Want to go for a surf but the ocean is as flat as a pancake? Sick of skating your regular old skateboard or longboard? With surfskates, you can combine the two, with these specially designed boards offering a skating experience which closely resembles the sensation of surfing.
These nifty boards utilise what’s known as a surf adapter truck system, whose function essentially provides the front two wheels with an extra axis of rotation. This means that you can shift the nose of the board quickly and perform rail to rail turns in much the same vein as you would on a surfboard, with the rear truck acting as a pivot around which the rest of the board can turns. Put simply, the adapted system at the nose of the board allows for more aggressive and dramatic turns, providing a similar feel to what you get surfing, but on land.
Surfskates first came into existence back in 1996, when a couple of Californians bored with the lack of waves decided to design something which would enable them to take their water skills onto land. Fast-forward 25 years, and these combo boards are now exploding in popularity, with more than 20 different surfskate brands around the world.
There’s a fair bit of variety in terms of exactly what those different surfskate brands offer, and in this piece we’ll talk you through the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular among them. First, however, let’s take a look at the different things you need to factor in when choosing the right surfskate for you.
Things to consider when choosing your surfskate
The first thing you’ll want to take into account when choosing your surfskate is your level of ability. Are you a bonafide shredder in the water or just starting out? Do you skate normal boards or do you have the balance of a one-legged elephant? The way in which surfkskates turn varies markedly among different brands, with some enabling you to turn super aggressively and others offering a more mellow experience. If you fall into the elephant category, you might want to stick to something which will be a little easier to ride, but if you’re after something that will enable you to mimic the sharp turns of your shortboard, there are plenty of options for you out there as well.
If you’re an experienced board rider, you’ll also want to factor in how you like to ride. There isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between how aggressive you want your turns to be and how good you are; there are plenty of talented riders who prefer something which will turn a little more softly and allow them to do a bit more cruising, rather than purely performing short and sharp turns, so factor this in when making your purchase too.
Finally, as with everything, cost is a factor. Surfskates aren’t super expensive – they come in at a fraction of the cost of a new surfboard, for example – but nonetheless you’ll be parting ways with in excess of a couple of hundred bucks. Whether you want the absolute top of the line, most expensive option, or something which will offer a little more value to start you off, is an important thing to consider when looking at your different options.
Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at five of the top surfskate brands, and all the details you need about the kind of products that they offer.
If you’re looking to use your surfskate as a way to improve your surfing, or to keep you occupied when the sea more closely resembles a lake, then SmoothStar is a good place to start. A leader in the rapidly growing surfskate space, this Australian-based brand claims to be the best surf trainer, and it’s not just marketing mumbo jumbo. Courtesy of the more advanced and well-developed truck system, the SmoothStar surfskate most closely replicates the feeling you get out in the water, making it hugely popular among surfers – both amateur and professional. Recent WSL Finalists Filipe Toledo and Johanne Defay both use them to refine their skills in the water while out of the water, with a couple of the designs named after these two pros.
So how do they do it? SmoothStar surfskates use a front truck system that they call The Thruster, and it allows you to turn simultaneously smoothly and aggressively, much like you would on a good surfboard. As you edge into a turn, The Thruster turns and dips, helping you to get as deep as possible into a turn. At the same time – and in something which provides SmoothStar with a valuable point of difference from many competitors – despite the speed of your turns, they remain clean and smooth rather than sharp and jolty, giving you the best of both worlds.
The Thruster is also adjustable, which means that you can utilise SmoothStars in a variety of different situations. You can tighten it to give yourself an added bit of control when skating on sloped areas, or loosen it right up when practising your sharp turns on flat areas.
It’s worth noting that this Thruster is not available for individual purchase. This is something that the company has done presumably because they know that it’s the best truck on the market; by preventing individual purchase, if you want to experience the best truck that surfskates have to offer, you’ll have to buy the SmoothStar board.
That might be a nuisance if you already have a surfskate from a different brand and want to try this truck, but if you’re looking to buy your first surfskate anyway, it shouldn’t be a problem – particularly if you want one of these boards to practices your turns. As a result of the aggressive manoeuvres that these surfskates allow you to perform, they are far better suited for use in a confined space, such as a car park or even a skate bowl. If you want something on which you can practise your turns but also go for longer rides, these aren’t necessarily ideal, though you will be able to get a few hundred metres out of them without too much trouble.
It’s also worth mentioning that while SmoothStar does offer a particular type of surfskate, they do have a number of different products out there, each of which offers a different experience. This means that, while they are typically suited for those looking to practise more critical carves, there are options out there for all levels of surfers and skaters.
