31 Surf Slangs - Friendly List of Surfer Lingo and Terms
Surfing can be a complex sport with its language, customs and etiquette. When you're first getting into surfing, it can be hard to understand all the terms and surf slang that's used to describe different aspects of surfing and the surfing lifestyle.
We have put together a friendly (and comprehensive) list of some of the slang words and terms that are used in surfing. This list will hopefully help you understand and follow a conversation between surfers a little better.
#1 — Stoked
A heightened feeling of excitement or happiness, which you will feel before, in or after a surf session. Most likely a word you will start using on a regular basis to describe the feeling you have after you've started surfing.
#2 — Lineup
An area in the water, just outside of the breaking waves, where surfers are waiting to get their turn on catching the waves. The line-up works as a cue system for surfers, where the one closest to the breaking point of the wave has the priority. When you´ve surfed a wave and are heading back to the line-up, you´ll be last in line for the next wave. And please don't sneak in the line-up - that is not good surfing etiquette.
#3 — Set
A series of waves, two or more, that are approaching the line-up. The waves in a set are usually what the surfers are waiting for, as these are bigger and better to surf than the waves “in between” the set.
#4 — Whitewater
The white and foamy part after a wave has broken is what we call whitewater. This is where we all start and also come back to. Beginner surfers usually start surfing in the whitewater close to shore, as this is a safe space to learn balance, paddling, timing and pop-up. More advanced surfers are also familiar with whitewater, as this is the first part of a wave you have to overcome from paddling from shore out to the line-up. Or the part of the wave you use to end a surf session - going all the way into the shore with the whitewater. The whitewater is also a great place to come back to if you want to improve your surfing skills.
#5 — Kook
A kook is what a surfer is called when they are clueless on how to behave in the water or are in danger of others. Beginner surfers can hear this term a lot, especially if more experienced surfers get annoyed by you. We've all been there, and still are sometimes.
#6 — Swell period / Wave period
Swell period / Wave period is the distance between two waves passing through a stationary point, measured in seconds. The larger the wave period, the longer the wave has to accumulate energy and travel faster. The longer the swell period, the more water gets pushed upward, resulting in bigger waves.
The swell period and wave period is an important factor for surfers as it gives information on the expected quality and size of the waves. Different surf spots can be able to hold different swell and wave periods, which means it can be too short, too long or just perfect for the spot
#7 — Offshore / Onshore
These are terms used for wind direction.
Offshore: wind that blows from shore out towards the ocean. This is the preferable wind direction for surfers as the wind helps hold the wave up and make a cleaner and more surfable face of the wave.
Onshore: wind that blows from the ocean towards the shore. Onshore wind is not ideal for surfing as it can destroy the quality of the wave by crumbling the lip and making the wave close out faster.
#8 — Caught inside
When you're caught between the shoreline and the breaking zone of the waves without anywhere to paddle, you can say you are “caught inside ''. This usually happens if you are wiping out on a wave and start paddling back towards the lineup. Or if it is a massive set coming in, and you are at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Being caught inside can be challenging as you have to duck dive or turtle-roll several waves in a row, but keep on paddling and you will eventually get to the channel or back to the line-up.
#9 — Quiver
A quiver is a surfer's collection of surfboards. Usually, a quiver contains different boards intended for surfing different waves.
#10 — Leash
The leash is a cord that attaches the surfboard to your ankle. It is one of the best pieces of safety gear you should invest in, both for yourself and other surfers, as it makes sure you don´t lose your board while surfing.
#11 — Drop in
To drop in on someone is synonymous with paddling for and catching a wave that another surfer is already riding.
This is one of the most basic rules in surfing, and something you should never do as it is a breach of surfing etiquette. If you are dropping in on someone you will most likely ruin their wave, and that's not cool - especially if the wave is good!
#12 — Goofy Footed vs. Regular Footed
Is a term used to describe which foot you are placing in front of the other. Place your right foot in front and your left foot behind to have a goofy stance. You are a goofy-footer if you do this! If you place your left foot forward and your right foot on the back of the board, you have a regular stance.
#13 — Duck dive
The duck dive is a technique surfers use to get under a breaking wave when paddling out to the line-up. By pushing the nose of the surfboard underwater, and letting the body follow, you are able to get under the breaking wave and ditch being “washed” in the wave. With a bit of practice and a surfboard that is small in volume, you will master a duck dive and experience that the paddle out to the lineup feels easier.
#14 — Pocket
The pocket of a wave is the section of the wall just ahead of the lip (where the wave breaks). This is usually the steepest part of the wave and the most desirable place to surf. If you can stay in or near the pocket, you can generate maximal speed and enjoy a longer ride. This is also the place to be in to get “barreled”.
