YOW Surfskate Review, Comparisons, and Buyer’s Guide
YOW is one of the most popular surfskate companies, and the YOW Meraki surfskate truck is among the highest-performing, most universal surfskate trucks. I’ve owned and tested the following YOW surfskate models:
- 34″ Padang Padang
- 34″ Teahupoo
- 34.5″ Pukas Dark
- 35″ La Jolla
- 36″ Malibu
In this YOW surfskate review and YOW buyer’s guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about YOW surfskates, including how YOW compares to Carver and Smoothstar surfskates, and how to choose the right YOW surfskate model for you.
To save time, money, and hassle in choosing the best surfskate for you, get my free Surfskate Selector app now.
YOW Surfskate Review Topics
- YOW Surfskate Hardware Specifications
- YOW Meraki Surfskate Truck Review
- YOW Surfskate Decks Review
- YOW URA Wheels Review
- What I Like About YOW Surfskates
- What I Don’t Like About YOW Surfskates
- Who are YOW Surfskates Best For?
- YOW vs Carver: Which is Better?
- YOW vs. Smoothstar: Which is Better?
- How to Choose the Right YOW Surfskate Model for You
- How to Maintain Your YOW Meraki Surfskate Truck
Bottom Line Up Front
I love YOW surfskates and think they’re among the most functional, versatile, and highest-quality surfskates you can buy. I include the YOW Meraki in my list of the best surfskate trucks.
The YOW Meraki surfskate truck uses a tension spring. This gives it a very wide range of motion, deep rail-to-rail lean, and a snappy rebound. It also generates more forward momentum than most pure surf trainers.
The YOW Meraki is consistently rated by surfers to be one of the top surf trainers. It also works very well for street cruising by non-surfers because it generates more forward momentum with pumping than most other surf trainers. I categorize it as a “hybrid” surfskate that can do it all.
YOW offers more models than any other surfskate company. While this can make it difficult to choose one, you’re sure to find one that works perfectly for you.
For their truck hangers, YOW surfskates use traditional 9″ kingpins. The front adapter has no truck baseplate because it’s connected directly to the Meraki adapter.
The back truck uses a 1″ riser pad to make the deck level with the front Meraki adapter.
YOW surfskate bushings are listed at 92a durometer. However, both Brad Miller, the founder of RipTide Sports, and I have tested several sets of YOW bushings using a Shore A durometer gauge. They consistently test at between 88a and 90a. This means that they are actually about three durometer points softer than what they say.
One easy way to upgrade your YOW is to replace your YOW surfskate bushings with RipTide bushings for YOW surfskates.
RipTide’s APS urethane formula provides a lively feeling with a lot of flexibility and rebound at the same time. You’ll notice an immediate positive difference when you replace your stock YOW bushings with RipTide bushings for YOW surfskates in APS formula.
Given that YOW bushings measure at about 89a durometer, not their listed 92a, you have to compensate for that to get the right RipTide YOW surfskate bushings for your weight and preference. Here are my guidelines:
- 85a Durometer: These are softer than stock YOW bushings. They are recommended for riders between about 125 pounds (57kg) and 150 pounds (68kg).
- 87.5a Durometer: These feel equivalent to or just barely softer than stock YOW bushings. They are recommended for riders between about 150 pounds (68kg) and 185 pounds (84kg).
- 90a Durometer: These feel equivalent to or just barely harder than stock YOW bushings. They are recommended for riders between about 175 pounds (79kg) and 200 pounds (91kg).
- 92.5a Durometer: These are harder than stock YOW bushings. They are recommended for riders between about 200 pounds (91kg) and 235 pounds (107kg).
- 95a Durometer: These are much harder than stock YOW bushings. They are only recommended for riders who weigh 235 pounds (107kg) or more.
Obviously, the most important component of any surfskate system is the surfskate truck itself. So let’s start there.
While the Carver C7 and Smoothstar Thruster use longitudinal compression springs, the YOW Meraki uses a coiled tension spring.
Personally, I find the YOW Meraki to be among the very best, most functional, and most versatile and universal surfskate trucks on the market. And in surveys, it is consistently ranked the same by the majority of surfskaters.
The YOW Meraki can do it all: pure surf training, tight maneuvers in small spaces, long-distance pumping and cruising. And it does all of these very well.
