Whether you are heading out to surf for the first time and you don't want to sound like a complete newb or you want to increase your surf slang vocabulary, our epic glossary of surf slang, surfing lingo and surfer terms might hopefully get you up to speed quickly.
It may even prove to be beneficial if you just want to pose the part like Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves in Point Break. Surfer slang might just be one of the more unique dialects in the English language, though I doubt it officially registers as a dialect.
You might be a young surfer at a basic skill level living on small waves, an experienced surfer on perfect barreling surf, or a well-aged longboarder hanging ten (toes) at the front of the board, but no matter what level this guide is for you.
We have it alphabetized so it will be easy to jump through right to where you need. But, who knows, you might find it so fun that you read line-by-line with a fellow surfer and prep for the surf world.
So dive on in to some surf culture and get the full detail on the lingo. It may not help you catch the perfect wave but your learning may help boost your confidence as you head to the beach.
The Definitive Guide to Surf Slang and Surfer Lingo!
360 — when a surfer spins with their board in a full three-hundred-and-sixty-degree rotation
A-frame — a wave peak that breaks both left and right...perfectly!
Aggro — surf lingo for aggressive surfing/surfer. It's an Australian expression.
Air or Aerial — a move where the surfboard hits the crest of the wave and then goes airborn
Akaw — akin to awesome, cool
Alaia — a wood surfboard originally used by Hawaiians to surf in the late 1800's
Aloha — a Hawaiian greeting that means "hello" or "goodbye"
Amped — feeling excited, pumped up
Ankle Slappers / Ankle Biters — waves that are too small to ride
Backdoor — when a surfer goes inside a tube/barrel from behind its peak
Backwash — when a wave moves up the beach and then returns out to the ocean, sometimes colliding with incoming waves
Bail — a maneuver when you're caught inside or when you're about to wipe out
Bailing — Jumping off your board into the water to save yourself from sure peril
Barney — a totally NOT cool surfer
Barrel —a tube, the curl of the wave, the hollow part of a wave when it is breaking, and one of the most sought after things in surfing
Bathymetry— sort of like Geometry but for the oceans. Measuring the depths of water in the oceans and seas
Beach Break Waves — a surfable wave that is breaking over a sandbar and onto a beach
Beach Bum — someone, usually a surfer, that hangs around the beach
Benny — NOT a local
Blank — a "blank" or rough block of foam that will be shaped into a surfboard
Boardshorts / Boardies— shorts that are quick drying and worn by those enjoying warm water
Bodyboard — a small board that you ride on your belly, also known as a booger, a boogie board
Bodysurf — the sport of riding waves the body and swim fins
Bogging — the result when a surfer's weight is too far back and the surfboard nose lifts way far up
Bomb — like, a totally massive wave, bro!
Bonzer — A surfboard with 5, yes 5 fins! Devised by the Californian Cambell brothers in the 70s
Bottom Turn — a turn at the bottom of the wave to set up the ideal surf line
Break — when the swell of the water finally turns into waves and white water
Bro — dude, brother, mate. "Bro" can be used for both a male or female surfer.
Burn — to drop in on someone, or steal a wave from another surfer without priority
Carve — a surfing maneuver that is a sharp turn on the face of the wave
Caught Inside — when it seems like your trapped between the shoreline and the breaking waves
Chandelier — water falling in a barrel opening that threatens the tube rider
Charging — when a surfer goes after a wave aggressively
Chop — rough waves caused by strong wind or currents
Chunder — waves that are, well..., totally unsurfable
Clean Wave — a smooth, chop-free, wave
Closeout — when a wave breaks suddenly and with no shape
Clucked— being scared of waves
Corduroy — a series of swells rolling in from the horizon
Crease — damage to the surfboard by an impact
Crest— the highest and top point of a wave
Curl — the area of the wave where it is breaking
Cutback — a surf move done sharply in the shoulder of the wave or on its flats to get back on the surf line
Cutting Off — also known as snaking. when you catch a wave in front of a surfer, who was closer to it and had the "right of way"
Dawn Patrol — an early morning surf session
Deck— the top surface of a surfboard
Ding — the most common type of surfboard damage . Can refer to general damage to a surfboard.
Double Up or Humpback — when two waves combine; one large wave closely followed by a smaller one.
Drilling — when you fall off and receive a good pounding from the churn!
