The Glossary of Surfing Terms

Surfing
Surfing: a sport rich in terms, names, words, expressions and slang | Photo: Quiksilver

Surfing is a rich sport when it comes to terms, names, expressions, and technical words. Surfer slang and surfer lingo represent an authentic dictionary of surfing words.

The surfing glossary of terms is a complete list of expressions used by surfers in the waves, at the beach, and outside in the real world. Some of these words have grown in popularity and became widely-used daily expressions.

Surf speak is a vibrant reality, and can be truly entertaining. Many times, surfer slang represents the good and bad of the so-called surf culture. But the truth is that the surfing terminology keeps evolving and adding new jargon to its dictionary pages.

Discover the vocabulary of surfing and learn new words:

Aerial - a surf maneuver where a surfer hits the crest of the wave and flies through the air;

A-frame - a wave peak breaking left and right with perfect shape;

Aggro - an Australian expression for aggressive surfing or aggressive surfer;

Alaia - a surfboard made of wood originally used by Hawaiians to surf breaking waves, in the late 19th century;

Aloha - a Hawaiian greeting that means "hello" or "goodbye";

Amped - excited, stoked;

Backdoor - when a surfer pulls into a hollow section from behind the section;

Backside - when a surfer rides with his back to the wave;

Backwash - when a wave sweeps up the beach and returns to the ocean, sometimes colliding with incoming waves;

Bail - an evasive maneuver activated when a surfer is caught inside or when he is about to wipeout;

Bailing - letting go of your surfboard;

Barrel - the tube, the curl of the wave;

Bathymetry - the measurement of depths of water in oceans and seas;

Beach break - waves that break over sandbars;

Beach bum - someone, usually a surfer, that hangs around the beach;

Bellyboard - a bodyboard, a small board used to ride waves in prone position;

Blank - a rough block of polyurethane foam that will be transformed into a surfboard;

Bodysurf - the sport of riding waves the body and swim fins;

Bogging - what happens when a surfer's weight is too far back, and the surfboard nose lifts up;

Bombora - a deep water, offshore reef break;

Bottom turn - when a surfer turns at the bottom of the wave to start trimming the optimal surf line;

Bro - brother, mate;

Burn - to drop in on someone, or steal a wave from another surfer without priority;

Carve - a sharp turn on the wave face;

Chandelier - water falling at a barrel opening threatening the tube rider;

Chop - bumpy ocean and wave conditions that are rough due to strong winds and/or currents;

Closeout - when a wave breaks all at once, with no shape or shoulder;

Corduroy - the vision of a series of swells marching in from the horizon;

Crest - the top and highest point of a wave;

Cutback - a turn performed on the flats or in the shoulder of the wave, in order to get the surfer back on the surf line;

Dawn patrol - early morning surf session;

Deck - the top of the surfboard;

Ding - a crack, hole or fracture in a surfboard;

Drop in - to get in the right of way of a surfer who is already riding a wave;

Drop - the moment after paddling in and standing up, just before the first turn of the wave face;

Duck Diving - the technique of pushing the surfboard under and through a breaking wave;

Dude - a cool person, surfer or skateboarder;

Epoxy - a type of plastic resin used to produce surfboards;

Fetch - the uninterrupted distance over which the wind blows without a significant change of direction;

Fin - a hydrofoil mounted at the tail of a surfboard to improve directional stability and control through foot-steering;

Flat - with no waves, or with no surf;

Flats - the horizontal part of a breaking wave, also known as the shoulder;

Flippers - swim fins;

Floater - a surf maneuver 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 - a surfboard for beginners, with an exterior shell made of soft foam;

Frontside - when a surfer rides facing the wave;

Froth - stoked, amped or excited;

Glassy - a maritime condition when there is no wind to ripple the wave face;

Gnarly - awesome;

Goofy foot - a surfer who rides waves with his right leg forward;

Grommet - a young surfer;

Groundswell - a swell that traveled thousands of miles through the ocean, with a period of 15 seconds or more;

Gun - a big surfboard for riding big waves;

Hang loose - a Hawaiian expression for a relaxing, easygoing and carefree attitude;

Hang Ten - to surf a wave with all ten toes on the nose of the surfboard;

Haole - an Hawaiian word for "foreigner";

Hawaiian scale - an underestimated way of measuring waves by the Hawaiians;

Heat - a competitive period held in surf contests;

Inside - the area where waves end, as opposed to outside;

Kahuna - wizard, magician;

Kick out - a surf maneuver done at the end of a wave ride to exit it;

Knot - a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour;

Kook - a beginner surfer, an inexperienced surfer or a bad surfer;

Leash - the cord that attaches a surfboard to the surfer;

Line-up - the spot in the ocean where surfers line up to catch waves, just behind the breaking zone;

Lip - the curling part of a wave;

Localism - an aggressive territorial protection of a surf spot by local surfers;

