Glossary of Surf Slang Terms and Surfer Lingo

by Sep 14, 20200 comments

10-12 Min read

Dude? dude! Sick olas yo! Pull in, got spit out, then whooopah! 

Many surfer slang words start off on the fringes of the English language and (in my experience anyway) end up finding their way into the mainstream over time. 

Even though most hardcore surfers despise the way the ‘Hollywood Surfer’ is portrayed, you can’t deny we all have a pretty unique way of talking and our surfing lingo sure is kinda interesting. 

Check out our ultimate guide to Surfing Slang and Surfer Lingo below.


Something we’ve missed? Drop us a message and we will be sure to add it! So, here we go…


360 – a surf move which finds its roots in skateboarding – the surfer will turn the board in a 360-degree motion while riding the face of a wave

A-frame – a wave-shaped like a triangle that breaks towards the left of the beach and right of the beach at the same time

Aggro – aggressive surfing/surfer e.g. ‘Hey, why soooo aggro bro?’

Air or Aerial – If a surfer performs an aerial, their board leaves the surface of the water and goes into the air, above the top part of the wave, or lip of the wave. Airs take their roots from skateboarding, pioneered by guys like Christian Fletcher and Martin ‘Pottz’ Potter

Akaw – awesome, cool

Amped – feeling excited, pumped up, e.g “I am soooo AMPED for this surf session!” 

Let’s pause for a second and check out the ULTIMATE amped surfer 

Backdoor – Catching a wave from the ‘wrong’ side to ‘backdoor’ the section or tube/barrel

Bailing –  Ditching your board either when paddling towards the waves, or when you are actually riding a wave

Backwash – When a wave moves out to sea in the opposite direction to normal, and crashes into an oncoming wave

Baggies / Boardies – A piece of surf clothing, namely shorts for wearing whilst surfing. Boardshorts, or Baggie shorts. 

Barney –  Also see Kook. Often misinterpreted as a beginner surfer, I think the best definition is ‘A surfer who thinks their ability is vastly superior to their actual ability.’ Reason being, some beginners know they are beginners, and so they are NOT Barney’s! 

Barrel – When the wave breaks and folds over itself creating an open tube or barrel. Riding the barrel is the most coveted aspects of surfing. See also, tube, or green room

Beach break – When the waves break over sand not rock, pebble or reef. Typically a beach break will have multiple areas to surf or multiple ‘peaks’

Benny – a non-local surfer / someone from out of town

Bitchin’ – old school adjective to describe something amazing, awesome or great 

Bodyboard / Bodyboarder – a small foam board that you ride lying in a prone position. Many ‘stand-up’ surfers do not like bodyboarders and as a result many derogatory terms exist to describe them. See also booger, a boogie board, dick dragger, clam dragger, shark biscuit, sponger… the list goes on! 

Bomb – a big wave 

Bottom turn – After ‘dropping in’ to a wave a surfer must perform a bottom turn in order to get into the power source of the wave. The bottom turn sets the surfer up for his or her ride and is very important skill to master. 

Break – A beach, place to surf, or surf break 

Bro – Friend, dude, brother, homie, surfer. Can be either a male surfer or female surfer.

Carve – A sharp turning maneuver putting the surfboard ‘on rail’ (the side of the board). A good carve will often result in a big ‘rooster tail’ or spray of water

Caught inside – When you are stuck between the shoreline and the lineup with waves breaking on top of you. “Dude! I was caught inside for like 10 minutes while you were all getting shacked!”  

Charging – Surfing without fear of falling or wiping out. Often used when referring to big waves.

