The board sports. The big ones. Surfing and snowboarding. They both have boards, if you can do one you must be able to do them all. That’s not exactly the case. Today we will be focusing on snowboarding and surfing and their similarities and differences.
Surfing is slightly similar to snowboarding as both sports are performed on a board, requiring good balance whilst standing sideways. However, despite some similarities, riding on water and catching waves is vastly different from snowboarding on snowy mountains.
Surfing and snowboarding are two extremely fun activities. And if you are interested in one, your tastes will probably spark some curiosity in the other. Maybe you’re already full x games mode at surfing, will this help go full ssx tricky on the slopes? This article will cover all you need to know when comparing two of the greatest extreme sports on the planet.
Similarities and Differences of Surfing and Snowboarding
Surfing and snowboarding are two sports linked in a way. Surfing being like snowboardings grandfather, the guy who birthed all board sports. They have their similarities but they also have their differences as well.
- Done on boards. Both sports require a board to ride on.
- Stand sideways. You stand on your board sideways in both sports.
- Fun! Both sports are sooooo fun.
- Extreme. Both have been dubbed extreme sports.
- Both need to use the rails/edges of the board to properly execute turns.
- Dangers. Both sports have an element of danger involved.
- Both riders need to wax their boards. However, surfers do so on the top of the deck for traction while snowboards wax the bottom of the deck to improve glide.
- Nature. Both sports can allow you to do something you love in nature.
- Fitness. Both sports are incredibly good exercise, with an abundance of mental and physical benefits.
- You can change stance on a surfboard and you can ride switch on a snowboard.
- Bindings. In snowboarding, your feet are strapped on the board with bindings, surfing your feet are completely free. Being able to move your feet when surfing is crucial to leaving the prone position and adapting to the wave.
- When snowboarding you start standing up. Surfing, on the other hand, you start lying down and eventually need to pop up to get yourself in a standing position
- Mountains. Snowboarding is performed in the mountains. Requires a snowy decline.
- Ocean. Surfing is performed in the ocean. Needs swells and tides.
- Park. snowboarding has jumps and rails surfing does not.
- Snowboarders are generally more front footed whilst surfers tend to be more back footed (in terms of weight distribution)
- Surfing requires a lot more upper body strength
These are the main ones that come to mind. The biggest difference really being the ocean and the mountains. Riding a board on a wave in the water is just so different from riding a board on land.
What’s More Fun Surfing or Snowboarding?
Ahhh a debate as old as time. Well obviously it depends on who ask. Ask a surfer and he’ll tell you surfing is more fun. Ask a snowboarder he’ll tell you snowboarding is more fun.
So you’ve gotten nowhere. Luckily many people do both, including yours truly. But even then it’s normally a yeah I majored in surfing with a minor in snowboarding type of situation or vice versa. So you’ll still get some bias.
One is not more fun than the other. They both are extremely fun in their own ways. And also remember both are sports that rely on weather conditions to a certain degree, so one day surfing could be way more fun if there’s big swell and no snow. And if there’s super deep snow and no waves you’ll have more fun snowboarding for sure.
Ok fine, this is a hard question for me because I am passionate about both. But if I really had to choose one, I’d probably go snowboarding.
Snowboarding is more fun because there’s less waiting, even if there’s no fresh snow you can still have a super fun time in the park. Hiking and being out in the mountains is awesome. And to me, riding fresh powder is a better feeling than riding a big wave.
Ok I’m still gonna throw up a pros and cons list of both maybe give you a better idea. Remember these will be my personal opinions.
- Cheaper, only costs you the price of a surfboard and maybe a wetsuit both of which can be found second hand for cheap.
- Can be done all year round without travel
- Blonder hair tanner skin if you’re into that.
- Safer, still risk of injury but much less for your average beginner compared to snowboarding.
- Hanging out at the beach
- Warmer, depending on where your surfing of course but the sport doesn’t require cold to function like *cough* *cough* some other ones do.
- Bikini babes are more common.
- Better exercise, surfing takes a lot of strength and will get you in shape.
- Barrels, yea getting barreled is super fun.
- Sand, I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere.
- More exercise, it’s exhausting.
- Waiting for sets. There can be long periods of time just waiting for waves.
- Waiting for swell. There can be long periods of time where there are just little to no waves.
- Crowds. Even when the waves finally come, you still have to compete with a bunch of other dudes and dudettes who are super hungry for waves too.
