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CS:GO - How to surf and play surf maps

Everything you need to know about surfing in CS:GO.

Surf maps have been a huge part of the Counter-Strike franchise for years, having provided the community with a very different experience when compared to the usual Casual, Deathmatch and Competitive offerings which have become staples in CS:GO.

These maps challenge players to traverse (or technically, "air-strafe") combinations of ramps and obstacles as they glide along them, requiring perfectly timed jumps and turns to reach the end of each course. Unlike the physics you're used to experiencing in CS:GO, it's ramped up a notch in surf maps which enables plays to smoothly skim across various surfaces.

Structured into tiers of difficulty, a huge variety of surf maps are available through the Steam Workshop, ranging from Tier 1 beginner levels to Tier 6 expert levels. Some maps focus primarily on movement, while others focus on time trials and challenge players to break personal bests.

Combat surf maps also exist, however, adding an additional challenge to an already complicated mix. If you fancy yourself as a pistol specialist, try taking out opponents while speeding along a floating ramp at speed!

The most common surf maps are "linear" and "staged". Linear maps are courses which have a set beginning and end which players must complete in a single surf. Staged maps differ by breaking the course into challenging segments, making it manageable for players who are new to surfing.

We'd recommend hopping into staged maps to get a grounding in surfing. It's far less frustrating as you work your way through the map methodically, as opposed to dying and having to restart from the beginning every time.

CS:GO - Why Should You Surf?

Surf maps are very different to the pressures of a Competitive CS:GO game and genuinely have very little in common with one, so why exactly should you try them? Well, to put it simply, surfing is fun. It’s satisfying to achieve a perfect run on a surf map, using smooth swipes with your mouse to retain your speed and ace landings. Think of surfing like driving around a course - it’s the same principle.

In addition to surfing being a nice way to spend your time, it may also help you to improve a few aspects of your performance in CS:GO. Successful surfing depends on the player understanding crosshair placement, general movement and judging speed in relation to distance.

While surfing won’t directly improve your aim or map sense, it may have a minor impact on other aspects of your games. For example, some of the higher tier maps require the player to learn how to bunny hop. If you are unfamiliar with the term, bunny hopping utilises your strafe-jumping momentum to send you further than a standard jump would. This advanced technique can be utilised in Competitive games to make it harder for opponents to hit you.

Similarly, performing certain jumps in regular CS:GO maps can be achieved as a result of players mastering how the game handles momentum and speed.

You’ve likely seen some pro players navigate their way from Mid on Cache to the Boost spot above the entrance to A Main. Frequenting surf maps will make it easier for you to master these sorts of jumps, as you will have developed a deeper understanding of how to position yourself.

Successful surfing also greatly depends on players making smooth, sweeping motions with the mouse, as jagged movements destroy your momentum and usually result in you slipping off the side of a ramp. Getting into the habit of using these sweeping motions will not only help you to nail tricky jumps, but will also be generally useful in regular matches, particularly if you play with a low sensitivity.

CS:GO - Basic Surfing

Finding your feet on a surf map can be pretty difficult if you’ve never tried one before, as it's such a different experience to everything you’ve seen in CS:GO thus far. Your main objective is to maintain your momentum as you propel yourself to the end of a course.

While it's tempting to want to jump into one of the more complicated maps that you may have seen others try on Twitch or YouTube, it's important to start slow and gradually work your way up. We recommend jumping into a beginner Tier 1 server to get to grips with air-strafing, and the kinds of obstacles and turns you’ll have to perform.

The best way to learn how to surf is to watch someone else go through a course beforehand. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the course you are about to play on, as you need only to watch someone briefly to understand the basics.

When you jump onto a ramp, you need to strafe in the direction of the ramp itself. If you jump onto the left side, you have to hold ‘D’ in order to stay on the ramp. Likewise, on the right side you’ll need to hold down ‘A’. Picking a side is purely a preference thing, so feel no pressure to go on the same side as other players.

Building speed (gaining momentum) is the most important thing when it comes to finishing surf courses. Without a lot of speed, you will be unable to travel from ramp to ramp without falling down completely.

The key to gaining speed on ramps is to always think about your momentum. A lot of servers include a type of speedometer to keep track of how fast you are going. If you are struggling to understand why you aren’t going fast, definitely keep an eye on the speedometer.

Upon leaving the starting platform, try to angle yourself so that you can nosedive onto the ramp while smoothly skimming the bottom portion of the ramp. Avoid touching the top peak of the ramp entirely as making contact with this will instantly deplete your momentum.

By hovering around the lower portions of the ramp, you’ll be able to cover larger distances when you launch yourself into the air. When it comes to jumping up to platforms, you will have to sweep your mouse in an upwards motion. Try to do this in one fluid motion as judders cause drops in speed. Moving your mouse up and down will not affect your momentum, allowing you to look around for your next ramp with ease.

You will do better on a course that you’ve seen a skilled player run through already. If you are starting out on a surf server and you have no idea how to get through the track, try spectating one of the better surfers to see exactly how they are positioning themselves.

This video by Kong Zombies delivers a great breakdown of basic surfing and makes for a quick, informative watch!

More popular CS:GO guides:

CS:GO - Advanced Surfing

It’s important to learn how to bunny hop without relying on servers that include auto-hop.

Auto-hop makes bunny hopping easy by ensuring that you don’t have to worry about the timing of your jumps. The servers that run this modification typically have a lot of Tier 1 and 2 surf courses in their rotation. Try to avoid using auto-hop if you can, instead learn the proper techniques for bunny hopping.

A quick tip would be to bind jump to your scroll wheel. That way you can focus more on getting the sweeping motion of your jumps on point.

CS:GO - Best Surf Servers and Maps

How to find a surf map: Launch CS:GO and click ‘Play CS:GO’. In the top-left dropdown menu select ‘Community Server Browser’. Type ‘Surf’ in the tags section at the bottom and the list will filter all active community surf servers.

Locate the one that you’d like to join and click ‘Connect’. Be sure to pay close attention to the number of players in the server. You can avoid joining empty servers by clicking the Players tab at the top to list the most populated servers at the top.

Most of the popular surf servers include collections of the best surfing maps, including the classic fruit and vegetable levels. Once again, if you’re new to surfing, ensure that you select a server labelled ‘Tier 1’ to get started. While surfing in CS:GO is easy to get into, the hardcore surfing community have lingered in its predecessor: Counter-Strike: Source (CS:S).

While players often list a number of reasons why CS:S is better equipped for handling surf maps than CS:GO, the general consensus is that it happens to be a lot smoother, making the experience more enjoyable overall. As with most things, this comes down to personal preference - there’s no harm in trying both!

If you’d prefer to practice surfing without others, there are a number of surf maps on the Steam Workshop that anyone can download. Note, however, that these can be more complicated to set up as you’ll need to know the commands to reset the map if you happen to fall off.

The majority of the CS:GO surfing community uses servers as they’re easy to access and reset for you if you happen to mess up. These servers are also frequently updated, unlike some of the Workshop maps that have been somewhat neglected.

For the best experience, stick with popular servers, you may even end up making some friends!

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Emma Matthews