John Florence CHARGING | Jaws, Hawaii

John Florence CHARGING | Jaws, Hawaii

 Choppy – High winds often produce rough or choppy waves – not ideal for surfing

Clam Dragger – Derogatory term to describe a female bodyboarder, also see bodyboard

Clean wave –  Smooth wave or ‘glassy’ wave. You will often see clean waves when the wind is very light

Closeout – When a wave breaks across the beach or surf break all at once leaving no opportunity for a good ride on a surfboard. Also known as a straight-hander 

Clucked – Being chicken or scared of the waves 

Cooking –  When the waves are really good – see also, pumping, firing, maxin’

Cranking – See above

Crease – nearly snapping your surfboard can result in a crease across middle. You can normally get a trained professional to repair a crease depending on severity

Crest – the top of the wave

Curl – the breaking part of the wave where it ‘curls’ over on itself

Cutback – One of the first surf moves to master, a cutback is when the surfer turns in a sharp motion from the ‘shoulder’ or edge of the wave, back towards the ‘pocket’ or power source of the wave

Cutting off – Catching a wave in front of another surfer, stealing their wave, also known as ‘snaking’  

Dawn patrol – Surfing at first light in the morning 

Deck – The top part of a surfboard

Dick dragger – a derogatory term referring to riding a bodyboard. See also, bodyboarder

Ding – Damage to your surfboard

Double up – Often super fun to ride, a double up is when two waves combine to form one, creating a sudden surge of power

Drop – The first section of riding a wave when the surfer ‘drops’ into the wave face

Drop-in – When you take a wave that someone is already riding. See also, cutting off

Duck Dive – This is done when paddling out into the breaking waves. To duck dive the surfer pushes the nose of their board downwards under the water as a breaking wave approaches. The surfer then submerges themselves and their board as the waves passes over top, and continues paddling into the lineup when they reach the surface.

Elevator Drop – When a surfer freefalls from the top of the wave to the bottom. Also called an air drop

Firing – When the waves are really good, see also pumping, cooking, maxin’

Freshie/Freshies – New surfboard or surfboards – the smell of a freshie is an exciting smell for a surfer! 

Gnarly – Heavy, dangerous or scary situation or wave 

Goat Boater – Big in Australia back in the day, a goat boater is a person who rides a sit on surf ski, designed for catching waves in the ocean and not in a river

Goofy – When a surfer stands with their right foot forward

Greenroom – Barrel, tube or keg. Getting into the greenroom is the ultimate in surfing

The green room, barrel, or tube

Mick Fanning feeling totally at home in the Green Room

Grom – A young or inexperienced surfer; shortened from grommet. Note: there seems to be no age assigned to when you graduate from being a grommet into an adult!

Grovel / Groveler – To ride small waves, or ride your small-wave-board or groveler  

Gun – a big surfboard for riding big waves

Hack – An aggressive turn, or carve is often referred to as a hack

Hang Five – Normally done while riding a longboard, this is when the surfer places 5 toes over the nose or front part of the board.

Hang Ten – An extension of the hang five, this is when the surfer places ten toes over the nose of the board. An expert move, performed by an experienced surfer

Hang Loose – Another old school term, used when making the sign of a shaka 

Haole – See kook, or barney

Heavy – Referring to powerful/dangerous waves or a dangerous situation. Even a 3ft wave can be classed as heavy if it moves a lot of water and breaks over a shallow ledge

Helicopter – a move where the surfboard is spun around like the blades of a helicopter – normally done on a longboard 

Hodad – 50’s term for someone who hangs out at the beach, but not a surfer

Hoot – To shout encouragingly at a fellow surfer. “It’s always fun to hoot your friend into a bomb set, when you know they are gonna get smashed”

Hollow – Waves that tube or barrel are termed hollow

Impact Zone – An area of the lineup where the waves tend to break most of the time – when paddling out, you want to avoid staying too long in the impact zone 

Inside – The area of the lineup between the beach or shoreline, and the impact zone

Jacking – When waves suddenly rise up before they break, they are said to ‘jack’ up. Normally this occurs when the swell moves quickly from deeper water to shallower water 

Jake – a less experienced surfer who accidentally gets in the path of another surfer

Juice – A wave with a lot of juice has a lot of power

Junkyard Dog – Someone who surfs with bad or no style

Keg – See also, green room, barrel, tube. “He was kegged off his nuts!” 

Kick Out – When you finish your ride in control of your surfboard you kick out by going over the back of, or through, the wave

Kickflip – Skateboarding move that has found its way into surfing. The surfer flies into the air and the surfboard rotates 360 degrees, with both surfer and board continuing along the wave once landed  

Kneeboard – A smaller version of a surfboard designed to be ridden on your knees

Kook – See Barney above.  Often misinterpreted as a beginner surfer or inexperienced surfer, we believe the best definition is ‘A surfer who thinks their ability is vastly superior to their actual ability.’ Reason being, some beginners know they are beginners, and so they are NOT Kooks!   

