What surf skate do we recommend, how to get started and work up to skating a bowl
If you are looking to get a surf skate or want to get started surf skating, this guide will break down what surf skate we recommend and give you a few drills to get started.
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The Full Guide
Are you looking to get into surf skating or want to make an upgrade to your existing set up?
Here’s what we recommend for surf skating but also some tips to get you started or improve your skating.
Which surf skate do we recommend
Carver CX trucks.
Any Carver deck is fine, deck length is more about finding the right length to suit your stance. 30-32 inches will suit most people
You can just take the CX trucks and whack them on any oldschool style pool board or any 9’0+ wide deck for meant for riding bowl.
I prefer these as surfskating decks are just a gimmick and they look terrible.
There is no reason for a swallow tail on a skateboard, I’d rather a full kicker than a cut out, nor do you need your grip tape or design to look like a surfboard. It’s a skateboard, be a skateboard.
My custom set up
I’ve surf skated for over 10 years and I’ve had a number of different brands, decks and setups. However I have always stuck with carver cx over any other brand or other carver truck set up.
I currently have this set up:
- Carver CX truck Set
- Carver Roundhouse wheels 95A version - these are faster for skating park/bowl but less grippy and hate rough surfaces.
- Bushings are up to you and your preference of how stiff you want them
- Bearings I use bones, but stock ones are fine.
- 9.0 Wide - approx 33” Into the Wild deck. This is just a pool board style deck.
Why use a different deck?
That’s the main difference and it’s my personal preference.
It’s wide which gives it more stability, which is good for riding the bowl at high speeds and doing big turns.
The deck has a good amount of concave in the top of it to keep your feet in it.
Tail kicker is great and a nose kicker helps to keep my front foot roughly in place and not slide off the front - an issue I had with very short carver decks that had surfboard noses. Nothing worse than flying around the bowl at high speed and feeling like your front foot is sliding.
What about the other brands?
What this boils down to is one of two designs for a surf skate.
The truck set up is either a reverse king pin style truck or a spring based truck system.
The Carver CX is a reverse king pin style truck. The Carver C5 is similar but set up differently to kind of blend between the CX and regular skating.
The Carver C7 is a spring based truck.
Smoothstar and Yow are also spring based. This is where the truck will swivel sideways from the centre and work on a spring. These trucks have a lot of movement in them.
The reverse kingpin style truck is more or less very similar to a regular truck but swapped around. This means it doesn’t swivel sideways and just tilts based the pressure you make. Unlike a regular truck though, it will tilt different due to the king pin location and allow much more movement than a regular truck.
Why reverse king pin trucks?
Stability and they mimic surfing a lot more closely compared to a spring system.
Your turns are held and drawn out, they are not instant. You want them to last several seconds.
You want to be getting into a bowl and mimicking surfing where it’s three dimensional, not just flat ground, so you want a board that holds a line and can simulate the movements better.
That’s not the carver CX doesn’t move, it just is a closer simulation to the surfing you will do.
When you get into a bowl, you will want more stability from the truck to push it harder and hold those lines faster and longer.
Remember power is an illusion in surfing, you will throw more spray by holding a turn for longer and using your rail more. Not pushing harder.
The reverse kingpin style truck will simulate rail to rail surfing so much more, rather than fast twitch movements that your board doesn’t even do when in the surf. .
Why not spring based systems?
A lot of surf skating marketing is absolute BS, not all, but a lot. It’s high intensity, snapping and wiggling on flat ground, making it look extreme but that doesn’t replicate your surfing.
If you want to do that, go for it, nothing wrong with it unless you are doing it to work on your surf skating.
Spring based trucks tend to move way too much and when the average surfer gets on them, they end up just creating a lot of bad habits rather than mimicking their surfing.
The spring based trucks end up wanting to wiggle more than anything else. Wiggling is not want you want from your surfboard, neither your skating. It may be fun on your skateboard, but it will create a very disconnected and uncoordinated movement in your surf skating.
If you look at the gif below taken from the video. You'll see Ant wiggling on a smoothstar, it helps the surf skate move, gain speed and can be fun...
but to what cost of your surfing?
Clay mimics the wiggling on a board, it's not pretty and doesn't get him very far. This is the movements wiggling is training for you to repeat and the muscle memory it teaches you.
Advice against wiggling is just push or skate down a slope. I've been on carvers for 10 years, pushing is fun and a great tool to learn to use your body to create lift and momentum. There is a massive difference between just pushing and also using your arms to propel yourself forward as you push. It takes coordination.
The same thing applies, don't wiggle in the flats or the ramp. You are hiding bad habits or bad technique with a worse one. Point being, if you don't have enough space to get from ramp to ramp or around the bowl, you need to work on your compression and extension. You need to be able to generate momentum with your body and use the ramp to accelerate.
Otherwise, if you are going that slow, push with foot.
If you have a spring based skateboard, that’s fine, just be aware of it and ride it with purpose. That means to be aware and push with your feet rather than wiggle for speed. It also needs to be taken into account when you skate bowl and don’t want to instantly snap on the spot.
Your current surf skate isn’t bad, it just takes more awareness to ride it the way it needs to be to simulate surfing.
I’ve had smoothstar, it was the first surfskate I got, it lasted 3-6 months before I replaced it with a carver CX and never went back again. No matter what I did to the setup, it just didn’t flow and hold turns like a CX nor feel anywhere as nice in the bowl.
How to get started
Ideally you always want to skate on a slight slope and not just flat ground. Most surf skates will come with good soft wheels that are good for all surfaces and grippy.
You want a slope because you don’t want to be surfing flat, you are either going down hill or turning up hill. You want to get used to this feeling. If you are uncomfortable or hesitatant, then sure, start on the flats to get confident and then transition to a slope.