Drop — the first part of a ride, when the surfer goes down the face of the wave
Drop-In — synonym to cutting off but also to drop down the face of a wave
Duck Dive / Duck Diving — pushing the surfboard under and through a breaking wave
Elephant Gun — A surfboard designed for very big surf. A large 'gun'!
Epoxy – outer surfboard material. A resin fiberglass alike mixture used to cover the foam blanks
Fetch — the undisturbed distance where the wind blows without a significant change of direction
Fin — a hydrofoil mounted on the underside of the tail of a surfboard to allow for control through foot-steering
Fish — a type of surfboard shape, shorter and thicker than a standard shortboard
Flat — not a single incoming wave. No surf!
Flats — the horizontal part of a breaking wave, also known as the shoulder;
Flippers — swim fins. These are often used for body and boogie-boarding
Floater — a surfing move where the rider goes over the top of a crumbling section and ends up in the flats
Foam — whitewater
Foam Blank — the block of foam from which a surfboard is shaped
Foam Board — typically a beginner's surfboard with an exterior shell made of soft foam
Frontside — when a surfer rides facing the wave
Froth — stoked, amped, or excited
Goofy Footed Surfer — a surfer who rides with his right foot forward
Glassy — an ocean condition when there is no wind to ripple the surface of the wave
Gnarl — intimidating. Usually when the waves are really powerful or there are rocks in places you wouldn't want them
Going Off – charging, ripping, shredding!
Green Room — the inside of a barrel
Gremmi— someone who can't surf very well
Grom or Grommet — a young and inexperienced surfer
Groundswell — a swell that traveled thousands of miles through the ocean, with a period of 15 seconds or more;
Grubbing — when you fall off the surfboard while surfing
Gun — a surfboard for big waves
Hang Five — riding a surfboard with one foot placed on the nose of the board
Hang Loose — the greeting that accompanies the shaka sign
Hang Ten — riding a longboard with both feet directly on the nose of the board
Haole — a Hawaiian word for "foreigner"
Hawaiian Scale — a way of measuring waves by the Hawaiians.
Header – falling off a surfboard from the front...head first!
Heat — a competitive period during a surf contest
Heavy Wave — big, powerful waves that are sometimes dangerous. Teahupoo, Mavericks and Pipeline are three waves that would easily be described as HEAVY!!
Helicopter— a surf move where the surfer spins their surfboard around from its nose
Hit the Lip – when a surfer turns up their surfboard to hit the falling lip of the wave
Hodad — a person who hangs around the beach yet does not surf
Hollow — barrels or tubes
Impact Zone — the place where the waves are breaking the hardest and where beginners tend to get hurt
Indo — slang term for Indonesia, a top surf trip destination with some epic top class surf
Inside — the place between the shore and the impact zone. The area where waves end
Into the Soup — inside the foam or white water churn
Jacking — when the wave swells rapidly, from deep waters to shallow ones
Jake — a surfer who unintentionally gets in the way of more experienced surfers
Juice — the power of the wave
Junkyard Dog — a surfer who has poor style
Keg — another word for a barrel
Kick Out — finishing the ride by going over the back. going over the top of the wave
Kickflip — while in the air, rotating the surfboard 360 degrees
Kneeboard — a special type of board meant for riding on knees
Kook — a rookie surfer or someone who isn’t very good at surfing. Someone who surfs to try and look cool.
Layback — a surfing maneuver where the surfer literally lays back into a wave. Was more popular in the 70's
Landlord / Men in Grey Suit — Sharks!!!
Leash — the cord that ties the leg to the surfboard
Left — A wave that breaks from right to left from a surfer point of view when facing the shore.
