December 14

Surfing Slang: 114 Little-Known Surf Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know…


Ah, Surfing Slang, you've got to love it haven't you?

A dialect that makes literally no sense whatsoever to 99% of the worlds population, yet is so fitting in the surfing environment.

I'm not going to lie there's some whacky-as terms that have caught on over the years and it's no wonder that new surfers struggle to get to grip with these strange surfing terms.

But not any longer...

Below 👇I'll be translating all of this surfing jargon down for you, in a bitesized - easy to digest format.


A-FRAME - A wave with a defined peak breaking both left and right. Perfect for sharing with mates.


AGGRO - An aggressive surfer. You know the ones, they usually paddle around splashing and cursing.

AIR OR AERIAL - An aerial is an advanced manoeuvre where a surfer projects their surfboard out above the lip of the wave (like an ollie on a skateboard).

AMPED – When you're feeling super excited to surf: "Oh man, I'm so amped to get out there, it's firing!"

ANKLE SLAPPERS - Tiny waves only ankle high that are too small to surf.

BACKDOOR - Pulling into a tube from behind the peak: "I just backdoored the hell out of it, and it just spat me out!"

BAIL - Bailing is when you ditch your surfboard instead of duck-diving. Usually done when a wave is about to break on your head 😬

BARREL - A barrel is the same as a tube, referring to the area inside of a breaking wave. Riding inside a barrel is pretty much the best thing you'll ever experience.

BEACH BREAK OR BEACHIE - A typical surf break that breaks on sand - think just your average, bog-standard beach.

BOMB - "There's a frickin BOMB coming!!!", Yup, you guessed it, Bomb refers to an above average sized set wave that's approaching.

BOMBIE - A break that's far out to sea that only turns on when the waves are big.

BOTTOM TURN - The bottom turn is where a surfer rides to the bottom of the wave, then transitions their board with speed, redirecting it towards the top of the wave. 

BREAK - "That wave's about to break on your head!", referring to the wave changing from an unbroken green wave, into a whitewater.

BRO - An affectionate term used for friends, or strangers alike - "Sick wave Bro".

CARVE -  A carve is a manoeuvre performed at speed whereby a surfer drives through a turn from the top of the wave to the bottom on their board using their rails - not just their fins. 

CAUGHT INSIDE - When you're stuck in the impact zone where the waves keep breaking and you're struggling to get out the back.

CHARGING - When a surfer is taking on big waves with reckless abandon. 

CHOPPY - Choppy waves are the opposite of clean waves - the result of the wind blowing onshore.

CLEAN WAVES - Opposite of a choppy wave ☝️, caused from gentle offshore winds - or no wind at all.

CLOSEOUT - When the entirety of a wave breaks at the same time making it impossible to ride left or right. 

CREASE - When your board hasn't quite fully snapped, but is part way there.

CREST - The crest is the highest point on the waves face.

CURL - The curl is zone closest to the breaking part of the wave.

CUTBACK - A cutback is a manoeuvre whereby the surfer makes a complete direction change from the open face of the wave back towards the whitewater.

DAWN PATROL OR DAWNY - When you get up early to surf at sunrise.

DECK - The deck refers to the top surface of your board.

DING - There are two types of ding:

  • Pressure ding - A pressure ding creates a dent in your board but doesn't crack the resin.
  • Standard ding - An impact to your board that causes the resin to crack open. 

DOUBLE UP - When two waves join together to create a single wave - usually with more power and ferocity.

DROP - The initial stages of a wave where the surfer 'Drops' from the top of the wave to the bottom.

DROPPING-IN - When someone knowingly (or unknowingly) paddles for, and surfs a wave when somebody else already has the right of way.

FROTHING - My favourite, a term used for when you're excited: "I'm frothing so bad right now!".

GOOFY FOOTER - A surfer who rides with their right foot forward.

GROM - A kid surfer.

GUN - A surfboard designed specifically for surfing big waves.

HANG FIVE - A longboard manoeuvre whereby a surfer hangs five toes over the nose of their board whilst riding a wave.

HANG LOOSE - Often associated with Hawaiian surf culture, Hang Loose is a gesture of friendly intent represented by the shaka sign 🤙

HANG TEN - Riding a Longboard with both feet at the nose of the board with all ten toes hanging over.

HEAVY - When waves break with lots of power, oftentimes gauged by how thick the lip of the breaking wave is.

HELICOPTER - A Longboard surfing manoeuvre where the surfer rides the nose of their board, then pivots/spins their board around in a 360 degree motion.

HOLLOW - Referring to waves that are barreling.

IMPACT ZONE - The zone where the waves break consistently and continuously.

INSIDE - Opposite to 'out the back', the inside is anywhere 'inside' of the impact zone.

JACKING - "That wave just jacked up right in front of me!". Referring to a wave that goes quickly from a swell to a lurching wave about to break.

KEG - aka tube, barrel: "I just got the sickest keg!"

KICK OUT - A kick-out is where a surfer pulls off a wave intentionally.

KOOK - A  kook is someone that generally has all the gear no idea, or is totally clueless to surfing culture and surfing norms.

LAYBACK - a manoeuvre performed at speed where the surfer lays into a carving turn by leaning back heavily.  Occasionally the surfer will lean so far back that they'll be lying on the surface of the wave on their back, before being pushed back onto their board by the wave.

