Picking the right surfskate brand is a challenge.
The wrong board will leave you frustrated and may even completely turn you off one of the best and unique skating experiences.
But how do you know where to start?
With so many options and different set-ups, choosing your surfskate can seem daunting.
At one time I was in the same position as you, I didn’t know which surfskate to buy. Today there are hundreds of great boards on the market from many reputable and dedicated companies but not everyone has the time or the money to buy and test any board they think might be good.
To help narrow down your options to find the best board by sharing our experiences and insights. You'll find information about the most popular brands and what makes their surfskates unique, recommended user information, pros and cons of each brand, and buying information.
If you're still confused at the end, drop a comment and I'll help you out.
My Start in Surfskating
I began surfskating over a year ago because New Jersey doesn't have the most consistent waves. I wanted something that could help with surf training without needing waves.
I picked a brand and set-up that was too mellow and the board didn’t ride and carve how I wanted. The wheelbase was just wrong but I didn’t know what I needed, all I knew was that it didn’t fit with my riding style or the image I had of how I should be riding.
To say the least, I was disappointed. There wasn’t this feeling of interest or joy in riding, even my progress stalled because I didn’t feel like I connected with the board. Something was always just a bit off.
I had two choices in dealing with my mistake: either grind it out and ride unhappily forever, or, learn from the first buying experience and try to find a more suitable board.
So, guess what I did?
I bought a board and rode it. And then I bought and rode another. And yet another still. My original mistake turned into a full-blown surfskate addiction. By the end of 2020, I had 12 different boards in my quiver; each with their own character, their own style, their own vibe.
Mellow cruise for a coffee – got the board for that.
Riding down some hills – got it.
Sharp, divey turns – got it.
Needless to say, if you’re going to be buying a surfskate, you've already made a great decision, there’s no mistake in that. Picking the right one is the challenge. Read on so we can help get you hooked on surfskating too and avoid making the same mistakes I did.
Define Your Riding Style
The first thing you need to decide is…
What do you want to do with your surfskate?
There are basically two choices to answer this question:
- Do you want a board that turns aggressively and allows you to get deep into your carves?
- Do you want a board more for mellow cruising, something that offers more stability?
For sharp, aggressive turning boards see what we think about these brands:
For more stable, cruising boards that are better suited for mellow trips to the coffee shop and laying down some smooth, drawn out lines, check out our thoughts on these brands:
Slide surfskates are made by the Sancheski company and are based in Irún, Spain. Sancheski has been manufacturing sporting goods for over 80 years and have gained almost 50 years of expertise in the industry since they first began to specialize in skate gear in 1966.
Whether you wanna shred bowls or cruise, Slide's mellower feel is a solid option for those not looking for aggressively tuned surfskate trucks.
Slide’s adapters are a blend of the adapters from Carver and Smoothstar. Aesthetically, their adapters look similar to the Carver C7 which are covered more here. Functionally, the Slide adapter works similar to what Smoothstar uses in their surfskates, making use of an adjustable spring. The adjustability of the spring is easy to do by simply turning a nut to either tighten or loosen the tension on the spring.
Who Is Slide Best For?
Slide offers a solid, budget-friendly surfskate option, however, being lower priced means the components don’t seem as sturdy and strong as in other, top-tier brands. In our opinion, the Slide surfskate is still a very solid option and should be considered if you want to try out a surfskate but don’t want to have to eat cup noodles for months to save up for a board.
- Easy spring adjustability
- Component quality isn’t top-tier
- No US distributor
Slide Buying Info
Getting a Slide surfskate to the USA wasn’t easy since you can’t buy them directly from their website. Maybe there’s an issue with some of the patents that Carver owns in the USA but that’s just a guess. We were able to pick up a board on Amazon so that might still be an option to find a Slide board. If not, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, and garage/secondhand sales are likely the best options to pick up a Slide surfskate.
Check out my Carver review
Carver Skateboards was founded in 1996 by Neil Stratton and Greg Falk in Venice Beach, California. Neil and Greg were surfers who wanted to replicate the feel of surfing waves on land and set-out to create what would now become one of the most recognizable surfskate brands in the industry. Their journey was not without some unusual and innovative ideas.
The first prototype that Neil and Greg developed was actually a trampoline surf trainer. Clearly this design didn’t stand the test of time but, through trial and error, the pair would continually work their way towards a successful design.
Neil’s first design of a surfskate system which used a trailing wheel and a swing arm was their first major breakthrough. The design allowed for sharp turns but was quite unstable and unreliable. Eventually the pair discovered that using a stable rear truck and swiveling front truck gave the best combination of maneuverability and stability. Always tinkering and testing, an early design of Neil and Greg’s even used a bungee cord to restrict the pivoting action of the front truck.