Slide is an experienced manufacturing company operating out of Irun, Spain, which is right on the border of France deep in beautiful Basque country. The company has over 80 years of manufacturing experience and nearly 50 years in the skate industry, so it’s little surprise that they’ve jumped into the more recently developed surfskate area and quickly become a popular choice.
Where SmoothStar functions as the top of the range, best of the best, piece de resistance of surfskates, Slide is more of a value option for those looking to dip their toes in the proverbial pool. They might not have the same level of advanced engineering as SmoothStar, but they are a solid option, consisting of good, durable parts, and come in relatively cheap. Adding to their popularity is the appearance of the boards, with Slide’s array of different surfskate options also coming in a variety of great looking prints.
The adapter truck system that they use operates in a similar way to that of SmoothStar, but offers a much more mellow ride than their Australian counterpart. It does still have an adjustable spring, meaning that you can alter your ride depending on what type of skating you’re looking to do, but in general the range of turns that you’ll be able to perform doesn’t reach the same high-performance level as SmoothStar. This is not, however, necessarily a bad thing.
At one end of the adjustments you can still pull off some fairly sharp turns, but at the other end, Slide’s can be a pretty good option if you’re after a surfskate which will allow you to cruise. This means that if you want something on which you’ll be able to practise your carves one day, then use as a mode of transport (albeit for reasonably short distances) the next, then these can be a great option.
The more mellow turning system also makes this a great option for beginners. With less aggressive turns, Slides are a lot easier to practise on for those who aren’t yet surfing at a really high level, or who don’t have any experience on a skateboard. This, combined with the fact that they are a little cheaper but still a decent quality product, make them ideal for beginners and intermediates alike.
They’ve also got a really wide selection of different products, meaning that you can really home in one that will be most suitable for you. These different products come in a range of different sizes and shapes, and each of them has a unique print, so opting for a Slide surfskate doesn’t necessarily mean that you are locking yourself into one specific type of product.
This Australian skate brand is based out of the Gold Coast and has developed a big following courtesy of their range of skate products, and they’ve successfully expanded their horizons in recent years by developing a number of high-quality surfskates. Obfive positions themselves as the surfskate option offering the ideal combination – stability and responsiveness, all in the one two-and-a-half-foot board.
Like SmoothStar, Obfive markets their surfskates as the ideal surf trainer, and again, it’s not just marketing speak. These things are super responsive, allowing you to pull off sharp turns, and the rail to rail movements you can execute on an Obfive surfskate do closely resemble the feeling you get as you’re pumping down the line on a long, peeling wave, hunting down that next section.
You can practise a range of different manoeuvres with these, from sharp, off the lip turns through to longer, sweeping cutbacks, so it’s easy to see why they claim to be such a great option for those looking to hone their surf skills. The main issue with surfskates which allow for such high-performance movement, as you may be able to guess, is typically stability, with lower-quality products often unable to master the balance of both of these two features. Obfive differs in that, despite the ability to pull off sharp turns which it offers, you’ll still feel relatively steady on your feet, and the flow between manoeuvres that you can pull off closely resembles the smooth sensation of riding a wave.
Much like the SmoothStar, these are best for those looking to practise turns, rather than those wanting an option that will help them get from Point A to Point B – unless those two points are very close together. If you end up buying an Obfive, your best bet will be to head down to the local skate park, or stick to a car park, rather than trying to use it as a form of transport. This differs from something like the aforementioned Slide, which is inferior in terms of the turns that it offers but more suitable for cruising.
Another similarity to the SmoothStar products which Obfive has is the price. These surfskates live further towards the costly end of the price spectrum, but at around $350 they’re still a lot cheaper than a surfboard and will genuinely help your skills in the water. They’re also well put together, meaning that you can be confident that you’ll get plenty of rides out of the money you spend.
Like the other surfskate brands we’ve mentioned, Obfive has a pretty wide selection on offer too, so have a deep dive into their products to see if you can find something well-suited to your needs.
Surfskates are pretty fun – most people who have given them a try will attest to that. But if you’re a little hesitant to jump head first into that aforementioned proverbial pool of surfskates and would prefer to start out on something which will do a little less damage to your wallet, Ark could be a great choice for you. This company offers all sorts of boards, from longboards to skateboards to cruisers, and generally these products are entry-level and relatively inexpensive, but still good quality for the price that you pay. Their surfskates are no different, and you’ll be able to test the water for just over a couple of hundred bucks with these products.
Clearly, that lower price invariably results in a lower quality product, and you won’t be able to shred with the Ark surfskates in the same way that you could with a SmoothStar or an Obfive product. They aren’t as high-performance, so you won’t be able to practise those really sharp, 180-degree turns that you might be able to pull off in the water, nor is the rail to rail skating as smooth or surf-like as with the aforementioned skates. All of that, however, is not said to turn you off.
