Snowboarding Vs. Surfing: If You Could Only Choose One

Surfing vs Snowboarding

Surfing and Snowboarding are two of the most badass, adrenaline fueling sports out there. As a surfer and former snowboard instructor, nothing beats a powder day in the backcountry or surfing an epic break with just a few of your buddies.

But let’s be real.

Surfing is HARD. And snowboarding is…. well, pretty damn hard also. At least when you’re beginning.

We all want to think that we’ll pick it up fast. If you’re like me, you’ve probably watched YouTube videos and thought “I’m going to rip like that”. And sure, some people will progress faster than others but the reality is, it’s not as easy as the people on Instagram make it seem.

The truth is, you CAN learn to shred like the people at your local break or mountain. But does being proficient in one help with the other? Are there any similarities between the two sports?

In this article we’re breaking it all down. And by the end, you’ll be able to explain:

The Similarities Between Surfing And Snowboarding
The Differences Between Surfing And Snowboarding
The Pros And Cons Of Both Surfing And Snowboarding
Which Is More Dangerous; Surfing or Snowboarding?
Which Is More Difficult; Surfing or Snowboarding?
Does Being A Snowboarder Help Your Surfing?
Does Being A Surfer Help Your Snowboarding?
6 Tips For Surfers
7 Tips For Snowboarders

The Similarities Between Surfing And Snowboarding

Surfing and snowboarding similarities

I figured I’ll start with this one to just get it out of the way. It may come as an obvious fact for some and a bit of a surprise to others but there’s really not a lot of similarities between surfing and snowboarding. I mean, we are talking land vs water here.

Surfing and Snowboarding are more like distant cousins than they are brother and sister.

BUT, that does not mean some similarities don’t exist. The most obvious being both sports require you to be in good shape. Or at least decent shape if you’re snowboarding. When surfing, your cardio and muscle endurance will be pushed to the max. When snowboarding, be prepared to work muscles you didn’t even know you had.

But like all things your body will adjust, the muscle memory will take over, and thats when the fun begins.

Another similarity lies in the fact that snowboards have edges and surfboards have rails. They’re different but act in the same way and essentially do the same job. When both surfing or snowboarding very rarely do you ever ride flat with the boards surface entirely on the snow or water. 90% of the time you will be engaging one rail or edge then transferring to the other in order to stay balanced, generate speed, and ultimately stop the snowboard or exit the wave.

snowboard edge vs surfboard rail

I know this sounds pretty high level but if you don’t understand what I am talking about, you will shortly into your learning process.

After you’ve learned how to engage your rail or edge, you’ll learn there’s a “backside” aspect to both sports. In snowboarding, riding backside (also referred to as switch) means you are leading with your non-dominant foot.

If your left foot is naturally forward you are considered a regular footed surfer or a regular footed snowboarder. If your right foot is naturally forward (like me) you are considered a “goofy footer”.

If you’re on the mountain and someone tells you “I rode up to that jump backside” if they are a regular footer what they are telling you is they rode up to the jump in a goofy stance. If they naturally ride goofy what they are telling you is they rode up to the jump in a regular stance.

But what about surfing?

Riding backside means you are riding with your back to the wave. Watch a surf video and you’ll realize that surfers actually surf parallel to the sand, down the side of the wave on the waves face.

When surfing a wave you’re either going right or you’re going left.

right hand wave vs left hand wave surfing

If you’re a goofy footer, going right on a wave means you’re surfing backside. If you’re a regular footed surfer, going left on the wave means you’re surfing backside.

Now before we discuss the final similarity lets jump back to the discussion of boards. Both sports are similar in the fact that you can’t just walk into any shop, grab two different boards and expect them to ride the same. This is especially true for surfboards.

I won’t explain all the subtleties because that would be longer than the entire Harry Potter series. But when you’re picking out a snowboard, you need to take into consideration your weight, height, and skill level, along with the board’s height, width, the camber/rocker profile (the contour of the deck), flex (how flexible the board is), and rail.

All of these subtle characteristics of the board come together to categorize its specialty. Some boards are made for soft powder in the heart of the season, some for parks on slushy spring days, others are perfectly suited for carving on groomed trails (also known as groomers), while some boards balance between the three.

