SwellTech Surfskate Review: Is It the Best Surf Trainer?
Although opinions on the SwellTech vary widely, many surfers claim it to be the best pure surf trainer. But is it for you? I’ll try to answer that for you in this review.
If you’re trying to find the best surfskate for you, then check out my free Surfskate Selector app. It includes all models from the top 10 surfskate trucks. Just answer 8 quick questions and it reveals the best models for you.
Bottom Line Up Front
The SwellTech is the most radically-designed surfskate system you’ll find. The SwellTech front truck has a unique three-bolt pattern and the truck spins a full 360 degrees.
The 360-degree rotation on the SwellTech surfskate truck makes it very unstable relative to any other surfskate trucks.
SwellTech surfskates were designed by surfers for surfers, to be used for surf training for advanced riders.
Surfers’ opinions on the SwellTech vary widely. Surfers who love them claim the to be the best pure surf trainer. Other surfers say they don’t replicate the feel of surfing as well as others.
If you’re an advanced surfer looking for the closest feeling to being on the water, you should seriously consider a SwellTech.
If you’re a non-surfer, I highly recommend that you get other surfskates before a SwellTech, and only get a SwellTech if you’re looking for a challenge.
How is the SwellTech Surfskate System Built?
The most notable aspect of the SwellTech surfskate truck is that it’s the only one that offers a full 360-degree rotation:
The second dimension of motion is the rail-to-rail lean on the hanger, which is adjustable with a nut. The exterior springs provide tension for the rail-to-rail lean.
SwellTech is the only surfskate system with custom truck sizes, with custom bolt patterns and measurements.
The front truck uses a unique three-bolt pattern:
You have to buy the whole complete system. If you like their whole complete system, then it’s a good thing. But if you don’t like it, then you’re stuck with what they’re using and you don’t have a lot of options for customizing things.
SwellTech surfskates also come with a traction pad, or stomp pad, like you see on surfboards:
What are SwellTech Surfskates Best Used For?
After testing more than 70 surfskates with more than 30 different surfskate truck systems, I have boiled them down to what I believe are the top 10 surfskates trucks.
I’ve organized them on a scale of what I call pure surf trainers on one side to street cruisers on the other side:
What I call the hybrid surfskate trucks—the YOW Meraki, Carver C7, and Waterborne Surf Adapter—can do it all. They’re great for the pure surf training and they’re also great for street cruising for non-surfers.
The hybrids and street cruisers are more versatile than the pure surf trainers. They give you a lot more forward momentum when you’re pumping so you can do longer distance cruising.
So in this context I put the SwellTech on the far left as the purest surf trainer. It’s the loosest surfskate truck you’ll ever find. And because the SwellTech is so unstable and hard to ride, for me, it’s for advanced riders only.
Surfers have a wide range of opinions about SwellTech surfskates. On my YouTube channel I asked surfers, “How well do you think SwellTech is for surf training?” Out of 221 votes, these were the responses:
How Do SwellTech Surfskates Feel, Perform,
SwellTech surfskates are in a league of their own and feel unlike anything else.
The first thing you’ll notice when stepping onto a SwellTech is how unstable it feels relative to any other surfskate. It feels almost like a balance trainer.
Second, you’ll quickly notice how you can’t lean on the rails too far or the truck will jackknife.
SwellTech surfskates can be difficult to get started from a standstill. You have to get good momentum before you can really fall into the flow of pumping.
SwellTech forces you to use proper surf form by initiating movements with your upper body.
In contrast to the SwellTech, any of the other surfskates allow you to lean fully on the rails, and you feel pressure pushing back on you through the entirety of the turn.
If you’re a surfer looking for the purest feel to surfing and for something that will train your body for surfing, you may enjoy the feel of the SwellTech.
If you’re used to most stable surfskate trucks, such as the Carver C7 and CX, YOW Meraki, or Smoothstar Thruster, you’ll be surprised by how much different the SwellTech feels.