Leg Rope — another name for a leash
Line Up — the area in the water, away from the swell, where the surfers wait to get their turn at catching a wave
Lines — Unbroken waves heading towards the shore
Lip — the upper-most part of a wave, right before it breaks
Localism— the aggressive territorial protection of a surf spot by local surfers
Locked In — when a surfer gets caught inside a crashing wave
Log — slang for longboard
Longboard — a surfboard with a round nose that is at least 8 foot long
Lull — when the ocean goes flat between sets and everyone sits around waiting for the waves
Lump — when there is an onshore wind the waves tend to have lots of lumps and bumps
Macking — huge waves breaking or when it's really fun and powerful
Making the Drop — catching a wave and sitting on the lower part of the wave’s shoulder
Maxed Out — waves that are too large to break without closing out
Men in Grey Suits — sharks
Mental — crazy or radical
Messy — When there is a strong onshore wind creating lots of chop and causing the wave to appear ragged and break erratically
Mini Mal / Malib — Smaller version of a longboard, usually a fun shape
Mullering — wiping out
Mush/Mushburger — Poor quality, slow, or non-powerful waves, often onshore
Mysto Spot — a surf spot that breaks on a far away reef
Namer — a surfer who gives up the location of a secret surf spot
New School — trick surfing
Noah — another name for a shark
Noodle Arms — when your arms are totally tired from paddling
Nose — the front tip of a surfboard
Nose Guard — a rubber tip meant to protect the nose of the surfboard
Nose Riding — a longboarding move where you surf on the nose of the board
Nug — a totally good wave
Off the Lip — A manouvre where the surfer goes to the top of the wave and pivots on the lip
Offshore Winds — wind blowing from the shore out to the ocean, helping hold the curl line and smoothing the face of the wave
Onshore Wind —wind blowing from the ocean toward shore and destroying the wave quality
Out the Back — an Australian expression for paddling through the breaking waves into the line-up zone
Outline — the surfboard shape from tail to nose
Outside — the place beyond the lineup; beyond the place where the waves break
Outside Break — the furthest place from the shore where the waves are still breaking
Over the Falls — a classic wipeout where the surfer falls off going from the top of the wave to the bottom in one straight drop. Headfirst over the falls will win you some extra points!
Overgunned — when your surfboard isn't matched well for the surfing conditions
Overhead— when the waves are higher than the height of an average surfer
Paddle Battle — a race between surfers to get into a wave first and gain the right of way
Party wave— a wave with several people surfing at the same time
Peak — the highest point of a breaking wave that generates both left and right surfable shoulders
Pearl— what happens when a surfer's weight is too far forward, and the surfboard nose dives underwater
Peelers – a wave that peels smoothly when breaking, perfect for longboards
Peeling — when a wave breaks perfectly
Pig Dog — when a surfer grabs onto the rails while inside a barrel
Pin Tail — a surfboard with a rounded tail. More common on older boards but still used on many modern boards, particularly big wave boards.
Pit — the barrel of a large and strong wave. the most hollow part of the tube
Pit Dive — when the drop-in doesn't go as planned and you end up diving into the bottom of the wave
Pocket — the power pocket of a barrel or powerful wave and where you want to position yourself
Point Break — If perfect conditions are present, a point break can create an unbelievably long wave to ride as the wave wraps around a point and makes its way along the coastline.
Pop-Out — A mass produced, machine made surfboard
Pop Up — when a surfer moves from lying on the board to standing up
Pull In — turning the surfboard up to enter a barrel
Pumping — A decent swell where the waves are nice and powerful. Can also be used to describe a surfer trying to generate speed.
Punt — to perform an aerial maneuver
Pura Vida — In Costa Rica it translates as "pure life" and means those things that are good or positive
Quad — Surf board with 4 fins. Like a twin fin but with 2 smaller fins behind
Quimby — a beginner surfer who is usually annoying
Quiver — a surfer’s collection of surfboards
Racy — a fast and surfable wave
Rad/Radical — high performance or risk taking surfing, awesome or impressive
Rag Dolled — getting tossed around by a wave like you're a rag doll
Rails — the edges of a surfboard
Rail Bang – while falling, to take a surfboard between the legs
Rail to Rail — keeping the surfboard constantly moving on the wave, from one edge of the surfboard to the other
Raked Over — when paddling out, to be pounded by strong waves
Reef Break — a wave that breaks over rock or coral
Reef Tag — cuts and grazes from hitting the reef or rocks
Re-entry — when a surfer goes through or over the lip of the wave and then goes back in
Regular Footed Surfer — A surfer who stands with their left foot forward
Ricos — perfect! rich!
