The Differences Between Skimboarding and Surfing

by Richard Kyori
Surfing and skimboarding are both enjoyed by men and women.

Surfing and skimboarding are both enjoyed by men and women.

Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Water sports, such as skimboarding and surfing, have become popular in coastal places around the world. Both take place on top of a board among the waves of the ocean, both are dangerous and both are enjoyed by many people. While there are many similarities between skimboarding and surfing, there are also many differences.

Historical Differences

Surfing and skimboarding come from different places. While surfing originated on the Hawaiian islands, skimboarding is the invention of Laguna Beach lifeguards in California. Both come from different times, as well. James King, one of the first Europeans to visit Hawaii, recorded Hawaiian nobles surfing in 1779. Longboarding, by contrast, is a very young sport -- started in the 1920s, it has been around for less than a century.


Skimboarding and surfing may both take place on boards in the ocean, but the boards have extremely different styling. Skimboards are much shorter than surfboards, allowing skimboarders greater mobility in the water, where surfboards are usually much longer. The increased length of a surfboard allows for greater overall buoyancy, enabling surfers to ride smaller or slower moving waves than skimboarders without sinking or losing momentum.


The way in which a person rides a surfboard is different than the way in which someone rides a skimboard. Skimboard riders are much more agile, due to the shortness of their boards, and can even perform tricks usually reserved for skateboarders while riding waves. By contrast, surfing is much slower, and any tricks are likely to be performed on the board, such as riding on one foot or doing a handstand.

Specific Dangers

Since skimboarding and surfing take place at different distances from the shore, and take place at different paces, the two sports each have some unique dangers. Where skimboarding takes place very close to the shore, it often results in broken limbs from sudden falls into the sand. Surfing presents a much higher risk of being swept into a shoal at high speeds, drowning and even shark attacks in certain bodies of water.

About the Author

Richard Kyori has been writing professionally since 2006. He has been teaching design and technology courses at colleges and universities since 2005. Kyori holds a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Boston University and is working toward a Master of Architecture.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images