Picking out a surfboard is a pretty similar process.

You’ll take into consideration your height, weight, skill level, and condition of waves you’ll be riding, while also paying attention to the surfboards length, width, thickness, fin setup, volume, along with the boards rocker and bottom contour.

A little more complex, I know. Even after years of surfing, picking out the right board is just as much an art as it is a science.

How to choose the right surfboard

Apart from those main differences, the one thing I’ve noticed in both sports is that once I developed my skills, I began to form my own personal style. Your style is what separates you from the next good surfer in the lineup or snowboarder on the chairlift.

As a snowboarder I became an all-mountain freestyle snowboarder (if you forced me to define it). I look at the mountain differently than others and have fun finding natural jumps no one’s ever hit, a run no one else knows about, or a backcountry line you have to hike 15 minutes to get to.

I graduated with a major in side hits, cliff jumps, and tree runs, and a minor in park riding.

Surf style on the other hand, is lot more dependent on the board you ride and the conditions of the surf. It took me a lot longer to define my surfing style, and in many ways I’m still working on it, but after many years of progression I’ve began to surf loose and fast. I like an eggy quad or fish with a lot of volume that I can pump fast in smaller surf, and loop turns on open sections.

I’ve began to dabble with my shortboard and a thruster setup in better surf, and working on tighter turns and sharper maneuvers, but I wouldn’t say I’m roping sporty lines like you’d see on a good day at Trestles.

I’ve always been a fan of Torren Martyn’s style and try to implement that when I’m in the water. When in the average SoCal lineup I’m not getting any finger points or gasps of surprise from the beach… But I could probably pass as Torren’s distant, physically challenged cousin.

Me surfing in Indonesia

Now let’s get into the differences. But before we do here’s a quick pro tip.

Pro Tip: As a beginner snowboarder, the board you ride (as long as it is setup to match your goofy/regular stance) does not matter AS MUCH as it does when picking out a surfboard. The basic fundamentals can be learned on the old snowboard your buddy has in his garage, the one the rental shop recommended, or the brand new one you almost bought for $900 at the local ski shop. Don’t overthink this part.

Surfing, on the other hand, you will definitely need a big board with a lot of volume to learn efficiently. A Wavestorm, the 8’2″ HoStevie soft top, or your friend’s old long board will do. Get the basics down on this and slowly progress to a smaller and smaller board.

DON’T JUMP THE GUN!

The board of your dreams will be waiting for you. When you’re ready for it. There’s no point buying a shortboard you’re not good enough to ride yet. I made this mistake as a beginner.

The Differences Between Surfing And Snowboarding

Differences between surfing and snowboarding

Well, if we’re talking differences I guess I’ll get the obvious out of the way.

A snowboard is strapped to your feet. I don’t need to be Shaun White to tell you that. But it is a difference indeed. And it shall not go ignored; where you go, you’re board goes. Where your board goes, you go.

Whether you like it or not.

And while you’re technically attached to your surfboard via a 6ft-9ft leash, your feet are not fastened to the deck like that of a snowboard. Often times where you go, your board will not follow.

No matter how bad you want it to.

Me falling on a wave in Bali

Let’s talk weight distribution.

Obviously your weight will be transferred from side to side and back and forth depending on the maneuver, turn, or air you are trying to make. But generally speaking, a surfer will have their weight centered or back while a snowboarder will have their weight centered or slightly forward.

And while both sports are a good workout, they work different muscle groups.

When surfing you are going to work your core, traps, lats, obliques, and delts. When snowboarding you’ll be working your calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, and lower back.

So if you’re looking for a full body workout I challenge you to surf in the morning and snowboard in the evening… We can call it HoStevie’s sea to summit 24 hour challenge!

what muscles are used snowboarding? What muscles are used surfing?

Now, let’s go over the pros and cons of both surfing and snowboarding.

The Pros And Cons Of Surfing And Snowboarding

7 Pros Of Surfing

It’s a long list. And there’s probably a few others that are personal to you. But here’s the general ones.