Layback – Often referred to as a “Larry Layback” this move is performed when doing an aggressive turn – the surfer literally lays backwards onto the wave face 

Keen for a surf trip?

Check out our Best Surf Vacations in 2022 Here

Michelle Bourez shows us how to perform the layback

Leash – Piece of urethane cord that is attached to the surfboard on one end, and the ankle of the surfer at the other end. Otherwise known as a legrope 

Check out our Ultimate Guide to The Surf Leash here

Left – When looking out towards the ocean, a left, breaks from the left of the beach to the right

Line up – To reach the lineup, you must paddle through the waves to the area where the swell lines approach and the waves begin to break – the area where surfers wait to catch a wave is known as the lineup 

Lines – As the ocean swells approach the shore they are referred to as lines, and sometimes corduroy lines 

Lip – The top part of the wave as it breaks is called the lip  

Localism – Aggro from local surfers towards vising no-locals is often called localism

Log – See longboard below

Longboard – Any surfboard over 9ft with a rounded nose is a longboard

Longboard surfboard or log

A typical longboard or log looks like this

Lull – This is the period of calm water between big waves (or set of waves)

Macking – Big waves can often be termed macking or huge 

Maxed out – When the swell is too big and waves are closing out, the beach or surf break will be maxed out

Men in Grey Suits – sharks

Messy – Term to describe windy and or badly shaped waves

Mullering or Mullered – Wiping out, getting badly smashed by the waves

Mush/Mushburger – Weak, soft waves with no potential for high-performance surfing. Sometimes great for beginner surfers

New School – Opposite of old school – a modern approach to surfing incorporating the latest ‘tricks’ 

Noah – shark

Noodle arms / Noodled – A result of surfing too much. “My arms are noodled”

Nose – The pointy bit of a surfboard at the front

Nose guard – Rubber protection for the tip of the nose of a surfboard

Nose Riding – See also, Hang Ten. Riding with your toes over or towards the nose of your surfboard. Primarily performed on a longboard

Nug – A good or nice wave

Off The Lip – A modern surf move where the surfer hits the ‘lip’ and the re- enters the curl of the wave. Also known as a re-entry

Offshore – When the wind blows from the land toward the ocean. Creates clean waves and optimum conditions many surfers favour 

Offshore Winds

Offshore winds blowing from the land towards the sea Sydney, Australia

Onshore – Opposite of offshore, the wind blows from the ocean toward the land. Creates unfavorable conditions for most surfers 

Out Back – Out beyond the breaking waves, also known as the lineup

Outside – As above

Over The Falls – When a surfer falls and goes with the lip of the wave when it crashes from top to bottom. You can also be sucked over the falls (not directly fall with the lip) on a large powerful wave

Overgunned – If your board is too big for the conditions the you are overgunned

Overhead – If the waves are taller than the height of an average adult you would say it’s overhead when a wave is higher than an average surfer

Paddlepuss – Someone who prefers to stay close to the beach and not venture further into the lineup

Party Wave – A wave that more than one surfer is riding at the same time

Peak– A triangle, teepee-shaped wave that forms a peak, with a right and left breaking surfable wave

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

Peeling – when a wave breaks or peels from one side of the beach or break to the other

Pig Dog – A move performed when riding backside or backhand to get into the tube. The surfer will grab the toe side rail of their board with their back arm, and jam the other arm into the curl of the wave to control their speed

Pintail – A surfboard with a pin tail has a pointed tail designed for hollow, tubing waves

Pit – the barrel, tube, green room

Pocket – the power source of the wave, where you position yourself for maximum speed generation

Pointbreak – A long peeling wave that generally forms around a bend in the coastline like a large headland or point. A point break will often make waves that give surfers a long ride. 

Poo Stance / Poo Man – Derogatory term to describe someone’s surfing style. A poo man surfs with a poor foot placement and body positioning.

