Does Snowboarding Help With Surfing?

Does Snowboarding Help With Surfing? 7 Mistakes To Avoid!

by Fraser
Updated:

If you’re a snowboarder (or surfer), then you probably love 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? And does snowboarding help with surfing?

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

In this article, I’ll go over the ways in which snowboarding helps with surfing (and vice versa). I’m always an advocate of adding another board-sport to your arsenal.

Let’s (duck) dive in…

How Does Snowboarding Help With Surfing?

Snowboarding can help you with surfing due to the 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 will crossover to surfing.

surfing snap snowboard slash
A Surf "Snap" or "Slash"

Ever slashed a pocket of fresh powder on your snowboard? Watched the snow explode upwards? You can’t deny the similarities with surfing! 

You’ve basically just done what’s know as a snap in surfing (conveniently, also known as a slash). 

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

1. 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 the summer – rather than writing articles about how much you miss snowboarding (don’t judge me!) – is definitely going to keep you in better shape. 

does snowboarding help with surfing? surfer!

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

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

2. Transferable Skills

Remember that kid at high-school who could backflip on pretty much any board? Sadly, that wasn’t me. 

However some riders will happily transfer their skills from one boardsport to another.

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

Some experienced snowboarders will master surfing after only a couple of tries. This isn’t everybody’s experience, though. If you’re relatively new to snowboarding, you’re probably not going to have that much skill crossover. 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 positioning and balance skills were similar, but, apart from that, surfing wasn’t much easier!

Surfing Skills That Snowboarding Doesn't Help With!

As a beginner surfer, you’re still going to find it rather challenging. 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. It can be learned, even if the learning curve is steep. 

There are however several core surfing skills that snowboarding doesn’t help with. For example:

  1. Paddling out
  2. “Getting out the back”
  3. Popping up” 
  4. Duck-Diving 
  5. Reading Waves
  6. Managing Riptides 

Remember our 10,000 hour rule? Nobody becomes an expert overnight. 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 two fine examples of popular and challenging boardsports. Whilst there is much debate regarding which is better, most surfers also practise snowboarding, and vice versa. Both sports have their own merits and drawbacks. 

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

The Pros And Cons of Snowboarding

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

Overall, snowboarding scores points for powder, mountain terrain, time spent standing up (ideally) and a much larger potential trick list. 

The downsides come in the form of cold weather, expensive gear, risk of injury and excessive crowds. 

The Pros And Cons of Surfing

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

Surfing scores points for the beaches, barrels, better weather and healthy lifestyle. On the flip side, crowded lineups, possessive locals and the short amount of time spent riding are common criticisms. 

Is Surfing Harder Than Snowboarding? 

When debating snowboarding vs surfing, this is definitely the most frequently asked question!

Is 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 now providing easier runs for beginners. 

Much as it pains me to admit, 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 reasonable 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?

I’ve tried my absolute hardest to present an unbiased view. And the the verdict is in. Drumroll please…

Snowboarding is infinitely better than surfing. Snowboarding has a larger range of tricks and allows for more time spent 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 affected by my poor surfing abilities (despite my best efforts). 

How about you? Is your first love surfing, or snowboarding? Let me know in the comments below!

How Are Snowboarding And Surfing Different?

Snowboarding and surfing differ in foot positioning, medium, 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 really compare and differ. 

1. The Mediums For Surfing And Snowboarding

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

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

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. Especially if there’s a lot of powder (if you’re lucky).

This also allows snowboarders to perform daring aerial tricks. This is pretty much 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. 

2. Surfing And Snowboarding Require Unique Foot Positioning

In both sports, the athletes have their feet angled toward the side of the board. 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. This gives a greater degree of control.

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

3. Snowboarding "Rides" Are a Longer Duration

Snowboarding lasts longer. Much much longer. 

In surfing, your time actually standing on the board ranges 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 days snowboarding and the time difference really starts to add up!

Does Surfing Help With Snowboarding?

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

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

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

This further demonstrates 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? 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 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 differences that might 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!

Snowboarding in Japan is almost like surfing on land. Check out the 15 best places to snowboard in Japan.

Happy riding! 

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1 comment

Simon 01/05/2023 - 6:23 pm

Personally, i think surfing is more like wakeboarding or skateboarding than snowboarding. But all are awesome

Reply

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