First, the cost. Surfing when compared to snowboarding, is much more affordable. CJ, our video editor uploaded a video recently how he was able to find a beginner surfboard and usable wetsuit on OfferUp for less than $100. And generally speaking, once you have your wetsuit and surfboard the only thing you’ll be paying for is the gas to get you to and from the beach.

And now that you’ve got a wetsuit (as long as it is a good one), you’ll be able to surf year round.

This depends on the location you’re in but for the most part as long as you have a thick enough wetsuit you should be able to catch waves January through December. No waiting for the opening day of the season like snowboarders.

Surfing in the winter

When compared to snowboarding, surfing is statistically much safer. For an “extreme sport” surfing is pretty mellow. The nice thing about water is that it doesn’t really hurt when you fall into it.

Sure, freak accidents can happen (and we’ll get into those later) but realistically, the drive to the beach is the most dangerous part.

Another good thing about surfing is that you’re at the beach. Yep, the beach is pretty cool. And if we’re talking about the beach… The odds of meeting a cute surfer chick (or dude) is significantly higher here than when in the mountains. Just sayin.

Cute surfer girl at the beach

Personally, I love how surfing does not need to be an all day activity. You can throw a board in your car and surf before work, after work, or whenever you have a free hour or two. Surfing is molded much more easily into your everyday lifestyle.

And on that point, once you’re done surfing you’ll usually feel refreshed, calm, and energized instead of drained, weak, and exhausted.

3 Cons Of Surfing

There’s not a lot of negative aspects to surfing. Especially once you make it over the learning hump. But that being said, it often takes years of practice before you start to get to what most people will consider as “good”.

Surfer falls on wave

Also, if you’re in SoCal or any other popular beach destination finding parking can often be a hurdle. And there’s nothing worse than circling the neighborhood for twenty minutes while waves are pumping. Especially when you’re limited on time.

And finally, surfing does require you to get comfortable in cold water. Wetsuits are great, but they aren’t magic. It’s not uncommon to surf water temps in the low 50’s. Some areas get colder, some stay warm all year. It just depends on where you live.

Pros Of Snowboarding

Snowboarding comes with a bunch of positives but one of the best is that you can progress relatively fast. If you’re athletic and somewhat of a quick learner, you should be able to pick up the basics anywhere between a couple hours to a couple of days. The learning process can be frustrating, but it is temporary.

My little brother learning how to snowboard

Even if you aren’t picking it up as quickly as you hoped for, at least you can still take in the epic scenery. There’s something magical about being in the mountains after a heavy snowfall. Especially when you’re deep in the mountains.

Find a nice ledge or ridge on a backcountry run and take it in for a few minutes. The thing I like about the mountains is that you can see everything for miles but at the same time, hear absolutely nothing.

But if you’re not quite at the backcountry level, at least you can take in the magnitude of nature from the discomfort of your chair lift. No waiting for waves, paddling to get in position, or even hiking to the top of a hill is necessary during your next snowboard trip.

The good news is, the chairlift does the hardest job for you: getting your ass UP the damn mountain!

Drew getting comfy on the chairlift

And personally, I’ve never found a better tasting beer than while sitting on a chairlift. They just hit different, as the kids would say. Cracking a beer with a friend or stranger while on a chairlift is a right of passage that should be experienced by everyone at some point in their lives.

The point is, chairlifts are great. Until they stop working.

Cons Of Snowboarding

For starters, you might want to sell your kidney on the black market if you need extra cash for a lift ticket at a quality ski resort. Many of Colorado’s, Vermont’s, and Washington’s mountains are charging over $200 for their lift tickets. Tag on the price of gear, board rentals, lunch, and gas for the weekend… You might as well just book yourself a surf trip to Indo.

Funny twitter post about skiing being too expensive

Yes, snowboarding is very expensive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t snowboard on a budget. Many smaller mountains have more affordable lift tickets and many ski resorts offer season passes that pay for themselves if you plan on going multiple times during the winter season.

Below are some screenshots showing that you don’t need to take out a loan for a day on the mountain.

affordable snowboard setup
affordable ski lift tickets

Apart from the expensive lift ticket, one thing that is almost guaranteed for a learning snowboarder is a sore bum. Over the course of your snowboarding career 80% of all your falls will happen in the first 20% of your snowboarding journey.

