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Is Snowboarding Similar To Surfing?

Surfing and snowboarding look like they are similar sports, since they are both extreme sports where you stand on a board while moving. If you are a surfer, you may wonder whether snowboarding is similar and if you could pick it up easily. 

Snowboarding and surfing are similar to each other in some ways. However, there are a lot of small things that make them very different from one another. The costs and the amount of time you can do each one are very different. Overall, snowboarding is a lot easier to master than surfing.

Below, we’ll look at the comparisons and contrasts of snowboarding and surfing, go into why one is easier than the other, discuss what makes them different, and see if there may be other sports more similar to surfing than snowboarding.

Surfing And Snowboarding Similarities

It is easy to see why a lot of people think that snowboarding is similar to surfing. After all, they both are both performed on long planks and, more often than not, people that do one will also take part in the other activity. There are a couple of key things which are similar in both activities.

Fitness

Both activities require a higher-than-average level of fitness. They are tough activities that both require you to have a strong core, glutes, and quads. You also require a firm sense of balance for both activities in order to keep upright.

How You Stand

In surfing and snowboarding, having the correct posture is key. They both involve standing sideways, and it’s important in both to stand with your strongest leg forward. This means you if you’re goofy surfing, you will be goofy snowboarding. The lead foot is the one that will influence actions the most, whereas the back foot is largely for balance.

They Depend On The Weather

As specialist activities, they are both very dependent on having the right weather conditions, albeit different ones. Snowboarding is extremely reliant on heavy snowfall to cover the ground.  Surfing, on the other hand, is reliant on storms and wind changes off the coast in order to increase wave activity and swell.

They’re Dangerous

Snowboarding and surfing are not seen as extreme sports for nothing. There are major risks in both activities, and people have been known to die while doing either one. In surfing, there are the risks that come from being in the sea such as getting pulled out by the tide or getting pushed under the swell.

Snowboarding risks come from collisions, falls, and the snow itself. Snowboarding is a fast sport, and there are risks of sustaining serious injury from crashing into objects and people. There are also risks that are tied to going into ungroomed areas as drops are often camouflaged by the snow. There is also the risk of falling into tree wells and not getting back out again.

Snowboarding vs Surfing – Key Differences

On the surface, it may seem that there are a lot of similarities between surfing and snowboarding. However, their differences far outnumber their similarities. Obviously, one takes place is in the water while the other is in the mountains, but there are other factors such as equipment and standing that make the two different, as well.

The Environment

As mentioned before, a similarity is how they are dependent on the weather to get the best circumstances. However, these environments are very different from one another. A surfer will be in a location where they are solely reliant on what the waves and the sea are doing. This means that there can be a lot of waiting for the best conditions to start. 

Conversely, too much wind can cancel a day of surfing, and weather can worsen quickly. Snowboarders, however, don’t have this limitation. Over the course of a day, changes to a slope will most likely happen gradually. A snowboarder can plan their routes and see the terrain ahead of time. Even in the backcountry, a snowboarder can usually adapt to the conditions.

Unlike surfing, poor weather doesn’t automatically mean a day of snowboarding is off. Unless there’s a severe storm that’s affecting visibility, you can at least go out for some basic snowboarding in wind, rain, or snow.

Gear

Another big difference is the amount of gear that you need. Compared to snowboarding, surfing is relatively simple. You will need a board, a leash, and sometimes a wetsuit (depending on the time of year and your location). The boards are often made from a variety of different things such as foam, fiberglass, or wood.

In snowboarding, you need a lot more things. You will need a board with bindings, a helmet, goggles, a snow jacket and pants, and boots. Snowboards are usually made up of a wooden core with a fiberglass outer coating and metal edging.

Wax

Both snowboards and surfboards need wax. The purpose is different for each type of board. For snowboarding, you need to apply wax to the bottom of your snowboard to keep moving smoothly across the snow. As this is a vital product, it needs to be applied to the whole base of your board. It will make a big difference in your run if your snowboard is dry.

On a surfboard, the wax is put on the top. Its purpose is to give the rider grip on the board, like grip tape on a skateboard. This is an essential thing to do and is highly recommended to give you the best grip on the surfboard. It also doesn’t need to cover the whole top of the board and can be focused to where you know your feet are going to be placed.

Bindings

Probably an obvious difference between the two activities is that a snowboard has a set of bindings attached to the board to keep your feet strapped on. This is a key bit of equipment, as you will be unable to snowboard without it. Surfboards cannot have bindings, because that would be impractical.

How You Gain Speed

In both snowboarding and surfing, it helps to have a little speed when you are performing different actions. How you get the speed is different for each sport. In snowboarding, speed is mostly gained most gravity as you are sliding down a slope. The snowboarder mostly will just control the rate that they descend at.

A surfer will need to give themselves the momentum before a wave propels them. They start by paddling with the wave until they match the speed enough to push themselves upright and let the wave carry them.

Weight Distribution

As body positioning is so important while doing either of these activities, it is key that you have the right weight distribution. In contrast, weight distribution is very different between the two. In snowboarding, your weight will need to be downhill, which will be over the front foot a lot of the time. This position will give you the best support for turning as you initiate with your front foot.

Surfing has the opposite distribution. Your weight needs to be on your back foot. This is because it is where the fins are located on the board, and it will help you to glide better. If your weight is at the front, you can lose your balance and fall.

Costs

Depending on where you live, both these activities may seem very expensive. However, when comparing the two to each other, surfing is a far cheaper option. This is due to the fact that if you treat your board well, it will last you a long time and that other than that expense, there is little else you will need to buy. Simply grab your board and head to the beach!