Over years of research, development and testing, Neil and Greg would create the modern form of the ever-popular Carver series of surfskates we know today.
Notable Carver team riders include surfers Yago Dora and Taylor Knox, each offering their own signature design. The company has also partnered with surfboard mega-brands …Lost and Channel Islands to offer designs that resemble each company’s surfboards. If you’re looking for a surfskate that looks just like your Round Nose Fish Retro, Carver’s got you covered.
The Carver brand of surfskates gives buyer’s the choice of three different truck options (of which I’ve ridden all three):
- the C7
- the CX
- the C5
The C7 truck uses a spring and is their most loose, flowing option and can be pumped like a surfboard. The spring is adjustable and can provide more or less stability based on the tension-level the spring is set to.
The CX truck uses a reverse kingpin design that can be adjusted to give a more or less stiff ride. The CX truck feels more stable and gives riders confidence to try more progressive surf-style maneuvers. If the C7 is loose and flowy, the CX is tight and snappy.
The C5 truck is the most similar to a traditional skateboard truck of all three offerings from Carver. The C5 uses a reverse kingpin design like the CX but it is inverted and lower and narrower than the CX. The C5 is geared towards use in skateparks to grind rails and ramps but you can still pump it to gain speed.
Who Is Carver Best For?
If you want something that you can ride longer distances on and still carve more aggressively than a traditional cruiser, Carver Skateboards is a great choice for you. The brand has many designs with varying graphics, decks shape and wheelbase options. Carver surfskates are also lower-priced than boards from YOW and Smoothstar so those on a tighter budget should definitely consider one of these boards.
- Predictable, easy riding with a surf feel
- Many different truck, wheelbase, deck size options
- Tried and tested design
- Wide availability
- Not as surfy as some brands
- Can be hard to find the right model because the popular ones sell quickly
Carver Buying Info
Being the most popular surfskate brand, Carver surfskates can be found at many surf and skate shops around the world. They also can be purchased online at many surf or skate shops, a quick search will give you lots of options. Carver boards can also be bought directly from their website linked here.
Curfboard, based in Munich, Germany, got its start with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016. They've now established themselves as a main brand in the surfskate scene. Most surfskates make use of a spring or bushing in the front truck to provide a greater range of motion that feels loose and surf-like.
Not Curfboard’s surfskates; what makes their boards unique is their springless design. It’s an intriguing concept and I applaud their innovation.
Curfboard's front adapter doesn't use any bushings or springs. Instead, it's design swivels back and forth like handles on a bicycle. Having no resistance, the Curfboard’s feel is much more loose than any others on the market since there is no spring or bushing to push against. The Curfboard may function well as a surf trainer for some but lacking that resistance gives a completely different feel than surfing. In surfing you always have the buoyancy of the board in the water pushing against the pressure you apply to the board. With a Curfboard, it's all just free and loose.
- Free and loose movement of the front truck to really work on balance
- Innovative design that is pushing development
- Free and loose movement of the front truck
- Difficult to find in the USA (at time of writing)
Curfboard Buying Info
At the time of writing, finding these boards in the US was a challenge, and buying directly from the website was limited to pre-orders only. This is a good sign for the company because it seems as though they’re selling their products, however, be prepared to work or wait to get your hands on one of these.
Check out my Waterborne review
Waterborne is less of a traditional surfskate company because they focus mainly on creating a universal adapter that doesn't use a spring. This successful and universal design can be used by other companies; of note are the partnerships you can see with Penny and Z-Flex boards.
Beyond being unique in construction, Waterborne claims their adapters are indestructible, extending their lifespan and saving you money over the long run. Waterborne also developed and is now selling a design for the rear truck that improves how the whole system functions. The Waterborne rear truck adapter suspends the rear trucks on a bushing rail adapter, allowing you to get even deeper and gnarlier with your turns.
For the more experimental surf-skater who wants to build and tinker with their set-up , Waterborne’s collection will turn your stale rig into a fresh and exhilarating shredding machine.
Instead of going with the spring approach like most other surfskates on the market, Waterborne uses a cube bushing, mixed with bearings and washers to give you that feel of surfing on land. Although it might not add the resistance that a spring design has, it works great and is an extremely durable way of approaching the surfskate adapter. Waterborne’s adapter offers a deeper riding feel compared to Slide and Carver since it pivots more aggressively and even has a built-in wheel bite limiter that stops the adapter from pivoting more than 35 degrees.
Who Is Waterborne Best For?