You’re going to fall more on your first day of snowboarding than you will after a week of snowboarding once you’ve learned the basics. That first car ride home will probably be a sore one.

And not to rub salt in the wound but that sore car ride home may also be a long one.

Depending on where you live, a drive to the “local” ski resort can often take you two hours or more. Especially if you’re a surfer located in Southern California. So pack some snacks, a few buddies, and a good playlist to keep you company.

Which Is More Dangerous: Surfing or Snowboarding?

Is surfing dangerous? Is snowboarding dangerous?

Overall, both personally and statistically speaking, snowboarding is more dangerous than surfing (I’ll talk stats later).

In my eight years of surfing I’ve managed to stay relatively safe apart from some minor cuts on my foot. However, after just a few years of snowboarding I’ve managed to injure my rotator cuff and obtain a few concussions. But thankfully, no broken bones… Skateboarding took care of that one.

Regardless, let’s go over the inherit dangers of each before we talk numbers.

The Dangers Of Surfing

The most common danger in surfing is probably getting hit by a board. This can happen many different ways. Your own board can hit you on a wipeout, you can get ran over by another surfer, someone in front of you could bail their board as a wave is breaking, or you could decide to get more creative with it. Who knows.

Often times it’s harmless, but in severe circumstances it could lead to a busted lip, broken nose, or worse: getting knocked unconscious in the water.

Similar to getting hit directly by a surfboard, you can also get cut by the fins. Less common, but more scary. I’ve had my foot cut by my own fins but nothing so severe that I had to get out of the water.

That being said, every year it seems like one surfer here or there experiences a gnarly gash from a fin. Just this last year in Indonesia, famous surfer Makala Jones tragically died after his fin cut an artery in his leg.

It’s rare. But it happens. And clearly it could happen to anyone.

Drowning is the next major danger in surfing. Obviously, any water activity comes with the inherent risk of drowning however, for the learner in mild waves, drowning is very unlikely. Make sure your leash is in good condition, pay attention to the currents and tides, and most of all, don’t panic if you get yourself in a hairy situation.

Remember, when surfing you are literally connected to a flotation device. Also called a surfboard. So again, keep your leash in good shape, replace it when needed, and you should never have to worry about getting back to shore without a board.

Apart from getting hit by a board or experiencing a gnarly sunburn, getting stung by a stingray is probably the next most common danger a surfer will experience in the water. Every summer in SoCal I see at least a few people get stung on their walk in or out of the surf.

Don't step on stingrays while surfing!

Painful? Yes. Deadly? Almost always no.

God rest Mr. Irwin.

Shuffle your feet when walking (especially around rock jetties) and you should be good. Sting rays are just as much scared of you as you are of them; I’ve stepped on a lot but never been stung. Knock on wood.

Now let’s talk what EVERYONE is afraid of… Sharks.

Sharks are NOT a real danger when surfing. Controversial, sure. But I personally don’t understand why I get so much push back on this. For the amount of people that enter the ocean every single day (hundreds of thousands if not millions), the fact that we only have roughly 70 attacks a year and only 5 deaths is pretty comforting.

Yes, you COULD get attacked by a shark but the odds of you getting killed from a coconut falling on your head or a deadly bee is more likely. And look on the bright side, if you get your arm ripped off by the jaws of a great white you’ve got a pretty damn good movie deal on your hands.

Or should I say on your hand?

Soul Surfer Film

Dangers Of Snowboarding

Let me start by hitting you with my best piece of snowboard instructor advice: trees don’t move.

Hitting a tree, boundary marker, another person, or the chairlift is all too common. And Jeremy Clarkston said it best when he stated, “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.”.

But you don’t need to hit a tree to get a private escort down the mountain from ski patrol; catching your edge will put you on the ground quicker than you can even see where you’re going to land. Instinctually many people throw their hands up to break their fall and many times I’ve seen these same people leave the mountain with a broken wrist because of it.

Contrary to surfing, falling on hard snow hurts.

Tree wells are another thing you should pay attention to. A tree well is a hard to see pit around the base of the tree below the branches that collects soft snow and appears to be solid but is in fact a hole or void that you can fall into.