Comparing SwellTech Surfskates on 15 Variables
To give you a better idea of how SwellTech surfskates feel and perform, let me walk you through the 15 different variables that I measure when I test surfskate trucks.
Variable #1: Truck Feel
The first variable is truck feel, by which I mean is it more on the loose, fluid, flowy side, or does it feel more tight and snappy?
With its full 360-degree rotation, the SwellTech is the loosest surfskate truck you’ll find.
Variable #2: Flexibility/Range of Motion
The SwellTech has more range of motion than any other surfskate truck you’re going to find—for better or for worse, because that actually makes it very unstable.
Variable #3: Rail-To-Rail Lean
This is an interesting one for the SwellTech because even though it has wider range of motion than any of other surfskate truck, it actually has relatively low rail-to-rail lean because the truck jackknifes if you turn it too sharp.
Variable #4: Stability
SwellTech is far and away the least stable of all the top 10 surfskate trucks.
Variable #5: Suitable Skill Level
Because it’s so unstable, the SwellTech is for advanced riders only—unless you’re looking for a challenge.
Variable #6: Forward Momentum
The SwellTech does not generate a lot of forward momentum when you pump.
Variable #7: Suitable Riding Distance
Because it doesn’t generate a lot of forward momentum, the SwellTech is best used for short distances.
Variable #8: Suitable Riding Surfaces
If you hit cracks, bumps, and pebbles on the SwellTech, the truck easily squirrels out because it’s so loose and unstable. For that reason, it’s best used on smooth surfaces.
Variable #9: Best Use
I categorize the SwellTech as a pure surf trainer for surfers. I think it’s best used in small areas on smooth surfaces for surf training specifically.
Variable #10: Wheelbase Offset
Wheelbase offset refers to how much the truck axle hangs behind the pivot point.
On this point, SwellTech is not great. It offsets your wheelbase by about 3.5”, which, next to the old Smoothstar Thruster, it has the most wheelbase offset of any other surfskate truck. This means you have to have longer SwellTech decks to accommodate your stance width.
This is a critical point on the SwellTech because if you get a model that has too narrow of a wheelbase for your stance width, that’s going to make it even more unstable than it already is.
Variable #11: Weight
The SwellTech truck itself is among the heavier surfskate trucks. But what makes a SwellTech heavy is the fact that you have to use their complete system, and everything together is relatively heavy.
Variable #12: Versatility
I don’t think the SwellTech is a versatile board at all. It’s a very specialized board for pure surf training for surfers.
Variable #13: Quality
On this point, I would rank the SwellTech highly. I think everything you find in the SwellTech is pretty high quality and a SwellTech will last you a long time.
Variable #14: Maintenance
One common maintenance issues you’ll hear about the SwellTech is that their external springs break. They’ve recently upgraded their springs, which should eliminate a lot of that.
Variable #15: Cost
SwellTech is actually one of the cheapest surfskates you can buy, with models ranging from $219.99 to $279.99.
Advanced Riders Review SwellTech
The rider who helped me review SwellTech are surfers Mark Baldwin, Ace Allan, and Joey Daley, and non-surfer Michal Mularski.
Watch their review video:
Question: What do you like most about SwellTech?
“To me it feels the most like surfing. There’s something about the fluidity of the movement, the way you have to use your upper body to initiate your turns. That just to me, I can picture myself being on a wave riding up and down the green face. In a way that I don’t get the same feeling with some other surfskates.”
“I’d say number one would be the front truck. And even though for me it’s a little bit quirky, it’s different. There’s some innovation going on here that we don’t see with the other surfskates on the market. Next would be how it performs. It performs in the bowl pretty well actually. And then the third one would be the shape of the board, the aesthetics. And it just looks like a mini surfboard kind of.”