- Parking. Yea parking at the beach can suck.
- Wetsuits. Wetsuits are annoying to put on and can be cold and wet some mornings.
- Can take years to learn. Surfing’s hard man, really hard.
- Location. If you don’t live at the beach you’ll have to drive quite a bit.
- Can learn the basics in a weekend, enough to muck about with your friends at least.
- Air. You really don’t have to get that good to get the point where you can get heaps of air and its super fun.
- Powder. Biggest pro. Why didn’t I put it top of the list? Riding powder is the most fun thing ever.
- No waiting, Just ride the chairlift back up and go again.
- Not as reliant on weather. If there’s no fresh snow you can still have heaps of fun.
- Not as much competition with others for resources like waves. Ok on a pow day yea but there’s ways around it. Hiking being one.
- Hiking. Get to go on a sweet hike and be rewarded with deep pow for your efforts.
- Expensive. The gear is more expensive and you need more of it. And lift tickets and season passes are really expensive.
- Cold. If you don’t like the cold, you might not like this one.
- More injury prone.
- Clothes. You gotta wear a lot of them to stay warm, no swimming around half-naked here.
- Location. If you don’t live in the mountains you’re going to have to drive a bit.
- Crowds. Depending on when you go lift lines can get crazy long. Christmas and MLK weekend being prime examples.
So when it comes down to it both have their respective advantages and drawbacks in the fun department. But I think what it really comes down to is location.
Honestly, I don’t even want to snowboard if I’m not living in the mountains. Same goes for surfing if I’m not living near a beach. It just becomes such a whole big thing once you have to start driving hours, packing up the car and possibly sort out accommodation. And don’t get me started on parking.
If I’m going to snowboard I’ll move to the mountains for the winter and really make the most of it. I haven’t moved my whole life to surf so I guess that says a lot about which I think is more fun.
Is Surfing Harder than Snowboarding?
Yes, surfing is harder than snowboarding. It’s a much steeper learning curve. You have to be in a little better shape and fairly comfortable in the ocean for a start. From reading waves and knowing where to sit, to etiquette out in the water. There are just many more factors to take in.
The biggest challenge in learning to surf is figuring out how to catch waves. A wave isn’t just going to magically pop up right in front of you. Even if you are in a really good spot you’ll still have to move a foot to the side or a little further out to ensure you catch the wave.
Learning how to read waves and predict what a wave is going to do, then adjust your position accordingly takes a lot of time and trial and error. And during this whole process, you’ll have to compete with other surfers who want the same waves as you. As a beginner, you can have sessions where you only successfully catch one or two waves. That’s only one or two times you really got to practice riding.
Learning to snowboard on the other hand you’ll be on a designated beginner slope with a short chairlift, meaning you’ll get to practice hundreds of times in one day. Also just the general nature of snowboarding is easier. The name of the game is go down the hill, something thats gonna happen whether you like it or not. All you have to do is learn to break and your good to go. Good enough to ride around at least and have a fun time.
This is a way people can go on ski trips once a year and still have a blast. They’ve skied only once a year their whole adult life, but still have the general idea figured. They can ski from hut to hut with ease, having a few drinks and having a jolly good time.
If you tried to surf once a year you would be a beginner forever. Perpetually riding whitewater. Stuck in some weird black mirror limbo of never-ending failure.
It just takes a lot more practice and dedication in my opinion. Its slow process but very rewarding once you figure it out. Anyone can slide down a hill and steal all the credit from gravity, but to capture and ride a wave like the unbroken stallion that it is, is no easy feat.
Does Snowboarding Help with Surfing?
No. They are just too different. Being comfortable on a board and standing sideways will help your confidence and may give a very slight advantage, but skillset wise they are light years apart. It won’t be unhelpful though, like it won’t make you worse at surfing.
We’re talking land versus water here. It’s just so different riding a board on land or snow compared to riding it on water. And knowing how to snowboard isn’t gonna give you any insight in the slightest in how to catch a wave.
Yes you will be comfortable and confident riding a board already but that doesn’t help if you have no idea how to get up and riding in the first place. It’s like asking will driving a car help you with flying planes. Ok sure both have steering wheels and seats but they’re just different beasts.
So technical skill set wise it won’t really help. But I suppose there’s an argument for mental confidence that could be quite helpful. You’ve ridden a board, you know if you’re goofy or regular and most importantly your comfortable falling.
