Is Surfing or Skateboarding More Dangerous?

As action sports go, surfing and skateboarding are among the most iconic pastimes embraced by thrill-seekers worldwide. However, both activities carry inherent risks that can lead to injuries if proper safety precautions aren’t followed. In this article, we’ll explore which sport poses greater dangers to participants through analyzing injury rates, common accident types and each sport’s unique risk factors.

Breaking Down Injury Statistics

To get an objective view of relative danger levels, let’s examine injury data compiled from emergency room visits. The following table compares reported injury rates per 100,000 people for surfing and skateboarding:

SportInjury Rate
Surfing23 injuries/100,000 people
Skateboarding45 injuries/100,000 people

As the table shows, skateboarding has almost double the injury rate of surfing based on ER visits. However, statistics don’t tell the whole story – we must analyze the type and severity of accidents too.

Common Accident Types Compared

In surfing, the most frequent injuries involve impacts with the surfboard or being struck by waves/currents. Lacerations from boards or reefs are also common. Severe sprains, dislocations and fractures can occur from violent wipeouts.

Contrastingly, skateboarding sees more falls/impacts directly onto hard surfaces like pavement. As a result, head injuries from not wearing helmets and fractures/dislocations from landing wrong on stair sets are very prevalent. Wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries are also very common in skating.

Analyzing Environmental & Equipment Risk Factors

The environment each sport takes place in creates different potential dangers. Surfing puts athletes in a less controlled ocean setting with shifting waves, currents, reefs and marine life posing risks. Equipment-wise, fiberglass surfboards can cut or impact the surfer harder than a skate deck during wipeouts.

Conversely, skateboarding takes place on solid surfaces like streets and parks. While more consistent, falling on concrete carries risk of traumatic brain injuries without head protection. Skateboard trucks and hardware have also been blamed for various cut and puncture wounds over the years.

Level of Protective Equipment

While surfers often wear rashguards, full wetsuits provide insulation from cold waters as well as a layer of impact protection over the body. Modern wetsuits are remarkably tough. In comparison, most skaters forego helmets, pads or other safety gear beyond basic clothing, leaving them more vulnerable to head and road rash injuries.

Risks Increase with Experience

It’s important to note risk levels vary greatly depending on experience level in both sports. Beginner surfers staying in small surf likely face fewer life-threatening dangers than advanced big wave chargers. Similarly, park skaters performing high altitude tricks endure greater risks than someone cruising low to the ground.

As aptitude grows, athletes in either sport will naturally seek out more challenging conditions and maneuvers to continually push their limits. This amplifies dangers, as even professionals suffer grisly accidents on a regular basis mastering extreme surf or skate terrain.


Q: How can safety be improved in these sports?

A: For surfing – avoid surfs without lifeguards, don’t surf alone, learn ocean safety. For skating – always wear a helmet and pads, skate within your ability level, avoid risks like railings/stairs.

Q: Which has more long term health risks?

A: Repeated head impacts from skateboarding raises risks of traumatic brain injury and cognitive decline long term if helmets aren’t worn regularly. Surfing has less associated degenerative joint/brain issues but marine life/infection hazards exist.

Q: Which is more enjoyable for recreation?

A: Subjective based on personal preference – surfing allows for longer sessions of exercise whereas skating may be easier to fit into a schedule. Both provide thrills when conditions allow and a lifelong hobby is possible with either sport with proper precautions.


While casual participation can be undertaken safely with basic safety gear in both sports, stats show that objectively skateboarding carries nearly double the acute injury risk of surfing based on emergency visits alone. However, surfing also presents environmental hazards in large ocean swells that skating does not. Advanced levels and “extreme” disciplines in either sport drastically elevate the potential for serious accidents.

With proper protective equipment use, avoiding risks beyond one’s ability, and not engaging in potential dangers like surfing alone – both sports can provide immense enjoyment and exercise rewards over the long run when undertaken judiciously. Overall, both surfing and skateboarding should be treated with appropriate caution and respect for the inherent risks involved in mastering progressively challenging ocean waves or concrete features.

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