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How to Build a Custom Surfskate: A Comprehensive Guide

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Upgrades & Customizations

Building your own custom surfskate is a big part of the fun of surfskating.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create any type of custom surfskate.

You’ll also learn how to optimize the performance of your custom surfskate with upgrades.

To make it easier for you, I’ve created this supplemental guide as a PDF download. It gives you links, visuals, and instructions for the most important information throughout the guide.

Watch My Guide to Building a Custom Surfskate Video
custom surfskate tools
You don’t need necessarily need all of these tools and supplies. But here’s what I use regularly when building custom surfskates:
 

  • Skate tool(s)
  • Drill with Phillips and Allen bits
  • Ratchet wrench
  • Allen wrenches (metric and standard)
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Channel locks
  • Hammer (for removing kingpins)
  • Utility knife and roller tool for griptape
  • Digital caliper for measuring bushings sizes
  • Shore-A durometer gauge for measuring bushings durometers
  • Dremel
  • Hardware (see below)
  • A variety of bushings (see below)
  • Riser pads (and possibly wedge risers, see below)
  • Traditional Kingpin (TKP) and Reverse Kingpin (RKP) Trucks

 

Hardware for Building a Custom Surfskate

 
If you’re going to build a lot of custom surfskates, then you need a lot of hardware.

I have a drawer in my tool chest where I keep all of my hardware, which I get from www.boltdepot.com.

I get bolts in quarter-inch increments from five eighths inch all the way up to two inches. You can get them with either Allen or Phillips heads, and that’s just personal preference.

You may also want to have all sizes in both black and silver to match your custom setups.

Get socket flat head or Phillip’s head fine thread screws in the following increments:
 

  • 5/8”
  • 3/4″
  • 1”
  • 1 1/8”
  • 1 1/4″
  • 1 1/2″
  • 1 3/4″
  • 2”

 
You’ll also need nuts. Make sure they’re the hex nylon insert lock nuts because the nylon locks them in place.

You need the following nut sizes:
 

  • #10-32: Used to attach your truck baseplate to your deck.
  • 5/16”: Used to attach your wheels to your axles.
  • 3/8”: Used to attach your truck hanger to your kingpin.

Start with a Custom Surfskate Deck

 

When you’re building a custom surfskate, your first decisions are 1) what deck you’re going to use, and 2) which surfskate truck to use with it.

It’s difficult to separate the two because they are very much interrelated. Some surfskate trucks are more universal than others and work on just about any deck. Others work best only on specific types of decks.

Also, every surfskate truck changes your wheelbase measurement. So a truck that has an axle that hangs further back, such as the Smoothstar Thruster, may not work for a deck that works with the Carver C7, for example.

So when I’m building a custom surfskate, I first choose the deck, because that determines everything else.

The deck wheelbase and other properties determine how the ride will feel and perform. And the deck determines which surfskate trucks will work best. So you want to build everything around the deck.

The aspects of a surfskate deck to consider include:

  • Wheelbase
  • Length
  • Width
  • Shape
  • Concave
  • Tail
  • Flexibility
  • Rocker or camber profile

Wheelbase is the measurement between your inner bolt holes. I list wheelbase first. In my opinion, that’s the first and most important aspect to consider when choosing a custom surfskate deck.

This is because if your deck wheelbaseis too narrow for your stance width, your surfskate will be unrideable. So if that’s the case, none of the other deck properties matter.

This is particularly true if you use a surfskate truck with a set-back axle that narrows the wheelbase. This would include trucks such as the Smoothstar Thruster, SwellTech, and YOW Meraki.

Learn How Surfskate Trucks Offset Your Wheelbase

So first get the wheelbase right on your custom surfskate deck. Next, you need to know what you’re going to be doing on it and how you want it to feel.

For example, if you want a surfskate for bowl riding, then you want a deck with a narrower wheelbase and good concave to lock your feet in.

If you want a smooth and flowy surfskate cruiser, a wide wheelbase with little or no concave will work well.