The two surfskate trucks I ride the most and that I find to be the most universal and versatile are the Carver CX and the YOW Meraki. And that’s not just me. When I asked my YouTube subscribers which surfskate trucks they ride the most, out of 418 responses, these were the results:
How Does the YOW Meraki 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, surfskate trucks can feel loose, flowy, smooth, and fluid on one end of the scale, and tight and snappy on the other end of the scale.
What’s unique and interesting about the YOW Meraki is that it simultaneously feels loose, flowy, and smooth, and tight and snappy.
It feels loose and smooth because it is very responsive and easy to pump, it has a very wide range of motion, and has deep rail-to-rail lean.
However, unlike the longer, thinner, softer compression springs on the Carver C7 and Smoothstar Thruster, the coiled tension spring on the Meraki snaps back to center very quickly. The snappy spring makes it easier to pump than either the Carver C7 or CX.
The YOW Meraki also generates a lot of forward momentum. This means it can work very well as both a pure surf trainer in small areas and short distances, or as a long-distance cruiser.
How Does the YOW Meraki 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. So I do my best to describe in experiential terms how different surfskate trucks feel and compare to each other.
After testing all of them for over a year, I believe these to be the best surfskates (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 YOW Meraki right in the middle, because it can do it all:
However, I want to stress something: Just because I place it in the category of a hybrid surf trainer and street cruiser does not mean it is not one of the best “pure surf trainers.”
In fact, on a recent poll on my YouTube channel I asked surfers to choose what they think is the best “pure surf trainer” surfskate truck. These are the responses so far:
This is why I say the YOW Meraki can do it all, and it does it all very well. In all the data I’ve seen, it’s consistently ranked as one of the best pure surf trainers and one of the top overall surfskate trucks.
I also find the YOW Meraki to be easier to maintain than either the Smoothstar Thruster or the Carver C7.
Is the YOW Meraki Adjustable?
The YOW Meraki is a dual-axis surfskate truck system, like the Carver C7 and Smoothstar Thruster. This means they have 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.
However, unlike the Carver C7 or the Smoothstar Thruster, the lateral swing arm is not adjustable. You have to keep the truck housing bolt locked onto it as tightly as possible. If you loosen it, your spring will come loose and your truck will either make noise, not work, or the spring will break.
The only place to adjust the YOW Meraki surfskate truck is to adjust the kingpin nut, which tightens or loosens the truck attached to the spring housing. The affect this has is to increase or decrease your rail-to-rail lean.
So if you want higher rail-to-rail lean, loosen your YOW Meraki kingpin nut as much as possible. For less rail-to-rail lean, tighten the kingpin nut.
At the time of writing this, YOW offers 36 surfskate models, ranging from 29″ to 41″ in length.
YOW decks are made of 7-ply hardrock maple wood and are very high quality. I also love the aesthetic of YOW surfskate decks, although that’s just personal preference.
In previous years, most of YOW surfskate decks have not had much concave. But in 2022 YOW completely revamped their whole line-up to add more concave to most of their models. On their website, YOW uses five labels to categorize their deck concave labels:
YOW decks are great and most of them will work just fine for any surfskating application. However, if you want a surfskate for more aggressive performance riding and bowl riding, then look for a YOW model with at least a Medium concave, but preferably High or Deep.
YOW used to use Cinetic wheels on their surfskates, until they switched to the new URA wheel formula in mid-2021.
YOW URA wheels dimensions:
- Diameter: 66mm
- Width: 51mm
- Durometer: 80a
- Contact Patch: 51mm
- Lip Profile: Square
- Core Placement: Offset
- Surface: Smooth
My take on URA wheels is that they’re okay, not great. I personally prefer Carver, SpiceSkate, and Slide wheels over URA wheels.
URA wheels have good grip like you want on a surfskate. However, that grip tends to wear off a bit more than other wheels, at which point they feel a bit more slidey.
My biggest complaint about YOW URA wheels is that the urethane is not a super high-rebound formula, which means they’re not very fast.
For general surfskating, that’s not an issue at all. It’s only something I notice because I like to go fast and far on a surfskate. But this is why I upgrade all my stock surfskate wheels, no matter the brand.
The bottom line is, like any good stock surfskate wheel, YOW URA wheels work just fine, but they’re not spectacular. If you want a high-performance wheel, you’ll probably want to upgrade. But that’s the same for any surfskate company wheel.
