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Surfing vs Skateboarding: Similarities and Differences

Fact checked by Michael Derosier

surfing vs skateboarding

We know that skateboarding started from people trying to copy wave surfing moves and apply them on land. These people made the first skateboards, which eventually led to skating becoming popular, and the sport continues to thrive up to this day.

But let’s disregard timelines. Surfing VS skateboarding: which is the better sport? How does surfing differ from skateboarding? And which of the two yields more fun?

It’s challenging to put one over the other. But here, we will show you the benefits of doing both. Also, we’ll present holistic differences that will help you choose what’s best.

Parameter of Comparison Surfing Skateboarding
Physical Abilities Requires upper body strength more than standing and balancing on the surfboard Immense usage of lower body strength and leg power
Riding Environment Only happens at the beach where the waves are perfect to ride Could be in the skate parks, streets, or other applicable areas on land
Difficulty Waves could be intimidating Injuries will more likely happen in case of a bad fall
Riding Surface Flowy, unpredictable water Solid park obstacle or roads
Learning Curve Needs consistency in paddling and appropriate conditioning for catching the waves Practice can be done repeatedly
Safety A bit safer because the rider falls on the water Could be painful once the skater falls on the ground

Surfing and Skateboarding: Defined

1. Surfing


Surfing is one of the most popular sports you can do at the beach. And not just on the sand, but on waves.

In this sport, surfers use a large board with a tail that grips the wave. The most critical factors to the success of surfing are often the elements, not the board’s setup. Surfers rely on the wind, which dictates the waves.

Surprising as it sounds, surfing began as a mode of efficient transportation from a point in the middle of the sea to the shoreline. Since its first sighting in the early 1760s, it became a sport and a form of entertainment a few decades later.

2. Skateboarding


Like surfing, skateboarding also started as a medium of mobility. But what not many know about this sport is that surfers formed it.

Skateboarding has grown enough that competitions happen season after season, and skateboards have upgraded over time.

If surfing relies on waves, this sport longs for skateparks. Or if not parks, obstacles like ledges and rail on the streets will suffice.

In terms of what you can do, skateboarding could be a form of transportation. Otherwise, people do it to show off or compete through stunts and races.

Similarities Between Skateboarding and Surfing

Is surfing like skateboarding? You might have already noticed several similarities between skateboards and surfboards. Let’s highlight some of them.

  • Both sports started as means of transportation.
  • Surfing requires almost the same physical attributes necessary to get good at skateboarding. These include endurance, agility, strength, and an immense sense of balance.
  • These sports have entered the competition arena, but only in varied setups.
  • With their equipment designs, skateboarding and surfboarding see riders stepping on a reasonably flat surface to move.
  • Both are fun activities.

Differences Between Surfing and Skateboarding


We now know that being good at surfing may help you get better at skateboarding. This time, let’s see where these sports differ.

1. Physical abilities

Yes, both sports demand almost equal strength and endurance. But what distinguishes them in this aspect?

Many photos will give you the impression that surfing is like skateboarding, where the rider stands on the board until he reaches the shore. Unfortunately, things are more than that.

Surfing starts with the surfer paddling to catch the waves. Next, he takes on those waves as he stands on the board and balances until he reaches the shoreline.

If surfing requires immense upper body strength, skateboarding doesn’t. Most of the force and power needed rest on the skater’s lower body.

In skateboarding, riders push with their legs, jump with their feet, toss the skateboard, and more. Also, fundamental moves like turning and braking rely on these body parts.

2. Riding environment


Perhaps, this aspect is one of the most distinct areas surfers VS skaters can’t argue about.

Skateboarding happens on land, and surfing is on water. So, what should we consider?

First, remember that it’s not always a sunny day at the beach. It may seem thrilling to ride turbulent waves, but it’s not a risk worth taking. Second, let’s say the beach’s weather is fine. Does that now make you safe? Only if you’re confident with the waves.

With these, it’s apt to say that weather and ocean conditions are your determining factors in whether to surf for a day or not.

On the other hand, skateboarding also imposes some risks. While you can’t drown in the water and lose oxygen, the danger rests on obstacles you’re not comfortable with and extreme ramps.

Besides these objects, the skater’s frequent environment would be the streets and some traffic.