It doesn’t have to be bombing a hill, just a gentle slope.
Everything when you start needs to be simple, less is more. Again this is a point not to wiggle and create mad whacky waving inflatable arm tube man style.
This is all about simple hand-eye coordination, stance and always looking where you are going. It is really simple.
These 5 drills will get you so far in your skating and surfing. Move on from one to the next when you are comfortable and consistent with the movements.
Drill 1: Learn to push
This is a skill in itself and most people jumping on a surf skate will ignore it. It is your best friend if you want speed.
When you go to push, your front foot will stabilise you and rotate slightly forwards.
As you kick of the ground to push, you will be compressed, you want to extend out of this compression and lift while pushing forwards and using your body to extend the momentum. Your arms will go forward with the movement for balance but also to get more out of the push.
This is a skill you want to get used to and play with to understand how to coordinate your upper and lower body to get more speed and control.
Drill 2: Look and point the knees
Your first drill is just looking and pointing the knees.
This will improve your stance and teach you how to be stacked for good balance and coordinate the lower body for turning, as well as how where you are looking is where you are going.
You want to find a neutral stance and kiss the knees. This will improve your style and bring you front on so you can see whats going on. The back knee will come in towards the front knee.
You don’t want your stance looking like this.
Once you’ve found this stance, just push to start and make sure you have ample space around you to do a few turns or a slope with space for you to control it.
Your arms just need to relax, you don’t want to move them, just keep them relaxed. This is so you can focus on the movement and looking where you are going.
Start and pick a location to go towards, now once you are set, you want to initiate a turn and this begins with your eyes looking for a new location to turn towards. Start looking for that location, it can be anything, just don’t suddenly snap around and look at it, draw the turn out.
While this is happening, you want to point your knees in the same direction as where you are looking. This will connect the movement from your head to your feet and keep your body in a stacked neutral posture.This is really important.
Keep going, do a turn and then change where you are looking and go back the opposite way. Keep mixing it up changing your targets and just feel how through very minimal movement you can get the board to move a lot.
Drill 3: Look, point the knees and hands
This is where we are aiming to get you. Notice how the eyes and knees are always pointing where Clay is going. Effortless movement and more stylish.
The trick here is exactly the same as before except now introduce the hands to both point in the same direction as your knees and eyes. This is now building your hand-eye coordination.
Go back and do all the same things as before and add this extra layer to it.
Drill 4: Developing the turn
Once you are comfortable with both of those, you want to make the turn more complex and stylish.
You now need to focus on your back arm, aka your coffee cup arm which you want steady for goo balance and control all your movements.
You are now going to use the back arm to lift the elbow up and palm outwards to turn around your front shoulder and then elbow down with palm rotated up to the sky to initiate a lean the opposite way.
This is now introducing you to your basic bottom turn and cutback in surfing.
When you start this, you may end up looking like this, it will take some adjustment to make sure you nail it and skate/surf with minimal effort.
This is what you want your skating to look like in this drill.
Drill 5: Take it to a steeper hill
Exactly the same as drill 3, except now you want to a find a steeper slope and you want to use the exact same technique to control your speed and snake down the hill.
The more you hold the turn or change where you are looking, the more you can control it. To do this, look through the turn longer and go more horizontal rather than looking and doing short turns.
This is a skill intself but will teach you that your eyes control the movement and you can control the speed and length of turn by where you look.
If you are concerned with your safety, get safety gear. You’ll notice from that above gifs, there is nothing extreme or inherently dangerous about any of the training.
Staying calm, relaxed and always looking where you are going will keep you safe.
Not commiting to a movement or looking down at something or worrying about something you may hit is when you are most likely to fall off.
Get what you are comfortable wearing.
The caveat I will add is, if you are just as scared and tense after putting on the safety gear, something is off. It should ease you and make you feel more comfortable.
If putting it on makes you suddenly tense up, its not helping you. Being tense and worrying about a potential injury will just self manifest that incident.
It needs to help you so you can act without worry, rather than lock you up.
If it doesn;t go away, breathe, relax and work on not giving that fear any more power. Don’t look at the thing that scares you, look where you want to go and your body will do the rest.
Get to a bowl asap
Ideally you want to get off the streets asap and into a bowl.
Skating the street or slope is like surfing in two dimensions, back and forth, side to side. Your surfing doesn’t do that. Skating a bowl will add up and down, and now you are closer to mimicking surfing.
If you also want to stay on the slope and work on this, try find a downward slope that then has an upward slope coming off the side of it. This is typically someone’s driveway, but this can be used to mimic a gentle bottom turn down the slope and then as you come up the other slope, you can then start practice doing a gentle cutback coming out of it. This will help introduce you to some of the skills in riding a bowl as well.
This is why a carver CX will be so much more enjoyable to ride. But if you don’t have one, don’t rush out to grab one, work with what you have unless you feel it’s necessary to change.
This is not sponsored by carver, it’s just our preference. They mimic rail to rail surfing better and are more stable in a bowl.
Forget wiggling, work with the board you have and just be more aware.
Learn to push and really play with that movement to understand how to compress and extend in a coordinated manor.
Then just find any slope, gentle is perfect, and play with looking, pointing the knees and hands and then mixing it up.
This will develop an amazing level of hand-eye coordination as well as developing a neutral stance as well as improving your style.
When you’re ready, move onto a bowl as it’ll mimic surfing so much better than any slope can.
Has this given you some new drills to try? If you’ve never skated before, is this the kick up the bum to finally give it a go?
Or do you already do these drills and it’s given some extra nuance to perfect them?
I’d love to know, you can reach out anytime, message me within the app, or send an email to email@example.com.
Next week I am going to dive into how you can apply the OMBE method of training to anything you are working on to get results in your surfing.