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Smoothstar Thruster D Review: Is it Truly a “Game Changer”?

by | Jan 23, 2023 | Reviews

The Smoothstar Thruster D was introduced in late 2022. It replaced the Smoothstar Thruster 1, which has not been updated since 2004.

While the Thruster D feels similar to the old Thruster, there are some noteable design differences.

Smoothstar calls the new Thruster D design a “game changer,” and I have to agree. I find it to be a remarkable improvement that makes Smoothstar even more of a competitor as a pure surf trainer.

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Watch My Smoothstar Thruster D Review on YouTube

Bottom Line Up Front

In my surveys of surfers, the Smoothstar Thruster 1 always ranks near the top for pure surf trainers. It feels very loose, fluid, and smooth and has a very tight turning radius.

However, the main disadvantage of the Thruster 1 is that the axle hangs back 4″ from the inner bolt holes. This means you need longer decks to accommodate your stance width.

The Smoothstar Thruster D feels almost identical to the Thruster 1. The main difference is that the wheelbase offset on the Thruster D is only 1.5″, which is 2.5″ less than the Thruster 1. This means you can have a shorter deck on the Thruster D, which makes your surfskate system lighter and more nimble.

For this reason, the Thruster D has replaced the Thruster 1 in my list of the best surfskates. If you’re a surfer looking for a pure surf trainer, I believe the Smoothstar Thruster D should be one of your top considerations.

What Does the Smoothstar Thruster D Look Like?

 

The Smoothstar Thruster D is a completely re-engineered design that looks radically different than the old Thruster 1. However, it uses the same compression-spring mechanism. It therefore gives you a similar smooth, loose feeling you’re used to on a Smoothstar (with some noticeable differences).

How Does the Smoothstar Thruster D Compare to the Old Thruster?

 

The Thruster 1 had a regular truck bolted onto a turning device. The Thruster D is an all-in-one system like the YOW Meraki, which makes it more compact. This results in a shorter wheelbase offset, less maintenance, and slightly less weight.

The Biggest Improvement in the Thruster D

 

The biggest improvement in the Thruster D is that Smoothstar has fixed one of the biggest disadvantages of the Thruster. That is the long wheelbase offset because of how far back the truck axle hangs relative to the deck inner bolts.

The Thruster 1 has the longest wheelbase offset of any surfskate truck. The Carver C7 has the least amount of wheelbase offset. Compparatively, the axle on the Smoothstar Thruster 1 hangs back a full four inches.

This means that you need a four-inch longer deck for a Smoothstar Thruster than for a Carver C7 to accommodate your stance width.

The new Thruster D only offsets your wheelbase by 1.5” — a full 2.5” difference compared to the old Thruster 1!

This also makes it less than the YOW Meraki, which offsets your wheelbase by 1.75”.

The end result of this is that you can now have shorter decks on the Smoothstar Thruster D than on the old Thruster 1. This makes your ride more compact and even more nimble and maneuverable.

The following images illustrate the differences in wheelbase offset on the top surfskate trucks. The four holes represent your deck bolt holes, and the lines show how far back the axle sits on each truck.

How Do the Thruster and Thruster D Compare in Feel & Performance

 

The biggest difference I feel is that the old Thruster feels looser and the Thruster D feels like it has more tension and resistance.

The old Thruster feels similar to the Curfboard. When you pump both of them, they generate a lot of lateral side-to-side motion with your front foot. This makes it effortless to move your front foot from side to side.

The Thruster D makes it feel a bit more like the YOW Meraki, with more spring and rebound. It feels more like it’s pushing back on you, whereas the old Thruster feels more like it’s just sliding side to side.

Whether or not this is a good thing comes down to personal preference. But the difference is very noticeable.

So it’s really just something you have to experience for yourself in order to make the best decision for you.

How Do the Thruster and Thruster D Compare in Weight

 

Smoothstar states that the Thruster D is lighter than the Thruster, and lists it as one of the benefits of the upgraded design.

However, the difference is so minimal that you won’t feel a difference in that regard.

Should You Replace Your Old Smoothstar with a new Smoothstar Thruster D Model?

 

This is a tough question because it depends on a lot of factors. These include your budget, how much you ride, and whether you prefer the feel of the Thruster or Thruster D.

The Thruster 1 and the Thruster D can be roughly compared to the difference between the old YOW S4/S5 and the new YOW Meraki.

If you’ve never tried either of those YOW surfskate systems, that analogy is lost on you. But the point is that the difference is substantial and very noticeable.

But where it gets complicated is that I can actually see a lot of riders preferring the feel of the old Thruster over the Thruster D. When I say the difference is substantial, I’m not saying that it feels better. Because only you can determine that for yourself. It’s just going to come down to personal preference.

So if you have the budget and you want to try a different feel, then you may want to add a Smoothstar Thruster D to your quiver.

Is the Smoothstar Thruster D Adjustable?

 
The Smoothstar Thruster D is a dual-axis surfskate truck system. This means it gives you two dimensions of motions. The first is the lateral arm that swings from side to side. The second is the TKP truck itself, which leans from side to side, just like any other skateboard or longboard truck.

