning of a word is so self-evident, there’s no need to do an etymological dig. So, we’re going to keep this simple: it’s called surf skate simply because it allows you to surf on the streets. Of course, anyone who’s had any interaction with the ocean probably knows that it shouldn’t count as surfing when there are no waves to speak of, but at least it gives you a sensation that’s quite akin to surfing. Sometimes, that’s the best thing you can hope for on the streets.
So, how does it do that? That’s the trick of surf skate trucks, and that’s why these trucks are always the focal point of surf skating talks. The maneuverability and dynamism of the front truck of a surf skate are responsible for making the rider feel as if they’re on a wave. Due to that, they’re able to accomplish turns in a more fluid manner than other kinds of skateboards, including longboards.
If you go back to your basic surfing lessons, you’ll probably hear that you shouldn’t do anything other than compressing to generate speed on the surf line. Rather, you should let the already existent energy and movement in the wave carry you along.
It’s more or less the same with a surf skate. You don’t need to put your foot down and try to accelerate with a push. You just pump it, as the saying goes, by shifting your weight, and it rolls.
How Does a Surf Skate Work?
One of the most revered surf skate brands is Carver, and although the company is named Carver after one of its two founders (Neil Carver and Greg Falk), it’s also quite telling about how surf skates work.
In the section above, we gave you a bit of an idea about how riding a surf skate is similar to surfing: you need to compress and decompress to generate speed on the rail, not push it. Well, when you do that on a surfboard, it means that you’re carving. Surfskate trucks are designed with carving in mind.
More often than not, the front truck of a surf skate will be a reverse kingpin, which means that the truck is placed lower than skateboard or longboard trucks, giving your board more stability and control. Yet, that’s not its only merit. It also helps the board accomplish turns both more smoothly and in a sharper manner when the radius is tight. It means that the board is more flexible when it comes to rail-to-rail transitions. So, if you’re a rail surfer, you’ll have no difficulty when surf skating.
The similarity to surfing doesn’t end there either. Although the pivot of your body is your front leg when surfing, the pivot point of your board is actually its tail. You control your surfboard by shifting your weight on your back leg.
When you’re on a surf skate, you’ll realize that the rear truck acts like a pivot as well. It’s the point where you control the board and rotate it around if need be, which means that it’s quite suitable for performing bottom turns.
What Are the Main Features of Surf Skates?
Well, picking a surfboard is fairly easy when compared to picking a surf skate simply because surfboards don’t feature wheels and trucks. However, the OMBE crew won’t allow you to be put off by the prospect of complications that might be caused by the more complex terminology of surfskating. So, here’s a little guide (glossary, if you like) on what to look for in surf skates and why they’re important:
- Wheelbase: If the maneuverability of a surfboard has to do with its length, you’d think that it should be like that in surf skates as well, but the distance between the front and back wheels also affects the maneuverability of surf skates. That distance is called the wheelbase. A short wheelbase means sharper turns, and a long one means smoother and slower ones.
- Wheel width: The wider the wheels, the more stable your surf skate is. The width also provides more grip, yet narrow wheels are more suitable for rail-to-rail transitions during turns.
- Wheel hardness: Hard wheels will provide you with more speed on smooth surfaces (like in skate parks). However, when the surface isn’t smooth, it’s better to opt for soft wheels as they absorb hits and bumps better. That way, you’re less likely to suffer from a wheel bite.
- Concave: If you want extreme flexibility and sharpness from your board during turns and tricks, you need more concave on the deck of your surf skate.
- Truck height: A high truck means that you’ll have more control and stability during maneuvers, but it also decreases the ultimate speed you may reach. A low truck, on the other hand, is more responsive to the surface, and although you’ll have more speed, you’ll risk a wheel bite or two every session.
- The turning angle of a truck: Well, after all this talk about turning, this is rather a pointless feature to point out, but yes, the rotation capacity of the front truck is a key element of surf skates.
- Truck wedging: As mentioned above, you just need to pump the board to generate speed when surf skating. To adjust the “pumpability” of the board, truck wedgings are employed between the deck and the front truck.
Best Surfskate Brands on the Market
Now that you know what to look for in a surf skate, let’s delve right into who produces the best options on the market.
If you’re an avid follower of the OMBE surf method, you probably already know that we have a specific sort of love and respect reserved for Carver Skateboards, and we use them in our surf skating lessons, be it for beginners or advanced surfers. Luckily, though, that love is not based on emotional grounds, so let’s explain it.