“They pretty much feel like you are on the water as far as I can tell. That creates like that unique experience and a really fun ride, and I really enjoy it. And the second reason is that SwellTech forces you to use your whole body to ride. On other boards, I can be little bit sloppy with my technique or just take it easy. SwellTech no, that’s not the case. You pretty much have to be focused, and use your upper body to twist it to make those turns, cutbacks or whatever. I really like that. The wiggling doesn’t really work.”
Question: How well do you feel SwellTech replicates the feel of surfing?
“In my opinion if you figure out how to utilize the front truck properly, as an advanced rider would be able to, it would progress their surfing. It does replicate surfing. However, it replicates it so much that I feel like anyone from beginner to intermediate would have a difficult time learning the fundamentals or the beginning of surfskating.
“One thing I should mention about the SwellTech is that you utilize your back foot a lot more than your front foot, which does replicate surfing a lot. However, in my opinion it kind of defeats the purpose of getting that line drive because you’re not getting any momentum from the front.
“If I were to pump the back, the front would use that momentum to gain the drive and the speed that I would need to go forward or down the line. A lot of the other surfskates give you the capability of putting more pressure towards the front of the board, whereas if you put too much pressure on the front it’s going to jackknife.”
“I think SwellTech is the closest to the sensation of surfing. I think the fluidity of the motion of that front truck really helps. The fact that the shape has the stomp pad at the back, maybe your feet feel a little bit more familiar, I can get into my normal surf stance. All that together just makes it feel like I’m surfing.”
“Surfers all have a different style. We all like different boards, we like different types of waves. Because of that difference, we all have different opinions. But for me it doesn’t really replicate surfing too well. The feel of riding the SwellTech is very different to what I feel when riding a wave and riding a surfboard.”
“I’m not a surfer but I’ve got some board experience, and for me it feels basically like I’m on water.”
Question: Is SwellTech the best surf trainer?
“I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that question. I think you would need to check with somebody who surfs regularly, who might be using one board as a dedicated trainer to then apply it onto the ocean.
“With me, between times that I get to surf, I use so many different systems, I do so many different things, I ride so many different ways, that it would be hard to say that it’s attributed to one specific board or one training exercise.
“I think SwellTech does, theoretically, make a really good surf trainer because the way it feels like surfing. Whether that necessarily corresponds to making your surfing better or potentially developing bad habits from the surfskate, I can’t say for sure.”
“I don’t think it is the best surf trainer. It seems to me a little bit quirky, it feels more like a balance trainer and that might have a lot of benefit actually because balance is really important in surfing. But it doesn’t seem to simulate the same type of feeling that I get when I’m riding a surfboard on a wave.”
Question: How does SwellTech compare to everything else you’ve ridden?
“SwellTech is definitely one of the trickier boards to get good with because it is so loose and divey you can bottom it out if you just go the wrong way. It’s got the truck that spins all 360 degrees around. It just has a lot less of the stability that some other boards that are more similar to a skateboard feel like.
“So what sets it apart is that it’s harder to master but once you do get the hang of it, it feels really good. So, it’s kind of on the top side of the surfskates in terms of ease of use but also has a lot of really good potential.”
“It’s unique not only in the aesthetics of it but also in the feel of that front truck. That feel for some might not be very good. I don’t enjoy it the most, but it’s something different.”
“There’s everything else, and there’s SwellTech. Because of the unique feel of the board, my Smoothstar Manta, which I modified the front track, I believe that it can easily match the turning radius of SwellTech or even probably outperform it. But the feel is different.
“Whenever I step on the SwellTech, I know that I step on a SwellTech. If I’m just riding YOW or Smoothstar, it’s definitely different. Probably the closest one was the ONVI from Brazil, which is also, spring-based, very, very loose.”
Question: Who would you recommend SwellTech for?
“It is a complete and utter surf trainer specifically for advanced riders only, in my opinion. I feel like if a beginner steps on this they’re going to probably break an ankle. Advanced surfers I feel like would love this dearly just because it’s a challenge.”
