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The Extended Glossary of Surfing Terms and Slang

by Cristina Costea

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Yo, duuuude! Rad barrels out there!

Surf talk has got to be one of the most unique and recognizable lingos in the English language. Countless movies have portrayed the special way surfers speak, and even cartoons are using the surf terms for comedic relief.

Case and point: Remember Crush, the turtle/laid-back surfer dude in Disney’s Finding Nemo? He was speaking in ‘surferese!

Needless to say, though we know that not all surfers talk like Crush, there is an undeniable surf slang that one needs to know in order to understand the world of surfing. After all, you wouldn’t want to go on a surf camp for beginners and not understand what your instructors are telling you. This is precisely why we’ve decided to come to your rescue with an extended glossary of 180+ essential surf terms!


360 – a surf move consisting of turning the surfboard at a 360-degree angle while on the face of a wave

A-frame – a wave shaped like a peak that breaks both left and right, equally

Aggro – aggressive surfing/surfer

Air/Aerial – is a maneuver in which the board leaves the surface or the water/wave

Akaw! – awesome, cool

Amped – feeling excited, pumped up

Ankle busters – waves that are too small to ride

Backdoor – going inside a tube/barrel, also known as the curl of the wave, from behind its peak

Bailing – Jumping off your board into the water in order to avoid a bad encounter

Barney – a surfer that is not cool, is untalented or a rookie


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

Beach break – the places where the waves break over sandbars

Benny – a person who is not a local

Bitchin’ – awesome, amazing, great

Bodyboard – a small surfing board, also known as a booger, a boogie board

Bomb – a massive wave

Bottom turn – a turn that is made at the bottom of the wave; a very important maneuver that sets the tone for the ride

Break – when the swell of the water breaks, turning into waves and white water

Bro – dude, brother, surfer

Carve – a maneuver that is a sharp turn on the face of the wave

Caught inside – being caught between the shoreline and the breaking waves

Charging – aggressively going for a wave

Choppy – rough waves due to wind conditions

Clean wave – a smooth wave, with no bumps

Closeout – when a wave breaks suddenly and all at once

Clucked – being scared of waves

Crease – damage to the surfboard caused by an impact

Crest – the highest point of a wave, the top of the wave

Curl – the area of the wave where it is breaking

Cutback – a surf move done sharply in the shoulder or the wave or on its flats to get back on the surf line

Cutting off – the action of catching a wave in front of a surfer, who was going for it and was closer to it, thus stealing the wave from them; also known as snaking


Dawn patrol – going surfing first thing in the morning

Deck – the top surface of a surfboard

Dick drag – a derogatory term referring to the action of lying down on your board while riding a wave

Ding – any damage to your surfboard

Double up/humpback – when two waves combine; one large wave closely followed by a smaller one

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


Glossary of Surfing Terms

Image source: thesurfingphotog.com

Duck diving – diving under a breaking wave, ducking your body and the surfboard under a breaking wave

Dude – a surfer, a friend

Epic – great surf session, awesome wave, top surf

Eskimo roll – a surf move that gets the surfer through a large wave or a broken wave without being washed to shore

Face – the part of the wave that has yet to break, where most rides take place

Fade – when surfers put themselves into the most powerful part of the wave

Far out! – great, amazing, spectacular

Firing – fun surf


Flat – no surf, no waves

Floater – a surf move where the surfer rides the top of the wave, then drops back into the main part of the wave

Foam – the material surfboards are made of and it also signifies the white water/bubbles that occurs when a wave breaks

Foamies – waves made of foam

Forehand/ front side – surfing with your back to the beach and your face to the wave

Frube – a surfer who does not manage to catch a wave for the entire time they are in the water

Funboard – a medium-length surfboard

Glassy – smooth, when referring to the water


Gnarly – difficult, challenging

Goat boater – a surf ski

Going off – great surf, as in “It’s just going off today, dude!”

Goofy foot – when a surfer’s right foot is forward and the left is in the back, while on the surfboard


Green room – the inside of a barrel

Grom – a young surfer, usually under 16; also known as a grommet

Grubbing – falling off the surfboard while surfing 

Gun – a big wave surfboard

Hang eleven – used to describe a male surfer who rides naked

Hang five – riding a surfboard with one foot placed on the nose of the board

Hang loose – the salutation that accompanies the sign of Shaka

Hang ten – riding a surfboard with both feet placed on the nose of the board

Header – to fall off a surfboard

Heavy – big, awesome waves

Helicopter – a surf move in which the surfer spins the surfboard around from its nose

Hit the lip – when a surfer turns up their surfboard to hit the falling lip of the wave, allowing the surfboard to be smashed down

Hodad – a person who hangs around the beach and does not surf

Hollow – barrels, tubes

Impact zone – the place where the waves are breaking the hardest 

Inside – the place between the shore and the impact zone

Into the soup – inside the foam, the white water

Jacking – when the wave swells rapidly, from deep waters to shallow ones

Jake – a surfer who inadvertently is in the way of more experienced surfers

Juice – the power of the wave

Junkyard dog – a surfer with poor style

Keg – a barrel, a tube

Kick out – finishing the ride by going over the back or through the wave

Kickflip – rotating the surfboard 360 degrees, while in the air

Kneeboard – a special type of board meant for riding on knees

Kook – a rookie surfer or someone who isn’t very good at surfing

Layback – laying backwards on the wave


Leash – the piece of material that ties between the surfer’s leg and the surfboard

Left – a wave that breaks on the left of the surfer, from the peak


Line-up – the area in the water, away from the swell, where the surfers wait to get their turn at catching a wave

