Are you hearing surfing terms being putting down but you aren’t picking up the meaning of the words, phrases, and sayings from fellow surfers?
Not sure if you got pitted on your last wave because you don’t know what getting pitted means?
Not to worry, we got you bro.
Here is your source for surfing terms, slang and lingo.
360: A surfing maneuver during which the surfer spins the board 360 degrees while riding the face of the wave.
Table of Contents
A-Frame: A wave that has both a left and a right and allows two surfers to surf the same wave going in opposite directions.
Aerial: A surfing maneuver where a surfer flies through the air above the lip of the wave. An aerial is also called an air.
Aggro: an Australian term that means to surf aggressively or refers to a generally aggressive surfer.
Akaw: Akaw means great, cool, epic, awesome. It comes from the waka-waka sound that PAC-MAN makes. Why it’s a word, we have no idea.
Alaia: A surfboard made of wood. Alaia were originally used by Hawaiians to surf waves in the late 19th century.
Aloha: A Hawaiian word that means both “hello” and “goodbye”.
Amped: To be excited. To be stoked.
Ankle Busters: Also called ankle slappers, are waves so small you are better off mind surfing them and pretending you are a smurf instead of trying to ride them with a board.
Backdoor: When a surfer pulls into a hollow section of a wave from behind a broken section of a wave they just “backdoored the wave” which gives them more tube time. Backdoor is also a popular surfing break in Hawaii.
Backside: When a surfer rides with his back to the wave he or she is surfing back sided. It is the opposite of frontside.
Backwash: When returns to the ocean from the beach, sometimes colliding with incoming waves.
Bail: To bail or bailing refers to when a surfer intentionally removes him or herself from the surfboard. This could be when a surfer is riding a wave and wants to avoid a bad time or as an alternative to duck diving (when there is no one behind them, ideally).
Balance Board: A training tool that can help surfers and other board riders train on dry land, fine tuning their balancing skills.
Barney: A surfer that is uncool or untalented or a beginner or someone who it out of their surfing depths or a surfer who wears their shorts too high.
Barrel: The hollow tube of a wave. The holly grail of surfing. The end all be all of riding waves. Where time and space collide and stop all at the same time. Where sound become warped and vision is limited to only what a falling wall of water will allow you to see. What surfers are likely to talk more about than actually experience when you tally both of those activities in minutes.
Bathymetry: Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of ocean floors or lake floors. It’s why we know Mavericks breaks one way and why Pipeline breaks another.
Beach Break: Waves that break over sandbars is a beach break. Beach breaks have sand bottoms versus rock or reef bottoms.
Beach Bum: Someone who spends a lot of time on the beach. What many of us aspired to as youngsters. It’s what the lucky few can do in their later years.
Benny: Benny is frequently used as a derogatory term used on the east coast that frequently refers to people from north Jersey or New York. Benny is really an acronym for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York which are the train stops that took early vacationers down to the Jersey Shore.
Bitchin’: Fantastic, great, amazing, all that and a bag of chips.
Blank: A semi-rough block of polyurethane foam that will be shaped into the core of a surfboards. It is what is directly under the hard glass of the surfboard.
Bodyboard: A small foam board that you ride on your stomach or in prone position. It’s also as a booger, a boogie board, and belly board.
Bodysurf: Surfing or riding waves with just your body. Sometimes swim fins are used.
Bogging: When a surfer’s weight is too far back, and the surfboard nose lifts up slowing or stopping the forward motion of the board.
Bomb: A big wave, typically relative to the average waves of a given surf session.
Bottom Turn: A turn that is made at the bottom of a wave by a surfer. Bottom turns can also be made mid-face but a less dramatic than those made closer to the trough (bottom) of the wave. Bottom turns are key to maximizing the energy of the wave and are arguably the most important turn a surfer can learn.
Break: What happens when the wave energy results in pushing the wave to a point where it starts to collapse on itself.
Bro: Another word for surfer, dude, brother, friend or mate.
