Surf Terms

Let’s all agree on the fact – that surfing is mostly performed by alternative athletic individuals. And what happens when a bunch of alternative athletic individuals all decide on using their very own expressions – a wild surfers slang appears. Let us introduce the surfing terms dictionary.

As an intro to surfing’s lingo, we recommend watching this legendary surfer express his hype. Take a look at this video to know is waiting for you down below:

CLICK TO WATCH >stoked surfer on youtube

Knowing the surfing terms will help you navigate the occasions freely with other surfers. We all know it is hard to describe the stoke when surfing, so hopefully, you’ll find relief to your needs right here!

surf slang

A – Z

We have selected five main categories in which all the surfing terms will be found:


WAVES terms

Stoked = Hyped = Excited = Amped = Frothing

Mental = Crazy = Radical = Gnarly = Epic

SURFING slang explained

Aerial / Air – To jump off a wave with a board.
Aggro – Aggressive surfer/type of surfing.
Amped – Getting hyped about the surf.

surfing terms

Backdoor – A way of entering wave under the peak, hollow section.
Bail – An action of failure during the surfing / Bailing – jumping off or letting go of the board.
Baggies – Loose boardshorts/boardies.
arney – An inexperienced surfer.
ackside – Riding a wave when a back is towards the wave.
Beach Bum – A person/surfer who spends a lot of time at a beach.
Beach leech – Someone who keeps borrowing others’ gear for surfing.
Benny – Not a local surfer.
Betty – Old-school word to describe a female surfer.
Boardies – Boardshorts.
Bodysurfing – Surfing the waves with your body only. Generally performed by using swim fins.
Booger – Boogieboarder, bodyboarder.
Bottom turn – A maneuver done at the bottom of the wave to turn back up.
Bogging – Staying too far back of the board surfboard makes the board stall and slow down.
Blue room – The space and view under the breaking wave.
Bro – Brother, a friend, brah.
Burn – To steal other surfers’ waves, drop in on someone.

surfer surfing a wave

Carve – A sharp turn at the edge of the wave.
Caught inside – Inside, A surfer who has got stuck inside the unsafe breaking point.
Charge – Aggressive type of surfing. Charging.
Chowder – A floating turd.
Clucked – Being scared of waves.
Cutback – A maneuver where a surfer turns back at the wave towards the breaking point.
Cutting off – Surfing the wave that somebody was already surfing.


Dawn Patrol – Early morning surf session.
Drop-in – Dropping on a wave that someone is already surfing. Burn.
Drop – A maneuver where a surfer drops down the steep face of a wave.
Duck diving – Diving under the upcoming wave with a surfboard.
Dude – A cool enough person who is into board riding sports. Snow, surf, or skateboarding.

surfer duckdiving under a wave
Duck dive

Fakie – Riding with the tail part of the surfboard in front.
Far Out – Surf expression which means overly unexpected.
Flippers – Fins used for swimming, boogie boarding.
Floater – Riding the top of the wave and turning down again.
Frontside – Surfing a wave when facing the wave.
Frube – A surfer who does not catch a wave the whole session.
Fins out – A maneuver where the fin/s are out of the water after a sharp turn.

Eat it – Getting wiped out by a wave.
skimo Roll – Turtle roll. Flipping with the board sideways to dive under the incoming wave.
Endless Summer – A series of classic surf movies. Must watch for every surfer.

Goofy – A surfer surfing with a right foot forward.
Goober – A longboarder or a longboard.
Going off – Good surfing conditions at a surf spot.
Grubbing – Falling off the board.
Grommet/grom – A young surfer.
Grom mom – Soccer mom type of mother of a young surfer.

Hang five/ten – A style of riding the longboard with five / all ten toes over the nose of the board.
Hang eleven – Hang ten naked, performed by a male surfer.
Hang loose – The meaning of shaka.
Heat – A competitive part in surf contests.

Indo – Indonesia. A group of islands in South East Asia. Surfing mecca.

Kahuna – A talented, master surfer. Word comes from Hawaii.
Kick out – A maneuver of finishing the ride and going over the top of the wave.
Kook – An inexperienced surfer who thinks he/she is good.

longboarder riding a wave

Layback – An advanced maneuver where a surfer lays down on the breaking wave when making a turn.
Late takeoff – The latest time to start surfing.
Landlord – A shark.
ine-up – A spot in the ocean where surfers line up to catch the waves.
Lip – Tip or the edge of the breaking wave.
Localism – Territorial behavior at a surf break.
Logger – A surfer riding a longboard.
Long John – A long-legged wetsuit and no arms.
Locked in – When a surfer gets caught in the incoming breaking wave.
Lull – A time between the sets where the waves don’t break.
Licked – Getting wiped out by the wave.

Natural – Natural foot, a surfer who rides a board with a left foot in front.

Men in grey suits – Sharks.