If you want to get that surfskate feeling without spending hundreds of dollars on a complete, you should absolutely consider Waterborne especially if you already have a cruiser laying around. And if you end up really liking the motions and the surfskate style, you can start exploring other options. Fair warning with Waterborne adapters though: buying the parts to create your own set-up means you have to build and customize.
This can be a drawback for some people who don’t have the time, money or interest in tinkering or fiddling with your set-up. The Waterborne is a customizer's dream but not all surfskaters are customizers.
- Low cost and infinite adaptability
- You can use your favourite deck and wheel combinations
- Loose, surfy feel
- Might be too loose for complete beginners
- Need the rear truck as well to really get the best out of your set-up
- Some people don’t want to build their set-up
Waterborne Buying Info
Waterborne surf adapters are becoming more common in surf and skate shops as a low-cost alternative to buying a complete set-up. Most online retailers will also have these in stock as they’re smaller and easier to keep on hand.
Check out my Smoothstar review
Smoothstar is an Australian based surfskate company that markets their boards as complete surf trainers. Smoothstar can boast that Johanne Defay and Filipe Toledo use their products exclusively to help improve their skills and hone their talent as each surfer has their own signature model.
Smoothstar is easily one of my favorite surfskates in my quiver for two reasons:
- First, in my opinion, their surfskates really do help improve your surfing
- Second, because their completes are really light. The feel and weight of the boards just seem to fit perfectly.
One important consideration about Smoothstar is that they are really aggressive at protecting their product and image as the ultimate surf trainer. Smoothstar has gone so far as to limit sales of their completes and have completely discontinued selling their surfskate adapters separately. Not allowing their adapters to be sold is disappointing since many skaters like to experiment with different set-ups to find their personal fit. To do so with Smoothstar parts you need to buy the complete set-up and disassemble, which may actually void their warranty.
Out of all the surfskate boards I own, this replicates the feeling of surfing the best. I’ve ridden this board for hours and feel that my surfing has gotten better because of it. Anytime someone asks for the best surf training brand, I'll recommend Smoothstar. Smoothstar surfskates use longitudinal-compression springs versus coil-tension springs which allows for a resistance that no other front truck assemblies offer.
One downside I’ve noticed is that Smoothstar parts are more prone to rusting and breaking versus Waterborne or YOW and this may be because Smoothstar’s adapters have an exposed bottom.
Who Is Smoothstar Best For?
If you're looking for something to ride in a flat parking lot or even in a bowl to do technical surf training, Smoothstar is one of the best choices. Similar to YOW, it's not a surfskate that you'll want to take for a long-distance cruise since that front adapter pivots so aggressively, but for training or for short rips, the carving feel can’t be beat. Smoothstar is the best option for those that want the closest feeling of surfing on land.
- Smooth, surf feel as the name suggests
- High quality design and engineering
- Separate adapter not available
- Can be hard to find in the US (see Buying Info below)
- Rusting seems to be an issue
- Not the best customer service
Smoothstar Buying Info
Smoothstar completes can be found in some surfshops but at the time of writing, it was almost impossible to do so because all (or nearly all) were sold out. Smoothstar sells and ships directly from their website but they have struggled with getting enough boards to fill demand.
Your best bet is to pre-order one and be prepared to wait months for it to arrive. That kind of sucks but trust me, the wait for one of these is worth it if you really want to improve your surfing. Smoothstar has claimed they are trying to launch US distribution soon so be on the lookout for that to lower shipping costs.
Check out my YOW review
Standing for ‘Your Own Wave', YOW is a surfskate brand based out of the Basque Country in Spain and is created by HLC Distribution. YOW can be confident that they’ve one-upped every other brand on this list because they have signature models from two-time WSL men’s champion Gabriel Medina and surfboard shaping gurus Jon Pyzel and Chris Christensen. YOW offers an abundance of different models that vary in design, deck shape, wheelbase and rocker profile. When you choose to get a YOW surfskate, you can be sure that you’ll find something that perfectly fits your riding style.
Did I mention that YOW’s boards are also stunning? YOW’s surfskates are truly works of art; you might have a hard time taking one out for the first time because you don’t want to get it marked up or dirty. I know I did. But once you start riding it, you’ll see why these boards are some of the most sought after on the market.
YOW is also in a unique position compared to other surfskate brands because they make almost every part of their surfskates in-house. This allows them to keep up with their stock better than other brands and the avoid supply chain issues that have plagued so many brands in the industry
YOW surfskates currently offer three adapters – their S4, S5, and now their newest Meraki system. The 4mm spring in the V.4 S4 is positioned to help skaters achieve sharp cut-backs and fast carves while the heavier 5mm spring housed in the V.4 S5 provides a slightly stiffer surfing experience The newest Meraki system is an updated and upgraded version of the S5, offering more durability and smoothness while using the same 5mm spring of the S5.
