Skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing are all top of mind when you think “boardsports.” Even the modern versions of these three sports stem from a common ancestor – surfing and wave riding.
Wave riding itself has been around for a long, long time – probably ever since the first time humans interacted with the ocean. Surfing has been around for a long time too – since ancient Polynesia.
Skateboarding was invented sometime in the 40s or 50s to mimic the feeling of surfing a wave on land – sidewalk surfing.
Snowboarding is an even more recent invention – 1965 – that was designed and marketed to achieve the feeling of surfing on the snow. The first snowboard, invented by Sherman Poppen, was called the snurfer (snow + surfer).
While the sports all stem from the same place and are ridden in a similar stance, each is unique and distinct from the other. If you had to draw relationships and similarities, you’d probably find skateboarding and snowboarding are more related than either one to surfing. That said, there certainly are skills that translate from one to the other.
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Major Differences between Surfing, Snowboard, and Skateboarding
The big difference that’s going to be felt by snowboarders and skateboarders trying to surf for the first time is the fact that you’re in the water, you’ve got to paddle around, and you’re getting bashed by waves.
If you’re not used to swimming or surfing or even just being in the water, this can be a major shock and a big first challenge to overcome.
Another big difference between surfing and the other boardsports is the fact that you’ve got to work to catch the wave. And before that, you’ve got to know how to pick the wave and your positioning.
All of this is to say that for surfing there is a lot more work involved before you’re even up and riding the wave.
Impact and risk of injury is a major difference between each sport too. While surfing definitely comes with risks, for the most part, wiping out on a wave feels a lot better than wiping out on the pavement or on hard snow. You should definitely be wearing a helmet when you skate or snowboard.
Similarities Between Skating, Surfing, and Snowboarding
While the differences are going to feel pretty apparent to the beginner, there are certainly some skills that transfer between the sports.
For one, most people will ride with the same stance – either goofy or regular – from one boardsport to another.
Next, while the type of balancing is a little different from one sport to the next, the fact that you have experience balancing while moving at speed and standing sideways on a board is going to help a bit.
For the beginner surfer who has experience with skating or snowboarding, it might be some time before skills like carving, turning, or airs start to transfer to your surfing.
Improving Your Surfing with Skating and Snowboarding
Skateboarding and snowboarding certainly have the upper hand on surfing when it comes to repetition.
With surfing, the maneuvers you’re able to practice has a lot to do with the waves. And it might be a long time between chances you get to try a certain maneuver.
With skateboarding and snowboard you’ve got the opportunity to try something over and over again until you nail it. If you’re practicing a move that would be similar to one you’d do on a wave (i.e. one that requires your to move your body in the same way), that sort of practice will certainly help you during your next opportunity to try it in the water.
Skating and snowboarding are also great practice for your balance. While balancing on a board on a wave is different, strengthening your balance muscles in general is going to be a big benefit.
You can better refine your own style by skateboarding and snowboarding. Since you’ve got more time up and riding, you have a greater chance to find your groove.
Skating and snowboarding can also help you get better at picking lines on the wave and connecting maneuvers. Each sport requires you to adapt to your surroundings and make decisions quickly. The only way to get better at this is by doing it. If you can do it while out of the water, it’s going to help you when you’re back in it.
Anytime you can replicate a similar mechanic between the different sports, you’re going to be getting in some effective cross-training. Some examples of things on skateboards and snowboards that can help your surfing include:
- Dropping in
- Carving and turning
- Kick-turns and quick pivots
- Ollies and jumps
- Power turns, power slides, and stopping
So there you have it. Now go ahead, go shred.
Skateboards for Surf Training
Whether the surf’s flat or your stuck inland, skateboarding is a great way to get your surfing fix. That’s why it was invented in the first place!
However, most skateboards fail to really capture the feel of surfing. They’re too stiff, can’t really go on rail without biting, or lack the flow you get on a surfboard.
What skateboards feel most like surfing?
Time spent on any board is going to translate to training for surfing, but if you really want a skateboard that makes it feel like you’re surfing, you’ll need something that’s a little looser.
Getting that loose feel on a skateboard allows you to mimic the rail-to-rail carves, turns, and pumping that you do on a wave.
Loosening up your standard skateboard trucks will help a bit, but the best choice is going to be using skateboard trucks that are designed for super flowy rail-to-rail carving.
A skateboard like this is going to help you:
- Develop your own style and flow that you can translate to a wave.
- Practice the body movements involved with all different types of turns and carves on a surfboard.
- Improve your balance when you’re surfing.
A standard skateboard, like the one you’d use in a park or a bowl, can be helpful in practicing more vertical maneuvers and tricks in the air.
Does knowing how to skateboard help with surfing?
Just because you know how to skateboard does not automatically mean you’re going to pick up surfing right away.
However, if you’ve got the balance and flow you can develop on a skateboard, that’ll certainly help your surfing a lot.
When the waves are flat or your stuck away from the coast, skateboard can be an excellent cross-trainer for your surfing.
Pair it with a good balance board and you can constantly be practicing to improve your surfing.