The idea for the brand was conceived when two surfers, Greg Falk and Neil Carver, couldn’t find even a small ripple to surf on in the ocean. They must’ve been like, “well, if we can’t surf in the ocean, we should at least surf on the streets.” And that’s exactly what they did. If you want your surf skate to give you a sensation as similar to surfing as it can get, you needn’t look further than Carver’s models.
Why is that, you ask? Simply because truck systems don’t get more innovative and meticulous than those of Carver. Moreover, no matter what your surfing level is or what your specific surf skills and style are, Carver has a truck system suitable for you.
Are you a beginner who needs to learn the fundamental aspects of surfing first? Well, the infamous Carver C7 surfskate truck is probably the best option on the market for that. It ensures a smooth and flowing ride, which doesn’t only help you master the basics but also master it in style. Are you an advanced surfer who likes doing sharp turns up ramps and busting airs? Well, the C5 has got you covered.
Even if you’re looking for the best of both worlds, Carver has something for you in their catalog. Their latest jewel is the CX, which brings together flow and sharpness. Thanks to its reverse kingpin, you have the stability you seek, and due to its patented geometry, you’ll have no trouble busting airs.
All in all, Carver covers every aspect and deserves its popularity in the surfskating world.
So, if there’s a conclusion to be drawn from our Carver coverage, it’s that the most important aspect to look for when purchasing a surf skate is how much in line it is with your surfing technique. A surf skate may have all the turning angles in the world, allowing you to perform sharp cutbacks even when there’s no ramp or gain all the speed down the line, but these features don’t necessarily translate into a good surf trainer.
Luckily, Carver’s products aren’t the only surf skates that can emulate that surfer feeling without sacrificing technique and flow. SwellTech is there, too, and after a long bout of research, they’ve figured out the missing piece of the puzzle: a surfboard can carve in any direction and generate speed with lateral motion. A standard skateboard truck can’t do that.
So, they came up with a free-motion front truck supplemented by more rigidity in the rear truck, ensuring both flexibility and stability at once. Despite the free character of the front truck, SwellTech boards don’t wobble when you hit 45 miles per hour.
Of course, all that innovation comes with a high price tag, so if you’re new to the joy of surf skating, it might be better to opt for cheaper options first. Moreover, there’s one more serious drawback of the SwellTech surf skates: their trucks aren’t sold separately, and you cannot replace the truck system with another. So, if you got one, you’re stuck with it.
There are many things you can associate with Europe: innovation, progress, revolution, football (as in soccer), colonization, fascism, and so on. Surfing is surely not one of them. Yet, there are certain surf hubs located around the old continent as well.
Although it’s not as popular as Nazaré, Portugal, the Basque Country of Spain is one of these places. It’s also where Yow Surfskates operate from.
Additionally, to amplify the surfing feeling you can get from their surfskates, they work with surfing greats such as Mick Fanning and Gabriel Medina. So, you can be sure that they present a worthy alternative to Carver’s domination of the market. That’s even more so when you consider the innovative designs they employ on their truck systems.
For instance, as of late, they’ve come up with a new truck system called Meraki. Thanks to its patented spring system, the Meraki trucks are able to replicate the sensation of wave-riding to great effect.
Moreover, it allows the surfer (or the skater) to generate speed with even less effort, and it’s capable of pulling sharper turns compared to other alternatives on the market without sacrificing control or stability. That’s mostly due to the fact that (remember the glossary above) it’s placed higher and has a much-improved turning angle.
The Meraki system isn’t the only great feature of Yow Surfskates either. The surfskates in their catalog entertain lots of concave boards, so they’re pretty good for carving endlessly and having rail-to-rail transitions like it’s no matter.
Yet, we should warn you that the ability to make sharp turns isn’t necessarily a merit when it comes to surfing with style and flow. So, if you’re only a beginner looking for some surf training on land, you should make sure not to get carried away by that attribute.
After a detour to Europe, let’s get back to where the real surf is—Australia, or more specifically, the Gold Coast, where you can find us as well as OBFive Skateboards in all their appeal and glory. We’re not even joking when we say “appeal.” Do you know how great the Catch Surf boards look on the ocean? Well, in that sense, the boards of OBFive are their surf skating counterparts.