I own several YOW boards and have at least one of each of the 3 systems. Personally, I rarely ride my S4 because it feels a little too loose for me. The S5 and Meraki are noticeably tighter and more resistive and would be the better systems for most riders over 110 lbs (50 kg). The Meraki system is lighter in weight than the S5 but I haven’t found the performance difference that noticeable when carving mellow and more aggressive turns.
I own the YOW Pipe, Arica, and Snappers but use my Snappers the most. Its concave and deck length make it perfect for my riding preference. It feels great for doing sharp cutbacks and overall surf training.
Who Is YOW Best For?
I would recommend a YOW if you want something that you can do deep carves and can pump from a standstill. Out of all my surfskates, I use my YOW the most since it's adapter feels natural to pump, gain speed and perform cut-back; it’s easily my favorite of all the boards I own. Any YOW is a solid surf trainer too so it’s very useful for surfers. YOW also have some of the coolest graphics/designs available (Carver would get the silver medal in this category).
- Beautiful graphics and designs
- Bomber construction with three adapter options
- Many different deck and wheelbase options to find your perfect fit
- Not cheap to begin with
- Shipping to the US is expensive
- You might have to wait awhile to get the one you want
YOW Buying Info
YOW surfskates are becoming more popular and can be found in many surf specialty shops. Their website is super user-friendly but, like some of the other brands, have become a victim of their own success as it can take awhile for them to build enough boards to meet demand. At the time of writing less than 30% of YOW’s board were in stock on their website. Congratulations to YOW for their successful product but too bad for those of us who have an indefinite wait to get the model you want. Also, shipping to the US from Spain, that’s expensive. Kudos to those of you in the EU since the shipping for orders over €50 is free.
Check out my Hamboards review
Based in Huntington Beach, California, Pete Hamborg, the founder of Hamboards, realized all longboards had the same issue…
“The trucks always seemed too tight, and the boards were way too narrow and short. Longboard skateboards evolved, but still had the same limitations, too narrow and too tight.”
Through trial and error, he began making longboards that replicated the look of surfboards. Pete felt he was onto something with his designs but felt there was still something missing. Even though the boards looked like surfboards, they didn’t ride like surfboards. That was until one of his kids left the board outside overnight and it was run over by the family SUV.
This unfortunate incident was really the pearl in the oyster; it was Hamboard’s big breakthrough. By a random stroke of luck, the way the board broke actually ended up modifying the trucks to turn like an actual surfboard. The break could have happened a million other ways but somewhere some surf angel was looking down on Pete and his design.
The new design that came from the broken board was the start of the solution to achieving that rail to rail carving Pete was looking for. Fast forward several years and Hamboards produces a line of surfskates in varying sizes, thanks in large to investment from Robert Herjavac of the tv show Shark Tank.
Their signature 200mm HST carving trucks use springs in both the front and back trucks. Their trucks remind me a lot of the old Original Skateboard trucks (if you're familiar with those). The benefit of the Hamboard design is that the rail-to-rail carving is a lot gnarlier than most of the other surfskates which replicates the intricacy of turning on a surfboard.
The downside though is that they’re nearly impossible to pump from a standstill or maintain speed on level ground. Hamboards are best used on slight to moderate downhill slopes or with their Land Paddle which is basically a stick you use to push you along when you run out of momentum.
I own their Biscuit, Twisted Fin, Pescadito, Huntington Hop and they're all a blast in their own way but I usually will only choose a Hamboard when I know there will be some moderate hills to ride down so I don’t have to always keep pushing.
Who Are Hamboards Best For?
If you want something that's bigger than most surfskates and has a similar aesthetic to an actual surfboard, Hamboards might be a good choice. Not only that but if you want to do insanely sharp, rail-to-rail turns and don't care to pump from a standstill, you should definitely consider a Hamboard. The ideal conditions are if you have moderate hills to ride down so you can do continuous turns without having to push. You can also get a Land Paddle but then you’re not surfskating, are you? You’re SUP-skating.
- Most surfboard-like designs and feel
- Drastic rail-to-rail carving
- Challenging to pump from a stand-still
- Limited use since they’re best for riding down low hills (what do you do when you get to the bottom?)
Hamboards Buying Info
Hamboards can be found in many surf shops on America’s coasts, most notably in California and Florida. Hamboards are also available for order directly from their website and, unlike several other brands, won’t need to ship across an ocean to get to you.