Lines – the swell, when it is approaching the shore

Lip – the upper-most part of a wave, right before it breaks

Localism – hostility showed by local surfers towards non-local surfers

Locked in – when a surfer gets caught inside a crashing wave


Longboard – a surfboard with a round nose that is at least 8ft (2.5 meters) long

Lull – the moment of calm between swells  

Macking – huge waves breaking

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

Messy – irregular and unpredictable waves

Mullering – wiping out

Mush/Mushburger – soft non-surfable waves, without any energy

Namer – a surfer who shares a secret surf spot with others

New school – trick surfing

Noah – shark

Noodle arms – tired arms

Nose – the front and pointed part of the surfboard

Nose guard – a rubber tip meant to protect the nose of the surfboard


Nose riding – a longboarding move where the person surfs on the nose of the board

Nug – a good wave

Off the lip – see re-entry; also known as hitting or smacking the lip

Offshore – winds that are blowing from the shore towards the ocean

Onshore – winds that are blowing from the ocean towards the shore

Outback – beyond the place where the waves break

Outside – the place beyond the lineup

Outside break – the furthest place from the shore where the waves are still breaking

Over the falls – a dangerous type of wipeout in which a surfer falls off the board and is sucked in by the wave in a tubular motion, often being held down very deep; also referred to as being “pitched over” or “wash cycle”

Overgunned – when the board is inappropriate for the surfing conditions

Overhead – when a wave is higher than an average surfer

Paddlepuss – a person who plays in whitewater and is afraid to stray from the beach

Party wave – a wave that several people are surfing

Peak – the highest point of a breaking wave that generates both left and right surfable shoulders 

Pearl – when a surfer buries the nose of their surfboard into the wave


Peeling – when a wave breaks perfectly

Pigdog – a position that reflects the surfer grabbing onto the rails while inside a barrel

Pintail – a surfboard tail shape that is perfect for hollow surfing

Pit – the barrel of a large and strong wave

Pocket – the power pocket of a barrel or powerful wave and where you want to position yourself

Point break – a type of wave that is found around a point of land, a coastline with a headland

Pop up – the move surfers make to move from lying on the surfboard to standing up to surf

Pull in – turning the surfboard up to enter a barrel

Pumping – decent surfing conditions

Quimby – a beginner surfer who is usually annoying



Image source: paragonsurfboards.com

Quiver – a surfer’s surfboard collection

Racy – a fast surfable wave

Rad/radical – awesome and impressive surfing

Rails – the sides of the board

Rail bang – to take a surfboard between the legs, while falling

Raked over – to be pounded by strong waves when paddling out to catch a wave

Re-entry – when a surfer goes from the bottom of the wave all the way up to the highest point of the wave, or the lip, and then steers back in on the face of the wave

Regular footed – a surfer who surfs with their left foot forward (this means that they don’t face the wave on lefts)

Ricos – rich, perfect

Right – a wave that breaks on the right of the surfer, from the peak

Riptide – a powerful and narrow current caused within an estuary or an enclosed tidal area, which flows away from the beach, pulling you out to sea

Rock dance – the moves made by surfers who exit the water through a rocky section

Rocker – the curve under the surfboard

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

Shacked – riding a great, big barrel


Shaka – sign surfers use, made by extending the thumb and the little finger

Shape – a word used to rate the quality of the breaking waves (perfect shape is when the wave breaks evenly)

Shore break/ shorepound – mostly unsurfable waves that break very right on the shore

Shoulder – the part of the breaking wave that is unbroken

Shove-it – the action of moving the surfboard (180 or 360 degrees) under the surfer, while riding a wave

Shred – riding a wave in a graceful, skillful, and flashy manner

Shred the gnar – aka ‘to tear it up’; to excel even in challenging situations while engaged in an outdoor sport like surfing, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding. ‘Gnar’ is short for ‘gnarly’

Shubie – a person who buys a surfboard and surf clothing, but does not surf

Sick – astounding, impressive, amazing

Sketchy – bad form when surfing

Slotted – a surfer well-positioned inside a barrel

Soft board – a surfboard with a soft surface, meant for beginners



Image source: surferdream.com

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 – derogatory term for bodyboarder

Stall – a surf move meant to slow down the surfboard

Stick – a surfboard

Stoked – pumped, extremely happy, excited

Sucking dry – the action performed by powerful breaking waves, causing the seabed to become exposed

Surf camp – surf vacation with accommodation included, which includes surf lessons or guiding

Surfer’s knots – swellings on the back side of the leg, below the knee, as a result of kneeling on the surfboard waiting for a wave

Swell – ripples formed by the wind on the surface of the ocean, which gradually turn into waves

Tail – the back side of the board

Take off – to catch a wave

Through – the bottom of the wave as it starts breaking


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 line-up for offshore big wave surf spots

Tube – barrel, the hollow of the wave

Tubular – awesome, great, rad

Turtle roll – a technique used to get the surfboard to go through a breaking wave; it implies hanging on to the rails, turning over so that the surfer is fully submerged and the fins of the surfboard become visible.

Twin fin – a twin fin surfboard

Wall – a face of the wave that has no area to ride on

Washing machine – getting rolled around underwater by a breaking wave

Wave hog – a surfer who will not share a wave


Wax – surfers wax their surfboards to help with traction

Whitewater – a broken, foamy wave; this is the type of wave that is preferred when learning to surf 


Wipeout – falling off a wave while surfing

Worked – getting knocked off by a wave and then being in the washing machine 


We hope that our glossary of surfing terms will help you improve your surf vocabulary. Why not sign up for a surf camp? It’s a great way to put your surf talk to the test!

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