Burn: To throw surfing etiquette out the window and do something that is seen as unbecoming. This could be a drop in or taking off on a wave when you first paddle out while another surfer has been waiting for a wave for 20 minutes or some other type of behavior that is, well, not nice.
Carve: When a surfer makes a sharp turn on a wave they just make a carve.
Caught Inside: The area in the water that is between the breaking waves and the beach. You don’t want to be caught inside during a big clean up set.
Chandelier: The water falling from a barrel opening that threatens the surfer riding in the tube is a chandelier.
Charging: When a surfer is aggressively and admirably going for waves, they are charging.
Chop: Bumpy and lumpy water conditions due to wind direction and speed and water currents. Choppy conditions are less enjoyable than glassy surfing conditions.
Clean Wave: A smooth wave with no chop on the face.
Closeout: When a wave breaks all at once leaving the surfer nowhere to ride.
Corduroy: The shape of incoming swells coming out of the deep ocean.
Crease: When you damage a surfboard like you folded a piece of paper, well, that is a crease. You need to get that board repaired as it is no longer watertight.
Crest: The top and highest point of a wave.
Curl: The part of the wave that is actively breaking.
Cutback: When a surfer turns on the face of the wave and heads back to the breaking part of the wave in order to get closer to the most powerful part of the wave.
Dawn Patrol: To go for a surf in the morning at first light. Best get your Z’s for this one, kiddos.
Deck: The top of a surfboard.
Ding: To damage a surfboard by putting a hole it in or cracking it.
Double Up: When 2 waves combine and create a bigger and/or mutant wave.
Drop: The first part of a wave that the surfer slides down before getting to the bottom turn.
Drop In: When one surfer gets up and rides in front of another surfer who was already on the wave, that surfer who is late to the wave is dropping in. Dropping in is poor surfing etiquette, intentional or not, and can lead to dangerous situations.
Duck Diving: To push through and under a broken wave as you are paddling out to the lineup.
Dude: One cool person.
Epoxy: A type of resin used to make surfboards.
Fetch: The area of ocean or lake surface over which the wind blows in an essentially constant direction that generates waves.
Fin: A hydrofoil mounted at the tail of a surfboard to use to provide stability and control through foot steering. Fins can be used in a few common configurations: Single (1), twin (2), thruster (3), and quads (4).
Fish surfboard: A wider shortboard with a flatter rocker than most shortboards. Fishes are designed to maximize smaller waves.
Flat: When there are no waves. This is what happens on the east coast during the month of July.
Flats: The area in front of the broken or unbroken wave where is no curvature and looks generally, you guessed it, flat.
Flippers: Another word swim fins. They are fins that that you use when … never mind.
Floater: A surfing maneuver where the surfer goes over the top of a broken section of a wave and ends up in the flats.
Foam: The white water of a broken wave.
Frontside: Riding a wave with your chest facing the wave.
Froth: When you want it. When you really, really want it you are frothing.
Glassy: When the water surface is calm and resembles glass.
Gnarly: Dangerous and unpredictable.
Goofy Foot: A surfer who rides waves with his right leg forward on his or her surfboard.
Greenroom: The inside of the wave. The barrel.
Grom: A young surfer, typically younger than 16 or 18 years old. Because of that, the word is often associated with the idea of not yet being a strong surfer. Confusingly, there are some people who use the term specifically for kids who are really good at surfing, despite their youth. Above all, a grom is a young surfer, regardless of his or her skill level. Sometimes, young snowboarders, skateboarders or participants in other extreme sports are also called groms. Groms may also be called terms such as “grommet” and “gremmie.”
Groundswell: A wind swell that travel great distance to the shoreline.
Gun: A big surfboard for riding big waves.
Hang Five: When a surfer puts 5 toes over the nose of their board when riding.
Hang Loose: A salutation that frequently accompanies a Shaka. It means to be relaxed, be carefree, etc.
Hang Ten: When a surfer puts 10 toes over the nose of their board when riding.
Haole: A Hawaiian word for “foreigner”.