Check out my SwellTech review
SwellTech is a Florida-based surfskate company that was started by Colin Newton. Colin was motivated to build his board because he wanted to replicate the true feel of surfing on land and felt that spring or reverse kingpin designs just didn’t cut it.
The origin story, as a quote from Colin reported on the SwellTech website, is as follows:
“One day I found my skateboard in the street run over… by my friend who just got his license. The deck had snapped and one of the trucks had cracked in half.. So, skateboard-less, I decided to take those parts and make my own skateboard, one that had that surfy feeling.”
Does this story sound familiar? Hamboards also claim to have started because someone ran over a board. Lucky accidents, I suppose, and those of us who ride their boards are fortunate for these mistakes. Colin would use his broken board and various parts he had lying around, like a door hinge and a caster, to build the prototype that would lead to the creation of SwellTech’s innovative, free-motion surfskate truck.
SwellTech boards are ridden and promoted by Jamie O’Brien, a Pipeline surfing legend whose signature models feature beautiful artwork of Jamie on the famous Hawaiian reef break. SwellTech also offers signature models from Austin Keen who is best known for his amazing skimboarding clips featured on popular social media platforms.
SwellTech’s adapters are one of the most extreme approaches to the spring-surfskate adapter design. SwellTech uses two springs attached to the pivot rod of the truck and another two springs attached to the hanger. This design allows for their adapter to rotate a full 360 degrees, which is the gnarliest of all the surfskates I've tried by far.
A SwellTech isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s shifty and unstable and can be very difficult when you’re just starting out. The board can completely jackknife if you turn too far or hit a pebble and send you flying off the front. With time and lots of practice though your balance will improve and you can really feel how this design will impact your surfing.
Who Is SwellTech Best For?
The learning curve to become confident on a SwellTech is steep. That being said, the fact that the surfskate is so aggressive means that it really will improve your surfing IF you have the patience to really get the feel for it dialled. Get a SwellTech if your aim is to become a better surfer and you want something that will force you to develop good balance and technique.
- Aggressive front truck design really improves your balance and awareness
- Florida based company so shipping is easy and more cost effective
- Very, very aggressive front truck design
- Steep learning curve
SwellTech Buying Info
SwellTech boards can be bought directly from their website or from some surf shops around the country. At the time of writing, getting an aggressive surfskate in the USA is an expensive challenge since a lot of companies are located outside the USA and have limited or non-existent USA distribution centers.
Those who want a SwellTech need not experience the “shipping shock” or the “eternally in-transit fatigue” while buying and waiting for their board. Take a look at their website to find a retailer near you if you’d rather buy from a surf shop.
What Is The Best Surfskate Brand?
This answer isn’t so simple and straightforward but if I could only pick three out of the ten on this list, I'd pick…
There's a reason that Carver has been around for a long time. They're high quality and their trucks allow you to carve more aggressively than a traditional cruiser, while still offering enough stability to give you confidence. I use my Carver when I'm going for a longer cruise or just want something that's more stable.
Compared to Carver and Smoothstar, YOW is the newer brand. I use my YOW surfskates the most because they offer a deep, divey, and natural pumping feel. You'll have no issue pumping from a standstill on a YOW and they’re really a blast to ride. The learning curve isn’t as steep as a SwellTech but still does give you that free, flowing feel you don’t get from a traditional skateboard.
Smoothstar is my other favorite surfskate because it has a natural pumping feeling. Their tension spring allows you to carry your pumping momentum more efficiently than the offerings from other brands. If I'm doing slower technical surf training in a parking lot, I'll use my Smoothstar because you can really focus on your technique without losing momentum
Can You Cruise On A Surfskate?
It's possible to cruise on a surfskate, however it depends which brand you're talking about. If you get a Carver, then their trucks are much more mellow than a YOW or Smoothstar. Make sure to research the company you're thinking about getting because a lot of them have springs in their adapters, making it very hard to cruise for more than a few blocks. Better yet, go to your local surf or skate shop and see if they have models you can try before you buy.
It all really depends on your riding experience level and expertise but I would really only recommend Carver if you're going for long-distance cruises. Smoothstar and YOW are a lot more work and you have to stay focused on the ride.
Are Surfskates Good For Beginners?
If you're just getting started skateboarding/longboarding, I wouldn't suggest getting a surfskate since they carve so aggressively. But if you're set on getting one, then I'd recommend picking one that doesn't have a spring in the adapter, so it's more mellow. Something like the Carver CX trucks are better suited for beginners rather than a YOW, Smoothstar, or SwellTech. That being said, I know people who haven’t skated much at all and have been just fine starting with a surfskate. Wear protective gear when you start out no matter how experienced you are.