Surfers do often sound like they are talking a foreign language. Here is guide to decipher the jargon.



11/18/20227 min read

Beautiful sunset at Ynyslas with surfboard fins and busy surf lesson
Beautiful sunset at Ynyslas with surfboard fins and busy surf lesson

To a non surfer listening to surfers talking about surfing, it can sound like a foreign language.

This glossary of the common (and not so common) terms, and phrases may help you decipher the jargon.


Surfer doing a top turn on a clean wave
Surfer doing a top turn on a clean wave
  • Ariel or air. A high performance move involving hitting the top of the wave and flying above it.

  • A-Frame. A wave that forms a peak and peels off in both directions.

  • Aggro. A term signifying aggression in any context.

  • Alaia. A traditional surfboard made of solid wood, used by the early surfers in Hawaii.

  • Aloha. A greeting or saying goodbye in Hawaiian, but also means love and fellowship.

  • Amped. Excited, fired up.

  • Ankle slappers. Tiny waves that are too small to surf.

  • Backdoor. When a surfer pulls into a hollow section of wave from behind.

  • Backside. A surfer riding with their back to the wave.

  • Bail. Ditching a surfboard, or purposely jumping off when riding a wave.

  • Barney. Untalented surfer or one who disrespects surfing etiquette.

  • Barrel. The most sought after thing in surfing. Entering inside a hollow section of a wave.

  • Beach Break. A surf spot that breaks at a beach over sand.

  • Bellyboard. A small wooden board used to ride waves prone (lying down).

  • Blank. A rough slab of foam, that is the core of a surfboard, before it is shaped.

  • Bodyboard. A small board, ridden prone or on one knee, with specific flippers.

  • Body surf. To catch and ride waves with just the body and maybe swim fins.

A surfer doing a forehand cutback in the early morning sun.
A surfer doing a forehand cutback in the early morning sun.
  • Bogging. When a surfer is too far on the board, sinking the tail and slowing or stopping the board.

  • Bomb. A big wave.

  • Bombora or bombie. A deep water off shore reef break.

  • Bottom turn. A set up up turn at the bottom of a wave. Arguably the most important turn to do well.

  • Break. When swell hits shallower water and breaks turning into waves and white water. A break is a place to surf.

  • Burn. To purposfully steal another surfers wave, either by dropping in or snaking.

  • Carve. To perform a turn on a wave face, often a sharp turn.

  • Caught inside. Being stuck in the inside, between the shorline and the breaking waters.

  • Chandelier. Water falling from the roof of a hollow wave, threatening to knock off a surfer in the barrel.

  • Choppy. The texture on the surface of the water, caused by excessive wind, making lots of smaller waves.

  • Clean. The surface of the water and the waves is smooth, caused by no wind or a gentle offshore wind.

  • Corduroy. Lines of big swell marchig towards the shore, giving the ocean a 'corduroy' appearance

Surfer on green board performing a vertical snap
Surfer on green board performing a vertical snap
  • Crest. Highest part of a wave.

  • Cutback. A turn designed to to take a surfer back into the most powerful part of the wave (the pocket), when a wave slows down.

  • Dawn Patrol. A surf session just as it's getting light enough to see.

  • Deck. Top pf a surfboard.

  • Ding. Damage to a surfboard.

  • Drop in. Taking a wave that someone else is already riding, with priority. To drop in is also to take off on a wave and drop down the face.

  • Duck Dive. Pushing a surfboard underwater to avoid a breaking wave.

  • Fetch. The distance over which a wind blows, without a change in strength or direction.

  • Fin. The pointy thing on the bottom of a surfboard. Very important for direction, turning and speed.

  • Flat. No surf.

  • Floater. A maneouvre when a surfer rides over the top of a crumbling section of wave.

A surfer dropping in on another surfer with at red circle with a line drawn through it.
A surfer dropping in on another surfer with at red circle with a line drawn through it.
  • Foam. Whitewater.

  • Foamie. A soft surfboard, made from foam and designed for beginners. Generally, long, wide, stable and buoyant.

  • Frontside. Riding a wave facing it.

  • Froth. Amped, excited.

  • Glassy. When the sea surface and waves are smooth with no ripples. Caused by no wind.

  • Gnarly. Dangerous, scarey.

  • Goofy foot. A surfer how surfs with their right foot forward.

  • Grommet or grom. A young surfer.

  • Groundswell. A swell that has travelled from a storm far out to sea, powerful and with a long wave period.

  • Gun. A surfboard shape designed for surfing big waves.

  • Hang loose. A relaxed, laid back, carefree attitude.

  • Hang five. Hanging five toes over the end of a longboard nose when surfing.

  • Hang Ten. As above but all ten toes.

  • Hanging eleven. A naked male surfer.

  • Haole. Hawaiian word for clueless foreigner.

  • Heavy. Generally big waves that have a degree of danger. Also very powerful waves.

Two surfers in wintery Borth riding waves
Two surfers in wintery Borth riding waves
  • Hit the lip. Turning up the wave to hit the lipping part of a breaking wave.

  • Hollow. A powerful wave that breaks forming a tube or barrel.

  • Impact zone. Where waves first break, usually with force.

  • Inside. The place between the shore and the impact zone.

  • Jacking. When a wave suddenly rears up and breaks, going from deep to sudden shallow water.

  • Juice. The power of a wave.

  • Keg. A barrel/tube section of a hollow wave.