If you’re comfortable in the ocean then falling off a surfboard seems much nicer then falling off a snowboard. You won’t be as nervous to fall because you’ve gone through that with snowboarding already hence you’ll go for it a little more with surfing.
Where snowboarding will help with surfing most is friends. If you have snowboarder friends there’s a good chance at least one of them surfs. This means you can try surfing without the initial investment of buying or renting a board and taking lessons. If your homie surfs he probably has more than one board and wont mind taking you out for the day. Just remember to buy him a beer after.
Surfing Vs Snowboarding Dangers
Surfing and snowboarding like any sport have elements of danger. Sure maybe more then your average sport. You’re not gonna die playing basketball. But for your average surfer or snowboarder the risk of death is minimal as well.
Dangers for beginners:
Learning how to snowboard has a high chance of injury. Nothing major. The most common being the broken wrist. Any given weekend you will see a beginner with a broken wrist. Snow is hard and beginners haven’t mastered falling yet and tend to stick their wrist out to break their fall. What they ended up breaking is their wrists.
Snowboarding is especially dangerous for beginners because without proper knowledge you can get on any chairlift possibly unknowingly taking you to an advanced part of the mountain. This is extremely dangerous because many beginners aren’t that good at controlling their speed yet. This can lead to a terrible situation I’ve seen more times then I would have liked to. A beginner skier or snowboarder going Mach speed in a straight line of death with no idea how to stop.
Snowboarding is a very fast sport with many hard things around to run into. Trees, the ground, people, chairlift poles you name it. This can prove fatal to the beginner who hasn’t mastered stopping yet. To quote the infamous Jeremy Clarkson “ speed has never killed anybody. Suddenly becoming stationary. That’s what gets you.”
Another common beginner snowboarder danger is the good ol head smack. A beginner learning how to use their toe edge will commonly lean too far back catching their heel edge. This will throw them on to their back, they’ll probably put a wrist. Break it. And or smack the back of their head. Please wear a helmet. Please. So many concussions. So many.
Ok, let’s switch to surfing. Not as many dangers learning to surf. You’re in water. Falling in water isn’t all too bad. The main thing that gets beginners is their own boards. That’s why it’s so common for beginners to learn on soft-top foam boards. If you aren’t learning on a soft top, a hard fiberglass board to the face or shin isn’t very pleasant.
The next common beginner danger is surfing out of their ability. More scary than super dangerous. But people have drowned in surf too large for their ability.
Most beginners notice pretty quickly that it is huge and either don’t paddle out or turn around and catch a whitewash bomb into shore. But a lot of the times they’ll find themselves way over their head. Caught on the inside with huge waves crashing on them. Now, most of the time this does not result in injury just a good old fashioned scare.
Dangers for advanced folk:
Again I would say snowboarding takes the cake. Park snowboarding, that is jumps and rails and what have you, racks up a lot more injuries than your average advanced surfing scene. Hitting huge jumps and rails and fling on hard snow just leads to a lot of broken bones and concussions.
Then you have tree wells which you don’t even have to be advanced to die from. A tree well is a hole that forms around the base of a tree in deep snow. They look level but are actually a death pit you can get stuck in and suffocate.
Avalanches. Again you don’t have to be an advanced snowboarder for this to get it you. But its much more common that more experienced riders are leaving the resorts and going in the backcountry where the majority of avies occur.
Surfing has its injuries and dangers, yes. But becomes much more dangerous for people riding large waves. They hold you down much longer and in really bad cases another wave passes over and holds you down again before you’ve gotten to come up for air. That’s called a two wave hold down. That’s where almost all surfing related deaths happen. But still in the past 10 years, only 4 big wave surfers have died.
The man in the grey suit. sharks . Ok this could happen to anyone not just advanced surfers, but still a risk. It happens. Every year a small number of surfers are attacked by sharks. Just remember you are statistically more likely to die from a bee or cow or car. Pretty much everything is more dangerous than a shark. Statistically.
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA): During the past 10 years, about 41.5 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average.
There is no concrete data on surfing deaths. But the number is estimated to be less than 10 a year which in a world of approximately 23 million surfers, is seriously low.
Transitioning from Surfing to Snowboarding
The hardest part really is telling your friends and family you’re transitioning. Doing both is great. Having a really fun winter sport and summer sport is a blast. There will be a few extra things you’ll need gear wise but making the leap to the other side isn’t at all that difficult.
