Anyone who’s surfed before knows how amazing it feels to ride a wave. The problem is that those feelings are few and far between. Not everybody lives next to a beach with a consistent break, so there’s a need to find a way to mimic the experience of surfing outside of water.
In the late 1950s, surfers started taking the trucks off of roller skates and fastening them to wooden boards. These early skateboards allowed surfers to ride ‘concrete waves’ for the first time, but the mechanics of the roller skate trucks prevented them from providing the snap and drive that a surfboard has.
Skateboarding has evolved a lot since then and a new breed of surf-simulating skateboards, or ‘surfskates’, has emerged. Unlike traditional skateboards, that still utilize the basic truck design, surfskates are adopting new truck technologies to better replicate the characteristics of surfing.
SwellTech SurfSkate Hybrid
SwellTech SurfSkate is one of the two leading companies in the
The SurfSkate Hybrid is SwellTech’s mid-sized board. At 36”, it sits between the 40” Premier and the 34” Jamie O’Brien Pro (JOB Pro) Model. It has the same mid-rail width as the Premiere, allowing for your whole foot to fit between the rails, but has a slightly shorter wheelbase, a snub nose, and a wide tail like the JOB Pro. This means that you get the manoeuvrability and snap of a smaller board without sacrificing stability (but I’ll get to that later).
Currently, you can purchase the Hybrid in two designs: Camo and Blackops. The Camo design features a digital camo deck with khaki grip tape and a black traction pad. The Blackops design (which I tested) features a black and grey stars and stripes deck, with black grip tape that’s finished with a grey stringer and the SwellTech SurfSkate logo. Unlike the rest of the SwellTech SurfSkate range, the Hybrid Blackops doesn’t come with a traction pad (more on this later).
Update: The Blackops design has now been replaced with the San O’.
SwellTech SurfSkate V-Truck
To design a skateboard that rides like a surfboard, SwellTech has developed a unique front truck, that they call the V-Truck. Instead of relying on a rubber bushing for resistance, the V-Truck features a special pivot cup that allows the axle to rotate freely through 360° (180° in both directions) and combines springs for progressive resistance.
On a surfboard, the combination of surface area, rail shape, and fin placement determines the board’s hydrodynamic characteristics, and thus how it rides. The riding characteristics of a
SwellTech’s SurfSkate System combines the V-Truck, at the front of the board, with a traditional longboard truck, at the back of the board. The longboard truck, positioned just shy of the board’s tail, acts as the fins on a surfboard and provide a pivot point from which the rider can carve and generate drive, thanks to the free turning front V-Truck.
The result is a board that handles a lot more like a surfboard, than a skateboard. In fact, if you tried to turn on a SwellTech SurfSkate by simply shifting your weight from rail to rail, as you would on a traditional skateboard or longboard, you’re not going to get very far.
How does the SwellTech SurfSkate ride – does it feel like surfing?
Turning and carving on the SurfSkate Hybrid feels incredibly close to riding a shortboard surfboard. Just like with surfing, to carve you need to throw your body into the turn and transition the motion through your legs to the board. You can also generate drive and speed by adding power to pump through turns just like you would on a surfboard.
The positioning of the trucks feels on point—I think that SwellTech hit the sweet spot here. The wheelbase strikes a nice balance between stability and manoeuvrability, with the front V-Truck set in the perfect position for tight turns and cutbacks and the back truck positioned a foot-width away from the tail.
I found that foot placement, with my back foot on the tail and my front foot set just behind the front truck, felt very natural. The board feels really lively underfoot and, by positioning my back foot just behind the back truck, I was able to throw the tail out when needed with relative ease without the board feeling unstable.
When surfing my stance is probably a little wider, but I didn’t really notice this when riding the board (for reference I’m 5’10”). SwellTech says that the longer SurfSkate Premier allows riders to match their actual stance on their surfboard—so if you want to cross-train in your real surf stance, bear that in mind.
The 65 mm 78a wheels are a great choice; they provide plenty of grip when you need it, for speed pumps or digging into those tight carves, but they break loose predictably when you want to shed some speed or blow the tail out.
As I mentioned above, the Blackops variant of the SurfSkate Hybrid (that I tested) doesn’t come with a traction pad. That being said, the grip tape on the tail did a great job of securing my feet through carves, cutbacks and speed checks. The coarseness of the grip tape, as you might expect, falls somewhere between standard skateboard grip tape and extra coarse longboard grip tape. My foot did slip off once or twice, but this happens and it was probably due to bad foot placement on my part.
As far as freestyle riding goes, riding fakie is really tricky, due to the nature of the V-Truck. While this is not how the board is designed to be ridden, it does allow you to fakie nose manual or throw a fakie nose shuvit off the tail—which is fun. It’s also possible to ollie the board, but I wouldn’t recommend it as you’ll scratch up the tail and you might as well use a regular skateboard for that.