Does Snowboarding Help With Surfing?

Does Snowboarding Help With Surfing? 7 Mistakes To Avoid!

by Fraser

Does snowboarding help with surfing? If you’re a snowboarder (or surfer), chances are you’re a lover of boardsports in general. I’m certainly at my happiest when standing sideways and moving at speed. So should you take up another boardsport in the off-season?

Snowboarding does help with surfing to an extent. Snowboarders are already used to standing and balancing on a board. They will still need to learn many new skills and won’t become proficient right away, but snowboarders will have an easier time than someone with no board sport experience 

In this article, I will go over the ways in which snowboarding can help you with surfing (and vice versa). I’m always an advocate of adding another boardsport to your arsenal. Let’s (duck) dive in…

How Can Snowboarding Help With Surfing?

Snowboarding can help you with surfing because there is a lot of crossover between the two skillsets. As a snowboarder, you’ll already be proficient at standing on a board and using your muscles to maintain your balance. Some of that muscle memory will certainly translate into surfing.

There’s a general consensus among lovers of boardsports that some snowboarding skills closely resemble the skills you need in surfing.

Ever slashed a pocket of fresh powder on your snowboard and watched it explode upwards? 

This has a lot of similarities to a “snap” whilst surfing (conveniently, also known as a slash). 

A Surf "Snap" or "Slash"

Being comfortable in the side-on position, transferring your weight to the edge of the board, and being used to moving your body in an unusual will help you with your first attempts at surfing. 

Muscle Memory And Fitness

If nothing else, both sports will certainly help the other in terms of maintaining your muscle mass and memory in the off-season. 

Surfing throughout summer rather than simply writing blog posts about how much you miss snowboarding (don’t judge me!) is unarguably going to keep you in better shape. 

When the season rolls around, you’ll be fitter than your friends and at least some of the “balance muscles” will be ready to go. 

The bone-numbing aches of those first few weeks of the winter season may be a thing of the past.

Snowboarding Helps Some Surfers More Than Others

The amount that snowboarding helps with surfing varies from person to person. Some people are going to have a different degree of carryover from snowboarding to surfing.

The more experienced you are in snowboarding, the easier time you’re going to have when surfing. 

Some experienced snowboarders can jump on the board and simply nail surfing after only a couple of tries. This isn’t everybody’s experience, though. If you’re also a newbie in snowboarding, you’re probably not going to have that much carryover. Sorry!

Even some reasonably experienced snowboarders don’t notice much of a carryover. 

This video is a perfect example of this!

One very experienced snowboarder even recounts how his snowboarding technique did not have much of an effect on his surfing. 

He mentions that the position in which he had to balance was similar, but, apart from that, surfing wasn’t much easier!

Parts Of Surfing That Snowboarding Doesn't Help With

As a beginner surfer, you’re still going to find it rather challenging, and it’s going to take some time to get the hang of (unless you’re some kind of surfing prodigy).

Don’t be discouraged!

Surfing is a super rewarding sport, and it can be learned, even if the learning curve is steep. 

But surfing does has some key elements that snowboarding won’t help with:

Remember our 10,000 hour rule? 

This applies to surfing just as much as it does to snowboarding. 

Start earning your hours in the water!

Snowboarding Vs Surfing

The battle of the boards!

Which one is harder? Which one is better?

An argument as old as time (or at least, snowboarding).

Let’s settle it once and for all!

Snowboarding and surfing are both great examples of fun and challenging boardsports. Whilst there is much debate regarding which is better, most surfers will also partake in snowboarding and vice versa. Both sports have their own merits and drawbacks. 

Let’s take a look at those in more detail!

Snowboarding Pros And Cons

Snowboarding Pros
  • One word - powder!!!
  • More time up and riding
  • (Probably) less weather dependent
  • Good for gear hoarders
  • More aerial tricks
  • Mountains!
  • Snowboard chicks (or dudes)
  • The Backcountry
Snowboarding Cons
  • Expensive!
  • Cold (get the right gear!)
  • More injury prone
  • Skiers (joking, sort of)
  • Crowds - avoid holidays!
  • Visibility - the dreaded fog
  • Foot cramps
  • Strapping in at the top

Surfing Pros And Cons

Surfing Pros
  • One word - barrels!
  • Lower overall risk of injury
  • Warm weather (mostly)
  • Likely cheaper overall
  • More cardio fitness
  • Beaches!
  • Beach babes (and guys) 
  • Secret spots
Surfing Cons
  • Sand - it gets everywhere!
  • Requires more patience
  • Putting on wet wetsuits!!
  • Watching the wave reports
  • Crowds - competition for waves
  • Possessive locals
  • Tiring (sore arms!)
  • Minimal time actually riding

Is Surfing Harder Than Snowboarding? 

When debating snowboarding vs surfing, this is definitely the most frequently asked question! Do you think surfing is harder than snowboarding?

Surfing is harder than snowboarding. Surfing requires the ability to read waves and adapt to changing ocean conditions. Snowboarding often has more stable weather conditions with ski resorts providing easier runs for beginners. 

Much as it pains me to admit it, I have to give this one to the surfers. 

Surfing also requires a greater level of fitness. My muscles are still sore from surfing last week! 

It’s also easier to get to a reasonably adept level of snowboarding more quickly. Within 1 week of snowboarding, you could be smoothly turning down the piste, possibly even throwing in a small jump or two. 1-week of surfing and you’re lucky to get a 5-second ride on an unbroken wave!

