Surfskate Wheels Guide: What are You Looking For in a Surfskate Wheel?

by | Jan 16, 2022 | Surfskate Wheels

Surfskate wheels make a huge difference in your ride. If you want to upgrade your surfskate wheels, how can you know what to look for? Read this surfskate wheels guide to find out.

I’ve tested more than 15 sets of aftermarket wheels for surfskating to date. When testing wheels for surfskating, the questions I ask are:

  1. How well do they grip for tight carving?
  2. How efficiently do they pump?
  3. How well do they handle rough surfaces, cracks, and pebbles?
  4. How fast are they?
  5. How comfortable are they?
  6. How well do they slide?

In this surfskate wheels guide, rather than giving you specific surfskate wheel recommendations, I will give you good guidelines that will help you in choosing upgraded aftermarket wheels for your surfskate.

I’ll cover all the different attributes of a wheel you should be considering for surfskate wheels, and how each of those attributes affect the questions above. I’ll finish by giving you a standard and an ideal range for all the different wheel attributes for surfskating specifically.

For help with choosing your next surfskate, get my Ultimate Surfskate Selector.

Surfskate Wheels Guide: Wheel Attributes

There are many aspects of skateboard/longboard/surfskate wheels that affect their performance. These include:

  • Diameter: Wheel diameter is the distance across the face of the wheel. It essentially means how high a wheel is. This is important for surfskate wheels because of the wheelbite issue on surfskate trucks.
  • Durometer: Durometer refers to the softness or hardness of wheels. Softer wheels give you better grip, harder wheels give you better slide. Softer durometers also absorb bumps better, and thus feel softer and more comfortable.
  • Contact Patch: The portion of the wheel that touches the ground. This is typically slightly thinner than the total width of the wheel. This matters on surfskate wheels because the wider the contact patch, the harder it is to pump. The narrower your contact patch, the more nimble your surfskate pumping.
  • Surface: Wheel surfaces come either smooth, which gives them more grip, or stoneground, which makes them easier to slide.
  • Edge: The more squared off your wheel edge, the better grip the wheel will give you. The more rounded the edge, the easier it will be to slide.
  • Core Placement: The core of wheels for surfskating or longboarding can be sideset, offset, or centerset. Sideset cores are aligned right along the inside edge of the wheel. Offset cores are placed just inside the inside edge. Centerset cores are placed right in the center of the wheels. Sideset cores give you the least amount of grip and are the easiest to slide. Centerset wheels give you the greatest amount of grip.
  • Urethane Thickness: Urethane thickness is determined by the size of the wheel core. The smaller the core, the thicker the urethane, which makes for a softer, more comfortable ride.

Let’s analyze each of these wheel attributes in turn to arrive at a good surfskate wheel guide:

Diameter

The smaller your surfskate wheels, the faster they can accelerate, but the lower their top speed. The bigger your surfskate wheels, the slower they’ll accelerate, but the faster their top speed.

For surfskate wheels, the diameter range I recommend is 63 millimeters at the very smallest and 75 millimeters at the very biggest.

When you get bigger than 70mm on a surfskate wheel, the more wheelbite becomes a concern. You can always add risers to accommodate bigger surfskate wheels. But the bigger your wheels, the harder it is to pump your surfskate.

For my personal preferences, for general surfskating maneuvers and street cruising, the ideal range for surfskate wheels is between 66 and 70 millimeters in diameter.

For surfskating in bowls and parks, I recommend smaller surfskate wheels. I’d say between 58 millimeters and 65 millimeters in that environment.

When choosing diameter for your surfskate wheels, consider your riding style and the terrain you’re riding.

If you like doing tight surf maneuvers in small areas and on smooth surfaces, such as tennis courts and driveways, then a surfskate wheel on the smaller end will suit you best, probably between 66 and 68 millimeters.

If you’re riding for longer distances and over rougher surfaces, then you’ll probably want to get a better wheel for surfskating, between 68 and 75 millimeters.

When it comes to diameter for surfskate wheels, remember this principle: what you gain in size, you gain in size but lose in nimbleness. What you lose in size, you lose in speed but gain in nimbleness.