Right — a wave that breaks on the right of the surfer, from the peak
Rip — to surf very well
Riptides — a strong current formed by the water that is pushed in by the surf rushing back out to sea
Rock dance — what a surfer has to do to exit the water through a rocky section
Rocker — the curve under the surfboard
Rogue wave — an ocean wave bigger than the typical current conditions
Section — the location in the water, where the waves aren’t breaking and where surfers are waiting their turn to advance and ride
Set — a series of waves that are approaching the lineup. A set of waves
Shacked — getting completely barreled, riding an epic tube
Shaka — a Hawaiian hand gesture used to say "hello," "great," "cool," and "alright", made from extending the thumb and the little finger with the remaining fingers curled in
Shape — a word used to rate the quality of the breaking waves (perfect shape is when the wave breaks evenly)
Shaper — a surfboard designer and producer
Shoaling — the effect by which waves entering shallower water increase in height
Shootin' the Curl — slang meaning to go surfing
Shore Break or Shore-pound — mostly unsurfable waves that break right on the shore
Shoulder — the part of the breaking wave that is unbroken
Shoulder Hop — dropping in on a surfer who is already up and riding
Shove-it — a maneuver where the rider shoves the surfboard around underneath their feet, 180 or 360 degrees
Shobie — someone who buys a surfboard and surf clothing, but does not surf
Sick — astounding, impressive, amazing
Single Fin — a surfboard with a single center fin
Skeg - an old expression for surfboard fin
Sketchy — bad form when surfing
Slash — a rapid turn off the top of the wave, hopefully throwing loads of spray off the top
Slop — weak, low quality surf
Slotted– when a surfer is well-situated within a barrel
Snap — fast sharp turn
Snake / Snaking — paddling under, around, or over the top of another surfer to get the right of way
Soft board— a surfboard with a soft foam surface, meant for beginners
Soup — whitewater
Spat out — the action that occurs when a surfer exits a barrel alongside air and foamy water
Spit — the water that gets sprayed out from a barrel
Sponger — a derogatory term for a bodyboarder
Stacking — when the waves are getting bigger
Stall— a surf move done intentionally to slow down the travel of your surfboard
Stance — the position of the feet on a surfboard
Stick — another term for a surfboard
Stoked — totally pumped, extremely happy and excited
Stringer — the wooden strip that runs down the center of the surfboard and gives strength and flexibility to the foam
Sucking dry — when the seabed is exposed by powerful breaking waves
Surf camp — surf vacation with accommodation included, where an instructor teaches surfing
Surf Session — when you go out surfing
Surf Wax — It smells nice and might get stuck in your chest hair, but is used to stop your feet from slipping off your board
Surfer’s Knots — swellings on the back of the leg below the knee, caused by kneeling on the surfboard waiting for a wave
Swallow Tail — another surfboard tail type. Just like the name, it is shaped like a swallow's tail or like a W
Swell/groundswell — solid, real surfable waves, not from wind chop
Switch foot — someone who can surf both goofy foot and natural
Tail — the backside of the board opposite the nose
Tail-slide — a surf move where the tail of the board slides across the lip of the wave
Take off — to catch, or start, a ride on a wave
Thruster — the name for a board with 3 fins. It was invented by Simon Anderson in the 80s
Thundoars — Island slang which means large, thundering waves
Tight — a surfboard that is hard to turn. This is an advantage in bigger waves because it is less likely to wobble. It is more predictable.
Tombstoning - when the surfer is wiped out and sinking below the surface and their surfboard is bobbing up and down connected to them through a leash
Tow in — used by big wave surfers, it refers to being towed in by a jet ski to the place where the big waves are
Traction Pad — a permanent replacement for wax which is stuck directly to the surfboard
Trim — when you keep the surfboard in a straight line at just the right angle for cruising down the line
Trough — the bottom of the wave, the opposite of the crest
Tube — barrel, the hollow of the wave
Tubular — awesome, great, rad
Tupperware — a powerful and thunderous wave that can only be ridden by bodyboarders
Turtle Roll — an alternative technique used especially with longboards or foam boards to get the surfboard through a large breaking wave; The surfer clutches the rails of the board and rolls onto their back with the board above them and the nose of the board down.
Twin Fin — a two-finned surfboard. It makes for a very "loose" board
Victory at Sea — waves that are big and not rideable...like the movie
Wahine — a female surfer
Wall — a face of the wave that has no place to ride
Washing Machine — getting rolled around underwater, like in a washing machine
Wave Hog — a surfer who will not share a wave
Wave Train — a group of swells of similar wavelengths
Wax — see surf wax
Wedge — a steep wave
White water — the foamy, white-colored water created where a wave breaks
Wipeout — falling off your board is referred to as a wipe-out. Other terms you might hear are donut, mullering, eating it or taking a pounding.
Worked — to get knocked off by a wave and then tossed around in the "washing machine"
Zipperless - a type of wetsuit. Often considered the "holy grail" of wetsuits, as zippers, no matter how well made, will always let water through.
Thanks for staying until the end!
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.