Surfskates have been taking the surf world by storm. Marketed as a way to get your flow on during the flat days, improve your surfing with similar-movement repetition and training, or just have fun cruising around the neighborhood, I’ve been riding surfskates for the past few years for all of the above reasons, and would strongly recommend them to any surfer. I would also (more gently) recommend them to any non-surfer for how much sheer fun they can be. I always have a surfskate in my car for when I find myself with a few minutes and an open parking lot, or (as is often the case in San Francisco) when I’m forced to park far away and walk to my destination. My favorite use for them is in downhill runs. Instead of a bombing straightline, a surfskate lets you take a much more controlled descent full of deep, powerful carves and tail slides.
As for the boards in this review, I’m happy to say that I’ve had the chance to get my hands on each and every one, and put in some time getting to know the different truck technologies. While I did receive some test units from various manufacturers, this is in no way a paid review. My purpose will be to describe the differences I’ve experienced while riding these boards, to help you choose the best surfskate for you depending on your desired riding style, environment, and experience. Here we go.
What are the Best Surfskates?
What is a Surfskate?
A surfskate is a skateboard that makes use of a specialized truck to mimic the motions of a surfboard. For surfers, especially those working on progressing their surfing, a surfskate simply translates to more wave time. Surfing is all about muscle memory, but the time up and riding during any given surf session is often 5-10 minutes as a generous estimate. Find a nice smooth driveway with a slight angle, and suddenly you can get that 5-10 minutes of wave time in 5-10 minutes instead of 90, something that can be helpful for any level of surfer looking to progress. Different styles of surfskate trucks and boards cater to different riding environments and styles. Some boards are best for cruising, taking long flowing turns around town; some work best in the steeps of a skatepark bowl or while bombing a downhill, and some boards are best for focused surf training, providing the closest experience to surfing you can get on asphalt.
What Matters in Choosing a Surfskate?
My criteria in rating/describing each surfskate system was Range of Motion, Stability/Resistence, and Best Use, which is more of a description than a rating. Range of motion rates how much the system can pivot to mimic the motion of a surfboard on a wave. The other measure, Stability/Resistance, will speak to a systems stability when pushing, cruising, or taking on a downhill, as well as how much the truck springs back to position against your body weight, which helps a board pump, as well as contributes to the stability. Best Use I split into the categories of Cruising, Bowl, Downhill, and Surf Training.
What Length Surfskate Should I Get?
Tough question. Depends on the type of ride you want and the maneuvers you want to be doing. If you are hoping for a shortboard experience, I’d recommend going for something around 29-36 inches long (a rough estimate as what actually matters is the wheelbase length, or the distance in between the trucks). The Hamboards Biscuit at only 24 inches is another good option but I haven’t had the chance to ride one yet. More than 36 inches and you’re starting to get into what I’d say is midlength territory, with more drawn out turns and some cheeky Cheater 5s, and a true longboard surfboard experience goes from 45 inches and up.
Range of Motion: 4.5
Best Use: Cruising, Bowl, Downhill
I really love my Waterborne adapter set. Performance-wise I’d consider it to be one of the most versatile surfskate designs out there. It’s able to tackle bowls, and steeps due to a high spring-back resistance, and it pumps really well, even capable of going uphill. The high resistance also means it is quite stable when pushing, but due to the dual-axis design that stability doesn’t come at the cost of mobility.
Best of all, it’s damn cheap. If you already have an old skateboard lying around, it’s $79 for the full set of truck and rear adapter, $59 for the front truck by itself. I installed my Waterborne adapter on a 36-inch deck and loved the midlength-style riding the board provided. Able to sneak my feet up to get a bit of nose time, as well as easily pump and tailslide. The extra board length also provided some added stability when taking on downhills, but felt a bit long in the narrow confines of a bowl or skatepark.
Do you need the rear truck Rail Adapter? I’d say it adds to the surfskate experience, but certainly isn’t necessary. The real gamechanger is the front truck adapter (which, when bought by itself comes with a riser to even out your back truck). As far as cons go, the main one is the installation can be a pain, and the truck itself is pretty heavy, which doesn’t affect performance, but if you only get the front truck it can make carrying the board awkward with so much weight on one side – adding the rail adapter actually makes it easier to carry with a more even weight distribution.
Check Price on Amazon.