“I think if you’re someone who is most interested in surfing and want to replicate that feeling or want to get the feeling of surfing, then that’s the right board for you.
“If you are looking for just cruising around or if you’re looking for riding the skate park as someone who’s more beginner intermediate, it’s going to be more challenging. It’s not the greatest board for cruising long distance because it’s more difficult to push and it takes a little bit more effort to get a return on your motions.
“So, I think I would choose a different option if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking for getting the feeling of surfing, then this is the right board in my opinion.”
“I’d recommend the SwellTech for someone who just wants something different. Again has a very different feel that for me is not the best.”
“I would say that if you like really loose systems and if you like to feel like you’re surfing.”
Question: Do you recommend that surfers start on a SwellTech, or build up to it?
“I think that if you already have some skateboarding experience and you’re a surfer or you have some surf experience, you could definitely learn with a SwellTech as your first board.
“People sometimes make it out to be harder than it is. I think as long as you have the basics down you can learn. It might be a little bit of a slower progress but you can definitely get up to the expert level even if it’s your first board.
“If you’ve never even stood on a longboard or a regular skateboard before and you’re just trying to get into surfskating, I think it will be a little bit more challenging and maybe even discouraging when you’re starting out because it’s going to take you longer to get the basics down of just pushing and stopping and getting those simple turns down before you start pumping and carving.”
“In general, I wouldn’t recommend that surfers start on the SwellTech. If you don’t have any other surfskates, I’d recommend you to buy one of the other top brands, like Carver or Waterborne or Smoothstar or Yow. They have again very different feeling from what you’ll get on the SwellTech. This feeling on the SwellTech isn’t what I feel when I’m surfing.”
“I saw those reviews on the Internet that it is super difficult to ride and you have to be super good. I had a chance for the first time to try the SwellTech, and I didn’t really have a major problem, I was just riding it.
“If you surf, I don’t think you’ll have any problem riding the SwellTech. If you’re starting and you don’t have any board experience, I believe that you can unlock this board, relatively quickly. Maybe it takes a little bit longer than other boards like Carver, all those, Slide which are very stable.”
Question: What don’t you like about SwellTech?
“I don’t like the fact that it jackknifes. At no point should I ever touch the ground with the board unless both wheels are coming off. If I jackknife, that’s an ankle, that’s my elbows, that’s my hands. I gotta save myself every time that the board touches the ground.
“If I’m not an advanced rider, I can’t get the actual flow going. Most likely what’s going to happen is someone’s going to go to do the turn, they’re going to fall.
“When it comes to surfing, you’re going to be dipping your edge into the water but it’s not going to, you’re going to fall into water, you’re not going to fall onto the concrete. And that’s a huge aspect that I think about when I’m trying to ride.
“If you’re going straight down a hill and you hit a rock at any point, this jars back and forth. In my opinion, it doesn’t have the pumpability so you can’t actually drive from a standstill. You can’t go from a stop and start pumping and get speed or velocity. You kind of have to wiggle it out before anything.”
“What I don’t like about the SwellTech, when you lean on the SwellTech too far, it buckles, it gives, and there’s no resistance at all. And it’s a very difficult thing to find out where that point is that it will happen.”
“There’s one main thing that I dislike about SwellTech and that is that they have the proprietary sizing on their truck systems. I love to customize boards and find out what works. I also use Qwik Truks so that when I travel I can take different truck systems for different applications.
“Because SwellTech uses a proprietary bolt pattern that doesn’t match normal skateboard decks or doesn’t match the quick truck plates, then I don’t use it as much as I would like to.”
“The one thing I don’t like about SwellTech is the deck. I mean I like aesthetically it looks like a surfboard, but the tail for me is too small. It’s too short and too narrow.
“Firstly, I’ve got large feet so I just really like, it’s just to have like a support on my back feet and I had difficulties to drop in because of the short tail and I couldn’t lock the tail properly on the coping.”