Surfskating is growing in popularity, there is no denying that.
With growing popularity comes more choices for boards and constantly more information. This is great because you can find a surfskate for your riding style but it can also be challenging because it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the choices.
So, where do you start?
In this article, I'll cover wheelbase, deck shape/size, and wheel characteristics to make it easier for you. This guide will give you tried-and-true advice on how to choose a surfskate that will suit your riding style. My goal is to get you onto the right board without overwhelming you.
If you haven’t already, check out my article on the best surfskate brands to get a better sense of what each brand of surfskate offers in terms of riding style, carving feel, and overall board aesthetics and quality.
And once you have an idea of what brand speaks most to you, use this guide to narrow your surfskate options and find the board that is your best fit.
Let’s Get Started
Clearly the brand and the specific surfskate adapter are the most critical considerations in selecting the right board for you. Once you have decided which brand will suit your riding preference, the three most important attributes to consider when choosing your surfskate are:
- Deck shape/size
- Wheel characteristics
These three attributes give each board unique characteristics that will define how they ride. Carving feel, rail-to-rail aggressiveness, foot placement, stance, foot grip, road grip, slide-ability and on and on all change drastically as three attributes are varied. A board that feels secure and inspires confidence may be nearly equal to a board that feels completely out of place just because one or more of these three elements are different.
This is why it's important to test out surfskates before you purchase your own. If you have anyone you know in your area, ask to test theirs. It will make a world of difference when picking your own.
Wheelbase is the measurement of the distance from the front truck to the rear truck.
There are several ways that brands measure and report wheelbase: some brands measure the distance between the center of the front and rear axles, some brands report the distance between the bolts as shown above, and some brands measure the span between the hangers. The difference in measurement and reporting isn’t usually more than 0.5” (2 mm) but is important to consider if you really want to have your fit dialled.
Typical wheelbases range from 14” to 20” (35.5 cm to 51 cm) but some boards come with wheelbases outside of that range (examples being most Hamboards or YOW longboard surfskates).
My Wheelbase Preference
For reference I’m 5'11” (180 cm) and weigh 165 lbs (75 kg), the height being an important element in choosing the right wheelbase as you will see below.
I typically look for boards in the 16” to 18” (40.5 cm to 46 cm) range which is what I feel is my sweet spot after testing and riding surfskates over the past several years.
The best and most simple formula for choosing your wheelbase comes from the reddit user “radioregime”. Radioregime explains that all you need is your inseam length and a few calculations to find the wheelbase range that will be best suited for you.
So here it is, class is in session:
- Measure your inseam in inches or cm.
- Divide the inseam length by 2.
- Add an inch (2.5 cm) to the number found in step 2.
- To find the lower limit of your wheelbase range: subtract a half inch (~1.5 cm) from the number found in step 3.
To find the upper limit of your wheelbase range: add a half inch (~1.5 cm) from the number found in step 3.
Here’s an example:
|US – Imperial||Metric|
|Divide inseam by 2||15.5”||39 cm|
|Add an inch (2.5 cm)||16.5”||41.5 cm|
|Lower LimitUpper Limit||16” 17”||40 cm 43 cm|
The formula gives an ideal wheelbase range of 16” to 17” (40 cm to 43 cm) for a 31” (78 cm) inseam. This is a good place to start looking for surfskate options with wheelbases in that range from the brands you prefer if your inseam is 31”.
Do keep in mind that riding style and your riding goals affect this range since some people want tight, small, aggressive boards and some want longboards to draw out your turns. Use this as a guide but ultimately trust what you feel suits your riding style.
Deck Shape & Size
On any skateboard, deck shape and size are important considerations and these attributes on a surfskate are no different.
The first point of consideration with the shape of a surfskate deck is the concave of the deck (the rail-to-rail curvature under your feet).
The concave offered on surfskate decks varies from steep and aggressive, to mellow, and finally to flat. Each shape gives the board unique carving and ride-feel characteristics.
For those looking to perform more radical maneuvers, sharp carves, cutbacks, and take their board into bowls, the more concave in the deck the better. Board concave locks your feet into the deck so seek out higher concaved deck designs if you tend to ride and carve aggressively.
Decks that are flatter offer less of that locked-in feel and are generally found on longer boards that are better suited to mellow carving and cruisey rides. On longboards you might even find decks that are almost completely flat that allow you to perform cross-steps and nose riding maneuvers more easily since your feet are free to explore the deck.
A kicktail is another important consideration in choosing the right deck shape.
Kicktails can function on surfskates just as they do on a regular skateboard to do ollies but are mostly used to create leverage for carves and pumping. Much like a tail pad on a surfboard, a kicktail gives your back foot something to push back against which in turn allows the board to push you forward or in the direction you are trying to maneuver. Surfskates that are for more aggressive carving will undoubtedly have a higher kicktail and generally longboards do not have kicktails. Surfskates geared towards mellow cruising, such as some of the Carver models, usually will have kicktails that are lower but can still be leaned on when needed.