Here are some general guidelines to help you choose your custom surfskate deck:

  • For tighter, sharper lines and short-distance skating, go with a narrower wheelbase.
  • For longer, smoother, flowier lines and longer-distance cruising, go with a wider wheelbase.
  • For high-performance riding, including snaps, slides, and bowl riding, you want good concave to lock your feet in.
  • The less aggressive you’re skating, the less concave you need.

I also want to say a word about flexibility, because that’s a huge aspect for me.

One of the aspects I love most about Soulboardiy decks is their very high torsional flex. This refers to the board twisting in the middle as it responds to your movements.

And my favorite custom surfskates have decks with high flex. So if you haven’t yet played with flexible decks, I highly recommend that you do.

I also recommend that you try decks that have a camber profile with a lot of flex.

I have two examples of that, the Classic deck from Booyah Boards in Germany, and a Hackbrett Longboards deck, also from Germany:

That combination of the camber with flex is a really fun bouncy, lively feel. It’s fantastic for long-distance pumping.
Watch Me Pump a Cambered, Flexy Deck

As far as surfskate deck options go, you can choose decks from surfskate companies. There are a handful of companies who make decks for surfskates specifically. Or you can just use any skateboard or longboard deck you want.

If you’re looking at decks from surfskate companies, I personally like Carver and YOW decks the best. That’s good because they’re the only companies that sell their decks separately. (Although Carver doesn’t offer their whole lineup of decks.)

My personal favorite aftermarket surfskate decks are from Soulboardiy in Slovakia and Abian in Spain.

Whitetail Skateboards in Canada offers a couple of great options with high concave and steep tails and noses. These work well for versatile skaters, especially those with a traditional skating background.

Booyah Boards from Germany sent me two decks. They are extremely well constructed, they feel fantastic, and they look gorgeous.

Zenit has a couple of options, although I haven’t tried them yet. Koabar decks from Germany look great in pictures. But I haven’t been able to try one yet because I can’t get them to respond to me. Pantheon also has a surfskate deck in the works that I’m looking forward to.

Aside from that, you can just grab stuff off eBay and Facebook marketplace. Or you can even make your own decks.

You can make pretty much any typical longboard deck work with a surfskate truck.

You can use skateboard decks. But the challenge there is that the wheelbase will probably be too narrow for your stance width.

So if you’re going to do that, you either need to have a very narrow stance width. Or you need to use a deck that has a wider wheelbase than a typical skateboard.

If you want to use a deck that you love but the wheelbase is too narrow, one possible solution is the Remora Wheelbase extender from Whitetail Skateboards. It’s particularly useful for decks with sharp upturned noses.

whitetail skateboards remora wheelbase extender

Whatever deck you use, remember that the wheelbase has to be wide enough for your stance width. Also, remember to compensate for the axle offset of your surfskate truck.

Choosing the Front Truck of Your Custom Surfskate

 

Obviously, the more surfskate trucks you have to work with, the more customization options you have. But start with what you have and expand your options as you have the budget.

If you want more surfskate trucks to make custom set-ups, then don’t buy complete models, unless you really want the deck.

But if you’re working with your own deck, then find the trucks that you can buy separately. These include are most of the major brands except for Smoothstar and SwellTech.

The surfskate trucks you can buy separately include:

When choosing a surfskate truck for a deck, here are the aspects I consider:

  • Feel (tight, sharp, and snappy versus loose, smooth, and flowy)
  • Wheelbase offset
  • Rebound
  • Rail-to-rail lean
  • Forward momentum
  • Weight
  • Customization options

The first three surfskate trucks I would want in my quiver for custom surfskates are the Carver CX, Waterborne Surf Adapter, and YOW Meraki.

From there I would also add the Carver C7 and Grasp.

And if I wanted even more options than that, I would consider the SpiceSkate SpicePilot TypeX, Aquilo, Abian Pro, and possibly the Curfboard.

If you want to do a lot of experimenting with a lot of custom surfskates but you don’t want to spend a fortune on surfskate trucks, the Waterborne Surf Adapter has a distinct advantage. The reason being, assuming you already have TKP or RKP trucks to use it with, it’s the cheapest way to build out a lot of custom surfskates.

waterborne surf adapter

If you use the Waterborne Surf Adapter, I highly recommend that you replace the stock bushing, which comes in 95a durometer, with a RipTide bushing for the Waterborne Surf Adapter in 97.5a durometer.

