With the help of this Surfing Terms page you'll be able to not only walk like a surfer, but you'll also be able to talk like one. Chill with the locals, impress the hotties at the local bar, or show up that know-it-all brat who is going out with your younger brother or sister. Read on and increase your knowledge.
(Thanks to everyone who is e-mailing us with new terms to include. Keep them coming!)
One piece of surf talk you will always hear: "You should have been here yesterday!"
180 / 360
The spin of a surfer's board during a manoeuver in degrees, e.g. 360 degree turn
The perfect barreling surf, a cross-section of an A-frame wave reveals an "A" shape where it is breaking soooo nicely
Aggressive attitude in the water; having a bad attitude
Air / Aerial
An advanced surfing manoeuver where the surfer and board leave the surface of the wave. Here are some great air photos
Something surfers shout when they spot a huge perfect wave, or when they are shocked or surprised. Old School!
Getting excited while surfing or really looking forward to a surf
Ankle Busters / Snappers
ASP stands for Association of Professional Surfing. These guys look after the professional side of surfing. Visit their site at www.aspworldtour.com.
Entering a barrel from behind the peak of the breaking wave. Backdoor is also the name of the right hand wave that sometimes breaks at the famous wave of Pipeline.
Surfing with your back towards the wave. A regular footed surfer going left or a goofy footed surfer going right will be surfing backside. The opposite is frontside.
To bail is to jump of the board to avoid an imminent wipeout.
Sand on the sea floor of a beach break. Beach break waves are dependent on the quality of the sand banks to provide good, surfable waves.
An inexperienced surfer, or someone who's no good at surfing.
A barrel is where the wave is hollow when it is breaking. For some surfers it's the be all and end all of surfing. Is sometimes called a "tube."
This is a wave that breaks over a sandy sea bed. You've not read up about waves, have you?
The perfect description of a beach leech: "Some people don't bring their own boards, and prefer to borrow your extra boards (they don't rent). And for wax, some don't really bring it. They just ask for some."
Bells Beach is one of the great right point breaks. Find it on the south Victorian coastline of Australia. Check out the Bells Beach Pro held in March every year. This was the setting for that tearful end bit in the movie "Point Break" when Patrick (twinkletoes) Swayze AKA Bodie ate it at the end of Point Break. (And no doubt that after reading the waves page and finding out what a point break actually is, you're feeling particularly chuffed with yourself!)
It should also be pointed out that it was not actually Bells Beach where the scene was filmed but India Beach in Oregon. Thanks to Danny from Oregon for this info.
What Australians call a watering hole, but to everyone else it is one of the largest surfing equipment and clothing manufacturers out there.
Old school for really good or enjoyable
The foam used to shape a surfboard
Where the onshore wind turns the surf in to unrideable mush
The fibreglass thingy under your feet
Bombora / Bommie
An aboriginal term for a wave that breaks over a shallow reef, located beyond the normal lineup and often some distance from the shore.
Booger / Boogieboarder
Slang for body boarders.
This is the turn made at the base of the wave when coming down off the face. It's often the first move made after dropping in. Get it right for great positioning for your next manoeuver.
Carve / Carving
The classic surfing manoeuver, carving is basically what turning on a wave is called. Carve is also a surfing magazine found in Europe.
A surfer who is caught inside is too far in, and the waves are breaking further out. It can be dangerous in big surf.
A surfer really going for it on a wave, surfing aggresively. Charges, as in "ho, that guy charges".
Chinese Wax Job
Getting wax on the bottom of your surfboard
Bitchin', awesome, great etc.
Where the surface of the ocean is rough / bumpy
Used to describe the pollution conditions when there's a turd in the lineup — "I caught some sick waves out there but it was hard trying not to swallow the chowder."
Waves that break from a single peak along it's length, providing an open face for a surfer to ride on. The opposite of messy
Clean Up Set
A wave or set of waves that are larger than average and break before the line up, resulting in clearing the line-up of surfers
The process where a surfer turns up and down the face of the wave while surfing down the line
Where a wave breaks along its length all at once
Being scared of afraid of waves
Swell lines that look like corduroy; see this corduroy swell picture that illustrates it perfectly.
Slang from 1960's surf culture, cried out enthusiastically when surfing — The surfer's cry "Cowabunga" as they climb a 12 foot wall of water and "take the drop."
When the waves are good, it's said to be cranking.
Cross Step / Stepping
This is the art of walking up and down a longboard, foot over foot. When you see some guy / gal running up and down their board, you'll now know what to call it.
Making a cutback is reversing the direction that you are surfing in one smooth fluid move. (That's the idea anyway.)
Going surfing first thing in the morning
The is the bit of the surfboard you stand on. (Hopefully you have your board the right way round in the water.)
Surfboard damage — "Oh dear me, I've dinged my board!" (Perhaps a little more profanity will be used.)
Taking a gnarly wipeout
The drop is where a surfer first gets up on the waves and drops down the face of the wave. It's also referred to as "taking the drop."
Dropping in is a crime in the surf world. A drop-in is where a surfer catches a wave without having priority, i.e. there is already a surfer on the wave. Please see diagram above. Remember, it's a CRIME!
Riding a longboard with one knee on the deck of the surfboard
Duck dive / Duck Diving
Duck Diving is diving under an oncoming wave when paddling out. See duck diving in full detail in surfing lesson three — duck diving.
Dude, we almost forgot dude! Dude can mean pretty much anything depending on the tone and inflection. (Thanks go to Corey Ferguson for this one.)
