The glossary of surfing terms and surf slang

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

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 genuinely 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 surfing 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 wipe out;

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 a 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 deepwater 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 surfing 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 foot 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 - a 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 surfing 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 - aggressive territorial protection of a surf spot by local surfers;

Longboard - the longest surfboard;

Lull - the time between sets of waves 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 area, 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;

Rashguard - a form-fitting shirt made of a 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 foot forward;

Right of way - the priority given to the surfer closest 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 riptide;

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 - a 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 surfing technique that allows a surfer to slow the speed of the surfboard to let the tube catch up;

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 - the energy powered by strong winds that 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 that 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 of a surfboard while surfing a wave or a surfing accident;

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

Have we missed a surfing term, name, or expression? Send us an email.