LEASH, LEGGIE, LEGROPE - The chord that attaches around your ankle connecting you to your surfboard to stop it from floating away from you.

LINEUP - The area where surfers sit waiting to catch waves.

LINES - Lines or swell lines refers to the oncoming waves forming out to sea that can be seen from the beach or lineup.

LIP - the part upper most part of the wave just as it is beginning to break.


LOCALISM - Localism refers to surf spots where the local surfers believe they have the divine right to surf the waves over other visiting surfers. 

LULL - A longer than usual pause between sets of waves.

MACKING - When waves are big and unruly.

MAXED OUT OR MAXING - When waves are too big for a particular surf spot to handle.

MESSY - when waves are onshore, breaking without any uniformity.

MUSHIE/MUSHBURGER - soft breaking waves with little to no power.

NEW SCHOOL - New school refers to surfers that align with the more progressive side of the sport.

NOSE - The front of your surfboard.

NOSE-RIDING - The act of riding at the nose of a longboard.

NUG OR NUGGET - A diamond in the rough, a sneaky quality wave that comes through.

OFFSHORE - Winds that are blowing from the shore out to sea.

ONSHORE - Winds that are blowing from the sea towards the shore.

OUTSIDE - Same as 'out the back', the outside refers to the point past the impact zone where the waves no longer break.

OVER THE FALLS - When a surfer is dragged over with the lip of the wave, and subsequently gets smashed!

OVER-GUNNED - When a surfers board feels too big for the waves they're riding.

OVERHEAD - When the wave height is higher than your head.

PARTY WAVE - When you and a friend/s ride a wave together.

PEAK - The highest point of an approaching wave before it beaks.

PEELING - When a wave breaks and continues breaking down the line for a long period of time.

PIG-DOG - A technique used by surfers riding on their backhand to maintain control, and ride inside the barrel without falling.

PIT - Same as barrel, tube, keg.  "I just got the sickest pit!".

POCKET - The part of the wave closest to the power source/curl.

POINT BREAK - A wave that breaks off a headland whereby the waves wrap around causing the waves to peel for long periods.

POP-UP - The motion of going from your belly (prone position) to your feet on your board.

PULL IN - Where a surfer attempts to enter into the barreling part of the wave.

PUMPING - When the waves are really, really good. "Oh my god, the waves are pumping!"

QUIVER - A selection of different surfboards owned by one individual.

RACY - Refers to a wave that breaks down the line quickly.

RAILS - The sides of a surfboard.

RE-ENTRY - A manoeuvre whereby a surfer connects with the lip of the wave and projects their board - changing direction in the process - back to the beach

REGULAR FOOT - A surfer that rides with their left foot forward.

RIP - A body of water moving out to sea.

ROCKER - Refers to the curve of a surfboard from nose to tail.

SECTION - A section refers to a part of the wave that is about to break. Surfers look for sections to perform manoeuvres.

SET - A group, or series of larger waves that are approaching a lineup.

SHACKED - Getting shacked is the same as getting tubed.

SHAKA - Same as the Hang-Loose sign, 🤙

SHAPE - You'll hear surfers talk a lot about shape.  What they're referring to is the way the wave is breaking and how well formed (or not) the wave is.

SHORE BREAK OR SHORIE - Beachbreak waves that come out of deeper water to break close to the shore producing more powerful, sucky waves.

SHOULDER - The part of the unbroken wave away from the curl.

SICK - Good, cool, extraordinary.

SKETCHY - Something that very nearly goes wrong: "Man, that drop was so sketchy!".

SLOTTED - When a surfer has got themselves slotted deep into a barrel.

SPAT OUT - When a surfer exits a barrel alongside the spit.

SPIT - the compressed turbulent water that is blown out of a tubing wave as it breaks.

STALL - the act of slowing your your surfboard down, wiping off speed, often used to set up a barrel, or for noseriding a longboard.

STICK - Another name for a surfboard.

STOKED - Super happy, frothing, excited.

SUCKING UP OR SUCKIE - When a wave comes from deep water and draws water over a shallow sand bank or reef.

SWELL/GROUNDSWELL - Referring to the unbroken waves out to sea, long before they hit the shore.

TAIL - The back of a surfboard.

TAKE OFF - The moment where a surfer commits to catching a wave.

TOMBESTONING - Refers to a surfers board after a big, heavy wipeout whereby the board is pointed upwards due the the surfer being dragged and rag-dolled so deep underwater causing their leash to drag the board underwater.

TOW-IN - A term for surfers that get pulled into waves by a jet ski.

TUBE - Barrel, Keg.

TURTLE ROLL - A technique used by longboarders where they roll their board over to navigate through broken waves.

WALL - The face of the wave that is steep and good for performing manoeuvres.

WAVE HOG - A greedy surfer that takes more than their fair share of waves.

WAX - Surfers use wax to add traction and grip to their boards.

WHITEWATER - The wave once it has broken.

WIPEOUT - When a surfer falls whilst trying to stand up on a breaking wave.

WORKED - Getting worked refers to an unusually intense wipeout.

YEW OR YEEEEEEEEEW! - A call of excitement.


Well there you have it, the complete guide to surfing slang.

But what have I missed?

Chuck any suggestions in the comments below and I'll add them to the post.


Rowan 🤙


Rowan is the nerd behind the scenes.  But when he's not knee-deep in code, you'll find him immersed in the crypto-world or sending it at his local beachie.

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