by Glossary of Surfing Terms and Surf Slang November 05, 2018 8 Comments

Wave Tribe

Yo, duuuude! Rad barrels out there!

Surfer slang has got to be one of the most unique and recognizable slangs in the English language.

Published by Wave Tribe


Countless movies have portrayed the special way surfers talk, and even cartoons are using the surfer manner of speech for comedic relief.

Case and point: Remember ‘Crush’, the turtle/laid-back surfer dude in Disney’s Finding Nemo? He was speaking in ‘surferese’ or how about this dude, classic.

Needless to say, though we know that not all surfers talk like Crush, there is an undeniable surfer slang that one needs to know to understand the world of surfing.


After all, you don’t want to be going on a surf camp and not understand some essential terms your instructor is using.

360 – a surf move consisting of turning the surfboard at a 360-degree angle while on the face of a wave

A-frame – a wave shaped like a peak that breaks both left and right, equally

Aggro – aggressive surfing/surfer

Air/Aerial – is a maneuver in which the board leaves the surface or the water/wave

Akaw! – awesome, cool

Amped – feeling excited, pumped up

Ankle busters – waves that are too small to ride

Backdoor – going inside a tube/barrel, also known as the curl of the wave, from behind its peak

Bailing – Jumping off your board into the water in order to avoid a bad encounter

Barney – a surfer that is not cool, untalented, rookie

Wave Tribe

Barrel – a tube, the curl of the wave, the hollow part of a wave when it is breaking, and one of the most sought after things in surfing

Beach break – the places where the waves break over sandbars

Benny – a person who is not a local

Bitchin’ – awesome, amazing, great

Body board – a small surfing board, also known as a booger, a boogie board

Bomb – a massive wave

Bottom turn – a turn that is made at the bottom of the wave; a very important maneuver that sets the tone for the ride

Break – when the swell of the water breaks, turning into waves and white water

Bro – dude, brother, surfer

Carve – a maneuver that is a sharp turn on the face of the wave

Caught inside – being caught between the shoreline and the breaking waves

Charging – aggressively going for a wave

Choppy – rough waves due to wind conditions

Clean wave – a smooth wave, with no bumps

Closeout – when a wave breaks suddenly and all at once

Clucked – being scared of waves

Crease – damage to the surfboard by the impact

Crest – the highest point of a wave, the top of the wave

Curl – the area of the wave where it is breaking

Cutback – a surf move done sharply in the shoulder or the wave or on its flats to get back on the surf line

Cutting off – the action of catching a wave in front of a surfer, who was going for it and was closer to it, stealing a wave; also known as snaking


Dawn patrol – going surfing first thing in the morning

Deck – the top surface of a surfboard

Dick drag – a derogatory term referring to the action of lying down on your board while riding a wave

Ding – any damage done to your surfboard

Double up/humpback – when two waves combine; one large wave closely followed by a smaller one

Drop – the first part of a ride, when the surfer goes down the face of the wave

Drop in – synonym to cutting off but also to drop down the face of a wave


Duck Diving – diving under a breaking wave, ducking your body and the surfboard under a breaking wave

Dude – a surfer, a friend

Dumping – waves that are break hard, are hollow and not surfable

Epic – great surf session, awesome wave, top surf

Eskimo roll – a surf move that gets the surfer through a large wave or a broken wave without being washed to shore

Face – the part of the wave that has yet to break, where most rides take place

Fade – when a surfer puts themselves into the most powerful part of the wave

Far out! – great, amazing, spectacular

Firing – fun surf

Flat – no surf, no waves

Floater – a surf move where the surfer rides the top of the wave, then drops back into the main part of the wave

Foam – the material surfboards are made of and it also signifies the white water/bubbles that occurs when a wave breaks

Foamies – waves made of foam

Forehand/ front side – surfing with your back to the beach and your face to the wave

Frube – a surfer who does not manage to catch a wave for the entire time they are in the water

Funboard – medium-length surfboard

Glassy – smooth, when referring to the water

Gnarly – nasty, unpleasant

Goat boater – a surf ski

Going off – great surf, as in “It’s just going off today, dude!”