Hawaiian Scale: How Hawaiians measure waves. Whatever you hear the wave height is in Hawaii, just double it. That will be close to how you think about wave heights if you are not from Hawaii.
Header: To fall off of a surfboard heads first.
Heat: A period of time that surfers compete in a contest.
Heavy: Big and thick waves that look like they have mass.
Hit The Lip: When a surf turns and rides vertically up the face of the wave to turn where the wave is beginning to crumble or pitch out.
Hodad: An older term once used to describe a non-surfer who frequents surfing beaches and pretends to be a surfer.
Hollow: When wave breaks and there is an interior section, that section is hollow.
Impact Zone: Where wave break the hardest. When Turtle in North Shore says, “When the wave breaks here, don’t be there” he is referring to the Impact zone.
Inside: The area between where the wave breaks and the beach.
Jacking: See shoaling.
Juice: Refers to the power of a wave.
Kahuna: A Hawaiian priest. Alternatively, the older local dude on the longboard catching everything is the Big Kahuna.
Kick Out: To exit a wave by riding over the back of the wave.
Kneeboard: A special type of wave riding board meant for riding on your knees. Riders typically use swim fins to help them catch waves.
Kook: A person who is not very good at surfing but thinks he or she is skilled. A kook often uses incorrect techniques but thinks that they are surfing properly. A kook also may not have an understanding of the social norms of surfing. This person can be a beginner, someone who hasn’t surfed often, or someone who is ignorant of proper surfing practices and etiquette. A kook may cause problems or danger for others who are surfing in the area. A person who doesn’t know much about surfing but is willing to learn from others, on the other hand, is not considered a kook.
Layback: Laying with you back on the face of the wave as you surf it.
Leash: Also known as a leg rope, it is the cord that tethers a surfer to a surfboard.
Left: A wave that breaks to the left from the perspective of the surfer paddling to catch the wave.
Line Up: The spot in the ocean where surfers sit to catch waves.
Lines: Lines refer to the approaching swells that will turn into waves.
Lip: When the crest of a wave starts to crumble it create a lip. The lip may also refer to the portion of the wave that pitches forward.
Localism: Behavior exhibited by aggressive local surfers.
Locked In: When a surfed is riding the tube and the wave closes down on them, they were locked in.
Longboard: A surfboard with a round nose that is at least 8 foot long commonly used for nose riding.
Lull: The time between waves or sets of waves. A temporary flatness.
Macking: Bigger than normal waves breaking in a way that makes for fun surfing.
Making The Drop: When a surfer has successfully paddled, stood up, and slid down the face and continues to ride they have made the drop.
Maxed Out: When swells get too big for a local break and they are closing out, that beach is maxed out.
Men In Grey Suits: Sharks, typically Great White Sharks.
Mental: Out of the ordinary and radical.
Mushburger: Soft waves that are generally more fun on a longboard.
Mystery Spot: We know where it is, be we aren’t saying where it is.
Neoprene: What wetsuits are made out of. One part rubber, one part petroleum (give or take).
Noodle Arms: What your arms are after a long day of surfing … tired and feeling like noodles more than arms.
Nose: The tip and pointed part of a surfboard. The nose is rounded on longboards and many mid length surfboards.
Nose Riding: A move performed on a longboard during which a surfer will stand on the nose of the longboard as they surf down the line of wave.
Nug: A darn good wave.
Off The Lip: To maneuver the board to ride part of the lip and use the pitching lift to drop back into the face of the waves.
Offshore Wind: Winds that blow from the land out to sea.
Onshore Wind: Winds that blow from the sea on to land.
Out The Back: Also, known as outside is the area that is beyond the normal surf zone on a given day. If you hear “out the back” or “outside” you should paddle towards the horizon fast.
Outline: The general shape of the board.
Over The Falls: When a surfer goes over with broken wave, they have gone over the falls.
Overhead: Waves that are taller than a surfer, generally 6′ or more.
Paddle Battle: When 2 surfers are competing for the right of way for a wave.