People often fall into tree wells head first and make the mistake of panicking or moving spastically to try and free themselves, resulting in snow packing them tighter in position and in worst case scenarios suffocating the person.

Depending on your location and snowfall, some tree wells are shallow and can be crawled out of by yourself. However, some are more serious and potentially even deadly.

A few years back, I rode past a group of trees and saw an upside down snowboard coming out of the brush. I unstrapped my bindings, ran over and realized it was a 13 year old kid who was stuck in a tree well head first and covered in snow.

It was a standard tree well for the area (about 4 feet deep) but for a 13 year old kid, it was deep enough to be a very dangerous situation.

I yelled down at the kid to breathe and that I was going to get him out. He seemed shook up but surprisingly kept his composure considering the situation. He told me that he was stuck there for about ten minutes before I noticed him.

I don’t know if he really realized how sketchy of a position he was in. Thankfully, before I found him he was able to push enough snow away from his face to breathe and he didn’t wrestle around enough to make the situation worse.

How to spot a tree well

I wonder if he ever told his mom what happened.

Two years later, the same thing happened to my brother Drew (the kid in the chairlift pic earlier). But instead of staying calm, he panicked and tried to crawl himself out, only to completely bury his head in snow. Thankfully, I saw it happen and dug him out as well.

That one got my heart pumping a little more because if I was not in the picture, it could have been a different situation all together. For all my worriers out there: panicking does nothing besides digging yourself into a deeper hole. In this scenario, literally.

Tree riding and backcountry days are one of the best parts of snowboarding (if not THE best). Don’t let the fear of tree wells stop you from exploring the untapped areas of the mountain, just stay aware and know how to handle yourself if you find someone in a bad spot or end up in one yourself.

And keep in mind, it’s always safer to ride with friends! According to powdercanada.com “90% of people involved in Tree Well/ SIS hazard research experiments could NOT rescue themselves.”. Ride with friends, look after your buddies, have a plan ready in case you’re separated, and cary a compact-able shovel when necessary.

Check out the video below.

If you’re riding in the backcountry, not only do you need to be aware of tree wells but you must also be aware and prepared for a potential avalanche.

Avalanches are more of a concern for experienced riders on difficult terrain. However, extreme weather conditions can make them happen (less commonly) on beginner friendly slopes as well.

In all my years of snowboarding, I’ve only seen one small avalanche. However, it was on a small, mediocre mountain where I least expected one to occur.

The fact that it happened where I least expected it makes it more dangerous. I’ve snowboarded higher quality areas near Mount Baker in Washington State where in order to enter the backcountry you need to have avalanche gear and hold a emergency rescue beacon. In these areas with higher snowfall and elevation, the risk of a life threatening avalanche is much more likely and therefore you are naturally in a heightened sense of awareness.

Small avalanche at ski resort

When in mellower areas or familiar terrain, we often let our guard down, leaving us susceptible to mother nature’s wrath. Don’t be caught slippin.

As enjoyable as it is to be up in the mountains, it comes with its fair share of dangers. That being said, statistically the most dangerous part is actually driving to and from the ski resort.

I’ve made countless trips to and from the mountains. And with that I’ve seen more accidents both non-serious and life threatening than I wish to remember.

I’m writing this article in November of 2023. Just a two weeks ago I was driving through the beautiful and wild Blue Mountains of Southeast Washington when I came across a jeep that rolled about two-hundred yards down the side of an icy cliff. I arrived roughly ten minutes after it happened and was the third person at the scene.

Unfortunately there was nothing I could do. The driver, a 67 year old man tragically died from the injuries sustained.

The point is, accidents happen ALL THE TIME. Look up your nearest mountain and type “crash” into google to see for yourself. It never ceases to amaze me how many people drive into the mountains in cars that have no business off of a paved road. If this guy was driving a jeep maybe you should think twice about taking your sedan with less than six inches of clearance and bald tires into the mountains.

Packed ski resort parking lot

Check your brakes, the tread of your tires, make sure you have your deicer windshield fluid topped off, and please have a basic tool kit with items necessary to jump your car, replace a tire, and straps to tow yourself out of the snow in case you get stuck.

Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being helplessly stranded and having to rely on someone else who brought the things you didn’t think you needed. It also feels good to help out someone else who wasn’t as prepared as you.