Range of Motion: 4
Best Use: Cruising, Downhill
Hamboards have a very different truck design than most other boards in this review: more lean-based than pivot-based, but that doesn’t make them any less of a surfskate. The truck technology holds stable when cruising, but when you shift your weight to initiate the so called “deep lean” (like turning a longboard surfboard), it allows you to initiate radical turns, pump, and generally rip around. Due to the symmetrical design, this is one of the few surfskates that is truly bidirectional. I got to try out the Huntington Hop 45′, a mid-range length for the brand’s selection, and was truly amazed. For a 45-inch surfskate, the turning radius is insane – of course not as tight of a turn as the shorter boards I tried, but way more than you would expect. It noserides as a matter of course, and on a downhill test run I was surprised by how easy it is to slide out the back wheels and how much control I had during the slide. An absolute delight, Hamboards’ slogan of “guaranteed to put a smile on your face” held very true. I would recommend a Hamboard to anyone, but especially to those who are more interested in a longboard style of surfskating over a shortboard style.
Check Price on Amazon.
Range of Motion: 3
Best Use: Bowl, Downhill
Carvers were the first true surfskate board to come out in the 1990s and they’ve stayed relatively the same since, and with good reason. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are two main truck styles from Carver, the CX, here, and the C7, below. The CX is a much more stable truck than the C7, providing an experience more similar to a regular skateboard than most other surfskates. But don’t let it fool you, the CX is still fully capable of pumping for speed and flowing, surfy turns. However, where the CX excels is in the steeps. Downhill runs, bowls, something that lets you really lean into the more resistant/stable truck is where the CX has an edge over other surfskates. They’re also apparently great in a skatepark for more traditional skate tricks as they ride fakie (backwards) better than other surfskates due to the stability and truck design, but will still be nowhere near as stable as regular skate trucks.
Due to pandemic supply issues, as well as an increased public interest in surfing and quarantine-friendly activities like getting your flow on around the neighborhood, Carvers have been in and out of stock almost everywhere. Recently, Carver released the Triton by Carver label to provide their CX boards at a better price point. The technology is the same, the only difference (as far as I can tell) is the brand name, and both are linked to below.
Check Price (and availability) for the CX Carver on Jack’s Surfboards.
Check Price for the CX Triton on Jack’s Surfboards.
Range of Motion: 4
Best Use: Cruising, Downhill
The C7 truck allows more of a surfy feel as compared to the CX, above, at the cost of some stability. Where the CX excels in steeps, the C7 does a bit better pumping and cruising on flat ground. The front truck can also be tightened quite a bit, allowing for a very stable ride that can surpass the CX in similarity to a traditional longboard truck. The way that Carver explains the difference is that the CX feels more like the snappier pumping and turns of a thruster, while the C7 provides a flowier pump and turn experience similar to a single fin. Expect deeper carves with less resistance on the C7, more adjustability, and total flow. Also expect a whole lot of trouble finding a board. With the pandemic creating wildly high demand and little in the way of supply, Carvers (and especially the C7) are tough to come by. C7’s are probably the lightest of the dual-axis style of surfskates, which doesn’t mean much for performance but will make for a more pleasant carrying experience than other dual-axis boards.
Check Price and Availability for the C7 Carver on Jack’s Surfboards.
Range of Motion: 5
Best Use: Bowl, Surf Training
The YOW (Your Own Wave) Meraki is the latest and most-improved design from the Your Own Wave designers in the Basque Country of Spain. A very loose and pivot-y front truck provides a ton of maneuverability and makes it very easy to do tail slides and 180s (always a crowd-pleaser), even at low speeds. This board is great for surf training, as well as doing progressive surfskate maneuvers. Very similar to the SwellTech, both systems provide a very surf-similar experience. Both have very loose trucks, but the YOW has a block to stop you from over-rotating. That makes the YOW easier to get a hang of, and a little more capable of cruising and maybe even taking to a bowl. The lack of block on the SwellTech is more true to a shortboard experience, but also harder to grasp.
Check Price on SurfDome.
Range of Motion: 5
Best Use: Surf Training
At first I had a lot of difficulty on this board, but once I realized that this was because of how true the board stays to surfing I had a click moment and realized how I needed to be using the board. Because the truck is able to rotate a full 360 degrees, when executing a sharp turn you need to hold your weight similar to executing a turn on a surfboard so you don’t overbalance. Quite different from the other trucks in this review which all have a sort of limit or block to keep you from rotating too far. As a fun toy to goof around on that may be a downside, but as a surf trainer staying true to the surf experience it is definitely an upside.
Foot placement matters a lot, similar to a surfboard if your front foot is too far forward, you’ll “bog” the nose and fall off when trying to execute a sharp turn. I’d recommend starting out with the truck as tight as possible, and slowly loosening it over the course of a couple sessions as you get comfortable with the insanely free and loose motion. For those who really want to dial in their surfing on land, or make progress on more radical surfskate maneuvers, a SwellTech is the way to go. (Check out their great how-to videos here.)
Check Price and Availability on the SwellTech website.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.