Someday, I hope to go surfing and snowboarding with my daughter. She is still pretty small, so it’s still the early stages of playing on the sidelines, watching other people take part and practicing the movements when no one is watching.
I have been thinking about which sport is harder (& why), so I did some research to help answer the question.
Surfing is harder than snowboarding. Surfing is more difficult because it takes place in the ocean and the conditions are always changing. Snowboarding is easier because it takes place on a mountain on ski runs that stay in the same place.
It’s important to mention that both surfing and snowboarding are sports that have many similarities. They both take place outside, involve having fun and require balance to stand on a board while covering distance over water in different states (liquid or solid).
To review more information about why surfing is harder than snowboarding, keep reading!
1. Ocean Conditions Are Always Changing but the Mountain Stays the Same
Surfing: The surfing playing field (ocean waves) is always changing!
The day before I go surfing, I probably check the surf report and forecast 5-10 times at least. Surfers analyze a number of different factors to make an educated guess to determine if there will be waves to surf.
And after all that checking and re-checking, there still might not be waves when you arrive at the beach to go surfing. As well, the conditions can change multiple times over the course of a surfing session (2-3 hours).
In addition, the size and shape of the waves might be different than expected because no two waves are the same.
Snowboarding: The snowboarding playing field is pretty simple – if there is a hill or mountain with enough snow accumulation to cover the ground, then you can go snowboarding.
It’s true that snowboarding conditions can change because of wind, snow and rain, but you can still go snowboarding.
In addition, the snowboarding terrain is more consistent. At a mountain resort, the runs are rated by difficulty so you know what you are getting into before you go.
You have the opportunity to ride the same run, multiple times per day, every day the mountain is open.
2. Learning To Surf Takes Time but Snowboarding Comes Quick
Surfing: Learning to surf takes a considerable amount of time.
Although some people may find that they can learn to stand up and ride a wave on the first day, there are so many changing variables in surfing that surfers often experience continual ups and downs, which consists of good days followed by challenging days in the ocean.
I remember when I was learning to surf and being so disappointed when I was leaving the beach and driving home.
Sometimes you have a great session and feel like you are starting to put things together and then you’ll have a session when you don’t catch a wave and can’t figure out what you are doing wrong.
Learning to surf takes time and dedication.
Snowboarding: Learning to snowboard doesn’t take that much time at all.
When I learned to snowboard, the unofficial rule was that it would take 15-20 days of snowboarding to become competent. Obviously, it varies from person to person, but it speaks to the fact that snowboarding can be learned over a relatively short period of sustained commitment.
Don’t get me wrong, the first couple of days of snowboarding were brutal. I wasn’t able to turn the board and I fell down every few seconds. My body hurt after a couple of days, but I was starting to learn some of the basic movements.
After about 15-20 days of snowboarding in one season, I had gained enough skills to ride all of the intermediate level runs on the mountain and have fun doing it.
3. Riding a Wave is over in Seconds While Riding Mountains lasts All day
Surfing: Every time a surfer goes surfing, they get very few opportunities to actually stand up and ride a wave, which means there isn’t a lot of opportunities to get better.
Most of the time in the water is spent paddling and waiting for waves. A study by the Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) found that surfers spend less than 10% of the time in the water actually surfing waves.
Snowboarding: In the sport of snowboarding you get more opportunities and will spend more time riding than surfing, which means you will improve faster.
Although there will be time waiting in lines, eating lunch and sitting on chair lifts, the average amount of time spent snowboarding is higher.
Information from Alpine Replay, estimates that snowboarders spend 20-30% of time per day actively riding, which means it’s at least 2-3 times as much time as surfing. It’s even higher when you factor in the approximate time of a surfing session (1-3 hours) versus an average day snowboarding (5-7 hours)
4. Surfing Takes Effort but Snowboarding is Easy Going
Surfing: Surfing is exhausting and takes a lot of effort.
The ocean is a powerful source of energy and surfers are required to expend a considerable amount of effort for the entire time they are in the water.
Also, it is difficult to stop or take a time out in the ocean.
If a surfer is trying to paddle out to the line up or avoid crashing waves, they need to paddle, duck dive and get into a safer zone before they can think about stopping for a rest.
Snowboarding: The effort required for snowboarding is not at the same level as surfing. Snowboarders don’t have to make an effort to get to the top of the mountain, the chair lift takes them to the starting point.
To propel themselves, snowboarders rely on gravity to help them ride down the mountain. Snowboarders don’t have to generate speed like surfing, they actually have to slow themselves down based on the steepness of the mountain.
In addition, If a snowboarder wants to stop in the middle of a run, they can just stop and take a break.
Snowboarders can even sit down in the middle of a descent and take a snack out of their back pack.
If you want to read more about the effort it takes to go surfing, click on the link to my article titled Is Surfing Exhausting? 10 Reasons Surfers Get Tired.
What’s More Fun: Surfing or Snowboarding?
Surfing and snowboarding are fun for different reasons.
Surfing is fun because:
- Surfers ride one of a kind waves created by the ocean
- Surfers spend a lot of time at the beach and in the ocean
- Surfing is unpredictable, exciting and you will learn something new every time you are in the water.
Snowboarding is fun because:
- Snowboarders ride down snow covered mountains
- Snowboarders spend time outdoors and in the mountains
- Snowboarding is thrilling and there is no feeling quite like launching yourself from the top of a mountain.
Will Snowboarding Help Me Surf?
Because snowboarding and surfing share many similarities, the cross over between both sports will have some benefits. The skills that are learned from snowboarding, including, standing and riding, board awareness and carving back and forth will help with the transition to surfing.
Quick story: A number of years ago, some friends and I went on a surfing trip to Mexico. We brought a friend with very little surfing experience but he is an experienced snowboarder.
We were staying in front of a surfing break that was more appropriate for intermediate and advanced surfers and with a little bit of coaching, he was able to adapt to the conditions fairly quickly.
After a couple of days, he was able to paddle out to the line up, duck dive and stay safe among a crew of experienced surfers.
By the end of the first week, he was having fun and taking off on waves from the correct take off spot. Obviously, he took his share of wipe outs, but it happens in surfing. An added bonus of falling when you are trying to stand up or ride a wave is you get to practice holding your breath underwater!
I am not sure how many waves he caught over the 11 days of surfing, but he became more and more comfortable and his snowboarding experience helped a lot.
I wish I could say that he was catching every wave by the end of the trip and surfing them like an expert, but I can’t, because surfing is harder than snowboarding.