On that note I always like to have extra clothes, a blanket, and a candle in the car during the winter in case I have to stay overnight in my car. Very unlikely, yes. But if worst comes to worst I’m good for a while.

And if the worst case scenario never comes, at least I have a fresh pair of clothes to change into if I want to grab a burger in town and an extra blanket for my tired friends in the back seat.

Apart from that, just wear a damn helmet. Please. I was one of the guilty ones who thought it was cool not wearing one. But I learned first hand that it’s not cool waking up confused at the bottom of a jump with your girlfriend unstrapping your bindings with the help of ski patrol after a nasty fall in the terrain park.

It’s not worth the risk.

Finally, before we part ways with all the reasons why your mom would rather you just stay home I want to talk about something that isn’t always discussed: getting lost. Getting lost is something a beginner snowboarder would almost never have to worry about. However, as you progress and begin to push the boundaries (literally) you may find yourself on the wrong side of the mountain.

Lost snowboarder

While I was snowboarding in 2017 I got a text from a friend telling me someone was missing at the mountain I was at. Thankfully he survived the night and was found the next day. But I remember thinking “how the hell do you get lost!?”

This mentality stuck with me for a while… Until it happened to me.

I was riding at a small mountain called Lookout Pass in Northern Idaho when I decided to go off trail into the trees. I was traversing the side of the mountain like I’ve done a million times at other resorts and when I reached the bottom of the run instead of finding myself at the ski lodge I ended up on fucking interstate 90!

Map of where I got lost

I was lost and didn’t even know it until I literally ended up on the Interstate. I was lucky. I could have easily been miles off the boundary line with no hope if it wasn’t for hitting the road. Thankfully all I had to do was walk about a quarter mile on the side of the interstate back to the resort.

Don’t be like me. Grab a copy of the ski map and keep it on you if you’re riding a new mountain. If you want to rip the backcountry it wouldn’t be a bad idea to download an offline map of the area that you can use to find your location and way back in the event you end up on the Interstate or the bottom of the wrong valley.

OnX Maps is what I use for my off-roading, hunting, and snowboarding trips.

Now that’s enough of my “snowboarding is dangerous” talk. Lets compare stats.

What Do The Numbers Say?

According to the National Ski Area Association the ten year average of ski and snowboard deaths sit at 38 per season. With 52.8 million skiers and snowboarders that hit the U.S. slopes every year this means your odds of dying under the chairlift are less than one in a million.

Let’s dig deeper.

On average, of the 38 deaths only 7 of them belong to snowboarders.

I’ll take those odds. But take into consideration that this data comes exclusively from the United States and does not include European countries. It also does NOT take into consideration backcountry deaths. So realistically, it’s not the greatest data set overall however, it’s good enough for us to draw our own conclusions.

Helicopter crew rescuing snowboarder in the backcountry

Surfing on the other hand is enjoyed by approximately 25 million people each year (24,999,999 too many if you ask me 😉). But of those 25 million, roughly 10 people die a year while surfing. This stat comes from the House Of Surf.

The closer you look the harder it is to draw the line but when you account for the unrecorded ski and snowboard deaths out of the United States, I think it is fair to assume surfing is statistically safer than snowboarding.

Which Is More Difficult: Surfing or Snowboarding?

This is a question I received countless times while snowboarding. My answer was always the same and required little thought. The truth is, surfing is way, way more difficult than snowboarding. Without question.

But let’s be clear, snowboarding is not a cake walk. Just because surfing is harder doesn’t mean you’re going to strap in your bindings and ride down your first run like it’s nothing.

Unless you have a really really good instructor, and you’re an extremely fast learner, your first day on a snowboard is going to be frustrating at times.

Drew looking frustrated after his first day snowboarding

But that being said most fit and coordinated people will get the hang of it and start having fun runs after day 2 or 3.

Surfing on the other hand…

There’s just so much more that goes into it. A wave isn’t going to magically pop up in front of you. First you need to learn surf conditions and how tides, winds, and currents affect your opportunities to catch waves. Believe me, this matters.

Next, you need to pick out the right gear for you. Picking out gear doesn’t seem difficult but it’s insane how many beginners buy a shortboard that the pros would ride instead of opting for a more forgivable and learner friendly setup. One like this.

