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Surfer Slang Insanity – A List Of Surfing Terms


Are you headed to So Cal to learn how to surf this summer? Don’t make a fool of yourself by talking like a land lover! Part of being a surfer is using the surfer lingo, so we need to brush up on some surfing terms so you don’t come off like a total shubee (don’t worry, we explain what that is).

The world of waves is home to a wide range of surfing terms and expressions used in and out of the water. Adopting words from the Hawaiian culture and assigning new definitions to words commonly used in everyday conversation, surfers have created their own language. You’ve probably heard the words “stoked,” “hang loose,” and “wipeout” before, but could you use “getting pitted” or “in the soup” in the right context? Brush up on your surf lingo and learn to talk the talk with our encyclopedia of surf terms.

Aerial – a maneuver in surfing in which the surfer skims the crest of the wave and catches air

A-frame – perfectly shaped wave that breaks left and right

Aloha – a Hawaiian word used in greeting or parting

Amped – very excited

Backdoor – entering the barrel from behind the waves’ peak

Backside – when a surfer’s back faces the wave

Bailing – losing hold of your surfboard

Barrel – the hollow curl of the wave

Beach break – waves that break above sandbars

Blank – piece of polyurethane foam used to make a surfboard

Blown-out – windy conditions create this choppy, unrideable surf

Bodysurf – riding waves without a board, accompanied with fins

Bottom Turn – when a surfer turns at the base of a wave

Bro/Brah – brother, friend, mate

Caught Inside – trapped on the shore side of a oncoming wave

Carve – when a surfer makes a sharp turn on the waves’ face


Chop – bumpy, rough conditions due to wind

Closeout – a wave with no shape that breaks altogether

Crest – highest peak of a wave

Dawn patrol – surf session that takes place right at dawn or very early in the morning

Deck – the surfboard’s top

Ding – a crack in or minor damage on a surfboard

Drop in – to cut in front of a surfer who has the right of way, in attempt to steal the wave

Drop – the moment between standing up on the board and the surfer’s first turn along the wave

Duck Diving – pushing the surfboard and diving with it under a oncoming wave

Dude – a cool person, see also bro

Eating It – falling off your board

Face (of the wave) – the part of the wave under which the wave curls

Epoxy – plastic resin used in the production of surfboards

Fin – mounted at the tail of a surfer’s board, fins serve as steering devices

Flat – no waves

Flippers – water fins, often used by bodysurfers

Foam – whitewater

Foam board – a surfboard most commonly used by beginners, made with a soft foam top

Frontside – when a surfer faces the wave as s/he rides it

Froth – stoked, pumped

Glassy – when the water has no ripples due to lack of wind

Gnarly – awesome, cool, sick

Goofy foot – when someone surfs with their right foot forward on the board

Grommet/Grom – a young surfer

Gun – a large surfboard used most commonly in big wave surfing

Hang loose – a Hawaiian expression for having a carefree outlook/demeanor

Hang Ten – surfing with all ten toes on the surfboard’s nose

Heat – periods of competition during surf contests

Hollow – a curling wave that curves inward drastically

Inside – where the wave ends

In the Soup – the whitewater of broken waves

Kook – sometimes used as an insult, this refers to an inexperienced, amateur, or just plain bad surfer

Leash – this cord attaches from the surfer’s ankle to the board to prevent the board from washing to shore/sea when the surfer falls off

Line-up – just past the break, surfers line up here to wait for the perfect wave


Lip – the part of the wave that curls

Localism – territorial protection over a local surf spot, usually aggressive and sometimes violent

Longboard – long surfboard that provides fluid surf and a more relaxed style

Lull – the period of no waves between breaking waves

Mack/macker – huge wave

Mental – insane, awesome

Mushy – weak and sloppy conditions  

Neoprene – the stretchy, petroleum-based rubber used to make wetsuits

Nose – the point at the front of the surfboard

Offshore wind – wind that blows from the shore to the ocean and maintains the quality of the waves

Onshore wind – wind that blows from the ocean to the shore, weakening the wave quality

Paddle battle – when surfers race to meet the curl of the wave first so that they might have the right of way

Peak – where waves break for both sides

Pearling – when a surfer ‘nose dives’ underwater due to their weight positioned too far forward on their board

Pitted – When the wave is curling over you while riding (also referred to as tubed or barreled).

Pocket – curl of the wave just below the lip

Point Break – waves that break on rocky points

Polyurethane – a commonly used material in the production of surfboards

Pop-up – when a surfer quickly gets to his/her feet at the start of the wave

Quiver – a surfer’s collection of surfboards


Rail – the surfboard’s edges

Rash guard – a nylon/polyester/spandex shirt used in the surf

Reef break – waves that break over coral/rock

Refraction – a swell slows down as it comes across shallower water

Regular foot – when someone surfs with their left foot forward on the board

Right of way – priority for a wave is given to a surfer based on where they are in relation to the wave and others

Ripping – surfing very well, maneuvering the wave with skill

Rip current – strong current that flows towards the sea

Rocker – the surfboard’s bottom curve

Set – waves travelling in a group

Shaka – a Hawaiian hand gesture expressing “hello” and “hang loose” – QUITE POSSIBLE THE MOST IMPORTANT OF SURFING TERMS


Shaper – someone who designs and manufactures surfboards

Shoaling – waves that move into shallow water grow in height

Shore break – where waves hit the beach

Shortboard – small surfboards

Shubee – someone who acts and dresses as though they surf but have never paddled out once

Sick – cool, awesome, gnarly

Snaking – paddling to enter a wave and claim it as your own when you clearly did not have right of way to begin with (stealing someone else’s wave), which is absolutely looked down upon in the surf community

Stance – how a surfer’s feet are positioned on the surfboard

Stick – a slang term meaning “surfboard”

Stoked – pumped, amped, excited

SUP – stand up paddleboard

Surf Wax (Sex Wax) – wax applied to the deck of the surfboard to provide grip

Swell – strong wind produces energy that fuels waves

Tail – back end of the surfboard

Tailside – when a surfer maneuvers the tail of the board to skim the lip of a wave

Thruster – the three-fin surfboard, its design credited to Simon Anderson

Tube – crest of a wave falls over its concave interior, “barrel”

Turtle roll – when a surfer rolls over, flipping onto their back with their board above them to get under a wave, which is commonly performed by those on longer boards that cannot easily duck dive

Twin-fin – a two-finned surfboard

Wahine – a female surfer

Wave height – height between the crest of a wave and a subsequent trough

Wave period – the time between the crests of two consecutive waves

Wavelength – the distance between the crests of two consecutive waves

Wetsuit – a neoprene suit that locks in warmth and provides protection against rashes

Whitewater – where waves break, this foamy water lives

Windswell – local winds generate these sets of waves

Wipeout – when a surfer unexpectedly gets knocked off their board


Now that you’ve got a better understanding of these surfing terms, it’s time for you to paddle out! Share this page on Facebook so you and your friends can talk the talk and walk the walk.

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Hayley Rueger is a StokeShare marketing intern and a Communications student at Loyola Marymount University. A SoCal native, she is passionate about songwriting, social media, and exploring the great outdoors.

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