Party Wave: A wave with multiple surfers riding it.
Peak: The highest point of a breaking wave.
Pearl: When a surfer digs their nose into the water and they wipeout.
Peeling: A perfect breaking of a wave.
Pig Dog: A style of backside tube riding where you drag your bum in the wave face to help control your speed.
Pintail: The shape of a surfboard tail designed for bigger surf.
Pit: The bottom of the hollow section of a wave.
Pitted: To get barreled.
Pocket: The most powerful part of a wave that is standing up tall.
Pointbreak: A wave that breaks in the same spot due to the bottom contours of the ocean. Typically, a reef or rock break.
Polyurethane: A type of material used in making surfboards.
Pop Up: When a surfer jumps to their feet when paddling for a wave.
Poser: Someone who looks like a surfer, sounds like a surfer, buys surfboards and gear and doesn’t surfer.
Pull In: To enter a barrel of a wave.
Pumping: Good surfing conditions.
Punt: Another word for catching air or an aerial.
PWC: A personal watercraft (PWC). Ya know, a jetski?
Quiver: A surfers’ collections of surfboards.
Racy: A fast wave.
Radical: Also known as rad, it is awesome.
Rail: The edge of a surfboard.
Rash Guard: A form fitting shirt a surfer may wear under a wetsuit.
Re Entry: When a surfer surfs through or over the lip of a wave and returns to ride the wave more.
Reef Break: A wave that breaks on top of a reef.
Refraction: When wave energy bounces off of stationary objects such as jetties or beaches and create bigger waves. Waves at The Wedge in Newport Beach, CA are a result of refraction from the jetty. In San Francisco, South Ocean Beach can see waves twice the size as Ocean Beach which is less than a mile north due to the northern swells refracting down the beach.
Regular Foot: A surfer who surfs with his left leg forward.
Right: A wave that breaks to the right from the perspective of the surfer paddling to catch the wave.
Right Of Way: The surfer who has priority given their position relative to the breaking part of the wave.
Rip: To surf well. “He rips.”
Rip Current: A rip current, or a rip, is a strong, localized, and narrow current of water which moves directly away from the shore toward the open ocean.
Rip Tide: A strong and dangerous current. Rip tides are formed when a mass of water gathers at the shore then rushes back to deeper parts of the ocean. The current may move along the shore for a short distance before heading back out to sea. Rip tides also commonly occur between two sandbars. Both swimmers and surfers need to be aware, so they don’t get caught in rip tides. Other names for a rip tide include “rip” and “rip current.”
Rocker: The curve of the bottom of a surfboard.
Rogue Wave: A bigger unpredictable wave.
Section: A part of the wave that is breaking.
Set: A group of waves.
Shacked: Getting barrel. More specifically, getting a big barrel.
Shaka: A hand gesture used in Hawaii to communicate greetings and good times. Extend the thumb up, extend the little finger out, curl the rest of the fingers and twist your hand from side to side and you just gave yourself a shaka, my friend.
Shape: The qualities of a breaking wave.
Shaper: A surfboard shaper is someone who shapes and sometimes glasses surfboards.
Shoaling: The effect by which surface waves entering shallower water change in wave height. When you paddle for a 4′ wave, drop in, and realize you are riding a 6′ wave you just experienced shoaling.
Shore Break: The waves that crash on the sand is shore break
Shortboard: A performance surfboard, typically in the 6′ range.
Shoulder: The unbroken part of a wave.
Shove It: A surfing trick where the surfer makes the board spin 180 degrees without the tail of the board hitting the water under their feet
Sick: Dope, off the hook and other words and phrase that mean, um, dope and off the hook.
Skateboard: A short, narrow board with four wheels attached to each end of the board. Skateboards can be ridden in a standing or crouching position. A skateboard is used for transportation or for performing tricks. Some of the skills used in skateboarding are similar to those used in surfing, so many surfers use skateboards to practice their skills on land.
Skeg: We used to call fins skegs. We don’t anymore.
Sketchy: A precarious situation.