Despite the fact that they may not be of the quality of some of their competitors, there are plenty of new surfskaters who buy them and love them, and not just because of the price. The mellower ride that they offer might not be ideal if you’re a lifelong surfer looking to complement your already very well-developed surfing skills out of the water, but if you’re newer to the board riding game they can be a great choice to take yourself from a novice level through to intermediate and beyond.
You can do a little bit of cruising on Ark surfskates, still practise some decent albeit slightly lower-performance turns, and their durability belies their price tag. As always, if you’re buying a product at an entry-level price you need to lower your expectations slightly, but Ark surfskates are still made of solid materials. They’re not going to fall apart as soon as you take them out like you might expect from a really low-quality wetsuit, for example, and the less high-performance nature of these boards means that for beginners and intermediates, they can actually be even more suitable than some of their more expensive, higher quality competitors.
Penny was founded by passionate skater and experienced board manufacturer Ben Mackay, and has built a reputation around the world for their high-quality and durable products. The company prides itself on being full of bonafide skateboard manufacturing nuffies, boasting what they claim to be a ‘fanatical attention to detail’. They build plastic skateboards with the intention of creating a product which will last for far longer than its timber counterpart, with sustainability a major reason for this – something backed up by the reformulation of their ‘secret Penny formula’ to include more recyclable materials and biodegradable enzymes.
But business-speak aside, they also make a pretty good surfskate. Particularly noteworthy is the quality of the parts, with these surfskates put together to last you a long time, and given their relatively inoffensive price tag, this makes them one of the better value purchases going around.
In terms of the actual skating experience itself, Penny’s are made for those looking to practise sharp turns. They use something called a Waterborne adapter, which operates a little differently to most of Penny’s competitors. Rather than using a spring like most other surfskates, the Waterborne adapter uses what’s called a urethane bushing, the main benefit of which is that it won’t rust or break as springs can have a tendency to do. This adapter is tacked onto the deck of the board with the Penny truck then attached to that, and this design gives the truck the ability to pivot really quickly.
This, of course, means that you can pull off high-performance, aggressive turns, and makes these surfskates ideal for advanced level surfers looking to practise their skills. It’s also a little shorter than most other surfskates, and this combined with the unique adapter design makes for a really aggressive ride. As a result, you won’t exactly be cruising around town on this, but if you’re heading to a skate bowl or a flat space to purely practise turns, it’s a really good option.
The main downside of the Penny’s surfskate is that it’s not particularly suitable for beginners given how aggressively it turns. It’s among the best for sharp, high-level turns – maybe even the best – but where it falls down in relation to similar boards is that it’s not as good an all-round option as something like, for example, a SmoothStar. Nonetheless, if you know what you want and are an experienced board rider, this will offer one of the most fun rides among all the surfskates on the market.
So, tell me what to buy!
If only it were that easy. If there’s anything to take away from this review of the top surfskates, it’s that the most suitable option will probably not be the same from one person to the next.
If you’re looking for the best value, Ark might be the way to go. They’re not the best surfskates on the market and there’s a notable difference between something like them and a SmoothStar, but as an introduction to these nifty little boards – particularly if you’re a beginner – they’re a great option.
If you’re looking for the best all-round board, it’s hard to go past a SmoothStar. They’re massively popular for a reason; they provide the sensation most similar to that of surfing, allow for high-performance turns and have a great rail-to-rail flow, and can genuinely have a significant positive impact on your surfing.
If you’re looking for something which will allow you to practise sharp turns, then Penny’s has to be among the best choices. It’s not a hugely versatile board and these turns are pretty much all you’ll be doing on it, but for those who want to practise those big hacks on land, it’s hard to go wrong with these. Plus, Penny’s avoidance of springs means that you should get plenty of longevity out of this surfskate.
If you’re looking for something that you can cruise on, as well as practising your turns, then it’s definitely worth checking out the Slide surfskates. These offer a much more mellow riding experience, making them more suitable for short-distance commutes, and an adjustable spring means you’ll still be able to set them up for more aggressive rides if your needs demand it.
Even within individual brands there’s a reasonable amount of variation in the different surfskates offered, and between different companies that variation is significantly greater. These little boards come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, each of which has different advantages and disadvantages, and invariably this means that you’ll need to figure out what exactly it is you’re after before you know which is the best option for you. But while all of the aforementioned surfskates have their differences and are appropriate for different people, they do share a couple of things in common; they have the capacity to improve your surfing, and they are seriously good fun. With popularity growing like never before, now is as good a time as ever to jump on board.