From the safety of my laptop I aim to tackle mankind’s most pressing question; surfing vs skateboarding vs snowboarding: Which is best?
Now I should start by saying I can surf and I can skateboard. I do neither very well, but at points in my life I have had a lot of fun in the water and on concrete. But I am in my element on snow. I consider myself a snowboarder, I am good at it and I even make money writing about snowboarding. You may feel that makes me biased, so I have interviewed a die-hard fanatic from each sport to give me an impartial view.
Let me introduce 26 year old surfer Kelly Roofer, 24 year old skateboarder Tony Eagle and 25 year old snowboarder Shaun Black. I asked them all the same three questions here are their stereotypical answers:
Kelly Roofer: Surfing is my life, without it I would have no reason to get up in the afternoon. Being at one with nature, using her power to propel me through the water is the ultimate rush. You have to earn catching a wave, through both effort and patience. I apply this to real life, putting a lot of effort into my education while having the patience for my career to begin – if I wait long enough the right job will carry me into the future on a wave of success. This year I am planting trees through Carbon Neutral to offset the environmental impact of my surfing.
Tony Eagle: I don’t like getting my hair wet so have never tried surfing. Anyway I live too far from the ocean and will never leave Nebraska. I think people that like surfing are mostly hippies who are more interested in fish than girls. Why else would you put all that effort in for a ten second ride?
Shaun Black: If I wasn’t scared of sharks I think I would be a pro surfer, as it is I have never tried. The snowboard was originally called a snurfer, so I can surf but I do it in pow. Just as snowboarding saved skiing I believe it also saved surfing, that is why the surf brands got involved in snowboarding- us snowboarders now subsidise the surf industry.
Kelly Roofer: I found out I have a serious concrete allergy when I tripped over my flip flops on the promenade after a beach party. As such I have not been able to skateboard as an adult. At the same party I had parked my campervan near a skatepark, when I was woken by the abrasive sound of skateboarding I realised my left over vegan chilli had disappeared. I won’t be parking near a skatepark again.
Tony Eagle: Skateboarding is my life, without it I would not have discovered graffiti, girls with ripped jeans, baseball caps or breaking the law. Us skateboarders live outside of the established norm freeing us from materialism, fashion and restrictive society. My mum says this winter I can build a quarter pipe in the back yard and for Christmas I can choose some cool new clothes from Skate Hut.
Shaun Black: Skateboarding is snowboarding for virgins. It is great to do it as a teenager but once you pop your cherry it is time to move on to better things. I had a skateboard as a kid, I used to sit on it to ride downhill so I know all about it. Using my supreme snowboarding skills I would be an awesome skateboarder unfortunately spray paints make me sneeze so I can’t get within 100m of a skatepark.
Kelly Roofer: Snowboarding used to be alternative and cool, but it has become too commercial and mainstream – it is now just skiing sideways. I probably would enjoy it but I haven’t worn shoes since I graduated so I wouldn’t get on with snowboarding boots, besides it is very expensive and not in keeping with my environmentally friendly lifestyle. I know surfers that have gone away to do a snowboarding season, when they return I won’t sing songs around a beach fire with them.
Tony Eagle: When I was a teenager I wanted to go snowboarding but my mum reminded me that I don’t like the cold and that ski resorts get very cold. Once global warming makes ski resorts warmer, nothing below 10 °C, I will give it a go. Snowboarders get too focussed on snowboarding and need secondary hobbies, I suggest loitering – I spend many hours doing this in parks, on street corners and outside shops.
Shaun Black: I have dedicated my life to snowboarding and haven’t seen a summer now for five years, apart from my awesome goggle tan I am paler than a snowman. I subsidise my expensive snowboarding life by serving in a bar and occasionally DJing, this means I get to party every night. I am too good at snowboarding to become a pro and entering competitions is beneath me. My sick shredding videos on YouTube will make me rich, once people start watching them.
Having heard from a perfectly believable stereotype from each sport one thing is clear, we all love the sports we do and think they are the best. Personally I think snowboarding is best, followed by surfing and then skateboarding – but I am going to take an wider view on this and analyse all three objectively.
Although snowboarding is the thing I would do every day if I could, it is an expensive hobby. Gear, lift passes and time in resort all cost a fortune, meaning that snowboarding is not accessible to everyone. Snowboarding can only be done in certain places with the right conditions and in most places for only half of the year making it even less accessible.
Even where it is possible we require lifts, piste bashers, avalanche bombs and barriers and even snowmaking to make it safe and accessible for the majority. I know you can hike and ride backcountry but most people would not have got into snowboarding if they had to do that. My point is a lot effort and resources go into enabling us to snowboard.
To be a surfer requires proximity to a coast that can produce surfable waves, and the right conditions to make them. It also requires fitness and confidence in the water, although this comes with time it is not something that can be dabbled in very easily and some people just don’t like going under water. Although surfing is probably the purest of board sports it is still inaccessible to the vast majority of people.
The effort to reward ratio of surfing is skewed way too much in efforts favour. Admittedly, the few dozen times I have surfed a proper wave on a proper board – for all of 5-10 seconds – probably add up to the best few minutes of my life (apologies to my wife). However those few minutes have taken many hours (and possibly days!) of effort. The effort is of course what makes surfing enjoyable but there are other sports where the effort to reward ratio is skewed towards reward.
For many people skateboarding comes with a few less-savoury stereotypes which place it on the edge of acceptable society. Whether this is media portrayal or it is true is not the scope of this article, but undoubtedly this edginess is part of the reason youngsters want to be part of it.
Although most do not become skateboarders a large portion of kids have owned a skateboard. This is because they are cheap, it can be done anywhere, all year round and 24 hours a day if you wish. A skateboard gives you a reason to be loitering somewhere and a focus for what you are doing – even if you are not doing much of it – which for a kid looking for something to do is perfect. Then when you are late getting home it can even be used as transport to get you there faster.
To conclude in a surfing vs skateboarding vs snowboarding battle it is clear that skateboarding is the best. Not because I think it is the most fun – although for some people it is – but because it is accessible, even if you only dabble in it you can feel part of something. And lets face it skateboarding is the marijuana of board sports. Most kids have a skateboard, and it is through this ‘gateway’ board sport that a travelling sideways addiction begins.
Authors Note: No stereotypes were hurt during the writing of this article (unless I missed any?). All characters are fictional, any likeness to past, present or future persons is purely coincidental. The use of similar names to famous people in each sport is not to belittle them or their achievements but to make it obvious they are fictional in this surfing vs skateboarding vs snowboarding ‘debate’.