#15 — Cutback
If a surfer is making a cutback, it means that the surfer changes direction of the surfboard by carving the board from the flat part of the wave and back towards the pocket to gain more momentum and speed. It is one of the first surfing maneuvers that you should learn as an intermediate surfer as it will improve your surfing to a new level.
#16 — Barrel
It's not a whiskey barrel we are talking about here, but a barrel in the wave. Barrelling waves are hollow when they break and create an airspace between the face of the wave and the lip. Surfing inside a barreling wave is something most surfers want to achieve during their career. This is what we in surfing lingo is calling getting barreled, getting pitted or getting tubed.
#17 — Overhead
When the wave is higher than the surfer you can say the wave is overhead. In other words, it´s an expression of measurement of the size of the wave. In surfing lingo they can also refer to knee high and shoulder high waves.
#18 — Bomb
A massive, heavy wave that is bigger than the rest of the set waves, is what we call a bomb in surfing lingo. If a bomb is rolling in, you better start paddle as hard as you can to the outside, or in worst case, prepare to get ragdolled. Some surfers are also sitting further out than the rest of the line-up, waiting to surf those bombs rolling in.
#19 — Pop-up
The movement surfers do from laying on their board, to standing up on the board is called a pop-up. This is the first basic movement you will learn as a surfer, and one of the most important ones as it is the movement you use to be able to stand up on your board. The more you surf, the easier the pop-up gets. At the same time - the bigger the waves, the faster and better your pop-up should be. Therefore this is a good movement to practice and improve.
#20 — Wipeout
When you fall off your board while surfing a wave you are experiencing a wipeout. This happens to the best of us, and no matter how frustrating it is to wipe out, all you have to do is paddle back out there and give it another try.
#21 — Rag dolled
When you wipe out you might end up “Rag-dolling” – or as some surfers might call it: the washing machine. It is the time you spin around and get tumbled under water. It usually takes a few seconds of rag-dolling until you can swim back to the surface. Most importantly while being rag-dolled: protect your head and stay calm.
#22 — Going over the falls
In this type of wipeout, the surfer gets sucked back over to the top of a wave and free falls down with the lip of the wave. This can happen when you miss a duck dive or are pulling back on the wave you are paddling for. Not so fun, but something we all will experience once or more.
#23 — Thruster
If you are surfing a thruster it means that you are surfing a board with 3 fins. This is the most common fin set up on surfboards of modern times. It gives high manoeuvrability and stability.
#24 — Twin Fin
Twin fin means the board has two fins in the back. Twin fins are usually used on surfboards with the “Fish” shape. They provide a little more stability than single fin boards and high manoeuvrability and speed.
#25 — Hang Ten
This is the name of a real cool maneuver on the surfboard, usually seen done by longboarders when they are dancing over their board. Hang Ten is when you're riding a surfboard with both feet placed on the nose of the board, with all ten toes hanging over the rail of the nose.
#26 — Ding
Damage to your surfboard is called a ding. This is most common on epoxy boards, which are more fragile than for example soft top boards. And it usually happens when you least expect it or when it´s the wrong timing for it. If you get a ding in your board, it should be fixed before you head out in the water again, as a ding will take in water and make your board heavy, and in the worst-case - unsurfable.
#27 — Dawn Patrol
Dawn patrol refers to going surfing first thing in the morning, preferably by sunrise. Surfing by dawn is, in our opinion, the best way to start your day. Both because it is beautiful and refreshing to watch the sunrise from the ocean, and it is usually less crowded in the line-up.
#28 — Shorebreak
Waves that break right on the shore. Usually unsurfable waves, and can be challenging to pass through on your way in or out of the water as the shorebreak can get quite heavy.
#29 — Closeout
A closeout is when the waves break all at once, making it almost impossible to surf. If you´re going for a closeout, be prepared to get tumbled underwater.
#30 — Indo
Also known as Indonesia, one of the best surf destinations in the world. Indo combines fantastic tropical weather and excellent waves for every skill level with low living costs and an amazing cultural scene.
#31 — Pura Vida
“Pura Vida” is a term you should know if you are planning to visit Costa Rica. Costa Ricans use it as a greeting, but it is also a way of life. This term is used to express optimism, happiness and living life. You will most likely not be able to understand the true meaning of this term before you have experienced it first hand.
Surfer lingo is an insider vocabulary that most surfers use. Once you learn what some of these words mean, surfing conversations will flow more smoothly and your understanding will increase.
What other surf slang do you consistently find yourself asking others about? Let us know so we can share our knowledge with everyone else too!