Then once you have the right gear and know when your best opportunities for waves are, you still have to paddle your ass off through the whitewash and out back where the waves are breaking.

Me paddling out to the lineup

Now that you’re out back and ready to catch waves (after a ten minute breather), it’s time to read the horizon and spot oncoming sets. Waves rarely come right for you in the perfect position.

You’ll have to spot an oncoming wave, read the direction it is traveling, know where it’s going to break, and paddle for the shoulder to catch the wave. It’s comparable to a wide receiver tracking down a pass on a post route.

But wait! Just when you thought it couldn’t be any more difficult, let me remind you that you’ll be out there with 20 other guys and gals trying to do the exact same thing.

But don’t let all that discourage you. Surfing is hard because you need to earn your opportunities. These things get easier with time and the more work you put in, the more you’re going to get out.

Go alone a few times, get humbled, then go with a friend that knows what they are doing and learn from them. You’ll pick up on the subtle things they do that make them a better surfer.

Does Being a Snowboarder Help Your Surfing?

Snowboarding by the beach

The truth is, snowboarding will NOT positively affect your snowboarding.

That is, apart from the mental game.

If you’re a good snowboarder you had to overcome frustration and difficulties to get to the point where you’re shredding the whole mountain. Even though it’s a complete different ball game in the water, the same mindset applies.

However, the core elements of snowboarding are just too different than surfing. The fundamentals for both sports are simply not congruent with each other. Learning how to shift weight from your toes to your heels on the mountain will not help your duck dive in the water, and learning how to read a wave won’t help you drive home a toe-side carve on the groomers.

Does Being a Surfer Help Your Snowboarding?

If you’re already a competent surfer you’re likely in good enough shape to take on any beginner slope. But when it comes to learning the fundamentals, like we just discussed, there’s not a whole lot of similarities that will help you pick up snowboarding.

That being said, you can pick up the basics of snowboarding pretty quick. And as a surfer, based on my personal experiences I would assume that once you’ve nailed the basics you will progress much faster than everyone else and jump straight from beginner to intermediate during your first season.

Me snowboarding during my third season

If you’re surfer first and snowboarder second, I’d be curious to see how this affects your style on the mountain.

In the ocean, you are much more limited by the waves you are surfing. Waves usually last less than ten seconds, and the speed, shape, and size really dictate what you are able to do on the ride.

However, when on the mountain, even in subpar conditions, the hill is still your blank canvas (imagine a wave that lasted 15 minutes and no matter how many times you fall you can still pick back up where you left off). Because of this, you can develop your style and try things over and over until they become second nature.

But now that we’ve covered ALL THAT, let me give you some tips before I throw you to the wolves.

6 Tips For Surfers

We’ve written some great material every learner should read before hitting the water, if you’re looking to soak in all the information you can but don’t know where to start, I recommend you read this article first.

Regardless, here’s six quick tips to get your surfing journey started on the right foot:

  1. Have the right expectations. As a learner, surfing can be frustrating. Going out there with the goal to have fun and get better will take you much further than expecting to surf down the line right away.
  2. Pick the right gear. This is by far the most important tip because without the right board no amount of knowledge or help from a friend can make up for the lack of volume under your feet. Pick up an affordable foamie, a wetsuit if needed, and take it from there. If you get this one right, you’ll set yourself apart from 50% of learners just by default.
  3. Pick a beach that will give you the most amount of reps. When trying to get good at anything the most important thing is repetition. Perfect practice makes perfect. So when picking a place to surf, look for a spot with decent waves and small to moderate crowds. Don’t get barrel fever and try to learn at the best or most popular break.
  4. Spend 20 minutes to learn how tides, winds, and swell direction affect your local spots. This ties into expectations as well. Tides, wind, and swell significantly affect surf conditions. Knowing how these powers work together will help you pick the right time to surf and have an understanding of the conditions before you even get to the beach.
  5. Learn from someone. Surfing is one of those hobbies that take a lifetime to master. However, learning from someone else will cut the “beginner” phase of your journey from years to months. Yes, it takes months to get past the learner phase. Sometimes even longer for others depending on how often you go out.
  6. As you progress, using footage to correct your mistakes will take you a long, long way. This one is a bit trickier because you’ll need someone on the sand, camera in hand, ready to capture your waves. But once you get better, there’s not a lot of better ways to correct those bad habits we all develop. You can’t watch yourself surf, so like any sport, reviewing footage is a hack in your journey of progression.
Steve checking surf footage in Bali

There’s plenty other tips that you will learn throughout your surfing career but these are a good base to get you started on the right foot. Now let’s talk snow.