Slab: A heavy deep-water wave that hits a ledge and breaks.
Slotted: Surfing inside of a barrel.
Snaking: The act of padding around another surfer specifically to get into a better position on a wave at the last moment.
Soft Board: A soft board or a foamy is a surfboard made with a soft deck.
Soup: The foamy broken part of a wave that is left after the wave energy subsides.
Spat Out: When a surfer comes rocketing out of a barrel with the spit of the wave they were just spat out.
Spit: The water that gets shot out of the barrel of a wave due to the pressure built up inside the constantly collapsing tube.
Sponger: A derogatory term for a bodyboarder.
Stall: A surf maneuver when a surfer slows the speed the surfboard by putting a lot of pressure on the tail and/or with a quick pivot that allows the broken part of the wave to catch up to them. A stall is used frequently on shortboarders to get into a barrel. Longboarders stall to readjust their position on smaller waves.
Stance: How a surfer positions their feet and the rest of their body on the board when they are surfing.
Step Up Surfboard: A surfboard that is a little longer and has more foam than your everyday shortboard. It is what you want to ride when the surf is gets a few feet overhead.
Stick: Another word for surfboard.
Stoked: As in “I’m stoked” or “get stoked” is a term frequently used by surfers to express excitement.
Stringer: The wooden material that runs down the center of the surfboard. There are different thicknesses to stringers. Some surfboards have a single, double or even triple stringer. Stringers give strength and flexibility to the foam of the surfboard.
Sucking Dry: When the seabed gets exposed due to a breaking wave pulling water up into the face of the moving wave.
SUP: An acronym for “stand up paddle boarding.” The person who stands on the board uses a paddle to steer and move through the water. Stand up paddle boarding can be performed on calm or choppy bodies of water. SUPs can be used to cruise on the surface of water or can be used to catch and ride waves.
Surf Camp: Surf camps are local camps or vacation destinations where surf instruction and/or surfing accommodation are available.
Surfboard: What you need to stand up surf. Surfboards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, materials and fin set ups.
Surfer’s Knots: A condition that is caused by chronic pressure over bony prominences leading to thick fibrotic nodules on knees, knuckles, and dorsal feet. Surfer’s nodules or surfer’s knots is a result of consistent pressure over time of parts of the body pushing against a surfboard. One of the most common causes is knee-paddling on a longboard.
Surging Wave: A surging wave is a wave that doesn’t break offshore but is one that rolls towards the shoreline and mostly breaks on the beach. Surging waves are not great for surfing, but skim boarders can find a lot of fun in these waves that break close to and/or on the beach.
Swell: The formation of waves, ideally surfable waves.
Tail: The back quarter of a surfboard, typically where the rear foot of the surfer is placed when they are riding a wave.
See: Surfboard Tail Shapes.
Take Off: A take-off or taking off is when a surfer paddles, catches, stands up and starts to ride a wave.
The Wedge: The Wedge is a surfing, bodyboarding and body surfing wave located at the extreme southeast end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. It is known for its large waves that are generated due to the refraction of wave energy during south swells.
Thruster: A surfboard with a three-fin set up. The thruster was created by Simon Anderson in the early 80s by adding a third/centered fin to a twin fin. The creation of the thruster is probably the most significant evolution of modern-day surfing.
Tidal Bore: The surge of water that travels upriver from an incoming tide resulting in a surfable river wave.
Tombstoning: When the top of a surfer’s board is positioned vertically, bobbing up and down as a result of a wipe out and the tension of the leash that is connecting the surfer to the board. The top of the board resembles a tombstone in the ground.
Tow – In: When surfers use personal watercraft to get pulled into waves instead of paddling into them. Towing in is more common in big waves where there is life and death consequences.
Traction Pad: Surfboard traction pads, also known as stomp pads, are a foam pad of sorts that you stick to the tail of your board. They are an alternative to surfboard wax. They help a surfer to not slip off the backend of a surfboard and also provide a little bit of leverage and allow for more pushing into the tail during turns than wax would allow. If you ride a shortboard, you should consider a traction pad.
