Surfing: it can be many things in real life, some of them very weird | Photo: Schirmer/Creative Commons

In the ebb and flow of daily conversation, our words are like surfers, riding the waves of ideas, expressions, and innuendos.

And what better word to embody this linguistic surf than the root word, er, "surf" itself?

Yes, dear reader, your eyes do not deceive you. Confused? Don't worry. It's just about to get worse.

The following paragraphs are about the big kahuna of language, the word "surf" and its board-riding siblings, "surfing" and "surfer."

It seems they are more of a linguistic chameleon, effortlessly blending into various contexts, proving that language, like the sea, is a vast and unpredictable entity that's full of surprises.

Remember: this is not an article about surfers' lingo and their culture's unique slang. It's quite the opposite.

This is all about the unusual, odd, uncommon, hilarious, and surprisingly off-centered use of the sport's name. Damn you, mainstream!

Surfing the Web

Surfing the web: a way of getting thrashed by the riptide of information | Illustration: Scholastic

For starters, we've all heard of "surfing the web."

It's a phrase that harkens back to the 1990s when the internet was a novelty, akin to a vast ocean waiting to be explored.

But, let's be honest, do we truly "surf" the web anymore?

More often than not, it seems we're getting thrashed by the riptide of information, flailing desperately to keep our heads above water while cat videos and memes threaten to pull us under.

Ah, the joys of digital drowning!


Channel Surfing

Zapping: surfing the TV channels using a remote control | Photo: Pidvalnyi/Creative Commons

Who can forget "channel surfing," also known as zapping?

This term arose in the golden age of television when remote controls became common, and people found themselves with dozens of channels and nothing to watch.

This form of surfing is a true test of thumb endurance and patience as one navigates the treacherous waters of infomercials, soap operas, and reality TV in search of that elusive quality content.


Carpet Surfing

Then there's "carpet surfing."

You might picture riding a magic carpet à la Aladdin, but it's actually the act of desperately searching through a carpet for small items, often drugs.

It's the antithesis of fun and is generally seen as a sign that things have taken a sharp turn south.


Cloud Surfing

And let's not forget "cloud surfing."

It's not the spiritual journey it sounds like, but it's a term used by pilots when they fly at altitudes where their aircraft appears to surf along the tops of clouds.

This could potentially be a breathtaking experience, as long as you're not afraid of heights or, you know, crashing.


Bus/Train Surfing

In the world of transportation, "bus/train surfing" is a term that refers to the dangerous and often illegal act of riding on the outside of a moving bus.

Note: this is not recommended unless you're a stunt double in a low-budget action film.


Speeded Up Robust Features (SURF)

Time to dive into the wave-filled world of computer vision - shall we? In computer vision, we have SURF, which stands for Speeded Up Robust Features.

Now, don't let that lofty name fool you. SURF isn't a group of turbo-charged surfers catching robust waves at lightning speed.

Oh no, it's an algorithm used to detect and describe local features in images.

You might picture SURF as a digital surfer dude, sun-bleached hair flowing, keen eyes scanning the horizon (or, in this case, the image) for the gnarliest features to ride.

But in reality, SURF is more like a hardworking beachcomber, meticulously scouring the sands of pixel beaches, looking for distinctive shells or landmarks that can be used to identify the scenery later.

It may not be as thrilling as carving through a towering wall of water on a surfboard, but in the world of image processing, it's about as radical as it gets.


Couch Surfing

What about "couch surfing," the practice of bouncing from one friend's couch to another in lieu of stable accommodation?

It's the suburban version of the nomadic lifestyle, with less sand and more reruns of old sitcoms.

But hey, who are we to knock the free spirit of the couch surfer? After all, not all of us are cut out for life on the literal high seas.


Crowd Surfing

In the realm of music, "crowd surfing" is a beloved pastime where performers or fans float atop a sea of hands during concerts.

It's the ultimate trust exercise with strangers who share your questionable taste in music.


Surf Fishing

"Surf fishing" is another odd twist to our beloved word. It involves fishing from the shoreline, casting your line into the surf.

Despite the name, there's no board, no wave riding, just you, the beach, and the faint hope that fish will find your bait appealing.


Counter Surfing

Counter surfing: when pets jump up on kitchen counters in search of food | Photo: Chewy/Creative Commons

In pet land, there's a phenomenon called "counter surfing."

This isn't a rad new sport for your kitchen but rather refers to pets (dogs, we're looking at you) who jump up on kitchen counters in search of food.

It's a dog's version of a treasure hunt, where the X marks the spot of the last sandwich you left unattended.


Urge Surfing

In psychology territory, there's "urge surfing."

It sounds like a gnarly way to spend your weekend, but it's actually a mindfulness technique used to deal with cravings and urges.

The idea is to ride out the urge, like a surfer on a wave, without giving in to it.

So, in this case, the surfboard is your willpower, and the wave is that third slice of pizza you're eyeing.



In social media, "egosurfing" is the practice of searching for your own name on the internet to see what comes up.

It's a bit like surfing your own wave, only instead of water, it's comprised of your digital footprint.


Surf Noir

Surf noir: a literary subgenre featuring a dark narrative and sun-bleached beaches | Illustration: Creative Commons

The world of literature isn't immune to the "surf" influence either. "Surf noir," anyone?

It's a subgenre where noir fiction's traditional dark and moody narrative meets sun-bleached beaches and gnarly waves.

It's a bit like swapping the detective's trench coat for a wetsuit and replacing the smoky bars with beachside tiki huts.


Sidewalk Surfing

Ever heard of "sidewalk surfing"?

Sounds exciting, right? Well, it's basically just skateboarding.

The term attempts to give skateboarding a cool, oceanic twist, but let's face it, the only wave you're likely to catch is a heatwave if you're skating in the midday sun.


Bin Surfing

"Bin surfing," more commonly known as dumpster diving, is another odd one.

It's the act of scavenging through trash cans or dumpsters, often in search of food or valuable items.

The phrase tries to inject a sense of adventure and nonchalance into an activity that's about as glamorous as a seaweed sandwich.


Curb Surfing

Finally, we have "curb surfing."

It sounds like another exciting urban sport, but it's just the practice of picking up discarded items left on the curbside for garbage collection.

It's the ultimate bargain hunt, where one person's trash can become your new, slightly smelly treasure.

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