Is Snowboarding Better Than Surfing?

The verdict is in. Drumroll please…

Snowboarding is infinitely better than surfing. Snowboarding has a larger range of tricks and allows for more time riding than surfing. Surfing requires more time be spent paddling out and waiting for the next wave.

Don’t kill me! 

I’m (mostly) joking.

Both are incredible sports and there’s certainly space for both of them in your life. 

I do love surfing but for me, you just can’t beat the joy of a fresh powder turn in the morning. 

My opinion is also widely effected by my poor surfing abilities (despite my best efforts). 

How about you? Is your first love surfing, or snowboarding?

How Are Snowboarding And Surfing Different?

Snowboarding and surfing differ in medium, foot positioning, and ride duration. Despite the similarities they share on the surface, the differences between snowboarding and surfing are significant. 

Let’s take a closer look at these differences to see how the two compare and differ. This way, you won’t get sucked in by the similarities and convince yourself that they are much closer to each other than they really are. 

The Mediums For Surfing And Snowboarding

The term “medium” refers to the surfaces on which snowboarding and surfing take place—that is, snow and water, respectively. 

Water is much more unstable, which completely changes the feel of the ride; it’s much less smooth and elegant (at least, it is when I do it). 

As a result, surfing can be much more of an adventure. You don’t know what’s going to come next! A ripple in the wave and you can be sent for a serious tumble!

On the other hand, snowboarders are on snow-covered hills, which are far more stable and allow them to simply glide across the hills, especially if there’s a lot of powder (one can only hope).

This also allows snowboarders to perform daring aerial tricks… which is something unreachable in surfing. 

*Of course, surfers can also perform some aerials, but they’re much less wacky than the ones performed by snowboarders.

Furthermore, their ability to perform aerials is significantly impacted by the type of board used. Surfers will often use longboards (at least as a beginner) which limits their agility. Meanwhile, snowboarders can use very short boards, which are very easy to maneuver. 

Surfing And Snowboarding Require Unique Foot Positioning

In both sports, the athletes have their feet angled toward the side of the board, and they must keep them in place to balance whilst riding. However, whilst they look similar – they are not the same.

First off, surfboards are usually large enough so you can walk on them and find the perfect spot for the balance. But this leads to stability issues.

On a snowboard, the feet are bound to the board, which gives a great degree of control to snowboarders and prevents them from falling easily.

You’ll also notice that surfers tend to bend their back leg inwards, whereas most snowboarders don’t (other than slalom snowboarders). 

Snowboarding “Rides” Have A Longer Duration

Snowboarding lasts longer. Much much longer. 

In surfing, your time actually standing on the board will be from a few seconds to a few minutes long. The sea is very dynamic and the waves change often. Of course that’s part of the fun!

Still, this presents a problem: sometimes, the sea might just be too calm, leaving you unable to catch a single wave. 

These factors mean that surfers actually spend very little of their sessions actually surfing, around 10 percent max! 

Contrast this with an entire day snowboarding and the time difference really starts to add up. 

Does Surfing Help With Snowboarding?

We’ve already considered does snowboarding help with surfing? How about the other way around… does surfing help with snowboarding?

Surfing does help with snowboarding to a degree. Surfing helps build balance and muscle memory; skills which are transferable to snowboarding. An experienced surfer will likely pick up snowboarding quicker than a complete boardsports beginner.

This video shows three expert surfers trying their hand at snowboarding for the first time. I think it’s fair to say they did pretty well for their first time on the hill. 

This suggests that surfing does help with snowboarding. 

If you’re a surfer who is now booking your first trip to the mountain, welcome to the dark-side!

7 Mistake To Avoid As A Snowboarder Transitioning To Surfing!

Surfing Mistakes!

I learned these the hard way. 

You probably will too – even after reading this. Don’t say I didn’t want you!

  1. All the gear, no idea. You’re an expert snowboarder, ready to impress the surfing world? Of course you need the smallest, most expensive surf board out there? Wrong! You need a big chunky foam board. Trust me.
  2. Putting weight on the front foot. A natural reaction for a snowboarder. When surfing, this results in a nosedive. Don’t. 
  3. Paddling straight “out the back” with your friends. Wrong. You need to stay in the shallows and ride the whitewater. Its fun!
  4. Dropping in at the wrong time. Observe surf etiquette at all times. People get mad (or hurt) if you don’t. 
  5. Wearing too thick a wetsuit. We’re used to wrapping up warm… but more neoprene means more resistance. Choose the right one for the climate.
  6. Refusing To Get Lessons. Don’t be this guy. I was – and it massively held me back. Starting out with some well-rated lessons will give you a kickstart. 
  7. Having unreasonable expectations. Whilst your snowboard skills may come in handy, you won’t be bottom-turning like Kelly Slater on day one. Relax and just have fun learning a new sport.

Conclusion - Does Snowboarding Help With Surfing?

So does snowboarding help with surfing after all?

Well, the similarities between the two mean you’ll likely have a much easier start in surfing as a snowboarder.

You already know a thing or two about balancing and standing on a board. 

However – there are many differences that will most likely prevent you from turning pro right away.

Be patient young rider!

If you’ve been scared out of the water, why not try the next best thing, surfing powder! 

Check out the 15 Best Places To Snowboard In Japan.

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