Surfing & Skating: How Skating Can Improve Your Surfing

No two sports have had such a major impact on one another. Skating and surfing have been intrinsically interlinked ever since the first surfers in California invented skating back in the 50s. Surfers began trying to “surf’ outside the water and skating quickly, progressing into the radical skateboarding we see today. The maneuvers skaters learned out the water translated perfectly back into the Ocean, and both disciplines developed into their own separate counter cultures and million-dollar sports industries. 

In this article, we dive into the relationships between surfing and skating. We’ll explore the history of how surfing started skateboarding, how skating pushed surfing in terms of progression, and how skating made surfing more radical. We’ll also check out the different styles of skating, from surf skate carving to traditional skating. Finally, we look at how skateboarding can help improve your surfing. It’s a super interesting relationship, and there are no two similar sports. We have a bit to get through, so let’s dive in. 

Surfing Vs. Skating 

While both sports have similar aspects, surfing involves riding waves in the ocean, while skating involves riding a smaller board on land. This describes both disciplines in straightforward terms; surfers usually ride larger boards and may change their equipment based on conditions, whereas skaters will typically ride similar style boards. There are many ways to ride waves in surfing, from performance short boarding, long-boarding, barrel riding, big wave surfing, and fun-board riding. While skating comprises park, bowl, and street. 

Surf Skate & Traditional Skateboarding (Similarities & Differences) 


  • Board riding in water in varying ocean conditions 
  • Combines face turns, barrel riding, and Arial maneuvers.
  • Styles include performance shortboard, longboarding, fun boards, and big wave surfing.  


  • Board riding on land using a smaller board. 
  • Combines rail, flatland, bowls, and parks. 
  • Skating styles differ from bowl skating, street skating, and park skating. 

How Skating Improves Your Surfing 

There’s no doubt that skating can help improve your surfing. Because you’re not relying on conditions and ever-changing variables like wind, tide, swell, and sand, you can repeat and practice the same moves repeatedly. This makes the rate at which you progress in skating much higher than in surfing. So, if you can’t get in the water (nothing can replace surfing), go skating. Here are some transferable sports skills that will help you surf better. 


Balance is a vital component of both surfing and skating. Both require an incredible degree of balance for even the most basic maneuvers. So, if you’re riding a skateboard when you can’t ride a surfboard, your body replicates the next closest body movement. Because your body is repeating similar actions, it triggers your muscle memory, making everything from stance, and moves more familiar. 


The small movements you do with your feet in skating and surfing are transferable. More so in surfing, when you perform advanced moves, you change your foot position back and forward based on your turn. Pushing and adjusting your feet as you skate helps you do this when you surf. 


Several moves in surfing are directly related to skating. If you’re using a carver surf/skateboard, moves such as pumping, carving, and even snaps are almost the same. So, if the waves are crappy, jump in a half pipe or bowl and practice pumping and carving repeatedly getting this constant repetition is the best land-based method of replicating surfing. 


Perhaps one of the biggest crossovers between surfing and skating is having the ability to use the top and bottom half of your body to be in sync to perform maneuvers and gain speed. 

The Origins of Skating & Relationship to Surfing 

Back in the 1950s, a group of surfers in California were sick of the wave-starved summers and crappy waves, so they devised a way to “surf” on land. This involved attaching rollerblading wheels onto boards and performing surfing-type moves on land. This is how skateboarding was born. 

After a draught in the 70s in California, surfers began using drained swimming pools to skate in, performing more radical maneuvers and learning airs. Because of how replicable and repeatable skating was, as conditions didn’t change like in surfing, skating progressed rapidly. Things got radical, and surfers soon began translating futuristic moves like airs and carves into the water. So essentially, things came full circle, from surfing starting skating and then skating progressing so quickly that it pushed surfing to be more radical. 

Christian Fletcher was one of the pioneers to start translating skateboarding airs to surfing, while Kelly Slater also used moves from Skateboarding to change how waves were surfed–sparking the Momentum generation (If you haven’t seen the movies, I’d highly suggest you check them out) and surfing in a way that combined the new school flare with old school flow. As surfers continue to push what’s possible in terms of airs and above-the-lip moves, skating and surfing remain more closely linked than ever before. 

Final Thoughts 

Surfing and skating have a harmonious relationship. With surfing influencing the start of skating and then skateboarding getting radical so quickly, it influenced surfing and pushed surfing further than anyone could ever have imagined. While nothing can replace surfing, skateboarding is, by far, the closest thing you can get to surfing on land. 

So if you don’t live near the sea and can’t get in the water as much as you’d like, the next best thing is skating. You only have to look at John John Florence’s skating to see how transferable some skills are between the two sports. An interesting history and two of the most closely related sports on earth. When you can surf, surf, and when you can’t, skate–you’ll improve your surfing exponentially. 

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