Often caused by onshore conditions, where a wave will fold over in big sections, making it un-surfable
Wiping out on a wave.
"Endless Summer" is the absolute classic surfing movie. Forget all this new school tricky stuff. Watch this movie, and if you are not a surfer before viewing, you'll certainly want to be after. I cannot emphasise how good this is — WATCH IT! (Even the other half will enjoy it!!!) Check out this video and others at the surf video page.
Top class surf or extremely good waves; description of an awesome wave or surf session
(See Turtle Roll)
The unbroken part of the wave
This is where someone rides backwards on the surfboard, tail first. It's also what you are if you're only reading this page so you can pretend that you're a surfer.
FCS stands for fin control system. This is a type of fin that is fully removable from the surfboard. It's ideal if you break a fin (you don't have to get a new on glassed back on), or if you are travelling. (It's best to remove the fins to keep your board from being damaged.)
The fin is the curved bit hanging down under your surfboard that you keep bashing when you tie your surfboard to the roof of your car. It's sometimes called a skeg.
Firing is the same as "going off", where the surf is really good and the waves are breaking nicely.
A type of surfboard shape, shorter and thicker than a standard shortboard. Fish surfboards are for surfing smaller waves
No waves. Boo hoo!
These are either whitewater waves or surfboards that are made out of foam. (They're ideal for beginners.)
The rate of change of thickness of a surfboard from the nose to the tail
Surfing with your front towards the wave. A regular footed surfer going right or a goofy footed surfer going left will be surfing frontside. The opposite is backside.
The foam left after a wave has broken
A surfer who does not catch a wave for the whole time they are in the water
A mid-length surfboard, often know as a minimal; see funboard examples here
This is the nickname of the title character created in a novel by Frederick Kohner (and adapted for three further films). Gidget is a contraction of "girl midget," which is why it went on to be used to describe small female surfers.
The fibreglass finish on a surfboard
This is ultra-clean surf without a ripple that often looks like glass. Click here to see a glassy wave.
Particularly dangerous surf conditions
Goofy / Goofy Foot
Surfing with your right foot forward
Derogatory term for kayakers and wave skiers
If the surf is really good, you could say it's going off.
Inside the tube or barrel
Gremmie / Grommet / Grom
Any of the above can be used to describe a young or inexperienced surfer. Grommet is also the cute doggie character in the Nick Park animation creations. (And they are really rather good!)
An older surfer with the big belly
Falling off your board while surfing
British surfing equipment manufacturer
A surfboard designed for big waves
This is when a male surfer rides his board in the nude. (Such as nearby Black's Beach in San Diego: thanks to Gary M. Steinhaus for this one!)
If you're riding a longboard with both feet directly on the nose of the board, your hanging ten. It's also the name of a longboard magazine.
Heavy has a couple of meanings. When used as in "heavy waves," it means big, gnarly, kick ass waves. Teahupoo, Mavericks and Pipeline are three waves that would have to be described as heavy with a capital "H." The same term can be used to describe the locals at a spot. (For the same kick ass reason!)
Anyone who annoys board riders while they surf (austral Women's Weekly Oct. 24, 1962)
A hodad is a non-surfing beach bum. (Pix Sept. 28, 1963) Thanks go to John Gentile for the Hodads.
Tubing waves, a-frames, barrels
The spot where the waves are breaking
In the Soup
A term used when a surfer is in the white foam of the wave after the wave has broken
Slang for Indonesia, home of some classic surf spots and a top surf trip destination
The area of whitewater where the waves have broken, between the shore and the line-up. Also, inside can be used to describe the section of a wave that breaks towards the end of the ride, closest to the shore
Popular brand of surf clothing
Jeffrey's Bay / J Bay
Jeffrey's Bay is a South African surf break of the highest calibre. It's one of the world's most famous, high quality right handers. (Don't know what a right hander is? Then go learn your waves. Go have a look at the section on waves.)
A surfer with poor style or a surfer who only surfs crappy waves
Another word for a barrel / tube
Finishing a ride by turning back out over the top of the wave
A new school surf trick which involves rotating the board 360° along it's length while airborne, and landing back on the board. Here's a good example.
A surfing spin-off, kneeboarding is riding the waves on your knees using a special knee board.
A beginner or someone who is not very good at surfing. A try hard. Someone who surfs to try and look cool. Someone who does not follow the rules in the lineup, drops in etc. Are you a kook?
The layback is a surfing manoeuver where the surfer literally lays backwards on a wave. It's one of surfing's more extreme tricks.
A wave that breaks from right to left from a surfer point of view when facing into the shore.
See Leash above.
Australian slang for the leash.
The line up is the place just outside the breaking waves where surfers wait for their waves
Unbroken waves heading towards the shore. See corduroy
The tip of the breaking part of the wave
When a wave crashes and the surfer is inside of it
A long surfboard with a rounded nose. See our longboard selection
This is when the ocean goes flat between sets and everyone sits around waiting for the waves to arrive
Mal / Malibu
Another description of a longboard surfboard
This is a famous big wave spot off the California coast. Not to be confused with the film "Maverick", starring Mel Gibson, although you need to be pretty brave to tackle both.
Men In Grey Suits
Waves that close out, break irregularly and that are not ideal to surf on. The opposite of clean surf, generally caused by an onshore or cross-shore wind
Multi-world champ and all round surfing legend Mark Richards
Wipe-out of the highest order
Mush / Mushburger
Poor quality, slow, or non-powerful waves, often onshore