Smoothstar Surfskate Review and Buyer’s Guide
Smoothstar is one of the most popular surfskate brands, and the Smoothstar Thruster is consistently ranked as one of the best surfskate trucks for surf training.
I’ve owned and tested the Smoothstar Manta Ray, Filipe Toledo #77, and Conor O’Leary Thruster D.
In this Smoothstar surfskate review and Smoothstar buyer’s guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Smoothstar surfskates, including how Smoothstar compares to Carver and YOW surfskates, and how to choose the right Smoothstar surfskate model for you.
*DISCLAIMER: I am not a surfer, so I am not qualified to comment on whether Smoothstar surfskates are the “best surf trainer.” But I can explain to you in great detail how they feel and perform in relation to the 43 different surfskate trucks I’ve tested so far.
To save time, money, and hassle in choosing the best surfskate for you, get my free Surfskate Selector app now.
Smoothstar Surfskate Review Topics
- Smoothstar Thruster 1 Surfskate Truck Review
- Smoothstar Thruster D Surfskate Truck Review
- Smoothstar Surfskate Decks Review
- Smoothstar Wheels Review
- What I Like About Smoothstar Surfskates
- What I Don’t Like About Smoothstar Surfskates
- Who are Smoothstar Surfskates Best For?
- Smoothstar vs Carver: Which is Better?
- Smoothstar vs. YOW: Which is Better?
- How to Choose the Right Smoothstar Surfskate Model for You
Bottom Line Up Front
The Smoothstar Thruster 1 has always been rated by surfers as one of the top surf trainers. It feels very loose, fluid, and smooth and has a very tight turning radius.
In late 2022, Smoothstar introduced the new Thruster D. It feels almost identical to the Thruster 1, but it offsets your wheelbase 2.5″ less than the Thruster 1. This means you can have shorter decks with the Thruster D, which makes your set-ups lighter and more nimble. For that reason, I include the Thruster D on my list of the top 10 surfskates, but not the Thruster 1.
If you’re a surfer looking for a surf trainer, I think a Smoothstar surfskate should be one of your top considerations. If you’re a non-surfer, however, I think you’re much better off with a Carver, YOW, Waterborne, or Slide.
Obviously, the most important component of any surfskate system is the surfskate truck itself. So let’s start there.
The YOW Meraki uses a coiled tension spring. In contrast, both the Carver C7 and Smoothstar Thruster 1 use longitudinal compression springs.
I love the feel of the Smoothstar Thruster 1. In fact, I’ve referred to it as the “Mercedes-Benz” of surfskate trucks. It feels effortlessly smooth and fluid and has an incredibly sharp turning radius.
Of the 43 surfskate trucks I’ve ridden, the Smoothstar Thruster is among the most smooth, fluid, loose, and luxurious-feeling surfskate trucks.
I find the Smoothstar Thruster to be a pure surf trainer. This means it is intended to be used for surf maneuver training in small areas and on smooth surfaces. And for this purpose, I find it to be extraordinary and one of my favorite surfskate trucks.
When I asked my YouTube subscribers which surfskate trucks they ride the most, out of 420 responses, these were the results:
How Does the Smoothstar Thruster Surfskate Truck Feel?
There are many aspects of surfskate truck performance that affect the feel, including how loose and fluid it is, the turning radius, the amount of rail-to-rail lean, the stability, and other factors.
On the simplest level, I describe surfskate trucks as feeling either loose, flowy, smooth, and fluid on one end of the scale, or tight and snappy on the other end of the scale.
The coiled tension spring on the YOW Meraki feels tighter and snappier, while the longer, thinner, softer compression spring on a Smoothstar surfskate with a Thruster feels smoother, looser, more fluid.
The YOW Meraki has a bit more rail-to-rail lean and more forward momentum with each pump. The Smoothstar Thruster has less rail-to-rail lean and generates less forward momentum with each pump. On a Smoothstar surfskate, it feels more like your front foot glides from side to side, while on the YOW Meraki you feel like you’re being pulled forward more.
This means that the Smoothstar Thruster works best as a pure surf trainer in small areas and short distances.
Check out Jack of Dogtown rocking his Smoothstar surfskate on YouTube:
How Does the Smoothstar Thruster Compare to the Other Top Surfskate Trucks?
Caveat: I’m not a surfer, so I’m not qualified to recommend surfskate trucks on the basis of surf training. However, I can describe in experiential terms how different surfskate trucks feel and compare to each other.
After testing 43 different surfskate trucks, I believe the best surfskates are (in alphabetical order):
- Abian Pro
- Carver C7
- Carver CX
- Grasp Pado .23
- Long Island Genesis Lean
- Slide V3
- Smoothstar Thruster D
- SpiceSkate OKTOSURF (v2)
- SpiceSkate SpicePilot TypeX
- Waterborne Surf Adapter
- YOW Meraki
For detailed descriptions of each of these, see my article on the best surfskates.
