Surfing vs Snowboarding – Are They Alike?

surfing vs snowboarding

Surfers across the spectrum like to snowboard and vice versa. They both offer exhilarating thrills launching down a slope of some sort, but is surfing like snowboarding at all?

On the surface, it seems like they would have a lot of things in common like riding a board and cutting, but do they really?

There have been countless extreme sports athletes that have been able to switch between the two, but is that the norm or just indicative of a freakish genetic ability?

In this article, we’ll be investigating the comparisons between surfing and snowboarding. What are the similarities and what are the differences between the two?

Is it possible to make a seamless transition from one of these sports to the next? Strap on your bindings because we’re about to find out.

Surfing and Snowboarding Similarities

Both of these activities or sports, if you like to call them that, require a very high amount of skill, balance, and athleticism. They both involve an elongated board with the rider standing sideways, putting one foot forward and one towards the back.

Additionally, they both utilize the orientation designations of regular and goofy-footed. But to be honest, that really is where the similarities end. On surface value, it seems like they would be very close, but those are just that, superficial observations.

What isn’t considered are the experiences associated with riding, how rides begin and end, among a host of other differences. So, to summarize the similarities, they are alike in a very superficial manner.

However, the truth is they are vastly different activities and we’ll spend the rest of this article breaking down each of the big differences between the two.

Difference Between Surfing and Snowboarding

There are some subtle differences between surfing and snowboarding. To understand both sports, you’ll have to try out surfing and snowboarding.

Everything from leading up to the ride to cutting and turning, there are noticeable differences with how you prepare. Here is a list of differences between surfing and snowboarding.

1. Leading up to the Ride

When people try and compare surfing and snowboarding, they completely fail to consider what leads up to the actual riding. The difference between the two is black and white.

For surfing, riders first have to get into the proper zone of breakage which requires for them to paddle out to a certain distance, battle the oncoming swells, and having to exert high amounts of energy to get to where they need to be.

is surfing like snowboarding

So, even before the ride, they’ve put in a lot of work! What about snowboarding? Just a scenic, relaxing ride up the slope in a lift. I’m not by any means downing snowboarding, as it is a very difficult activity to master. I’m simply stating that the lead up to it is much, much different than surfing.

2. Ride Duration

Another vastly different aspect of these two sports is the ride duration. For surfing, rides can be a matter of seconds or a matter of minutes, with the former being the more common occurrence.

And the funny thing about it is those few seconds can be amazing and thrilling. Maybe it’s because of all the hard work that is required to be able to even get in that position, to begin with.

Paddling out, patiently waiting for a set, making a wave selection, positioning properly for catching a wave or tide, and then paddling into it. That is if you’re able to catch it.

On the other hand, snowboarding rides can take a minute to many minutes depending on the slope and the route taken down. In this regard, snowboarding requires some serious stamina because of such a long ride.

snowboarding vs surfing

Perhaps it’s a nice luxury to have a lift to ride up to the top because I don’t believe that anyone would have the energy to ride if they had to trek up to the summit on their own.

3. Foot Positioning

One of the more obvious differences between surfing and snowboarding is how the feet are positioned and where on their respective boards the feet are positioned. Surfing allows for greater freedom not only on a surfboard but across different types of boards.

Those who opt to surf on shortboards have less freedom; however, there are slight differences which enunciate abilities to be able to cut, downturn, and launch.

On larger varieties like longboards, riders can walk up and down while still maintaining buoyancy. On snowboards, riders are attached to their board via bindings which immobilize their feet and ankles.

What is the function of the bindings? They provide the rider precise control on the board and turns. Just imagine trying to control a snowboard with no bindings. One word. Difficult. But hey, maybe snow skating is a real thing.

4. Medium

No, I’m not referring to any psychic entity here. The medium is the substance that the surfing or the snowboarding is occurring on (i.e., water versus snow). These two types of surfaces provide completely different rides.

Surfing involves some serious physics using Archimedes’ Principle which involves counteracting the weight of an object on the surface of a liquid with a buoyant force.

man surfing on water

While surfboards are designed to float, the ride is far less stable than snowboarding, and naturally so. We’re dealing with a liquid versus a solid situation.

Snowboarding can have a softer, more airy-like ride when there’s more powder on the slopes, but at the end of the day, it’s still a more solid surface. No pun intended.

5. Rotational Ability

When it comes to both surfing and snowboarding, riders have revolutionized each of their respective sports by introducing aerials.

Aerials involve riders launching into the air to perform a trick that can involve moves that utilize grabs, flips, spins, or a combination of all of them.

Without having to get into another deep physics lesson, snowboarding provides for a faster ride than surfing. The snowboards are also smaller, more aerodynamic, and produce less friction.

What does this translate into? Greater velocity and momentum, which in turn results in a higher potential for rotational or angular velocity.

This means that if a rider is able to spin faster and they are only in the air for a limited amount of time, snowboarding provides for a higher rotational ability.

This is why you can watch snowboarders knock out ridiculous 1080s. Surfers on the other hand, usually are limited to 360s and maybe, a 540, all in part to the lower velocity and bigger, less aerodynamic board.

6. Cutting and Turning

Due in part to not only the medium but also the rail size, surfing allows for easier cutting because of less resistance in the water. This is blatantly apparent when you watch a surfer on a shortboard turning on a dime and shredding in all directions on the face of a wave.

surfer cutting and turning

Snowboarders have less ability to turn and cut. This isn’t all medium-related, though. At higher speeds, it’s difficult to create hard turns, as those who have experience snowboarding can attest.

Surfing vs Snowboarding Conclusion

As you can see, superficially, both snowboarding and surfing have some things in common. But the truth is that they are vastly different sports, requiring many different skill sets and abilities.

How surfing and snowboarding are done further push the dichotomy between the two. But hey, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get out there and try surfing if you’re a snowboarder or if you’re a snowboarder trying to get to some warmer weather.

You might have to work a little harder to get those skills going, but you’ll have a leg up already, thanks to your balance and board-riding experience.

Check out the top 10 surfboard reviews for 2019 right here.




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