Durometer

Durometer is the next aspect of surfskate wheels to consider. This refers to the softness or hardness of the urethane.

The scale to measure urethane durometer ranges from 75a to 100a. The lower the number, the softer the urethane. The higher the number, the harder.

Softer wheels give you more grip. Harder wheels are easier to slide. That’s just personal preference based on riding style.

The durometer range I recommend for surfskate wheels is between 77a and 84a.

However, that is complicated because durometer is not an objective scale. Every urethane from every company has a different chemical formulation. Two different urethane formulas can have the same durometer rating, but one will be softer than the other.

If you like doing sharp, tight surf maneuvers that require a lot of grip, you will want surfskate wheels on the softer end of the scale, probably 77-78a. However, if you like doing more sliding on your surfskate, you may want to get harder wheels, closer to 80-84a in durometer.

When you’re surfskating in bowls and parks, you want smaller and harder wheels than typical surfskate cruising wheels. For that environment, you want surfskate wheels in a durometer range of between 84a and 97a at the very hardest.

Contact Patch

When it comes to measuring the width of wheels, there are two measurements: the actual wheel width, and the contact patch. The contact patch is the portion of the wheel that rolls along the ground. So typically, wheels measure just a bit wider than the contact patch. But generally speaking, contact patch refers to the width of the wheel.

In surfskating, contact patch matters because the narrower the contact patch, the more nimble your carving will be. Conversely, the wider the contact patch, the harder it is to pump and carve.

For a good surfskate wheel guide, I’ve found the ideal contact patch range to be between 42 millimeters and 53 millimeters on very the high end. And honestly, I prefer a contact patch of 51 millimeters or less. For me, the ideal contact patch is in the center of that scale, around 47-49 millimeters.

Wheel Surface

Wheels come in two surfaces: smooth and stoneground. Stoneground wheels are ground at the factory to make them easier to slide out of the box. So the bottom line is, you get more grip out of smooth surface wheels and more slide out of stoneground wheels.

I’ve tried several sets of stoneground wheels, and I’ve only found a couple that I like for surfskating. Most of the stoneground wheels I’ve tried were too slidey, and my back wheels slide when I pump. So I generally prefer smooth over stoneground wheels for surfskating.

If you’re a good slider, you may want to experiment with stoneground wheels.

Wheel Edge or Lip Profile

The edge of a wheel, or the lip profile, impacts grip and slide characteristics. Some wheel edges are sharp, others are rounded. Sharp edges give you more grip and rounded edges are easier to slide.

Core Placement

Core placement refers to where the bearings are positioned in the middle of the wheel. Wheels can be positioned one of three ways:

  1. Sideset: The core on sideset wheels is placed very close to the inner lip of the wheel.
  2. Offset: The core on offset wheels is placed off center, closer to the inner side of the wheel.
  3. Centerset: The core on centerset wheels is placed directly in the middle of the wheel.

Centerset wheels give you the most grip. Sideset wheels give you the least grip. Offset wheels are a nice balance of grip and slide.

For surfskate wheels, you want either offset or centerset wheels. Most aftermarket surfskate wheels will be offset. Carver surfskate wheels are centerset.

Urethane Thickness

The surfskate wheel guideline to consider is urethane thickness. The smaller the wheel core, the thicker the urethane, and the softer the ride. The bigger the wheel core, the thinner the urethane, and the more jarring the ride will feel.

I typically like wheels with small cores and thick urethane, especially for rough surfaces.

Surfskate Wheel Guidelines

With all that said, here are the surfskate wheel guidelines I look for when considering aftermarket wheels for surfskating:

  • Diameter: Between 65mm and 75 mm, ideally between 66mm and 70mm
  • Durometer: Between 76a and 84a, ideally between 77a and 80a
  • Contact Patch: Between 42mm and 53mm, ideally between 47mm and 51mm
  • Surface: Typically smooth, although some stoneground wheels work well
  • Edge/Lip Profile: Typically square for more grip
  • Core Placement: Offset or centerset

Hopefully, you’ll find this surfskate wheel guide helpful as you’re looking to upgrade your surfskate wheels.

For help with learning how to ride your surfskate, get my video course, “Surfskating for Non-Surfers.”