The top deck of their Daisy Surf Skate is embellished with all kinds of daisies in the most beautiful ways. For those, who don’t like their art, we can recommend the exotically dark top deck of the Hyper Surf Skate. And if you’re not content only with feeling like you’re on the waves when surf skating, the White Wash Big Cruiser has a wave-rich top deck.
That being said, there’s nothing stopping you from feeling like you’re on the waves with the meticulously designed and CNC-machined OBFive truck system. Like the Carver CX surf skate truck, the OBFive system is able to offer you a combination of stability, responsiveness, and maneuverability, all in the same package.
It also entertains high levels of carve and pump, so you won’t find slowing down during turns or generating speed to go up a ramp difficult. Additionally, rail-to-rail transitions with the OBFive truck are as similar as possible to that of a surfboard.
Moreover, you’d be happy to know that only the highest quality raw materials are used in the making of OBFive skateboards. These materials include Canadian maple wood, which is not only sturdy but also good-looking, and high-rebound Japanese rubber bushings. So, if you’re looking for an appealing and high-quality surf skate, you know where to find it.
OMBE head coach Clayton Nienaber and presenter Anthony Laye had once had a lengthy discussion comparing the two most popular surf skate brands on the market: Carver and SmoothStar. If you’d prefer a written-form summary of the conversation, you can head here.
One of the most telling features of Smoothstar’s surf skates is that the brand sponsors one of the most acclaimed surfers of our time: Filipe Toledo. Filipe was born in Brazil, where waves are rather choppy and don’t allow you to take your turns slowly. Growing up on such waves naturally affected Filipe’s surfing style: he rides quite fast down the surf line, and his rotations and turns are as abrupt as they get.
That’s what SmoothStar surf skates promise you as well. If your whole aim is to learn surf skating in the fastest and easiest way possible, they’re going to deliver on that. If you’re looking to have quick and snappy rides down the line, they’re the best option on the market. Even if you’re only looking for a surf skate that has a classy external design, you’ll find one that’s appealing enough in the SmoothStart catalog.
Yet, if you want to use your surf skate to improve your technique and moves as a surfer, SmoothStar surf skates might not be the right option for you. Yes, they’re easy, fast, and turn well in tight radiuses, but transferring those attributes to your surfing will be difficult.
Of course, nowadays, there are more and more surfers who focus on speed and tricks rather than flow and style. If you aspire to be one of them, go ahead. But don’t forget that even Filipe Toledo realized that he had to slow down.
What Is Surf Skate: Frequently Asked Questions
Having introduced you to the most popular surf skate brands on the market, let’s now answer some questions that might confuse you later on.
What Is a Surf Skate Adapter?
Except for SwellTech, all the brands we mentioned above sell their trucks as separate products. It means that you can adapt any kind of skateboard into a surf skating one.
To make these surf skate trucks work on longboards or regular skateboards, you need a coupling that’ll go between the truck and the deck of your board. That coupling is called a surf skate adapter. Without one, your board won’t perform well, and you might suffer from a lot of wheel bites.
Is a Tight Turning Radius Good on a Surf Skate?
The answer depends on your surfing style. Do you surf with a lot of speed, fast carves, and sharp cutbacks? If yes, they might be just what you’re looking for. However, if you’re a surfer who wants to flow with the wave and have the wave do the most of the surfing, then they’re likely to ruin your technique.
Moreover, they’re surely not compatible with the OMBE Method. Here, we teach how to slow down and listen to the wave in order to have a flowing performance in style. Trying to be fast and sharp might gain you points in surfing competitions, but it surely won’t make you a better surfer.
Where and How Should You Surf Skate?
Well, certainly not in a straight line on a flat street. Even if you only have a flat street at your disposal, you need to make sure to place some cones on the road so that you can practice your turns. Also, these cones shouldn’t be very close to each other. Otherwise, you won’t be carving, and you’ll only be doing sharp and quick rotations that won’t improve your surfing skills at all.
That being said, it’s better to exercise in a skate bowl that doesn’t have much space in between ramps. That way, you won’t be able to generate too much speed, you’ll be able to concentrate on your turns, and you’ll learn how to take them slowly as a good surfer would.
Now that you have a general idea about where to start with surf skating, you can check out our programs:
In addition, if you want to learn everything about surf skates, our head coach Clayton Nienaber and presenter Anthony Laye had a wonderful conversation about that, too.
We can assure you that if you spend enough time with the OMBE crew, you’ll have no questions left to ask.