  • Kick out. Finishing a wave by turning off it out to sea.

  • Kook. A clueless surfer of any ability.

  • Layback. A maneouvre that invloves lying back on a wave after a hard turn.

  • Leash. The cord taht attaches a surfer to their board.

  • Left. A wave that breaks left when looking towards the shore.

  • Line up. Where surfers 'line up' to catch a wave, just past the impact zone.

  • Lip. The top of the wave as it's breaking.

  • Localism. Territorial preotection of a spot by local surfers, ofetn aggressively.

Clean waves in Borth with a longboarder riding one with blue skies
Clean waves in Borth with a longboarder riding one with blue skies
  • Longboard. The longest surfboard.

  • Lull. A gap inbetween sets of waves.

  • Macking. Amazing surf.

  • Maxed out. When waves reach there maximum size before becoming unsurfable at a spot.

  • Messy. Irregular and unpredictable waves, usually caused by onshore windy conditions.

  • Mushburgers. Weak waves with no power and difficult to surf.

  • Noodle arms. Tired arms from too much paddling.

  • Nose. The front of the surfboard.

  • Nose riding. Riding on the front of a longboard.

  • Outback/outside. The area past the breaking waves.

  • Over the falls. When a surfer is dragged over with the lip of the wave after wiping out.

  • Overhead. When the waves are higher than an average surfer.

  • Party wave. When more than one surfer rides the same wave.

  • Peak. The highest part of a wave that then breaks in both directions.

  • Pearling. Being too far forward on a surfboard and digging the nose into the water and nosediving.

Surfing performing a snap with spray, early morning sunshine lighting uo the white water
Surfing performing a snap with spray, early morning sunshine lighting uo the white water
  • Peeling. When a wave breaks and peels in a direction.

  • Pit. The hollowest part of a barrelling wave.

  • Pitted. Tubed, barrelled. To ride inside the hollowest art of the wave.

  • Pocket. The most powerful, steepest part of the wave where a surfer aims to stay. Just in front of the whitewater.

  • Pointbreak. A wave that peels along a section of land like a headland.

  • Pop up. The act of going from lying down to standing with a fast pop up motion.

  • Pulling in. Turning or slowing a surfboard to get into the barrel.

  • Pumping. Really good surf or the act of generating speed along a wave.

  • Punt. Performing an ariel maneouvre.

  • Quiver. A collection of surfboards owned by a surfer.

  • Racy. A fast breaking surfable wave.

  • Rail. The sides of a surfboard.

  • Rash vest. A lycra under wetsuit garment to prevent wetsuit rub.

A surfer rides a big wave during winter
A surfer rides a big wave during winter
  • Reef break. A surf spot that breaks over rocks or coral.

  • Re-entry/reo. When a surfer goes vertically up and oftern over the lip and then re-enters the wave.

  • Regular foot. A surfer that stnads with their left for forward.

  • Right. A wave that breaks to a surfers right, when surfing.

  • Right of way. Priority is given to the surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave or peak.

  • Rip. To surf really well.

  • Rip current. A strong current of water returning water back out to sea after the waves have brought it close to shore.

  • Rocker. The curve of a surfboard.

  • Set. A group of bigger waves.

  • Shacked. To get barrelled or tubed.

  • Shaka. A surfer greeting, extending thumb and little finger.

  • Shaper. A surfboard designer and maker.

  • Shore break. Waves breaking right onto the shore.

  • Shoulder. The unbroken part of a breaking wave.

  • Sick. Amazing, awesome.

  • Sketchy. Tricky, dangerous.

  • Slab. A heavy reef break. Waves come out of deep water to very shallow water suddenly and break with huge amounts of force.

Clean waves breaking at Ynyslas with a surf lesson.
Clean waves breaking at Ynyslas with a surf lesson.
  • Slotted. Well positioned inside the barrel.

  • Snaking. Aggresively paddling around, under or over another surfer to get priority.

  • Soup. White water waves.

  • Spit. Water that is sprayed out from a barrelling wave.

  • Spat out. To exit a barrel with the spit.

  • Stall. Slowing down a surfboard.

  • Stick. A surfboard.

  • Stoked. Excited, exhilerated extremely happy.

  • Tail. The back of a surfboard.

  • Take off. The start of riding a wave.

  • Thurster. A three finned surfboard, the most popular set up.

  • Tombstoning. After a heavy wipeout and a surfer is deep under water. Just the nose of the surfers board is visible as a tombstone.

  • Tow in. When surfers use jet ski's to tow them into very big waves.

  • Trimming. Riding the unbroken part of the wave.

  • Tube. The inside of a powerful hollow wave.

A young surfer wiping out very close to the camera
A young surfer wiping out very close to the camera
  • Turtle roll. Used by surfers with boards too big to duck dive under a wave. They turn the board upside down and hang underneath it to get through large waves.

  • Twin fin/twinnie. A surfboard with 2 fins.

  • Wall. A steep part of the unbroken wave.

  • Washing machine. Getting rolled around underwater by a broken wave.

  • Wave hog. A selfish surfer who doesn't share waves, snakes and even drops in.

  • Wax. Wax rubbed onto a surfboard deck to provide traction.

  • Whitewater. Foamy waves that roll to the shore after a wave has broken.

  • Windswell. Messy waves genrated by local winds, that tend to not have much power.

  • Wipeout. Falling off a wave.

  • Worked. Getting knocked off by a wave and then washing machined.