Skurfing was once hailed as the sport that would take over the world, or at least the world of water sports. It was massively popular a few decades ago, and while it has since faded into relative obscurity, it’s still out there, it’s still performed, and there is still some value to it.
But what is skurfing, how does it compare to water skiing, wakeboarding, and surfing, and what kind of equipment do you need?
Skurfing = Water Skiing and Surfing
Skurfing is a portmanteau of the words “water skiing” and “surfing”. It was invented in the 1980s as a way for surfers and water skiers to get some action on flat surf.
Skurfers use a shorter version of a surfboard and hold onto a rope while being pulled along by a boat.
Who Invented Skurfing?
The “Skurfer” board was invented in 1985 by a California-based surfer named Tony Finn. The board was shorter and narrower than a surfboard and also included two foot straps to secure the rider to the board just like a snowboard or skis.
Finn was the one who trademarked the name “Skurfer”, but it may have first been used by a New Zealander called Allan Byrne, who was indirectly connected to Finn and may have been his inspiration.
A man named Jimmy Redmon also played a key role in the early history of skurfing with a board that he dubbed “The Redline”. These two boards were designed for basically the same purpose, but there were some slight differences between the two.
Both boards were narrow and short when compared to a traditional shortboard surfboard. They were also designed to deliver a high level of buoyancy and to move quickly, but unlike surfboards, there was no emphasis on maneuverability and they were very limited in this area.
The Redline was the first one to have foot straps and was smaller than the Skurfer. It also wasn’t very durable while the wood and fiberglass construction of the Surfer made it a longer-lasting board.
The Pros and Cons of Skurfers
There were several huge benefits to boards like the Redline and the Skurfer.
The two foot straps, for instance, allowed the rider to maintain their balance during even the toughest conditions. They could also gain huge air and use it to perform a variety of impressive tricks, and this is one of the reasons that water skurfing became so popular so quickly.
The boards weren’t without their issues, though.
For one thing, a lot of energy was needed for the skurfer to stand up and start planing the surface of the water. The boards were very narrow and buoyant, and this made it difficult for the skurfer.
It also required a lot of strength and so the best riders were often very strong and experienced, meaning it wasn’t very accessible to beginners.
The Rise and Fall of Skurfing
Skurfboards didn’t experience a great deal of innovation over the years and, as a result, the aforementioned limitations remained. When those innovations finally came, they were too good and basically killed the sport of skurfing.
Jimmy Redmon and Tony Finn met each other during the early 1990s before putting their heads together and founding Waketech. After a couple of years of research and development, Waketech created the twin-tip board, so-named because it was rounded at both ends, making it easier to perform tricks and change direction.
The twin-tipped board gave rise to a new sport: Wakeboarding.
Is Skurfing Popular?
Skurfing had its heyday during the 1980s and early 1990s. It was one of the fastest-growing water sports at this time but it didn’t last, and the popularity dipped with the introduction of twin-tipped wakeboards and the rise of wakeboarding in general.
Many actually consider skurfing to be a precursor of modern wakeboarding, and in recent times, its popularity is overshadowed by wakeboarding.
How to Skurf
If you’re new to water sports and want a sport that is accessible and with a short learning curve, skurfing is definitely not the answer. It can be very physically demanding and you’ll need some experience, as well as some equipment that might not be easy for beginners to get their hands on.
If it’s a challenge that you’re looking for and you have experience with wakeboarding, water skiing, and other such sports, it’s worth trying.
To start skurfing, just follow the steps below.
Step One: Find a Boat
Boats designed for wakeboarding will be suitable for skurfing. These boats will include all of the following features:
- Inboard V-drive: Boats powered in this manner will produce large wakes due to the rear engine placement.
- A Tower: A frame that mounts to the hull of the boat and elevates the tow rope, allowing the skurfer to gain more air and perform more tricks.
- Cruise Control: A driver can maintain speed through skill and experience, but it’s not easy and cruise control is a massive help.
- Ballast Tank: A tank that is filled with water and used to weigh down the boat, driving the rear into the water to generate bigger wakes.
Step Two: Get a Board
A skurfboard is long and narrow and has a single fin. The boards are very buoyant due to the shape and the material used.
Unfortunately, skurfboards are not easy to find these days and you may have to look on the used market.
Step Three: Buy the Tow Rope
Skurfing tow ropes tend to be longer and thinner than the ones used for wakesurfing. However, you may be better suited to a shorter rope when you are just beginning with the sport as it will help you to maintain stability and get to grips with the board and the speed of the boat.
Step Four: Get Some Safety Apparel
Use a personal flotation device (PFD) such as a life jacket at all times. It will keep you protected and ensure that you’re safe in the event of an unforeseen outcome.
You shouldn’t have an issue finding these devices and there are a lot of different options available.
You can also use these devices on a jet ski, while knee boarding, and while performing many other water sports, so it’s an important piece of equipment.
Step Five: Find Your Stance
The next step is to determine which stance is best for you.
The Regular stance is right-foot dominant and means that you place your left foot forward. The Goofy stance is the opposite.
To determine which foot is your dominant foot, think about the leg that you use when playing soccer or kicking a football. Alternatively, you can ask a friend to push you gently from behind. The foot that you place out in front of you will typically be the one that needs to go first on a skurfboard, surfboard, skateboard, etc.
Step Five: Learn the Ropes
Once you’re in the water, just give a prearranged signal to the boat and they will pull away.
The easiest way to get to your feet when skurfing is to put the board perpendicular to the tow rope and between the boat and you. Lay on your back with your feet on the board and parallel to the direction that the board is facing.
Place your dominant foot on the side that you wish to surf first and your other leg toward the back of the board.
Let the boat pull you out of the water, being sure to keep your arms straight and your knees slightly bent as the board slips underneath your body and into a riding position.
Once it is in that position and the board begins to dig into the water, you just need to slowly stand and start skurfing!
As a beginner, your focus should be on staying upright and performing some basic movements as you are pulled behind the boat.
Don’t try to do anything too fancy.
You can turn by digging your heels into the skurfboard and slightly pushing the board in the direction that you want to turn.
Skurfing still exists. You can still buy the boards, watch the videos, and practice the sport for yourself. It provides a great alternative to other water sports like knee boarding, surfing, wakeboarding, and water skiing, and if you want a sport where you can ride at speed during days when the surf is flat, you should definitely try your hand at skurfing!