Trimming: Harnessing the most efficient part of the wave face to surf in mostly a straight line. Long boarders leverage trim a lot. Shortboards, well, not so much.
Trough: The bottom of the wave.
See: Parts of a Wave.
Tsunami: A tsunami is a large and generally thick wave or series of waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of water. A tsunami may occur in the ocean, a sea or a lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater disruptions make cause tsunamis. Tsunami is a Japanese word. You don’t pronounce the T in Tsunami.
See: What is a Tsunami.
Tube: The most sought-after part of the wave where a surfer wants to ride. The tube is the inside of the wave that forms when the lip pitches out in front of the moving wall of water, creating a hollow interior that the surfer can ride in. It is also referred to as the barrel.
Tubular: As in “totally tubular, dude!”. This term refers to something being awesome, great or radical, which are three terms you may want to consider using before you start your attempt to get tubular back into wide circulation.
Turtle Roll: As an alternative to a duck dive or ditching your surfboard, a turtle roll is surfing technique where the surfer flips the board over in front of an oncoming broken wave to get under it and thus avoiding the washing machine. You see this move more frequently with surfers who use bigger board who with surfers who may lack the body mass and strength to punch under a wave by duck diving.
Twin Fin: Sometimes referred to as a twinny or twinnie, is a surfboard with 2 fins. These fins are typically larger than fins on a 3-fin board. Twin fins were made popular by Mark Richards (MR) in the late 70s and have seen a resurgence recently as older-styled boards have started to gain popularity in the line ups and surfers realize they have more fun surfing these boards instead of trying to surf like Kelly Slater, John John Florence, or their local ripper.
Wahine: A female surfer.
Wall: A wave face that has little or no room to surf. Waves that are “walled” result in a closeout.
Washing Machine: This does not refer to your mother’s washer and drier appliance combo. The washing machine in surfing lingo refers to getting tossed and rolled around underwater after a wave breaks. It is typically the result of a wipeout and is similar to getting worked.
Wave Face: The rideable part of the wave that moves towards the shoreline.
Wave Height: Also referred to as “surf height”, is the difference between the elevations of a crest and a neighboring wave trough. Wave height most commonly refers to the vertical size of the wave face. Mainlanders refer to the front of the wave when talking about wave height. Hawaiians measure the back of the wave when referring to the size of waves. A 3′ wave in California is roughly a 6′ wave in Hawaii.
Wave Hog: A surfer who tends to catch more than their fair share of waves at the expense of other surfers’ enjoyment. This is the kid who didn’t learn to share as a child and/or has a superiority complex.
Wave Period: The average time between two consecutive wave crests of a given swell.
Wavelength: The distance between the crest of one wave and the crest of the following wave.
Wax: A paraffin substance that surfers rub on the decks of their surfboards to help their feet stay in place while surfing. Applying wax to the top of a surfboard forms bumps that create traction and reduces the deck of the surfboard from becoming slippery when it gets wet. Wax usually comes in blocks or sticks, and there are different formulations that work in different water temperatures.
See: Surfing Wax Reviews.
Wedge: A steep wave. The ultimate wedge wave is The Wedge in Newport Beach, CA which is located at the extreme southeast end of the Balboa Peninsula.
Wetsuit: A special bodysuit that is worn in the water to help surfers stay warm. Most wetsuits are made of neoprene, a type of rubber, making the suit heat absorbent. When a surfer wears a wetsuit, water becomes trapped between the neoprene and the skin, causing body heat to transfer to the water. This provides a layer of insulating warmth around the surfer’s body. Wetsuits keep you warm.
Whitewater: Sometime spelled “white water” is the foamy, white-colored water that results from a broken wave.
Wind swell: Waves generated as a result of the wind from offshore storms.
Wipeout: To fall off of your surfboard and have mother nature have its way with you as you get worked.
Worked: A surfer “gets worked” when they wipeout and the wave beats them up as they are under the surface of the water.