That gives the Waterborne a lot more rebound and in my opinion, if you weigh more than about 150 pounds, it makes it feel much better.

Watch How to Replace the Waterborne Surf Adapter Bushing

When matching your surfskate truck with your deck, you first need to know which trucks are even options with your deck wheelbase.

Next, you need to know how you plan on using it. For example, for bowl riding and pump tracks, you would probably want a more stable bushing-based system. These include the Carver CX and Grasp.

For surf training cone drills on a smooth surface, you probably would want something loose, smooth, and flowy. These include the YOW Meraki, Waterborne Surf Adapter, Carver C7, Abian Pro, and Curfboard.

If you want to skate longer distances, you’ll want trucks that generate more forward momentum when you pump. These are the Carver CX, Carver C7, Waterborne Surf Adapter, and YOW Meraki.

How to Eliminate Wheelbite On a Custom Surfskate

Another thing to note is that wheelbite can become an issue with some surfskate trucks. This is particularly true for the YOW Meraki and Waterborne Surf Adapter. Your possible solutions for that include:

  • Adding risers. (I personally don’t like this option because surfskate trucks are already so high off the ground)
  • Use RKPs instead of TKPs on the Waterborne. This is because they ride higher off the ground and eliminate wheelbite.
  • Use smaller wheels. (Personally, Idon’t like wheelbite to determine the size of my wheels. So if I want to use larger wheels, I’ll use different solutions).
  • Use narrower axles.
  • Use a Dremel to make wheel wells. (Of course, only on worn-out decks you don’t care to preserve).

Choosing a Rear Truck for Your Custom Surfskate

 

A surfskate is more than a loose front truck. It’s a complete system with a front and rear truck that interact with each other.

The three main options we have for surfskates are a standard TKP truck on a high riser, the Carver C2, and the Waterborne Rail Adapter.

spiceskate okto yow meraki carver cx

I’ve also heard of people using Gullwing Sidewinders on the rear.

Of those first three standard options, I much prefer the Carver C2 and Waterborne Rail Adapter over a TKP with risers. I highly recommend that you use either of those for your best custom surfskates.

The Carver C2 gives you more turning ability.

The Waterborne Surf Adapter doesn’t turn as much, but it leans a lot more. That lean allows your back wheels to hug the ground easier through tight carving.
That’s as opposed to a TKP with risers, where you can get a back wheel lifting off the ground if you carve too tightly.

There’s one big secret to making the Waterborne Rail Adapter work well for you. That is to upgrade and customize the bushings.

The stock rail adapter bushings come in 85a durometer, which is very soft for my weight. This means that it’s too divey for me, and I can easily get wheelbite with the stock bushings.

So what I do is replace all my rail adapter stock bushings with Riptide bushings for the Waterborne Rail Adapter. I use either 87.5a or 90a durometer, depending on how much I want it to lean.

Waterborne Rail Adapter Bushings Guide

How to Eliminate Wheelbite on the Waterborne Rail Adapter

 
If you use the Waterborne Rail Adapter, the big thing to be aware of is wheelbite. You absolutely will get it if you’re using TKP trucks and wheels bigger than about 63mm.

Your options to eliminate this include:

  • Use harder bushings.
  • Add risers.
  • Use RKPs instead of TKPs.
  • Use smaller wheels.
  • Use narrower truck axles.
  • Make wheel wells in your deck.

Choosing Your Surfskate Wheels

 

Your choice of wheels makes a huge difference to how your surfskate feels and performs. The aspects of surfskate wheels to consider include:

  • Rebound
  • Diameter
  • Durometer
  • Width & Contact Patch
  • Edge Type
  • Core Placement
  • Wheel Surface
  • Urethane Thickness

This article on the best surfskate wheels gives you everything you need to know to upgrade and customize your surfskate wheels. It also includes my top recommendations from all the aftermarket surfskate wheels I’ve tried.

