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print articleSurfing terms


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 or posting them in the comments. We're including new slang and phrases all the time so please keep them coming!)

Glossary of Surfing Terms


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

Small waves.


ASP stands for Association of Professional Surfing. The ASP was previously the governing body of surfing. In 2014 the ASP changed their name to the World Surf League.


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.


Waves / water heading back out towards the incoming wave where it has rebounded from the beach / cliffs / sea wall etc. Can make for some fun surfing.


Loose, drawstring surf shorts.


To bail is to jump off 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."

Beach Break

This is a wave that breaks over a sandy sea bed. You've not read up about waves, have you?

Beach Leech

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

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.


A non local.

Big Wednesday

A classic coming of age film telling the story of three surfing friends in California. Starring Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt and Gary Busey.


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.

Blown Out

Where the onshore wind turns the surf in to unrideable mush.


The fibreglass thingy under your feet.

Boardshorts / Boardies

These shorts are quick drying, lightweight, and worn by those lucky enough to be surfing in warm water. Check the men's boardshorts here and the women's boardshorts here.


A particularly large or heavy wave. "He took off on a bomb".

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.

Bottom Turn

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.


Slang term for brother, friend, fellow surfer.

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.

Caught Inside

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 ó "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.

Close Out

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.

Covered up

Where the lip of the wave breaks over a surfer, almost a barrel but not quite. "I just got a coverup."


Slang from 1960's surf culture, cried out enthusiastically when surfing ó 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.

Cripples / Crips

Derogatory term for booger (see derogatory term above), knee of SUP boarders.


The outside part of the barrel. "I was deep in the barrel the curtain closed on me."

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.)

More Surf Slang - Drop in
"My wave!...My wave!!....MY WAVE!!!! (see Drop In below)

Dawn Patrol

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 ó "Oh dear me, I've dinged my board!" (Perhaps a little more profanity will be used.)

Dirty Lickings

Taking a gnarly wipeout.

Doggy Door

Exiting a barrel through the small hole left by the wave as it closes.

Double Overhead

The height of a wave twice as tall as the surfer.


Drive relates to acceleration and maintainenance of speed though turns.

Drop, The

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."

Drop In

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!

Drop Knee

Riding a longboard with one knee on the deck of the surfboard.


Protection when surfing in very cold water, when a wetsuit would not be effective for keeping warm.

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 ó 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.

Eat It

Wiping out on a wave.

El Rollo

A surfing manoeuvre. Riding the inside wall of the pitched lip (barrel), instead of the main wave wall, and coming out sideways.

Endless Summer

"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 ó 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.

Eskimo Roll

(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!


Riding over the whitewater back onto the shoulder of the wave (you may need to consult the terms list further to understand this answer fully).


The broken part of a wave, another term for "Whitewater" or "Soup".


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.

Frothin / Froathin



A surfer who does not catch a wave for the whole time they are in the water.


Wetsuit with full arms and legs. See the types of wetsuits.


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.

Glass Job

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.

Goat Boater

Derogatory term for kayakers and wave skiers.

Going off

If the surf is really good, you could say it's going off.


Derogatory term for a longboard or a longboarder.

Goofy / Goofy Foot

Surfing with your right foot forward.

Green Room

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!)

Grey Belly

An older surfer with the big belly.

Grom Mum

The mom who taxis her kids everywhere, anytime for a wave. One who sits sipping coffee on the cold sand under blankets at 6 am just to see her kids stoked.


Falling off your board while surfing.


British surfing equipment manufacturer.


A surfboard designed for big waves.

Riding the nose or hanging ten
Riding the nose

Hang Eleven

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!)

Hang Loose

See Shacka.

Hang Ten

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.

Impact Zone

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.)

Junkyard Dog

A surfer with poor style or a surfer who only surfs crappy waves.


Another word for a barrel / tube.

Kick Out

Finishing a ride by turning back out over the top of the wave.


A new school surf trick which involves rotating the board 360į 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?



Late Takeoff

Waiting until the last possible moment to get up on a wave.


The layback is a surfing manoeuver where the surfer literally lays backwards on a wave. It's one of surfing's more extreme tricks.


This is the cord that is attached between your leg and your surfboard. Click here for more information about a leash or find out about how to attach your surfboard leash here.


A wave that breaks from right to left from a surfer point of view when facing into the shore.

Leg rope

See Leash above.


Australian slang for the leash.


Getting licked means wiping out and being hammered by the wave.

Line Up

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.

Locked In

When a wave crashes and the surfer is inside of it.


Slang for a Longboard.


Slang for a Longboarder / someone who rides a Longboard.


A surf break full of longboarders.

Long John Wetsuit

A type of long legged, no armed wetsuit - details here.


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.


Date Inserted: 07 July 2018
Have questions or comments on this article? email me


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