Peak – A spot in the ocean where waves peak both ways.
Pearling – Nosediving the board when leaning too much forward.
Pitted – Barreled.
Pop-up – Rising movement on the board. From paddling to a stand.
Priority – Right of way surfing the wave. Whoever is closer to the peak and surfable section of the wave.
Pumping – Up and down movements on board to generate speed, also meaning for a good swell. Surf’s up.

Rash Guard – A special shirt used to prevent getting the chest rash from rubbing on the waxed board.
Regular / Regular foot – A surfer who rides the board with a left foot on the front.
The Right of way – A surfer with priority to catch the wave – whoever is closest to the breaking wave.
Rip – To rip. Masterful surfing.

Shaka – Surfer’s hand gesture. Meaning hi, bye, or hang loose.
naking – A sneaky way paddling in and around the lineup to get the right of way catching the wave.
Snap – Sharp turn off the top of the wave.
Stall – Slowing down the ride or braking to catch up with the wave.
Surf’s Up – When the weather is solid for surfing. A great swell is arriving.
Switch-foot – A surfer who can surf with a left or right foot in the front.
Swell – Movements of water in the oceans generated by winds. Swell running to a beach generates waves.

Take off – An action where the surfer begins to surf the wave, after the pop-up.
Tandem surfing – Two or more surfers riding one board.
Tow-in – when a surfer is towed into a wave, generally used in big-wave surfing using jet-skis.
Tombstoning – When a surfer is deep enough underwater, and the leash is pulling the board underwater.
Trimming – An action where the surfer is looking for the best section to gain speed on the wave.
Turtle Roll – A technique where a surfer flips with the board to dive under the incoming wave.


Wahine – A female surfer.
Washing machine – Being held down and spun around underwater by a wave.
ipeout – An accident where a surfer is falling off the board.

Yew! – Yell surfers use to describe an upcoming wave or a great performance.


Bellyboard – A bodyboard.
Blank – A block of polyurethane foam that will be shaped into a surfboard.

Crease – Damage to the board from an impact.

Deck – The top part of the surfboard.
ing – A crack or fracture in a surfboard.

Epoxy – Type of surfboard material. A resin fiberglass alike mixture used to cover the foam blanks.

Fin – A fin-shaped plug attached at the bottom tail-part of the surfboard. Designed for steering.
Funboard – A mal, minimal. Mid-size surfboard. Something between a short- and a longboard.
Foamboard – A tall and soft surfboard that generally beginner surfers use.
FCS – Fin Control System. Type of removable fin system.
Fish – A short, wide, and thick surfboard with two fins. Designed for having fun with some performance.
Foil – A type of board that can be ridden on flat or shallow waves.

Glass job – Fiberglass finish on a surfboard.
un – A long and narrow board designed to ride big waves.

Leash – A cord attached to the board. Between surfers leg and the board. Leggie.
Longboard – Type of surfboard. Long, thick and wide with a round nose, generally 8-10ft in size.
Legrope – A Leash. Leggie.
Log – A longboard.

Mal – Funboard. Mid-size surfboard for fun.

Paddle battle – A situation where two surfers are paddling towards the center of the becoming wave to gain the right of way.

Rocker – The curvature of the board from tail to nose.

Shaper – Surfboard designer. A person who shapes the board.

Outline – the shape of a board from the tail to the nose.

Quiver – A collection of boards a surfer has.

Rail – The edge of the surfboard.

Shortboard – A performance surfboard. Generally the length of the surfer.
Skeg – A fin.
Step-Down surfboard – A board choice for below-average conditions.
Step-Up surfboard – Bigger than average surfboard for XXL conditions.
Stick – A surfboard.
Stringer – The wooden part in the center of the surfboard. Designed for strength and flexibility.
SUP – A stand-up paddleboard.

Thruster – Three fin set-up on a surfboard.
Twin-fin – A two-fin set-up, generally seen on fish surfboards.
Quad – A surfboard with four fins.

Wax – A paraffin-based product used to increase the grip between the board and the surfer.

WAVES dictionary

A-frame – A wave that breaks both ways, allowing the surfer to choose the direction of surfing.
Backwash – When a wave sweeps up to the beach and returns to the ocean.

Charging / Cranking – When a particular beach is getting a powerful surf.
Close-out / Shut down – A wave that’s closing exactly towards the shore, and is not rideable.  The wave is breaking straightforward, not sideways.
Crest- The highest point/top of the wave.
Corduroy – A set of incoming waves in a distance.
Curtain – An outside part of the barrel.
Curl – The area of the wave where it’s breaking.

a set of waves

Banks – A sandbank at a beach break.
arrel – A wave that tubes when breaking.
Beach break – A wave that breaks at a beach, generally over sandy bottoms known as sandbars.
Bono – A tidal bore.
Bomb – A larger or a heavier wave out of the regular set.

Double up – Two waves that come in together out of the ordinary set.

