What is Car Surfing?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
Car surfing can cause head injuries such as concussions.
Car surfing can cause head injuries such as concussions.

Car surfing is the extremely dangerous stunt of riding atop moving vehicles. It should only be performed by a trained stuntperson, but unfortunately, other people also do it and many receive serious injuries or die. Unlike regular surfing done on a surfboard in the water, where falls are usually fairly harmless as long as the surfer has swimming skills, this "urban" variety can be fatal after only one small slip.

Vehicle roofs are slippery and not made for surfing, as water surfboards are. Car surfing is done by either standing or sitting on top of the vehicle. When sitting, grabbing onto the sides of the roof doesn't give the car surfer much stability. Standing, even with shoes that have strong treads, usually means that the person has nothing to hold on to. Falls during car surfing have been shown to occur when the driver accelerates or brakes as well as during turns.

Car surfers typically don't wear helmets or protective clothing; this increases the harmful results of a slip or fall from a vehicle's roof. People have died as a result of slipping and falling while car surfing. Others have experienced head injury, brain concussion, paralysis, chronic headaches, memory problems and other medical issues. When done on public roads, car surfing is also illegal as well as dangerous.

The exact methods of vehicle surfing vary, but all are considered to be high risk for death or injury. The passenger in the front seat usually climbs out the window and onto the roof while the driver is driving the vehicle. Some surfers increase the risk and danger by jumping from one moving vehicle to another while car surfing. Other names for the dangerous activity of riding atop a vehicle include urban surfing and ghost riding. Ghost riding is sometimes considered as not full-fledged vehicle surfing, but rather moving just outside the car so as to still be able to get inside; however, it has still proven to be dangerous and risky.

The mid-1980s is considered the starting point for the increase of vehicle surfing stunts. Many people attribute the growth to movies of the time such as 1985's "Teen Wolf," in which the main characters surfed on top of a van. Other car surfer movie stunts followed, as well as video games depicting the activity, such as in "Grand Theft Auto." Car surfing is also associated with the San Francisco's Bay Area Hyphy movement of the 1990s. Hyphy is short for hyperactive; it refers to the Bay Area's hip-hop lifestyle, music and dancing.

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Discussion Comments


Yeah car surfing is dangerous, but so is real surfing and so are dozens of other things that people think are perfectly acceptable.

I think that as long as everyone knows what they are getting in to and consents and you do not run the risk of hurting other people or drivers that car surfing is perfectly fine. But I suspect that I am in the minority.


I went car surfing last summer on a piece of land that a friend of my dad's owns. We were basically just driving a truck around in a grass field and someone decided to climb on top. They always stayed close to the back so that if they fell they wouldn't go under the wheels.

It was actually a whole lot of fun and nothing bad happened. One guy was even able to stay up there with the truck going almost 30 MPH. I wouldn't try it on the street, but in a soft field it was really fun.


I have been car surfing on a few occasions. And let me just tell you, from personal experience, car surfing is really fun and really dumb.

The last time I did it I ended up breaking my wrist when I fell off the top of the car. And it could have been worse. There were other cars on the street and I was really lucky to not have been run over after I fell.

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    • Car surfing can cause head injuries such as concussions.
      By: gosphotodesign
      Car surfing can cause head injuries such as concussions.