Check out this great clip below  

Pop up – When the surfer moves from lying in a prone position on the board to ‘popping up’ to a standing position

Pull in – Moving your board to enter into the tube 

Pumping – See also, cranking, firing

Quimby – An annoying beginner surfer

Quiver – A collection of surfboards

Racy – A fast peeling wave

Rad / Radical – An awesome or amazing surfer, surfing or moment

Rails – The sides of the surfboard

Raked Over – When you are pounded by multiple waves in succession often when paddling out to the lineup

Re-entry – High performance move when the surfer goes up towards the lip or top of the wave, and then re enters the waves face after performing a radical turn

Reef – Rock or tropical reef where the waves often break on top of 

Regular Footed – Opposite of goofy, a surfer who stands on a surfboard with their left foot forward 

Right – When looking out towards the ocean, a right, breaks from the right of the beach to the left

Riptide – A turbulent section of water that creates a current, often dangerous when its direction is out to sea

Rock Dance – When a surfer gets into the water via a rocky section and has to dance their way across the reef, pebbles or rocks

Rocker – When looking at the side of the board, this is the way the board is curved

Set – A group of waves that approach the lineup

Shacked – When you are riding the tube, see also green room 

Shaka – Quintessential surfer hand gesture – performed by making a fist and then extending the thumb and pinky finger

Shorebreak / Shorepound – Waves that break right on the shore which cannot normally be surfed (but may be on a bodyboard) 

Shoulder – The side part of the wave that is not yet broken

Shove-it – Originally a skateboard move, this has now found its way into surfing. The board spins 180 or 360 degrees in the air, with the surfer momentarily jumps upwards, landing back on the board, which is normally moving backwards and continues along the wave

Shubie– A wannabe surfer who buys all the gear, but does not surf 

Sick – Amazing, impressive, awesome

Sketchy – Dangerous 

Slotted – When you are perfectly positioned in the tube

Snake – Someone not taking turns or sharing the waves  

Soft board / Soft Top / Foamie – A surfboard with a soft foam top originally made for beginners, but newer models are being manufactured for more experienced surfers

Soup – The whitewater

Spat Out – When a surfer exits the tube at the same time as the wave breathes out air and water

Spit – The water and air that gets sprayed out from the tube

Sponger – Derogatory name for a bodyboarder

Stall– By weighting towards the tail of your board you will slow down or stall. A move often used to get deeper into the tube 

Stick – Surfboard

Stoked – Happy, excited. “I’m sooooo stoked right now!”

Sucking Dry – When a wave begins to break the seabed at the bottom of the wave become exposed to the air – very sketchy!

Surf Camp – Place to stay on a surf vacation 

Swell / Groundswell – Open ocean swell before reaching the shore and becoming rideable waves

Switch – Riding your surfboard in the opposite stance to which you prefer 

Tail – The opposite end to the nose (pointy end) of your board

Take Off – When you catch a wave

Trough – The bottom part of the wave

Tombstoning – After a wipeout the surfer gets pushed deep underwater, the surfboard will bob up and down on its end due to the leash connecting surfer and surfboard

Tow in – Primarily used by big wave surfers, a jetski is used to tow the surfer into a wave at speed 

Tube – barrel, keg, green room

Tubular – Old school term to describe something awesome or radical 

Turtle Roll – A technique used to get a longboard (normally) through a broken wave. To turtle roll, you must hold the sides/rails of the board, and roll upside down as the wave approaches. You allow the wave to pass over top, and then you roll back to the correct way up and continue paddling into the lineup  

Twin Fin or Twinny – A surfboard with two fins only 

Check out our Ultimate Guide to the Twin Fin Surfboard here


Wall – The face of the wave you ride along on a surfboard 

Washing Machine – When you are rolled and smashed by a broken wave

Wave Hog – A surfer who doesn’t share the waves or lineup 

Wax – The stuff you rub onto your surfboard to help your feet stick to the surface of the board  

Check out our guide to The Best Surf Wax here 

Best Surf Wax

Whitewater – The broken foamy part of a wave

Wipeout – When you fall from your surfboard 

Worked – Sustaining a long or violent wipeout

That’s all we have! If you think we have missed anything from our list of surfing slang, drop us a message at

[email protected]

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