Surf skating, a form of skateboarding that replicates surfing on the streets, is what it’s all about for Bangkok right now. Over the past year, everyone from kindergarteners to office workers have started turning up to skate parks and public parks with a surf skate board in hand. Surf skaters are all over our TikTok and Instagram feeds. They’ve taken over a corner of Rod Fai park, the parking lot of Big C Rama IV, and even a ghostly-empty Asiatique.
Surf skating may seem pretty novel now, but it’s nothing new. Modern surfing can be traced back to the 1700s in Polynesia, and skateboarding has been popular since the 1970s. Surf skating, a sport also known as carveboarding, began in the 1990s as a way for surfers to hone their skills when there were no waves, using boards that are much more nimble than skateboards. Think skateboarding but with surfing maneuvers.
Eknarin "Ake" Yotipai
“In surf skating, you have to use your shoulders and hips to control the movement of the board [instead of your feet],” explains Eknarin “Ake” Yotipai, a board designer for Sunova
, the surfboard and lifestyle brand headquartered in Khao Lak.
“What sets it apart from other board sports is there is so much beauty and grace in the way you move. Skateboards don’t require as much movement, whereas surf skateboards are made for you to turn easier.”
Even though it isn’t a new activity, there’s a reason why surf skate boards are flying off the shelves—to the point that members of the Facebook group Surfskate Thailand Marketplace
are selling secondhand boards for as much as B40,000.
“People haven’t been able to travel abroad or even leave their neighborhoods at times this year, so we all had to find something new to do to pass the time. When celebrities [like Ploi Horwang] began surf skating and posting it on their feeds, people just started to go crazy over it,” says Supapitch “June” Pithayanukul, a Bangkok-based distributor of Sunova.
Karin "Nick" Manunapichu
Surf skating isn’t just for the young, though.
“We’ve seen parents bringing their kids to surf skate, and some of the [adults] end up buying a board of their own. It’s become a family activity,” says Karin “Nick” Manunapichu, owner of Pumptrack SlideAway
in Pathum Thani.
The sport is also accessible for beginners, and you don’t need much to get into it, which is something that attracted Napol “Koe” Pornsomboon, a lifelong, die-hard sports enthusiast.
“I’ve tried everything from triathlon, rock climbing, free diving, horse riding, open water swimming, and stand-up paddle boarding to tennis, basketball, and football... Surf skating isn’t as hard to
get into as you think it is. All you need is a board, and you can do it anywhere, anytime,” he says.
Napol "Koe" Pornsomboon
That low barrier of entry also makes the sport extremely adaptable. Nick notes that once you’ve got the basics down, you can easily branch out into skating, downhill longboarding, and, of course, surfing—the epicenter being Memories Beach in Khao Lak, where Ake, who’s also a surf skate instructor and the originator of the “Sunova Style,” plies his trade.
Even for thrill seekers like Koe, however, surf skating is more than what it seems on the surface. “It’s not just a sport. You see people expressing themselves with the way they dress, the style they skate, the boards they use,” he notes.
But like all lifestyle fads in Thailand, surf skating might be a passing trend. Casual surf skaters like Koe wouldn’t mind this prospect. He thinks it will cool off and fall behind mainstream sports like cycling, golf, or running. He even declares he’ll only surf skate another two or three years before moving on to something else.
Those in the industry think otherwise.
“It’s so similar to surfing, which is already popular here. I think we can create a culture for it in Thailand,” Ake says.
“Surf skating, or any board sport, is a lifestyle. But it’s still new. We’ll have to see if it can stand the test of time,” adds Nick. “When the world is back to normal, I hope more foreign skaters will come to Thailand to exchange knowledge and help the community grow.”
While its popularity might be more about trend-seeking than thrill-seeking, there’s a lot working in surf skating’s favor. It’s been red hot for more than a year, and its momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Like jiggly pancakes, beer yoga, and camping, no one can say if the masses will be into it this time next year, but probably everyone can agree: if it is just as popular in 2022 as it is now, we at least hope it won’t cost B40,000 to buy a board anymore.