Surf Riders features two modes: World Challenge Cup and Free Play. In both, players choose from a set of characters and boards, each with different stats for acceleration, turning, and jumping.
Free Play is quite straightforward, presenting an open format with no time limit in which players can practice their skills and learn new tricks in a given surf location. World Challenge Cup takes these lessons on the road, visiting surf spots around the world and allowing the player to take part in a persistent, multi-stage competition against NPC opponents.
Each of the player's runs is scored for a point value that depends upon the among of time spent inside the tube of the wave, the gracefulness of their carving, and the impressiveness of any tricks they manage to pull off.
In World Challenge Cup mode, the player's scores are aggregated and compared against opponents, but a poor performance will never prevent them from moving on to the next location. Thus, it is entirely possible to complete a World Challenge Cup and see the game's end credits without ever having scored a single point.
Endorsements and Commercial Tie-Ins
Surf Riders was endorsed by notable American surfer Gerry Lopez, also known as "Mr. Pipeline". The game's competition format incorporates the rulebook of the Association of Surfing Professionals in judging, and its soundtrack features tracks from Los Straitjackets, The Aquamen, and Pollo Del Mar.
Additionally, every copy of Surf Riders included a tin of Mr. Zog's Sex Wax, a popular brand of surfboard wax.