7 Tips For Snowboarders

I could write an entire series on this subject. From gear to fundaments with the added juiciness of roadtrip essentials, there’s so much (and so little) that goes into a successful day of snowboarding. But here are 7 tips to get you in the right direction:

  1. Spend 15-20 minutes on youtube learning the basics of snowboarding gear. You’d be surprised how often rental shop employees misguide people. Start by understanding which stance you are; regular vs goofy. Then learn the basics of binding placement.

    Also, whether you’re buying or renting, getting a decent pair of goggles is a must. They don’t have to be top of the line, but they can’t be garbage quality that fog up every 5 five minutes.
  2. Have the right expectations. Similar to surfing, don’t expect to be toe carving all the way to the terrain park on your first day. You may have the best day on the mountain you possibly could, but if you were expecting to hit jumps and impress everyone else in the backcountry on your first go around you’ll still leave disappointed. Don’t worry, your time will come.
  3. Learn from someone. For the same reasons we discussed in the surfing section. Your friend who’s been snowboarding a lot longer than you will be able to point out your mistakes long before you’d pick up on them yourself. Utilize your resources (aka buddies).
  4. Stick to green runs only. Then, when you’re ready, switch to blue. On my very first day snowboarding my girlfriend (who’s been snowboarding longer than me) thought I didn’t need to start on the green runs since I’ve already been skateboarding for years. Instead we went straight to a blue run. Bad mistake. It took me over an hour to get down, most of which was on my ass. And if you would have overheard our conversations, you would have thought we were about to break up right then and there… The famous last words in snowboarding are “you should be good”.
  5. Don’t forget to drink water (harder in the cold). When you’re cold it’s harder to remember that you still need water throughout the day. While you’re snowboarding in freezing temps your body won’t crave water like it will after a 3 hour surf sesh in the sun. This leads to a level of soreness like you’ve never felt before. A hydration hack I like use is skipping the water all together and going straight for beer. They’re easier to put down and make the falls hurt a little less. So grab yourself an extra “mountain protein shake” for the chairlift up.
  6. Without getting too deep into fundamentals here, I do have a piece of advice for beginners learning to turn: literally point at the direction you want to ride. Pick a tree or bush and point in that direction with your lead hand AND torso. This is a trick I picked up from SnowboardProCamp and it’s easily the quickest way I got kids to learn the basics. Remember, you go where your eyes go. Never look in a direction you don’t want to ride. And finally, avoid riding flat on the board, always have one edge activated.

The final tip on this list is always pack comfy clothes for the drive home. You will be wet after all that snow melts. Odds are you probably had some wash down your pants and neck as well so having a full set of dry clothes in the car will make your drive home much better. Some good shoes for the snow also help.

Following these tips wont make you an epic snowboarder that people on the chairlift point and gasp at but they’ll get you on your way there.

All Runs Come To An End

Surfing and snowboarding are the yin and yang of the board sports world, same same but different. Regardless of what your background is on a snowboard or surfboard, both are great ways to have a bangin time in nature making memories.

And by now, you know the similarities, differences, difficulties, and dangers of both sports. That, along with some useful tips to make your first season on either a success. With the new found wisdom you’ve acquired here I encourage you to try your hand at both and commit to the one that makes the most amount of sense for you.

For me, it was surfing.

See ya out there!

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After being forced to buy a surfboard (one he broke) from a surf shop when he was just 7 years old, this "mistake" ended up being the spark that ignited a passion for the sport. This passion led Justin to live in San Diego and travel to destinations across North America and Indonesia. When he's not hiking in the backcountry or patrolling the coast of Baja for waves, you'll find him writing some of the best surfing articles on the internet.

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