To describe how they feel, I use a scale ranging from pure surf trainers on the one hand, to street cruisers on the other.
Pure surf trainer surfskate trucks feel smoother, looser, more fluid and are easier to move side-to-side with your upper body. This means they work better for doing tight maneuvers in small areas.
On the other end of the scale, pure street cruiser surfskate trucks feel tighter and snappier. Compared to the pure surf trainers, they generate more forward momentum when you pump. This means they are better for pumping and cruising for longer distances.
On this scale, I put the Smoothstar Thruster 1 as a pure surf trainer:
Is the Smoothstar Thruster Adjustable?
The Smoothstar Thruster is a dual-axis surfskate truck system, which means it has two dimensions of motions: the lateral arm that swings from side to side, and the truck itself, which is attached to the swing arm via the kingpin bolt.
Both the lateral swing arm and the truck are adjustable on the Smoothstar Thruster.
The main adjustment is the allen key that sits on the back of the truck. To loosen the spring, turn that key counterclockwise. To tighten it, turn it clockwise.
You can adjust the tightness of the bushings using the kingpin nut, which will adjust the truck lean. You won’t feel this adjustment as much as the spring adjustment.
The Smoothstar Thruster D surfskate truck is the same general design as the Thruster 1, but with some important differences. Like the Thruster 1, the Thruster D uses a longitudinal compression spring, which is adjustable in the same way as the Thruster 1.
The Thruster D still gives you the same loose, smooth, flowy feel you’re used to on the Thruster 1. However, it offers a bit more resistance, which makes it feel closer to the YOW Meraki than the Thruster 1.
The biggest difference on the Smoothstar Thruster D is that it has a shorter wheelbase offset than the Thruster 1. By “wheelbase offset,” I’m referring to how surfskate truck axles hang back further than the inner bolts of your deck.
The Smoothstar Thruster 1 has the most wheelbase offset of any other surfskate truck. Compared to the Carver C7, which does not offset your wheelbase, the Thruster 1 offsets your wheelbase by 4″.
However, the new Thruster D offsets your wheelbase by just 1.5″ — a full 2.5″ difference. This means that with the Thruster D, you can use a 2.5″ shorter deck than you need for the Thruster 1. This makes your Smoothstar surfskate lighter, more compact, and more nimble.
Smoothstar offers 8 models ranging from 26″ to 39″ in length, including:
- 26″ Mini Gromm
- 30″ Barracuda
- 32″ Flying Fish
- 32.5″ Johanne Defay
- 33″ Holy Toledo
- 34″ Filipe Toledo #77
- 35.5″ Manta Ray
- 39″ Dolphin Cruiser
I own the Manta Ray and the Filipe Toledo #77.
Smoothstar surfskate decks are known for their remarkably deep concave. SwellTech decks tend to be relatively flat, while Carver and YOW decks generally have medium concave, and Smoothstar decks have the deepest concave of them all.
Smoothstar designs their decks deliberately this way. They recommend that you ride them in barefeet and use them for surf training. And for this purpose, I find them to work remarkably well.
In addition to the deep concave, Smoothstar surfskate decks also have a steep kicktail. This means you have a lot of leverage as you drive through sharp turns while performing surf maneuvers. Your feet stay locked in and drive power through the turns.
I love the feel of the Filipe Toledo #77 deck, but I find concave on the Manta Ray to be a bit too deep for my preference. On the Manta Ray, my feet will tire out after about a half hour. Riding barefoot will alleviate that, but that’s not my favorite way to ride.
However, this is not a criticism at all. To me, Smoothstar decks make a lot more sense for surf training than most surfskate decks with less concave and a flatter kicktail. For performing tight maneuvers in small spaces, I personally find Smoothstar surfskate decks to be among the best.
Smoothstar surfskate wheels are smaller and harder than most stock surfskate wheels, such as the bigger, softer wheels you’ll find on Carver, YOW, Slide, and SwellTech surfskates.
While most surfskate wheels range from 66mm to 70mm in diameter, Smoothstar surfskate wheels range from 60mm to 65mm.
Like their deep concave decks, this is intentional. Given that Smoothstar surfskates are designed to be ridden in small areas and on smooth surfaces, it makes sense, and they work very well for that purpose.
However, this also means that they are not versatile. They aren’t as fast and they don’t handle rough surfaces as well as bigger, softer wheels. Their hardness makes them easier to slide than Carver or YOW wheels.
Again, this is not a criticism, but an observation.
The Smoothstar Thruster has an extraordinary feel that must be experienced for yourself. It is exceptionally smooth and fluid. It feels like a hoverboard on your feet.
I like how Smoothstar surfskate decks feel and perform. You feel locked in while doing hard and tight maneuvers.
Smoothstar puts together a complete system that works excellent for its intended purpose: pure surf training in small areas.
Another thing I really appreciate about Smoothstar is that they are the only company with a good board selection process on their website.