Longboard - the longest surfboard;

Lull - time between sets of wave with no waves breaking;

Mack - big;

Mental - crazy or radical;

Mysto spot - a surf spot that breaks on a far away reef;

Neoprene - an ultra stretchy rubber made from melted-down petroleum chips used to make wetsuits;

Offshore wind - wind blowing from the shore out to the ocean, holding the curl line and smoothing the wave face;

Onshore wind - wind blowing from the ocean toward shore, destroying the quality of waves;

Out the back - an Australian expression for paddling through the breaking waves into the line-up zone;

Outline - the shape of a surfboard from nose to tail;

Outside - the line-up are, as opposed to inside;

Paddle battle - a race between surfers to get into a curl first and thus gain the right of way;

Paipo - a small bellyboard;

Peak - the spot in the ocean where the wave breaks for both sides;

Pearling - what happens when a surfer's weight is too far forward and the surfboard nose dives underwater;

Perfect 10 - a perfectly ridden wave in competitive surfing;

Pit - the impact zone of the wave, or the most hollow part of the tube;

Pitted - tubed, barreled;

Polyurethane - the most common type of material used in surfboard manufacturing;

Pop-up - the quick move a surfer makes to rise to a standing position when taking off on a wave;

Punt - to perform an aerial maneuver;

PWC - personal watercraft; a generic term for a jet ski;

Quiver - the number/collection of surfboards owned by a surfer;

Rail - the edge of a surfboard;

Rash guard - a form-fitting shirt made of nylon-polyester-spandex mixture used under the wetsuit;

Reef break - a wave that breaks over rock or coral;

Reflection - when a wave strikes a hard object and bounces some of its energy off into another direction;

Refraction - the effect by which a swell moving along a point of land slows down where it feels shallow water;

Regular foot - a surfer who rides waves with his left leg forward;

Right of way - priority given to the surfer closer to the breaking part of the wave;

Rip - to surf very well;

Rip current - a strong surface current of short duration flowing seaward from the shore, also known as rip tide;

Rocker - the curve of the surfboard bottom from nose to tail viewed from the side;

Rogue wave - an open ocean wave bigger than the current sea condition;

Section - a part of the wave that breaks ahead of the curl line;

Set - a group of waves;

Shaka - a Hawaiian hand gesture used to say "hello," "great," "cool" and "alright";

Shaper - a surfboard designer and producer;

Shoaling - the effect by which waves entering shallower water increase in height;

Shore break - the area where the ocean waves meet the beach;

Shortboard - a small surfboard;

Skeg - an old expression for surfboard fin;

Slab - an heavy reef break coming out of deep water and breaking in very shallow water;

Snaking - the aggressive act of paddling under, around, or over the top of another surfer to get right of way;

Soup - the broken foam of a wave;

Stall - a surf maneuver when a surfer slows the speed the surfboard to let the tube catchup;

Stance - the surfer's feet position on a surfboard;

Stick - a slang for surfboard;

Stringer - the wooden material that runs down the center of the surfboard to give strength and flexibility to the foam;

Stoked - enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited;

SUP - stand up paddleboard;

Surging wave - a wave that doesn't have time to break because the transition from deep-water to shallow water is too fast;

Swell - energy powered by strong winds which produces wave trains;

Take-off - the start of a wave ride;

Thruster - the three-fin surfboard design created by Simon Anderson;

Tidal bore - a rare phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave that travels up a river;

Tow-in - when surfers use personal watercraft to tow into waves that can't be paddled into;

Trimming - finding the perfect surf line for speed on the wave face;

Trough - the bottom of the wave, the opposite of a crest;

Tsunami - a giant and deadly wave;

Tube - the hollow interior of a wave, also known as barrel;

Turtle roll - a surfing technique where the surfer flips the board over in front of an oncoming wave to get under it;

Twin-fin - a surfboard with two fins;

Wahine - a female surfer;

Wave height - the difference between the elevations of a crest and a neighboring trough;

Wave period - the time between two consecutive wave crests;

Wave train - a group of swells of similar wavelengths;

Wavelength - the distance between the crest of one wave to the crest of the next wave;

Wax - a paraffin-based product which is applied to the surfboard deck to increase traction and reduce slippery;

Wedge - a steep wave;

Wetsuit - a garment made of neoprene which provides thermal insulation;

Whitewater - the foamy, white-colored water created where a wave breaks;

Windswell - a group of waves generated by local winds, within less than 800 miles from the coast;

Wipeout - an unexpected fall off a surfboard while surfing a wave, or surf accident;

Take an in-depth look at the these surfing expressions in "The Surfin'ary" and "The Surfing Handbook".

Have we missed a surfing term, name or expression?
Send us a suggestion and exact description to editor [at] surfertoday.com.

The Summer Surf Gear Guide 2019