For me, the best thing about YOW surfskates is the YOW Meraki surfskate truck. Of all the surfskate trucks I’ve tried, the Meraki really stands out, and its performance is extraordinary.
I also really love the aesthetic of YOW surfskates, although that may not be a huge buying factor for you.
YOW surfskates are also very well-built. I would rank them as among the highest-quality surfskates.
The only minor complaint I have about YOW surfskate wheels is their URA wheels. But I say that after testing a lot of aftermarket wheels, and I’m not a huge fan of most stock surfskate wheels. So to me, this is a non-issue when it comes to deciding if you want to buy a YOW.
The only other thing I’d say is that the YOW Meraki loses 1.75″ of wheelbase, which means that you need longer decks on a YOW than you do on a Carver to accommodate your stance width.
I think YOW surfskates are among the best surfskates money can buy, and a YOW is excellent choice for any surfskater.
If you’re a surfer looking for a pure surf trainer, then YOW is consistently ranked as one of the top surf trainers, if not the best.
If you’re a non-surfer street cruiser like me, then you also can’t go wrong with a YOW.
YOW surfskates are excellent for any surfskate application, including tight surf maneuvers in small areas, or long-distance cruising. Not only do they give you very smooth and fluid lateral turning, but they also give you a lot of forward momentum with pumping, unlike most other pure surf trainer surfskate trucks.
Are YOW Surfskates Good for Beginners?
If you’re an experienced skateboarder or longboarder but you’ve never tried surfskating, then you should be able to learn on a YOW 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.
If you are a beginner to all board sports, a YOW surfskate may be a bit trickier to start on. Reason being, it’s very loose and has a wide range of motion and high rail-to-rail lean, which makes it less stable than other surfskate trucks, and therefore harder to learn to ride.
However, many beginners find the YOW relatively easy to learn precisely because it is so responsive. You don’t have to work hard to propel a YOW surfskate and the movements are intuitive.
So all things considered, I would say that beginners can learn on a YOW surfskate just fine, but they may find the more stable Carver CX and Slide to be a bit easier.
Do YOW Surfskates Work for Bowl Riding?
While YOW 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 YOW surfskate. Start on something more stable instead. Only use a YOW 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 nine Carver surfskates and four YOW surfskates, here’s my bottom-line take:
- The YOW Meraki is extraordinary, and I think most people will like it better than the Carver C7, and many will like it better than the Carver CX.
- I much prefer Carver decks and wheels over YOW surfskate decks and wheels. Carver decks have higher concave and a wider range of options that fit more riders than YOW. YOW URA wheels are okay, I think Carver wheels are noticeably better.
- Although I’m not a surfer, I’ve done enough surveys and research to confidently say that most surfers prefer the YOW Meraki for pure surf training over either the Carver C7 or Carver CX.
- The Carver CX and YOW Meraki are my top two favorite surfskate trucks. Of the two, I prefer the CX for my long-distance street cruising style. It has more forward momentum and is easier to maintain than the YOW Meraki.
So I can’t tell you whether you should buy a YOW 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 YOW 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 YOW.
- If you want a surfskate for bowl riding, you probably want to go with Carver over YOW.
As I pointed out before, this is obviously a matter of personal preference. Furthermore, YOW and Smoothstar compete in the space of “pure surf trainer.” So as a non-surfer, I’m obviously not qualified to answer which is the best for surf training.
After purchasing and testing four YOW surfskates and two Smoothstar surfskates (Manta Ray and Filipe Toledo #77), here’s my bottom-line take:
- While YOW competes with Smoothstar in the category of “pure surf trainer,” YOW surfskates are more versatile than Smoothstar surfskates. You can use them as both surf trainers and more general “street cruisers.”
- The YOW Meraki surfskate truck generates more forward momentum than the Smoothstar Thruster. This means that the Thruster is better for surf training in small areas and the Meraki can be ridden over longer distances.
- YOW URA wheels are bigger and softer than Smoothstar wheels, which makes them more versatile. Smoothstar wheels are best used on smooth surfaces, while YOW wheels can also be ridden over rougher surfaces.
- The YOW Meraki offsets your wheelbase relative to the Carver C7 truck by 1.75″. The Smoothstar Thruster offsets your wheelbase by a full 4″. This means that Smoothstars require a longer deck to accommodate your stance width.
- Although I’m not a surfer, I’ve done enough surveys and research to confidently say that most surfers prefer the YOW Meraki for pure surf training over the Smoothstar Thruster.
