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Surfer Lingo: The Ultimate Surfing Glossary

Surfs up! It sounds like English, but what exactly does one mean by this? If you’re still reeling from your recent conversation with a group of surfers or just looking to learn more of what your friends are saying, then this surfer dictionary is definitely for you. We give you a comprehensive list of surfing terms that will get you talking like a local in no time.

Table of Contents


Aerial – a surfing maneuver where a surfer intentionally hits the crest of the wave and makes β€˜big’ air

A-frame - a perfectly shaped wave peak

Aggro - an Australian surfing term for aggressive surfers

Akaw! an old expression of shock or surprise

Amped – extreme excitement

Ankle busters – small waves that difficult to ride

Ankle Biters – extremely small waves

Ankle Peelers – small surf that is barely rideable


Backdoor – moving into a hollow section from behind

Backside – surfing with your back to the wave

Backwash – waves returning from the beach to ocean often colliding with incoming waves

Baggies –knee length board shorts with a loose fit

Bail – a surfing maneuver used to avoid a possible wipe out

Barney – rookies or surfers with poor skills

Barrel - the curl or tube formed by the wave

Beach bum – person who usually spends lots of time on the beach

Beach Bunny – females who hang out in the beach watching surfers

Beach Leech – term used to describe surfers who don’t bring their own surfing equipment and simply borrows from others

Benny – someone who is not from the area

Betty – Old surfing term for attractive female surfers

Billabong – Australian slang term for a watering hole

Bitchin’ – when used positively it used to describe something amazing or beyond normal

Boardies – a general term for shorts used for surfing

Blown Out – strong winds that prevent waves from forming

Bodysurf - riding waves without the use of a floatation device or surfboard

Bogging – when a surf board’s nose lifts up after a surfer shifts his weight towards the end of the board

Bomb – extremely big wave

Booger – bodyboarders, prone riding surfers

Boost – sudden jump to the air after taking off from the lip of a wave

Bottom turn – turning after reaching the bottom of a wave and returning to the optimal surfing line

Burn – hijacking a wave from another surfer


Carve – turning sharply on the wave face

Caught inside – finding yourself between the breaking waves and the shoreline

Chandelier – water descending from the barrel opening which could cause a wipeout

Charging – aggressive movement towards a specific wave

Cheater Five – five toes on the nose of the board

Chop – rough waves caused by strong winds and/or currents

Clam Dragger - refers to a female bodyboarder

Clean – ideal wave face type

Clidro – surfing term to describe a surfer turning up and down the face of the wave a surfer

Closeout – wave that suddenly breaks with no shape or shoulder

Clucked – a person who refuses to surf because he is scared of the waves

Cranking – near perfect waves

Crease – surfboard damage caused by an impact

Crest – a wave’s highest point

Cross Step – walking/running up and down a longboard

Curl – part of the wave where it is breaking

Curtain – the walls of the barrel

Cutback – turns made on the flat or shoulder of the wave in an attempt to get back on the surf line

Cut Out – disengaging from a wave


Dawn patrol – surfing during the early morning

Deck – area on top of the surfboard

Dirty licking – taking an ugly wipeout

Doggy door – the exact time when a surfer about to exit the wave’s barrel before it closes

Double overhead – a wave twice the height of the surfer

Double up – a large wave followed by a smaller wave caused by two waves combining

Drop – the moment just after the surfer gathers himself after paddling and catches the first turn of the wave

Drop knee – surfing with one knee on the surfboard’s deck

Duck diving – pushing the surfboard down to get it under and through a breaking wave

Dumping – difficult to impossible surf conditions caused by onshore conditions


Eat it – wipe out

El Rollo – riding the inside wall of the barrel and coming out sideways

Epic – superlative, something beyond normal

Eskimo roll – surfing maneuver that enables a surfer to safely navigate a large or broken wave


Face – part of the wave where surfers usually ride

Fade – moving into the most powerful part of the wave

Fakie – riding tail first or backwards on a wave

Far out! – superlative, something beyond normal

Firing – feeling of joy when surfing

Flat – calm waters, absence of waves

Flats - shoulder of a wave or the horizontal part of a wave that is breaking

Floater – a surfer going on top of a crumbling section of the wave and ending up in the flats

Foam – whitewater

Foamies – waves formed by foam

Forehand/frontside – surfing facing the wave and your back to the beach

Froth – excited

Frube – a surfer who fails to catch a wave during his time in the water


Gidget – a slang term for β€˜girl midget’ or small female riders

Goober – belittling term for long boarders or longboards.