3. Difficulty

We know that skateboarding and surfing hold positive images in the competition arena. But how difficult is one over the other? Is surfing or skateboarding so hard? It all boils down to intimidation, a factor that traps many athletes.

One thing that causes fear among surfers is getting ambushed by consecutive waves bigger than humans. On the other hand, immense skatepark obstacles and steep downhill trails scare quite a few skaters.

So, whether surfing or skateboarding, we’d better choose the fear we can conquer more.

4. Riding surface


Surfboarders and skateboarders use solid stepping surfaces. But they differ as to where these boards roll.

This aspect makes skateboarding slightly more advantageous. Skateboarders can see their trails. And they can anticipate any obstacle they’re approaching. Ultimately, the only instance that will shake them on the board is a bumpy road.

Contrarily, surfing leaves the riding surface unstable and flowy. And that is why surfers should catch the right wave to support their trajectory and velocity on the water.

5. Learning curve

Many people claim that surfing is more challenging to master, and we should understand the reasons behind it.

Surfing entails dealing with waves and other water properties that are unstable and unique. That means whatever wave you get, you ride. So, there’s no chance you can repeat the same movement cycle on another wave.

But how should we master surfing, then? It’s when we learn to paddle with our arms and obtain the best conditioning to ride the waves. By then, surfers can stand on the board and descend to the beach.

What about skateboarding? Ramps don’t change in form. Street asphalt may wear out, but it should not yield too much change.

Our point? You can establish skateboarding routines in these places. No matter how many times you fall, it’s possible to become a better skateboarder through repeating and refining your moves.

And in the long run, should you take a short hiatus from skateboarding, it will not be a rough road coming back to the sport as opposed to surfing, although such an issue might not always apply to the momentum surf and skate seasoned users have.

6. Safety

We have briefly discussed some risks of surfing and skateboarding. Let’s now see which is less dangerous.

You’re more likely to drop into the water when you fall off a surfboard. And unless there are rocks under you or other surfboards you’re bound to hit, you are safe. All you need is to know how to swim and not panic when waves get over you.

Unfortunately, this situation does not apply to skateboarding. Where your deck is solid, your falling ground will also be. Consequently, you could end the day with cuts, bruises, or other injuries needing severe medication.

But of course, we don’t want any of these to happen. Safety precautions are within our reach.

Pros and Cons

The thrill of both sports might have overpowered their risks. But let’s now emphasize the best things about skateboarding and surfing coupled with a few drawbacks.

  • Provides room for creativity through the waves
  • Challenges surfers physically and mentally
  • Not the best sport for people who don’t swim well
  • Unpredictable nature of the riding surface
  • Stable riding surface
  • Away from the risk of drowning
  • Requires lower body strength only
  • More likely to cause injuries from a fall

Frequently Asked Questions


What’s harder, surfing or skateboarding?

As mentioned, people regard surfing as one of, if not the most challenging sport today. Why?

It engages a person’s mental and physical abilities to decide and act quickly while on water. Surfing also calls for appropriate conditioning before the surfer takes on a wave to ride.

One more unique thing about this sport is surfers have no one to compete with but themselves.

Is surfing easier if you skateboard?

We have mentioned several aspects that connect surfing and skateboarding.

And since skateboarding started with surfers, will skateboarding help with surfing more? Yes!

We should remember that both sports share several fundamental skills and abilities. More specifically, you can practice surfing on a skateboard to prepare yourself for the sport. So, the more you practice gliding on your board, the better you gear up once you take the surfboard and catch the waves.

Which sport is more popular?

Perhaps, time isn’t a factor in this question. Because even if surfing started ahead of skateboarding, the latter has earned higher popularity over the years. Here’s why:

  • Skateboarding is more accessible.
  • It is less costly.
  • More versatile in practicing environments.


Sports are everywhere, whether in your backyard, on the streets, or even in the deep blue ocean. While some sports are more thrilling than others, our preference helps us select in consideration of relevant factors.

This surfing VS skateboarding comparison showed us that the two entail almost the same fundamental skill set. And they are two of the best sports to learn together.

But whatever you decide to try, ensure you know all the risks, safety precautions, and your overall direction in learning a skill. This way, you’ll master every trick and move more efficiently.

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