The Epic Glossary of Surf Slang, Surfer Lingo and Surfing Terms!

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Photo Credit: Jose Garcia

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

Photo Credit: Rachel Claire

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

Photo Credit: Alexandre Saraiva Carniato

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

Photo Credit: Jess Loiterton

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

Photo Credit: Emma Li

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

Photo Credit: Hugo Marin

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

Photo Credit: Jess Loiterton

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

Photo Credit: Hugo Marin

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

Photo Credit: Mikhail Nilov

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

Photo Credit: Thom Gonzalez

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

Photo Credit: Vladimir Kudinov

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 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!