Going off - great surf

Goofy foot- riding waves with your right leg forward

Green room – insides of a barrel

Grey belly – old surfer with a big belly

Grom – young surfer

Grubbing – falling off the surfboard


Hang eleven – a male surfing while naked

Hang five – surfing position where a surfer has one foot on the nose of the surfboard

Hang loose – Hawaiian expression for an easygoing attitude

Hang ten – placing all ten toes on the nose of the board while surfing

Haole - a Hawaiian surfing term for someone not local

Header – falling off a surfboard

Helicopter – surfing maneuver where a surfer spins the board from around its nose

Hit the lip – going for the falling lip of the wave

Hollow – barrels, tubes


Impact zone – point where waves break the hardest

Inside – area between the impact zone and the shore

Into the soup – inside the white water or foam


Jacking – waves swelling rapidly

Jake – refers to a surfer who unintentionally disrupts skilled surfers

Juice – the wave’s strength

Junkyard dog – surfer who lacks flair


Kahuna - magician

Keg –a tube or barrel

Kick out – exiting the end of a wave

Kickflip –360-degree surfboard rotation in the air

Kook – surfer with a low skill level, beginner, or poor technique


Left – wave breaking on the surfer’s left side

Lines – multiple swells approaching the shore

Line-up – spot at the back where surfers wait and catch waves

Localism – local surfers overly protecting their surfing grounds

Locked in – a surfing term used to describe a surfer who finds himself trapped inside a crashing wave

Lull – a break between sets of waves


Mack - big

Making the drop – riding a wave on the lower part of its shoulder

Men in grey suits – slang term for sharks

Messy – irregular waves

Mullering – same as wipe out

Mush/Mushburger – weak, non-surfable waves


Nailed – falling of a wave

Namer – surfer who shares his favorite surfing spots

New school – trick surfing

Noah – shark

Noodle arms – surfers with physically weak or tired arms

Nose – forward tip/area of the surfboard

Nose riding – surfing on the surfboard’s nose, commonly done in longboards

Nug – good wave


Off the lip – entering the lip of the wave

Out the back – moving into the line-up area by paddling through breaking waves

Outside – line-up area

Over the falls – moving from the lip into the wave’s face

Over gunned – finding yourself with the wrong surfboard for the surfing conditions

Overhead –waves that are higher than the average surfer


Paddle battle – Surfers battling for position to get first into a curl in an effort to get the right of way

Party wave – surfers riding a single wave

Peak – area in the ocean where the waves breaks left and right

Pearling – when a surfboard nose dives underwater caused by a surfer shifting his weight forward

Peeling – waves that break perfectly

Pigdog – describes a surfer who is grabbing the rails while inside a barrel

Pit – hollowest part of the tube

Pocket – most ideal position when riding a barrel or powerful wave

Pop-up – suddenly switching to a standing position when taking off on a wave

Pull in – moving the surfboard to enter a barrel

Pumping – near perfect surf conditions


Quimby – an annoying, low skilled surfer

Quiver – refers to a surfer’s collection of surfboards


Racy – a good, quick wave

Radical – high-level surfing

Raked over – Swamped by powerful waves when paddling to catch a wave

Rail bang – get hit by the surfboard between the legs

Reef break - wave breaking over rocks or coral

Regular foot – riding waves with your left leg forward

Right of way – the practice of giving the surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave priority to enter

Rip – surf exceptionally well

Rip current/rip tide – a strong, sudden current that pulls you seaward

Rogue wave – an irregular, big, open ocean wave


Section – area in the water where surfers are waiting to catch a ride

Set – series of waves

Shaka - a Hawaiian hand gesture for "hello," and "alright"

Shoaling – waves suddenly increasing in height after entering shallower waters

Skeg - old term for surfboard fin

Snaking – aggressive paddling to get the right of way on a wave

Stall – a deliberate attempt to slow down the surfboard to allow the tube to catch up with the surfer

Stance - your feet position while standing on a surfboard

Stoked – strong sense of excitement

Swell – increasing wave size produced by strong distant storms


Take-off - start of the ride

Tow-in – catching waves with the help of a watercraft

Trimming – positioning yourself for the perfect surf line

Tube – also referred to as the barrel, it is the wave’s interior

Turtle roll – flipping the board over to get under an incoming wave


Wahine – female surfer

Wall – area/face of the wave impossible to ride on

Wave hog – a surfer who keeps the wave all to himself

Wave train – similarly sized, shaped waves

Wedge - a steep wave caused by side wash from a rock face or breakwater

Windswell – waves generated by local winds

Wipeout – falling of a wave unexpectedly