The lateral swing arm on the Smoothstar Thruster D is easily adjustable, and that will give you the most noticeable change. The truck can also be tightened or loosened, but only carefully and with the caveat below.

The main adjustment is the allen key that sits on the back of the truck. Turning the key clockwise tightens the spring, and turning it counterclockwise loosens it.

You can adjust the tightness of the bushings using the kingpin nut, which will adjust the truck lean. You won’t feel this adjustment nearly as much as the spring adjustment.

However, this is somewhat difficult and tricky on the Smoothstar Thruster D compared to the old Thruster. The old Thruster had a kingpin bolt protruding upward with a nut on top of it, just like any other longboard or skateboard truck.

The Smoothstar Thruster D has the kingpin bolt reversed and facing downward. The nut is trapped in place, which allows you to turn the kingpin bolt to tighten or loosen the nut.

So you can loosen that nut, but it’s critical that you don’t loosen it too much. Make sure that the nut is at least flush with the top of the bolt so that the nylon is engaged with the bolt threads. This is tricky to do because it’s not as easy to see as on a normal truck.

Who is the Smoothstar Thruster D Best For?

 
Since I’m not a surfer, I can’t tell you which surfskate trucks best replicate the feel of surfing. But what I can do is describe the measurable differences in surfkate truck systems to help you narrow down your decision.

After testing 43 different surfskate trucks, the following are what I believe to be the best surfskates. (I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.)

  1. Abian Pro
  2. Aquilo
  3. Carver C7
  4. Carver CX
  5. Curfboard
  6. Grasp Pado .23
  7. Long Island Genesis Lean
  8. Slide V3
  9. Smoothstar Thruster D
  10. SpiceSkate OKTOSURF (v2)
  11. SpiceSkate SpicePilot TypeX
  12. SwellTech
  13. Waterborne Surf Adapter
  14. YOW Meraki

For detailed descriptions of each of these, see my article on the best surfskates.

Based on how they feel and perform, I put them a scale ranging from pure surf trainers to street cruisers.

Pure surf trainer surfskate trucks feel looser, smoother, more fluid and are easier to move side-to-side with your upper body. This makes them better for doing tight maneuvers in small areas.

Street cruiser surfskate trucks feel tighter and snappier. They generate more forward momentum when you pump. This makes them better for pumping and cruising for longer distances.

On this scale, I put the Smoothstar Thruster D as a pure surf trainer:

best surfskates
On a recent poll on my YouTube channel I asked surfers to choose what they think is the best “pure surf trainer” surfskate truck. Out of 295 votes, these were the results:

I think the Smoothstar Thruster D is one of the best surfskate trucks for surfers who want to use a surfskate to improve their surfing.

It is best used for doing tight maneuvers in small areas and on smooth surfaces, such as surfskate drills with cones.

It is not great for riding long distances because it doesn’t generate a lot of forward momentum with pumping. Because of how loose it is, it’s also not great for riding over rough surfaces.

 

Is the Smoothstar Thruster D Good for Beginners?

 

If you’re an experienced skateboarder or longboarder but you’ve never surfskated, then a Smoothstar Thruster D should work fine for you. It will be a major adjustment going from a skateboard or longboard truck to a surfskate truck. But if you can already balance on a board well, you’ll be fine.

However, if you are a beginner to all board sports, then a Smoothstar Thruster D may not the best choice for you. 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.

 

Does the Smoothstar Thruster D Work for Bowl Riding?

 

While you can ride a Smoothstar Thruster D in the bowl, it is definitely not the easiest surfskate truck for bowl riding.

If you’re a beginner to intermediate rider, the Carver CX, C7, or Slide trucks will probably work better for you than the Thruster D. But if you’re an advanced rider, not only with a Thruster D work for you, but you actually may prefer it over many other systems.

For a more detailed analysis, see my article, “What are the Best Surfskates for Bowl Riding?”

Smoothstar Thruster D versus Top Competitors

 

I believe the top competitors to the Smoothstar Thruster D to be the YOW Meraki, SpiceSkate TypeX, and SpiceSkate OKTOSURF. I can’t tell you which is better because there is so much personal preference involved.

But after testing them all, here are some points that may help you make the decision:

  • In terms of smooth, loose, fluid feeling, I would rank them in this order (smoother to tighter): Smoothstar Thruster D, YOW Meraki, SpiceSkate TypeX, SpiceSkate OKTOSURF.
  • In terms of how easy they are to move from side to side with upper body movements, I would rank them in the same order above (easier to harder).
  • In terms of generating forward momentum with pumping, I would rank them in this order: SpiceSkate OKTOSURF, YOW Meraki, SpiceSkate TypeX, Smoothstar Thruster D.
  • In terms of rail-to-rail lean, I would rank them in this order (low to high): Smoothstar Thruster D, SpiceSkate OKTOSURF, SpiceSkate TypeX, YOW Meraki.

I’ll be coming out with review videos from surfers to give you better information to choose between these top surf trainers.

How to Choose the Right Smoothstar Thruster D Model for You

 

Of all the surfskate companies, Smoothstar offers the best board selection process.

Simply input your specifications into their recommendation calculator and they’ll tell you which model is best for you.

For more help with choosing your Smoothstar surfskate, get my free Surfskate Selector app now.