Season pass or no season pass? A season pass lets you go as many times as you want at one one or a handful of resorts in a given season for a fixed price.
Snowboarding isn’t like surfing in the sense that you can just grab your board and go for free. It takes much more experience and equipment to go into the mountains alone. So the majority of snowboarders ride at ski resorts. These resorts will sell tickets good for one day or season passes good for the whole season.
You’re going to have to decide how much you think you’ll be snowboarding. A few times a winter? Just buy day tickets. Once you start going more than 10 times a year it becomes worth it to invest in a season pass. Lift tickets these days are around 100 bucks. Your average season pass is about a G, so if you’re gonna go more than 10 times, buy the pass.
Now that you’ve got your ticket or pass sorted out you’re gonna need some gear.
- Board. You will need a snowboard. It helps. You can either rent one, buy one second hand , or ball out and get a new one.
- Bindings. These are what hold your feet to the board. If you’re renting a board it will come with bindings. If you’re buying on second hand its 50/50 but there’s a lot of options out there that include them. If you’re buying brand new they will almost never come with bindings unless its like a package deal and you’ll have to buy them separately.
- Boots. Can rent, buy used or new. Take your time choosing as they’ll be on your feet all day and can greatly affect your comfort.
- Clothes. This means, jacket, pants, gloves, beanie, helmet, socks, long johns etc. it can really become a fashion show out there sometimes, just remember to layer up.
Ok now that you’ve got all your gear and pass you’re good to go. Now for the fun part! Go snowboarding. If it’s your first time ever you might want to buy a lesson or two just to get the basics down.
Start slow on the easier slopes and work your way up to more difficult pastures. The runs will be marked with a different color code indicating difficulty. Each mountain is a little different but the general rule of thumb is:
- Green for beginner
- Blue for intermediate
- Black for advanced. Black or double black diamond being the steepest most challenging runs.
Is Snowboarding more like Surfing or Skateboarding?
Snowboarding is much more like skateboarding than surfing. Yea surfing birthed the two in a way. But if surfing gave way for skating, skating is the one who birthed snowboarding. Skateboarding is snowboardings dad and surfings the grandpa.
For a start both are done on land. The feeling of riding a snowboard as different as it is from skateboarding still feels similar. And falling feels similar as well. You will fall in the same manner in both.
Skateboarding and snowboarding share so many tricks. So many. When you hit a jump switch (backwards) and do a spin it’s very common to call it a cab 5 or cab 7 or cab 3 depending on how many rotations you’ve done. That comes directly from skateboarding. Half cab or full cab. Fakie 180 or fakie 360.
Rails. Lots of rails in both sorts. A rail is a metal pole you grind on. A front board on a skateboard feels super similar to a front board on a snowboard.
Skateboarders started hitting rails in the streets and snowboarders followed suit. There are rails in salt lake city that skateboarders have hit in their video parts then in the wintertime, a snowboarder will have that same rail in their video part. Surfing just doesn’t have rails or street parts or anything like that.
Half pipes. Skateboarders have ridden huge half pipes for years. So naturally, when snowboarding was starting, snowboarders (who were mostly skateboarders as well!) built half pipes in the snow. Watch a skateboard halfpipe competition than a snowboard one and you’ll see many of the same tricks.
This is why so many pro snowboarders rip at skating too. Sean white is a pro at snowboarding and skateboarding. They just go hand in hand. Surfing tho is more different. The waves are just another level. Yes you do have skaters who rip at surfing also. Greyson Fletcher for example. His uncle is a pro surfer he’s a pro skater regardless he absolutely rips at both.
One similarity I enjoy most about snowboarding and skateboarding is the vibe. Ok yes, you get great vibes in surfing too don’t get me wrong. Your boys are out there and everyone is cheering for you. But people really get anxious if they’re gonna get enough waves and there can be some competitive tension in the water at times that I just don’t mess with.
There’s only a good swell every two weeks or so, and in that swell how many sets will you see? How many waves will you get? People get real on edge if they’re gonna get waves because if you’re riding that wave that means I can’t ride it. It’s gone. I’m gonna have to get another one. Whereas with snowboarding and skateboarding that rail or halfpipe is just there. And it will always be there. We can all ride it as much as we want and get hyped for each other in the process. And because of this, you can try a trick over and over again with your friend until you both learn. With surfing, you’ll have to wait for another wave.