When I first got into surfskating, one of my biggest frustrations was trying to choose models from company websites. It’s particularly difficult to choose models with YOW and Carver, because they both offer so many models, with little to no education.
The biggest thing I don’t like about Smoothstar surfskate systems is that they use poor-quality component parts. This includes their decks, TKP trucks, bushings, pivot cups, wheels, and bearings.
If you do much customizing, you’ll probably want to replace and upgrade as much as possible on your Smoothstar surfskate.
As a non-surfer who likes to ride for long distances, I personally don’t ride a Smoothstar surfskate much because they don’t generate a lot of forward momentum.
This is not a criticism at all, but simply a difference in riding style.
I think a Smoothstar surfskate is one of the best surfskates money can buy for surfers who want to use a surfskate to improve their surfing.
They are best used for doing tight maneuvers in small areas and on smooth surfaces, such as surfskate drills with cones.
Are Smoothstar Surfskates Good for Beginners?
The answer to this question depends on whether you’re a beginner to all board sports, or just surfskating.
If you’re an experienced skateboarder or longboarder but you’ve never surfskating, then you should be able to learn surfskating on a Smoothstar surfskate without too much difficulty. It will definitely be an adjustment going from a skateboard or longboard truck to a surfskate truck, but if you can already balance on a board well, you’ll pick it up just fine.
However, if you are a beginner to all board sports, then I definitely recommend that you not start on a Smoothstar surfskate. Smoothstar surfskates are less stable than other surfskates, and therefore harder to learn to ride.
My top recommendations for beginner surfskate trucks are the Carver CX and Slide V3, as they are the most stable surfskate trucks.
Do Smoothstar Surfskates Work for Bowl Riding?
While Smoothstar surfskates can be ridden in the bowl, they are definitely not the easiest. As one of the loosest surfskate trucks, they can become unstable if you hit transitions wrong, as I’ve personally experienced.
After trying the Carver CX, Carver C7, Slide V3, Smoothstar Thruster, and YOW Meraki for bowl riding, my personal favorite surfskate truck for bowl riding is the Carver CX, because of its stability.
If you’re a beginner to bowl riding, don’t start on a Smoothstar surfskate. Start on something more stable instead. Only use a Smoothstar surfskate for bowl riding if you’re an advanced rider.
For a more detailed analysis, see my article, “What are the Best Surfskates for Bowl Riding?”
Obviously, no one can definitely answer this question because there is so much personal preference involved.
After purchasing and testing more than 45 surfskates, which includes 24 different surfskate trucks, here’s my bottom-line take:
- The Smoothstar Thruster feels smoother, looser, and more fluid than either the Carver C7 or Carver CX.
- The Smoothstar Thruster is easier to move from side to side with upper body movements than either the Carver C7 or CX.
- The Smoothstar Thruster generates less forward momentum than either the Carver C7 or CX.
So I can’t tell you whether you should buy a Smoothstar or a Carver. But I think these are some good general guidelines for making that decision:
- If you’re a surfer wanting a surfskate for surf training, you probably want to go with a Smoothstar surfskate.
- If you’re a non-surfer street cruiser, you probably want to go with a Carver.
- If you’re a non-surfer beginner, you probably want to start on a Carver, not a Smoothstar.
- If you want a surfskate for bowl riding, you probably want to go with Carver over Smoothstar.
These YouTube videos on Smoothstar versus Carver may also help you make the decision:
If you’re trying to decide between a Smoothstar surfskate and a YOW surfskate, my guess is that you’re a surfer wanting a surfskate for surf training. In this case, as a non-surfer, I’m not the best person to ask.
However, what I can say is this:
- My polls and surveys show that most surfers prefer the YOW Meraki over the Smoothstar Thruster for surf training.
- Smoothstar surfskate decks have very deep concave compared to YOW decks. Having tried the Smoothstar Manta Ray and Filipe Toledo #77, I much prefer Smoothstar surfskate decks over the YOW decks I’ve tried. I believe the high concave Smoothstar surfskate decks are probably better for technical surf training, but that could just be personal preference.
- The YOW Meraki is easier to maintain than the Smoothstar Thruster.
- When it comes to customer service, my experience is that YOW is much easier to work with than Smoothstar. And I’ve heard many similar reports online.
- I think YOW surfskates use higher-quality component parts than Smoothstar surfskates.
Hopefully, that will help you decide between a Smoothstar surfskate or a YOW surfskate.
These YouTube videos comparing Smoothstar versus YOW surfskates may also help:
Once you’ve determined that a Smoothstar surfskate is what you want, now you have to choose your model.
Of all the surfskate companies, Smoothstar offers the best board selection process by far. In fact, they’re the only surfskate company with a buying process on their website.
Simply input your specifications into their recommendation calculator and they’ll tell you which Smoothstar surfskate model is best for you.
For more help with choosing your Smoothstar surfskate, get my free Surfskate Selector app now.