This infographic will also help you choose the best surfskate wheels for your custom set-up:

best surfskate wheels guidelines
A final note to mention about customizing your surfskate wheels is that some riders will put different durometers on their front and rear wheels. I’ve never had any interest in trying that, but it may be something you want to experiment with.
surfskate wheels banner

Customizing Your Surfskate Bushings

 

Upgrading your stock bushings to high-quality aftermarket bushings, and also customizing them for your weight, can completely transform your surfskate.

Personally, I upgrade all my custom surfskates with RipTide bushings for surfskates.

RipTide surfskate bushings are currently available for the Carver CX, YOW surfskates, Waterborne Surf Adapter, and Waterborne Rail Adapter.

Here’s how I go about upgrading and customizing with bushings. First, I find out three things about the bushings I’m replacing:

  • The type of bushings (typically cone or barrel on surfskates).
  • The size of the bushings (not just height but other measurements as well, and this is where you’ll use digital calipers).
  • The durometer of the bushings (this is where you’ll use a Shore-A durometer gauge).

That gives me the baseline information I need. From there, I need to know how my weight corresponds with the durometers of my replacement bushings.

Your weight is the primary factor that determines which bushing durometer you use. When you buy stock models, you get whatever durometer their bushings are, whether you weigh 120 pounds or 250 pounds.

So the point of replacing your surfskate bushings isn’t just to improve the performance. It’s also to get the durometer right for your weight.

carver cx bushings

I’ve learned from experience that there’s typically a range of three durometers I will choose from when customizing surfskates, depending on the feel I want.

Let’s use the Carver CX as an example. CX bushings come stock in 89a durometer. I weigh about 190 pounds, and that durometer is pretty perfect for my weight.

The closest equivalent in RipTide Carver CX bushings is their 90a bushings. So at 190 pounds, the yellow 90a Riptides are the best for me.

But I will also use the softer 87.5a bushings if I want a looser, flowier feel with more range of motion, or I will use the harder 92.5a bushings if I want something a bit stiffer.

Carver CX Bushings Guides

So at my weight, the three durometers that I typically use in RipTide bushings are the 87.5a, 90a, and 92.5a. And this holds true for me across the board with any surfskate truck, whether it’s the Carver CX, YOW Meraki, Waterborne Rail Adapter, or anything else.

But let’s say you weigh 150 pounds. In that case, I would say that the three durometers you should consider are the 85a, 87.5a, and 90a.

Or if you weigh 225 pounds, I’d say your three durometer range is the 90a, 92.5a, and 95a.

A final note on this is that you can mix and match your bushing durometers to fine-tune your ride even more. For example, you could have different durometers on your boardside and roadside bushings. You could even have different durometers for every bushing.

If you do this and we’re talking about the Carver CX, I’ve discovered a couple general guidelines for this:

If you want to mix and match duros on boardside and roadside, it’s typically better to use harder bushings on boardside than on roadside.

This is because the boardside bushing carries your weight. This means that, relative to the roadside bushing, it is more prone to deform with the extra weight. A harder boardside bushing gives more rebound back to center.

If you want to mix and match duros on front and rear, it’s typically better to use a harder duro on the rear and softer on front.

This is because what makes surfskate trucks work is the combination of a loose front truck with a more stable rear truck. A softer rear truck decreases your rebound and carving ability.

Choosing Wheel Bearings for Your Custom Surfskate

 

I’ve already covered the topic in this comprehensive surfskate wheel bearings guide.

I’ll just bottom-line it here by saying I’ve tried a couple dozen wheel bearings. The absolute best ones I’ve ever tried are G|Bomb bearings. Those are what I use in all my best custom setups.

I also recommend Zealous built-in bearings for a cheaper option.

Upgrading Your Surfskate Pivot Cups

 
Upgrading your pivot cups is important because surfskate pivot cups are notorious for squeaking as you pump.

You can get rid of the squeaking by using paraffin wax or marine grease in the pivot cup. But a better long-term solution is to just replace them with RipTide pivot cups.

RipTide surfskate pivot cups come in their WFB formula. This formula has a unique lubrication added that doesn’t bond with the urethane.

