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Glossary of Surfing Terms and Surf Slang

Glossary of Surfing Terms and Surf Slang

Yo, dude, bro, broski . . . rad barrels out there!

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

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'.

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. Let's dive into the guide



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

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

Akaw – awesome, cool

Amped – feeling excited, pumped up

Ankle slappers – 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 (see this guy below—not the girl, she is cool)

Surf SlangExample of Kook or Barney 

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—as in 'bitchen waves bro'

Bodyboard – a small board that you ride on your belly, also known as a booger, a boogie board, dick dragged or clam dragger

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—can be both male or female.

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

Chunder totally unsurfable waves

Clam Dragger – female bodyboarder

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 dragger – a derogatory term referring to the action of lying down on your board while riding a wave, usually used for bodyboarders. A female version is a clam dragger.

Ding – any damage done to your surfboard

Double up or 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

Greenroom or Inside The Greenroom– the inside of a barrel

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

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 and five toes hanging over the nose

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 and your toes hanging over the nose

Header – to fall off a surfboard from the front, head first

Heavy – big, awesome waves that are sometimes dangerous

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 and where beginners tend to get hurt

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 and something that holds beer after surfing

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 (see photo above)

Layback – laying backward on the wave

Leash – the piece of material that ties the leg to the surfboard, grab one here

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 or when it's really fun and powerful


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

Mini Simmons –  surfboard hull design style invented by Bob Simmons

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

Outside – the place beyond the lineup; beyond the place where the waves break

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

Pit Dive - when you don't make the drop and end of diving into the bottom of the wave

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

Pointbreak – 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. Can also be one surfer hitting the others surfboard on the rail of another surfer while riding a wave. 

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

Re-entry – when a surfer 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; not quite barrelled with the lip just overhead

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 or 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 – a derogatory term for a bodyboarder

Stall – a surf move meant to slow down the surfboard

Stick – a surfboard

Stoked – pumped, extremely happy, excited

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 frontside of the leg, below the knee, as a result of kneeling on the surfboard waiting for a wave

Swell/groundswell – surfable waves

Tail – the backside 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

Victory at Sea waves big and unrideable like the movie

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

Wipeout – falling off a wave while surfing

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

Do you like our list? would you like to grab a SURF SLANG T on Amazon?

✅ Updated January 2024

We hope you found our glossary of surfing terms useful! It’s a great tool for beginners to use when learning how to surf. Cristina helped put the original post together and Wave tribe staff have expanded on it over the years., a themed travel website offering a vast collection of surf camps and holidays. She is also a passionate traveler, cat aficionado, and novice writer.

Thank you also to Derek at for some additional words on the list.

You Got A Word Not On The List?

Did we forget any words—please comment below and if we add yours to our list you get a free t-shirt from Wave Tribe.