Goofyfoot – when a surfer’s right foot is forward and the left is in the back, while on the surfboard

In The Tube

Green room – the inside of a barrel

Grom – a young and inexperienced surfer; also known as a grommet

Grubbing – falling off the surfboard while surfing

Gun – a big wave surfboard

Hang Eleven – used to describe a male surfer who rides naked

Hang Five – riding a surfboard with one foot placed on the nose of the board

Hang Loose – the salutation that accompanies the sign of Shaka

Hang Ten – riding a surfboard with both feet placed on the nose of the board

Header – to fall off a surfboard

Heavy – big, awesome waves

Helicopter – a surf move where the surfer spins their surfboard around from its nose

Hit the lip – when a surfer turns up their surfboard to hit the falling lip of the wave, allowing the surfboard to be smashed down

Hodad – a person who hangs around the beach and does not surf

Hollow – barrels, tubes

Impact zone – the place where the waves are breaking the hardest

Inside – the place between the shore and the impact zone

Into the soup – inside the foam, the white water

Jacking – when the wave swells rapidly, from deep waters to shallow ones

Jake – a surfer who inadvertently is in the way of more experienced surfers

Juice – the power of the wave

Junkyard dog – a surfer with poor style

Keg – a barrel, a tube

Kick out – finishing the ride by going over the back or through the wave

Kickflip – rotating the surfboard 360 degrees, while in the air

Kneeboard – a special type of board meant for riding on knees

Kook – a rookie surfer or someone who isn’t very good at surfing

Layback – laying backward on the wave

Leash – the piece of material that ties the leg to the surfboard

Left – a wave that breaks on the left of the surfer, from the peak

Line up – the area in the water, away from the swell, where the surfers wait to get their turn at catching a wave

Lines – the swell, when it is approaching the shore


Lip – the upper-most part of a wave, right before it breaks

Localism – hostility by local surfers towards non-local surfers

Locked in – when a surfer gets caught inside a crashing wave

Longboard – a surfboard with a round nose that is at least 8 foot long

Lull – the moment of calm between swells  

Macking – huge waves breaking

Making the drop – catching a wave and sitting on the lower part of the wave’s shoulder

Maxed out –waves that are too large to break without closing out

Men in grey suits – sharks

Messy – irregular and unpredictable waves

Mullering – wiping out

Mush/Mushburger – soft non-surfable waves, without any energy

Namer – a surfer who shares a secret surf spot with others

New school – trick surfing

Noah – shark

Noodle arms – tired arms

Nose – the front and pointed part of the surfboard

Nose guard – a rubber tip meant to protect the nose of the surfboard

Nose riding – a longboarding move where the person surfs on the nose of the board

Nug – a good wave


Off the lip – re-entry

Offshore – winds that are blowing from the shore towards the ocean

Onshore – winds that are blowing from the ocean towards the shore

Out back – beyond the place where the waves break

Outside – the place beyond the lineup

Outside break – the furthest place from the shore where the waves are still breaking

Over the falls – refers to when a surfer goes over the lip and into the face of the wave

Overgunned – when the board is inappropriate for the surfing conditions

Overhead – when a wave is higher than an average surfer

Paddlepuss – a person who plays in the white water and is afraid to stray from the beach

Party wave – a wave that several people are surfing

Peak – the highest point of a breaking wave that generates both left and right surfable shoulders

Pearl – when a surfer's buried the nose of their surfboard into the wave

Peeling – when a wave breaks perfectly

Pig dog – a position that reflects the surfer grabbing onto the rails while inside a barrel

Pintail – a surfboard tail shape that is perfect for hollow surfing

Pit – the barrel of a large and strong wave

Pocket – the power pocket of a barrel or powerful wave and where you want to position yourself

Point break – a type of wave that is found around a point of land, a coastline with a headland

Pop up – the move surfers make to move from lying on the surfboard to standing up to surf

Pull in – turning the surfboard up to enter a barrel

Pumping – decent surfing conditions

Quimby – a beginner surfer who is usually annoying


Quiver – a surfer’s surfboard collection

Racy – a fast surfable wave

Rad/radical – awesome and impressive surfing

Rails – the sides of the board

Rail bang – to take a surfboard between the legs, while falling

Raked over – to be pounded by strong waves when paddling out to catch a wave

Re-entry – when a surfers goes through or over the lip of the wave and then goes back in