Face – Front of the wave that’s about to break.
roth – Whitewater that has been generated by a broken wave.
Foamie – A wave with lots of foam.

Groundswell – A perfect swell that has traveled thousands of miles. 15+ second wave period.
the Green room – The inside of a tube or a barrel.
Going off – Charging.

Hollow – A wave that barrels. Allows riding the wave inside of the famous tube.

Left / Lefty / Left-hander- A wave that breaks towards the right (when looking from behind the wave).
Right / Right-Hander – A wave that breaks towards the left side.

Hawaiian scale – Underestimated way of measuring waves by Hawaiians.
Heavy – Big, powerful waves.

Impact zone – An area where the waves are breaking.

Keg – Barrel, tube.

Lip – The sharp edge of the breaking wave in a barrel.

Off the hook – Good waves and forecast.

Party wave – More than one person riding the wave.
Peelers – A type of wave that peels smoothly when breaking, perfect for longboards.
it – The most hollow part of the barrel.
Pocket – Most potent part of the wave.
Pointbreak – A surfable spot in the ocean that has a rocky bottom.
Pumping – When the waves are great, perfect weather for surfing.

Reef break – A wave that breaks over a shallow reef or a rocky bottom.
Rip / Rip Current – A dominant spot in the ocean where the incoming water flows back into the sea.
Rogue wave – Unexpected, a suddenly appearing huge wave way over the forecast.

Sandbank – Solid sandy formation at a beach break that allows producing great waves by swells.
ection – Rideable part of the wave.
Set – A group of waves. Wave train.
Set waves – A group of waves regularly more massive than the usual within the set.
Shoaling – Effect by which surface waves entering shallower water change in wave height.
Shore break – A wave that breaks very close to the beach line.
Shoulder – Unbroken section of the wave, a surfable area.
Slab – Heavy reef break where water comes from deeper water into very shallow waters.
Soup – The foam from the broken wave, whitewater.
Spit – Spray of water that exits at the end of a tube or a barrel.
Surging wave – A type of wave that does not break due to the fast-moving from deep to shallow waters.
Swell – Collection of waves moving away from a storm in the ocean.

a line-up of surfers
Line up

Tidal wave / Tidal bore –  A massive movement of water formed by the funneling of the incoming tide into a narrow bay or a river
Tsunami – A destructive wave caused by an earthquake, landslide, underwater explosion, etc
Tube – Barrel. The shallow section of the wave

Wave train – A group set of waves
Wave period – The time in seconds between the two consecutive waves on a set
Wavelength – The distance between two waves in a set
Wedge – A steep wave
Whitewater – See soup
Windswell – A group of waves generated by the local winds in the 1000mile radius

WAVE HEIGHT dictionary

Knee High – A wave that gets up to the rider’s knees.
Thigh High – Waves that get up to the rider’s thigh.
Waist High – A wave that’s up to the waist.
Stomach High – Wave that is up to the rider’s chest.
Chest High – A wave that’s up to the height of the chest.
Shoulder High – Waves that are up to shoulder height.
Head High – Waves that are as high as the surfer.
Overhead – A wave that gets higher than 6 feet. 2 feet overhead means another 2 feet above the surfer’s height.
Double Overhead (DOH) – Waves that are twice as high as the rider. 12ft +
Triple Overhead – Waves that are three times the height of an average rider. 18ft +

Flat – A condition with no waves to surf.
Ankle buster – Small waves.

An extensive list of understanding the wave height can be found on – Have a look!


Blown away – A good forecast ruined by wind.
Choppy – Windy conditions.
Clean – Ideal conditions where the formation of the ocean looks neat.
Firing – Going off.
Glassy – A weather where the water looks clean as glass. The condition with no wind or little wind (nulltuul conditions, null=zero, tuul=wind).
Gringo hour – When the surf is gnarly.
Heavy – A powerful swell.
Mushy – Slow waves.
Pumping – When the good swell has reached the break and you can hear the waves breaking.
Sunset glass-off – A glassy condition right during the sunset.
Synoptic chart – Shows weather conditions.

Glassy conditions


The wind is the second important factor or element that affects the quality of the surf. Since swells generate waves and swell on the other hand by the winds on the oceans – there is different kind of winds that affect the final form, and they are onshore, cross-shore, or offshore.

Onshore wind – A wind that blows from the water towards the shore. Onshore wind will ruin the quality of the wave by blowing off the nicely carved edges by the swell

Cross-shore wind – Wind that blows sideways on the shore
Offshore wind. Offshore wind is the best for surfing – since it will blow from the land towards the ocean – pushing the water and giving the final stages of waves – the most desirable shape.
Choppy – An unconstant blow of wind that can ruin nice and glassy conditions. Bad conditions.

There you go, we hope this article helped to increase your vocabulary, and you could feel more confident in a group of experienced surfers. A surfers terminology, surfing slang, or whatnot this would be called, is getting updated now and then so make sure to check back sometime.



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I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.

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