The last consideration for the deck is the size. The length and width of the deck should allow you to maintain a stable stance without restricting your leg spacing or foot placement.
For most people, a deck length in the 30” to 34” range (76 cm to 87 cm) will work but there are designs outside of this range that can fit you as well. Longer boards are generally more stable and carve more drawn out lines when compared to boards that are shorter and snappier in turns. Longboard surfskates, up to and over 74” (188 cm), can be found from several manufacturers and are designed to recreate the feel of surfing a longboard.
Deck widths commonly are found in the 8.5” to 11.5” (21.5 cm to 30 cm) range. There are still many surfskate options outside of this range and are found in brands such as Hamboards who make specialty type boards that are considerably larger than most. We do not recommend getting a board much smaller than the lower end of this range especially with spring-based surfskate adapters because the lack of stability will make carving and balancing a challenge.
A key point to note is that although wheelbase is the most important aspect when determining how tight of carves you can perform on the surfskate, deck length is almost always related to the wheelbase (longer decks, longer wheelbases). There are exceptions to this rule (YOW Chiba) but it's a good general rule to be aware of when selecting your board.
As a reference, my favorite surfskate at the moment is the YOW Snappers (32.5″ length x 10″ width x 17″ wheelbase — 82.5 cm x 25.5 cm x 43 cm) because the shape and size seem to fit my riding style, foot size, and height the best. A board with a more steep concave in the deck allows me to feel confidently locked in while making more aggressive carves and cutbacks. I routinely ride many different boards but the Snapper is my usual go-to and always feels just right.
A last important note to watch out for when you are trying to select a board: some surfskate companies have included 3D deck renders on their websites so you can see exactly what the deck looks like before you buy. It would be great if you could go to your local surf shop and explore all the different models but, barring that option, the 3D imaging provides important visual information to help you make an informed purchasing decision. SwellTech was the first company to do this and YOW has followed suit. I imagine it won’t be long before all notable surfskate brands have this feature on their websites.
The last attribute that is important to consider when purchasing your surfskate are the characteristics of the wheels.
Surfskate wheels, like all skateboard wheels, are measured/categorized in three ways:
- Wheel size – diameter (height) and width – both measured in mm
- Edge profile – rounded or sharp
- Wheel hardness – measured with a durometer
Wheel size is measured in diameter (height) and width.
The diameter of the wheels for each surfskate set-up is important since having wheels that are too large can cause wheel bite. More so on a surfskate than just general cruising, wheel bite can completely ruin your ability to carve turns so be sure to stick to the board or adapter specifications for wheel diameter. As an example, the YOW x Medina Tie Dye complete comes with wheels that are 66 mm and, should the wheels ever need to be changed, you’re best to stick to that number.
The width of the wheels is important since the wrong wheels can again cause wheel bite if they are too wide. Wheels that are too narrow also affect the carving ability and board stability so, as with the diameter, stick to the manufacturer’s specifications here.
Wheel Edge Profile
Wheel edge profile falls into two categories: rounded edge and sharp (square) edge.
Rounded edged wheels offer more potential to slide through turns which is perfect for riders looking to practice surf-style maneuvers that mimic blowing out the tail. Sharp or square edged wheels provide more grip through tight carves and are less likely to slide out when you’re not expecting it. I personally like the feel of my Smoothstar surfskate and it’s more rounded wheel edges for when I’m working on sliding the board.
Wheel hardness is something that can be experimented with more so than diameter or width. The hardness is measured using a durometer and ranges from 75A (soft) to 100A+ (hard). The softer the wheel, the more smooth the ride and the more grip the wheel has with the surface. The tradeoff is in longevity and speed as softer wheels wear more quickly and ride slower. Hard wheels are fast and last longer but they offer less comfort and grip than soft wheels. Generally you are moving slower when surfskating than speeds attained when cruising (or downhill!) so softer wheels tend to be more common and also desired.
There is no tried-and-true formula for which wheel hardness will work best for you. Surfskate manufacturers select the wheel hardness that they feel work best with their boards but you may find that you like something different.
The only way you can figure out what suits you best is to try out different wheels, however, I feel that this doesn’t matter as much when surfskating unless you are shredding the park with your surfskate. I am constantly changing wheels to find what I like best but there are so many other variables that affect the feel of the ride (temperature, wetness, surface quality, etc.).
Considering all the different options of boards available today, we are definitely in the golden age of surfskating that is just going to get better. Multiple brands offering multiple board set-ups and designs will allow you to find your best fit and may even begin a surfskate addiction since each board really has its own unique character. To get over that first hump of trying to choose what’s best for you, consider these three things:
- Deck size and shape
- Wheel characteristics
And if you haven’t already, check out our Best Surfskate Brands article which will further guide you to pick the right surfskate, whether it’s your first board or tenth board or somewhere in between.