Regular footed – a surfer who surfs with their left foot forward (this means that they don’t face the wave on lefts)

Ricos – rich, perfect

Right – a wave that breaks on the right of the surfer, from the peak

Riptide – a stretch of water that is particularly turbulent

Rock dance – the moves made by surfers who exit the water through a rocky section

Rocker – the curve under the surfboard

Section – the location in the water, where the waves aren’t breaking and where surfers are waiting their turn to advance and ride

Set – a series of waves that are approaching the lineup

Shacked – riding a great, big barrel

Shaka – a sign surfers use, made from extending the thumb and the little finger

Shape – a word used to rate the quality of the breaking waves (perfect shape is when the wave breaks evenly)

Shore break/ shorepound – mostly unsurfable waves that break very right on the shore

Shoulder – the part of the breaking wave that is unbroken

Shove-it – the act of moving the surfboard (180 or 360 degrees) under the surfer, while riding a wave

Shubie – a person who buys a surfboard and surf clothing, but does not surf

Sick – astounding, impressive, amazing

Sketchy – bad form when surfing

Slotted – a surfer well-positioned inside a barrel

Soft board – a surfboard with a soft surface, meant for beginners

Soup – whitewater

Spat out – the action that occurs when a surfer exits a barrel alongside air and foamy water

Spit – the water that gets sprayed out from a barrel

Sponger – derogatory term for bodyboarder

Stall – a surf move meant to slow down the surfboard

Stick – a surfboard

Stoked – pumped, extremely happy, excited

Teaching Surfing

Sucking dry – the action performed by powerful breaking waves, causing the seabed to become exposed

Surf camp – surf vacation with accommodation included, where an instructor teaches surfing  

Surfer’s knots – swellings on the back side of the leg, below the knee, as a result of kneeling on the surfboard waiting for a wave

Swell/groundswell – surfable waves

Tail – the back side of the board

Take off – to catch a wave

Through – the bottom of the wave as it starts breaking

Tombstoning – when the surfer is wiped out and sinking below the surface and their surfboard is bobbing up and down connected to them through a leash

Tow in – used by big wave surfers, it refers to being towed in by a jet ski to the place where the big waves are

Tube – barrel, the hollow of the wave

Tubular – awesome, great, rad

Turtle roll – a technique used to get the surfboard to go through a breaking wave; it implies hanging on to the rails, turning over so that the surfer is fully submerged and the fins of the surfboard become visible.

Twin fin – a twin fin surfboard

Wall – a face of the wave that has no area to ride on

Washing machine – getting rolled around underwater by a breaking wave

Wave hog – a surfer who will not share a wave

Wax – the substance surfers use on their surfboard to help with traction

White water – a broken, foamy wave

Wipe out – falling off a wave while surfing

Worked – getting knocked off by a wave and then being in the washing machine

Hope you found our glossary of surfing terms useful! It’s a great tool for beginners to use when learning how to surf.

About the Author

Cristina is the Community Manager of, a themed travel website offering a vast collection of surf camps and holidays. She is also a passionate traveler, cat aficionado and novice writer.

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8 Responses

Jerry King
Jerry King

September 28, 2018

You forgot SHIT ON A LOG, or S.O.L., referring to an old guy on a Long Board. Especially when they steal your line.


August 31, 2018

I heard the term “cap’n crunch” used in a morning news here in Hawaii. The guys was doing a surf weather report but didn’t explain it. Can anyone tell me what it means. Aloha!

Don Greenberg
Don Greenberg

July 27, 2018

Great list! One correction though a “Shubie” is a term from the South Jersey shore. Spelled “Shoobie” it refers to day trippers who would come to the beach with their lunches packed in a shoe box. origin from the 1920’s


July 20, 2018

Very nice and informative post. I really enjoy your point of view on Surf Trip.
World Wave Expeditions

James Ozburn
James Ozburn

May 04, 2018

You forgot “Rolled” as when you fall off in the tube and you get pulled up and over into the falls and slammed into the washing machine.

Kate Sutherland
Kate Sutherland

April 14, 2018



April 04, 2018

You forgot “washed out”…when waves are coming fast with not much space in between.


February 10, 2018

You forgot blow in.

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