Snowboarding comes with a few extra costs. Notonly is the equipment expensive, but you will need to buy lift passes, accommodation (if you’re not local), and transport fees. While you may need to pay for a hotel for surfing if you don’t live near the beach, the prices are normally a fraction of the cost compared to a mountain resort.

Muscles

As mentioned before there are some similar muscle groups used in both sports, such as the legs and abs. However, surfing focuses on your arms and shoulders more than snowboarding does, because you need to paddle out into the sea to catch a wave before it breaks at the shore.

Duration

You could end up surfing a lot less than you would snowboard. Since surfing relies on waves, you may have long waits floating in the water with little reward. As it is, you may only be able to surf at certain times of the day anyway. On the other hand, you can snowboard for as long as the lift is open, and many resorts keep them open well into the night.

The Amount Of Effort Required

Both sports are exhausting when you first start out. But as you become fairly skilled in both, you will realize that it is a bit easier to spend a whole day snowboarding than surfing. In surfing, you spend most of your time fighting the ocean. You will need to paddle out to stay in a good position before you even start to ride a wave, which makes it difficult to take breaks while you’re waiting.

In contrast, snowboarding is a lot easier going. A chair lift takes you up the mountain, and gravity does most of the work on your way down. If you want to take a break and grab a snack it’s as easy as sitting down at the side of the run to get a breather.

The Surface

It should be no surprise that surfing and snowboarding is done on two different surfaces. Surfing is on the water, so buoyancy plays a massive factor in how you ride. As you are floating, you will need to be a lot more confident in your balance, because water is not going to stay stable, especially with the waves that surfing is reliant on.

Snowboarding, however, takes place on snow, and that can either have a soft airy like feel when it is a powder day or a hard and firm feel when it is a bit icy. No matter the snow condition though, you are on a solid surface, so it could be easier to balance on.

Snowboarding vs Surfing – Which Is Easier?

Snowboarding is easier to spend a whole day doing than surfing, but neither one of these activities is easy to do well or to learn. Both require you to have above-average fitness, and they take place in challenging areas, making both snowboarding and surfing quite tough sports to master.

Surfing

Surfing takes the longest time to learn. In theory, surfing should be easy. After all, you just need to stand up, ride the wave, and paddle back out to get the next one. But there are so many variables you need to be able to adjust to that you will never have two days of surfing that are the same.

In surfing, it is extremely common to have a day where you’re having a terrific session where everything is clicking, only to call it a day after an hour the next day. This is what makes duration one of the key differences between surfing and snowboarding, and it ties into the short period of time you have to progress. You aren’t going to learn much if you only have an hour-long window of waves.

Surfing Basics

When learning to surf, you will most likely spend a good amount of time outside of the water. To start, you’re going to get comfortable with how you will stand on the board. This will progress into practicing how you push yourself up from a prone position to a standing position. 

Once you are happy with this, you will be ready to try it in the water. Practice in gentle areas, getting a feel for catching a wave. Overall, the learning process is simple, and the real difficulty comes in being able to practice in real waves, which can be sparse.

Snowboarding

It takes very little time to learn how to snowboard in comparison. Most people will take around two weeks to become proficient enough at snowboarding to move on to advanced slopes. That isn’t to say that snowboarding is easy, because you will spend most of your first few days on the ground. You will, however, learn it far faster than surfing.

Snowboarding Basics

On a snowboard, one of the first things you learn is how to slide down the slope on your heels and toes. Most individuals find this daunting, since they need to be able to balance without falling over. Only when you’ve mastered this will you be able to move on to a technique known as the Falling Leaf.

The Falling Leaf is where you will practice your side-to-side toe and heel slides. Many people will come to this step at the end of their first day before moving on to linked turns. These linked turns are what most beginners struggle with, but once you’ve mastered turning, it’s relatively safe to take a chairlift and snowboard on a somewhat steeper slope.

Should You Take Snowboarding Or Surfing Lessons?

You should take snowboarding lessons, because there is a lot to learn and you can be a serious danger to others early on. With surfing, as long as you’re sensible and don’t venture out to high swells before you can stand on a board, you may not need lessons, but they’re still recommended.   

The biggest hurdle for surfing is getting the opportunity to practice rather than getting taught what it is you need to do. If you don’t know anyone who surfs, it’s worth getting a quick session with an instructor.

Is Snowboarding Easier If You Surf?

Snowboarding is often easier to learn if you already surf. At the least, you may find it easier than someone who has no experience surfing. The skills developed when surfing, including board awareness, standing, and riding, will all aid in the transition to snowboarding

There can be some issues if you are transitioning from one sport to the other, though. The habits that you pick up while surfing can make your form while snowboarding suffer. It will probably take you a while to get comfortable shifting your weight to the front as muscle memory can unfortunately take over.  

You may find it easier to transition to surfing if you already snowboard.  Snowboarders trying surfing for the first time will already have the positioning they need with the freedom to adjust their feet, which can make it easier to adapt. They won’t become experts right away, but it will give them a solid base.

Snowboarding vs Surfing – Which Is More Fun?

Which sport is more fun out of snowboarding and surfing depends on your preferences. If you’re impatient, you’re probably going to find surfing hard to get into. Others may find snowboarding to be intimidating because of the hard surface that awaits with a fall and how fast you can go.  

As they are two different experiences, you will more than likely find them equally fun as the rush you get from being successful will hit differently. Surfing is fun due to its unpredictability, since each wave is unique. Snowboarding is fun because you are hurtling down a slope making fresh lines in places others haven’t been to yet.

Final Thoughts

While snowboarding seems very similar to surfing, there are many factors that make it different. The weather, setting, and gear alone make it quite the contrast from surfing. The only real similarity it shares with surfing is that you stand with both legs on a single board.