So I can’t tell you whether you should buy a YOW or a Smoothstar. 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 should ideally try both before buying. They feel so different that you just have to experience it for yourself.
- If you want something focused exclusively on surf training, a Smoothstar may be best for you. But if you want something more versatile for a wider range of applications, you definitely want to go with YOW.
- If you’re a non-surfer street cruiser, YOW surfskates will probably work better for you than Smoothstar surfskates. However, you’ll probably like Carver surfskates better than YOW for this.
- If you’re a non-surfer beginner, you probably want to start on a Carver, as opposed to either a YOW or Smoothstar.
- If you want a surfskate for bowl riding, you probably want to go with Carver over YOW or Smoothstar. If you’re an experienced bowl rider, you’ll have to experience all three to choose.
Once you’ve determined that a YOW surfskate is what you want, now you have to choose your model.
I’ll explain how to do this here. But if you want a shortcut, get my free Surfskate Selector app now.
Step 1: Determine your stance width to get your wheelbase range.
If you don’t know how to determine your stance width, first watch this video:
Stand in your natural stance and measure the distance between the middle of your inner feet.
To fall into your natural stance, bend your knees up and down and shift your body weight until you feel the most grounded, balanced, and flexible.
My stance width is 18″.
Once you have your stance width measurement (in inches), then add an inch below and an inch above your stance width to get your wheelbase range. So in my case, at an 18″ stance width, my wheelbase range is 17-19″.
However, here’s where it gets complicated: Because of how the YOW Meraki truck is designed, you lose 1.75″ of wheelbase because the truck hangs back from the axel. What this means is YOW decks have to be longer than Carver decks to accomodate the truck.
This means that once you have your wheelbase range, now you have to compensate for that 1.75″ to find the YOW surfskate models that work for you. I make this easy by just mentally subtracting two inches from the wheelbase of YOW models.
So in my case, my wheelbase range is 17″ to 19″. But on YOW surfskates, I have to look at the listed wheelbase on their website (which is the measurement between the inner bolt holes of the deck), and then subtract two inches.
So if a YOW model has a listed wheelbase of 18″, then I subtract two inches to get 16″, which is out of my wheelbase range.
With my wheelbase range of 17″ to 19″, the only YOW models that will work for me are those with a listed wheelbase of 19″ or higher.
So once you have your stance width and wheelbase range, then only consider YOW surfskate models that have a listed wheelbase of at least 1″ above your lowest wheelbase range number.
For example, if your stance width is 16″, then your wheelbase range is between 15″ and 17″. However, on YOW surfskate models, you need a listed wheelbase range of between 17″ and 19″.
You don’t want to go any narrower than your recommended wheelbase range for your surfskate truck because as your stance narrows, your front foot needs to be further up on the truck, which causes you to tip easier.
While you can ride models that are wider than your stance width range, the wider you get, the more of a specialty ride it becomes (e.g. the Carver Tyler 777), versus a more versatile surfskate.
The more your surfskate wheelbase becomes narrower than your stance width, the more unstable it becomes. The wider your surfskate wheelbase gets, the more stable it is, but the less nimble and harder to pump.
Step 2: Determine Your Riding Style & Purpose
If you’re just doing mellow long-distance cruising, you don’t need much concave on your surfskate deck, and you can have a wider wheelbase than your recommended range.
If you want to surfskate in bowls, however, you want a deck with a narrower wheelbase, high concave, and solid foot placement to lock your feet in.
Your riding style determines the characteristics you’re looking for in a surfskate deck beyond wheelbase and length.
Let’s suppose you want a deck you can use for bowl riding, in which case you want high concave. In this case, you can eliminate all decks on the lower end of your wheelbase range that have low concave.
Step 3: Research the YOW Surfskates Within Your Wheelbase Range to Make Your Final Decision
Once you know which YOW surfskate models to consider within your wheelbase range and you know what to do with it, now you just need to consider all other deck factors, such as width, concave, foot placement, aesthetics, etc.
For more help with choosing your YOW surfskate, get my free Surfskate Selector app now.
Maintaining your YOW Meraki surfskate truck can require one or more of the following:
- Replacing broken bearings and/or spring.
- Cleaning the bearings and other internal parts.
- Lubricating the bearings and spring channels.
- Making sure everything is in its proper place when you put it back together.
In this article I break down YOW Meraki maintenance in step-by-step detail.