Is Skateboarding Like Snowboarding?
Is skateboarding like snowboarding? The answer should be simple enough. The sports have similar equipment and attract similar types of people. However, it’s not that straightforward. In some ways, the two sports are alike. However, they both have their nuances and require different abilities.
They have to be somewhat similar, right?
The first inclination would be that the two sports are much more alike than different. After all, they both place riders on boards and feature similar obstacles, such as ramps, halfpipes, and rails. Additionally, many of the tricks have the same grab techniques and names.
Consider that Shaun White is perhaps the most famous snowboarder of all time and also a world-class skateboarder. It seems more likely that White’s success in both sports is a result of overlapping required skills, rather than that the two sports haven’t influenced each other.
Does Skateboarding help with Snowboarding?
In both skateboarding and snowboarding, the person on the board determines to use a standard regular or goofy stance, and places their feet somewhat perpendicular to the board. Typically, skaters who are regular on the skateboard are also regular on the snowboard.
This isn’t always true, and it’s possible that dissimilar weight distribution for the two mediums can make a difference.
In both board sports, the rider’s main effort is focused on finding the proper balance on the board. They shift their weight toward one foot or the other and even bend their knees to maintain their balance as they go.
In both skateboarding and snowboarding, wipeouts tend to happen when balance is lost, whether that’s from hitting a rock or bump, or just not handling a speed increase or turn well. One of the reasons why the skills transfer pretty well and practitioners of one sport cross-train with the other is that balance is at the heart of both, and an awareness of how balance works is a universal skill.
Skateboarding and snowboarding produce gradual, fluid turns. In both sports, this happens as the rider turns their shoulders and shifts weight toward either edge of the board – back on the heels for an open turn, and forward on the toes for a closed one.
In both, a more exaggerated weight shift and turn of the shoulders produces a sharper turn. Although more necessary in snowboarding, both sports allow for turning one way and back the other to more slowly glide down a hill rather than bombing it in a straight line.
In fact, this “carving” path that is typical in snowboarding is very common, terminology and all, in longboarding. Longboards come even closer to the length of a snowboard, so the similarities are even stronger when considering that form of skateboarding.
How are they different?
The most obvious difference between the two sports is that skateboards have wheels, and snowboards don’t. While that difference is obvious, not all of the implications are. For starters, it’s easy to stand on a snowboard on flat ground and stay motionless.
A skateboard wants to roll, so the standing situation is much more precarious. An experienced skater may not recognize this contrast, but it becomes clear when a new skater tries to simply stand on the board for the first time. It often slides out and flies off in one direction or the other, often leaving the skater on the seat of their pants.
Conversely, snowboarders don’t usually face problems on the board until they try to make it move.
Snowboarding happens down a decline, so gravity takes care of the movement toward the destination. Snowboarders will get to the bottom of the mountain eventually, regardless of how many times they catch their edge and slam into the snow.
Their task is to slow and control their slide down the hill, carving wide paths back and forth as they go. On the other hand, skateboarders must provide the power. They push as they go, occasionally going down hills, but also going uphill and on flat ground.
Without their push power, they are likely not going to go very far. They must learn to generate power efficiently and stay balanced with just one foot on the board for much of the time. At the risk of offending snowboarders, the requirement to provide the power makes skateboarding an activity that ends up being a more challenging workout.
This difference also impacts the general balanced position in both sports. As a snowboarder is usually headed downhill, their weight will be slightly further toward their front foot. A skateboarder’s weight distribution will shift around depending on the terrain, but assuming generally flat ground, the balance will usually be found from putting even weight on both feet.
How else are the two different?
Outside of the skill and technique required, there are other elements that are different in each sport. Skateboarding is considered to be an exceptionally accessible sport, meaning that there are few barriers to participating in the sport.
Skateboards themselves are relatively inexpensive. The newest and nicest equipment can get quite expensive, but they are all across the cost spectrum. Skateboards can be found at thrift stores and yard sales. The terrain required for skateboarding exists in almost every environment.
In contrast, many people will never have the opportunity to snowboard. As a sport, it’s quite expensive. The equipment and resort passes are not cheap. The terrain required for snowboarding is scarce. According to a 2022 article, 37 of the 50 U.S. states have ski/snowboard resorts, and 17 of those have five or fewer. Transportation to resorts shouldn’t be taken for granted, and it often adds significant time and expense to snowboarding trips.
Another difference is the type of danger involved from crashing. Both sports come with different potential types of accidents. However, it’s generally agreed upon that skateboarding is likely more dangerous for beginners, as paved surfaces provide harder landings than the snow.
This increases the probability of broken bones. Nasty snowboarding accidents are usually accompanied by fast speeds, while brutal skateboarding injuries can happen at any velocity.
Finally, it’s a common opinion that skateboarding skill translates better to snowboarding than the other way around. Keep in mind that Shaun White learned to skateboard at a high level before he ever picked up a snowboard. That’s not to say that one is easier than the other, and there’s a healthy debate about that. But skateboarding, likely because the board has wheels, perhaps requires a more unique challenge than snowboarding, wakeboarding, or surfing.
What’s the bottom line?
Skateboarding and snowboarding have a number of undeniable similarities. There are countless anecdotes of longtime skateboarders who go snowboarding for the first time and face a much less steep learning curve than beginners who don’t have skateboarding experience. General physical skills, such as learning to balance and turn, are similar enough that neither activity will feel entirely foreign to someone who has done the other extensively.
That said, there are enough differences that someone like Shaun White is the exception, rather than the rule. Most elite snowboarders can’t pick up a skateboard and perform at a world-class level. The fact that some goofy skateboarders are regular on a snowboard, or vice versa, is enough to prove some difference in balance and other skills.