Longboard vs Surfskate (Explained)

By: Billy James | December 1, 2023 | Surfskates

Let’s talk about longboards vs surfskates because I’ve noticed them compared a lot.

And rather than saying one is better than the other, I thought I’d share a few perspectives to help you choose.

What’s the difference between a surfskate and longboard?

Most surfskates use a specific front truck that swivels back and forth. They’re higher off the ground and more maneuverable. While there are many variations of longboards, the average longboard uses reverse kingpin (RKP) trucks. RKP longboards will be lower to the ground, efficient for higher speeds, and better suited for beginners.

Before I get into the comparisons, it’s important to note that you can use surfskate trucks on a longboard. This blurs the line between a surfskate and a longboard. So, I’ll cover the characteristics of each and then discuss the best way to turn a longboard into a surfskate.

Longboards

While there are so many variations, I think it’s important to understand how most think when asking this question. So I read through a bunch of youtube comments, reddit threads and emails, and it seems that most are envisioning a casual cruiser longboard with reverse kingpin trucks. On average, wheelbases will range from 20”-30”, but there are obviously exceptions.

Reverse kingpins combined with longer wheelbases will turn more gradually and less sharply than surfskates. They’ll also be more stable at higher speeds and easier to balance on if you’re just getting started.

Are there exceptions?

Sure, I’ve seen beginners hop on a spring-based pivoting surfskate and pick it up fairly quickly, but just from taking my quiver to my local meetup, laying them out, and spectating, I noticed most end up on a longboard since there’s more deck space and are lower to the ground, which makes balancing and pushing easier.

Surfskates

One of the biggest differences is the height difference between a surfskate and a longboard.

Surfskates sit much higher off the ground than longboards. The reason is that surfskates pivot and carve deeper, which increases your chances of wheelbite. To avoid wheelbite, surfskates have thicker riser pads (1-2″ range). As a result, they sit higher off the ground than longboards, making it harder to kick push for extended periods of time.

They’re also heavier because surfskates use an adapter attached to the trucks. More parts = more maintenance.

Most surfskates will have a specific front adapter paired with traditional or reverse kingpin trucks. On average wheelbases will range from 14”-20”, but again, there are always exceptions.

Surfskates will turn quicker and sharper because of how much the front pivots and dives, mixed with a smaller wheelbase. They really shine in flatter areas, mellow hills, and smaller spaces because of their extreme maneuverability. I feel like the metric for surfskates kind of warped into “how well can it pump from a standstill,” which says a lot about how most people are using them.

It’s interesting because my friends and I were consumed by Ripstiks for two years of my childhood. And to me, surfskate pivoting adapters seemed to have captured that Ripstik pumping magic but with more functionality.

And so, I want to make it clear: you don’t have to be a surfer to surfskate; there are no rules.

Can you turn a longboard into a surfskate?

Yes, you can turn your longboard into a surfskate.

But wait before spending more money; there’s a cheaper way to get your longboard to carver harder.

Bushings & Angled Risers

You can do a few things to make your longboard feel surfier/ carve deeper.

Try those before investing in a set of surfskate trucks. Make sure to test for wheelbite.

Carver CX

Carver CX is a great way to turn your longboard surfier. It’s a bushing-based RKP front and TKP back made by Carver Skateboards. They work incredibly well with longer wheelbases. I used a CX setup on my electric surfskate, and it feels like riding an endless wave.

Waterborne’s Rail Adapter

Waterborne’s rail adapter will add more lean to your back truck if you want to use a front surfskate adapter. The biggest issue with front surfskate adapters on longer wheelbases is that they turn more than the back truck. As a result, there is this disconnecting feeling.

Bottom Line

If you want to ride more casual; flat areas, mellow hills, then a surfskate would make sense.

If you want something that can handle speed better or something a little more beginner-friendly, then a longboard would make sense.

If you want to turn your longboard into a surfskate, first experiment with your bushings and angled riser pads. Then, depending on how pumpy you want your setup to be, go for the Carver CX or Waterborne Rail Adapter.

Billy James

I've been skating for over 20 years and it's had an incredibly positive impact on my life. My mission is to get more people into skating and help them carry it as a lifelong passion.

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