When you look at RipTide surfskate pivot cups up close, you’ll see a white residue on them, almost like a chalky substance. That white residue is that lubricant. It continues lubricating your pivot over time so you don’t have to keep adding wax shavings or grease.

riptide surfskate pivot cups

Not only do RipTide pivot cups for surfskates stop squeaking, but they also improve your performance. You will feel the difference in smoother, more effortless turns.

We currently have RipTide surfskate pivot cups available for the Carver CX, Carver C7, and YOW Meraki.

riptide surfskate pivot cups

Customizing Your Surfskate Bushings Washers

 
On most stock surfskates, the bushing washers are cupped instead of flat. Cupped washers hold the urethane in place better.

One simple way to change the feel of your surfskate truck a bit is to change out your cupped washers for flat washers. This allows the bushings to move around more, which increases your range of motion.

riptide surfskate pivot cups
That’s a relatively minor detail and it’s just personal preference, but it may be something you want to play with.

Another note I want to make about this is that it’s fairly common to see people talking about their YOW bushings breaking down. I was talking about this with Brad Miller, the owner of RipTide, and I showed him all these pictures:

yow surfskate bushings
yow surfskate bushings
yow surfskate bushings
yow surfskate bushings
yow surfskate bushings
Brad’s theory was that the YOW washers have too harsh of an angle, which makes them dig into the bushings. So that may be another reason to replace your bushing washers.

Using Wedge Risers On Your Surfskate

 
Wedged risers are interesting to play with because they change the angle of either your front or back truck, which can make it feel and perform much differently.

I haven’t played around a lot with them because I think they’re more applicable to disciplines like long-distance pumping. But you do see them on completes, such as on the rear of Smoothstars.

You can either wedge or dewedge trucks. Wedging means the thicker side of the riser is on the inside.

yow surfskate bushings
Dewedging means the thicker side of the riser is on the outside.
yow surfskate bushings
The one truck I have used wedged risers with is the Curfboard, and it actually makes a huge difference.

In my review of the Curfboard, I talk about it having relatively low rail-to-rail lean and having a bit of a hitch when you lean deep into the rails.

Watch My Curfboard Review

But if you dewedge the Curfboard truck with an angle of between 8 and 12 degrees, it completely eliminates both of those. It makes the Curfboard lean much deeper and with a completely smooth turn.

If you want to play with wedged risers, the best source is www.patsrisers.com. He offers a lot of different options. I grabbed his full kit, which comes with wedges in every degree from 1 to 20.

Customizing Your Surfskate Griptape

 
I’m certainly no expert on griptape, but working with griptape is really easy. There are a lot of options for griptape. You can get it in black and clear, you can get it with designs and patterns, you can get it in small strips or long rolls.

I’ve applied griptape to four boards so far. Applying it is really easy. You just pull the back off, lay it across the board, push down on the center then out the sides, then use a roller tool to push it down. Just watch a quick YouTube tutorial before doing it.

Another option for griptape is Lucid clear spray-on griptape. I used it on this Hamboards Huntington Hop deck and it worked fine, although it’s not nearly as grippy as traditional griptape.

But the real challenge with it is that it wears off over time, and if you want to reapply griptape to your board, the only way to get it all off to prepare the deck is to sand it off.

So while the spray-on looks good, I don’t recommend it.

Using Footstops on Your Surfskate

 
Footstops can be attached to the front of your surfskate to lock your foot in place so it doesn’t move when you pump.

yow surfskate bushings
My friend Gavin Conti loves footstops and uses them on all his surfskates. And when you watch him skate, you’ll see why. He skates very aggressively with a lot of deep carves and slides, so you can see why he would like that locked-in feel.

I’ve tried footstops and I’m personally not a fan of them because I prefer to be able to shift my stance and move around. But that may be something you want to play with.

There are a lot of them available in the market. RipTide offers a few. The one Gavin Conti uses and recommends is from Rogers Bros.

Protect Your Custom Surfskate with Rail Guards

 
Personally, I don’t mind if my surfskates get wear and tear. But there are some that I really like to protect to keep them looking good, like my Soulboardiys.

One great way to protect your surfskate is to use rail guards. These come in strips and they slip easily around the rails of your deck. You can put them in front and on the back to prevent your rails from getting dinged by curbs and whatever else.

yow surfskate bushings