Surfer Slang: Finally, Understand Surf Lingo & Terminology

July 28, 2023

Table of Contents


A-frame – a wave shape resembling a peak that breaks both left and right with equal force.

Aggro – refers to aggressive surfing or a surfer with an aggressive style.

Air or Aerial – a maneuver in which the surfboard leaves the surface or the water/wave during a jump.

Akaw – an abbreviation for “awesome” or “cool.”

Amped – the feeling of excitement and being pumped up about surfing.

Ankle slappers – waves that are too small to ride, barely reaching the surfer’s ankles.


Backdoor – the act of surfing inside a tube or barrel, approaching it from behind the peak of the wave.

Bailing – jumping off the surfboard into the water to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Barney – a derogatory term for a surfer who is inexperienced, untalented, or not cool.

Barrel – also known as a tube, the hollow part of a breaking wave, highly sought after by surfers.

Beach break – locations where waves break over sandbars.

Benny – a non-local, someone who is not from the area where they are surfing.

Bitchin’ – slang for something awesome, amazing, or great, often used to describe waves.

Bodyboard – a small board ridden on the belly, also known as a booger, boogie board, dick dragger, or clam dragger.

Bomb – a term for a massive, powerful wave.

Bottom turn – a crucial maneuver performed at the bottom of the wave, setting the tone for the ride.

Break – when the swell of the water transforms into waves and white water; also the name for a particular spot to surf.

Bro – a term used to address a fellow surfer. Male.


Carve – a sharp turn made on the face of a wave.

Caught inside – being trapped between the shoreline and the breaking waves.

Charging – aggressively going for a wave with determination.

Choppy – rough and uneven waves caused by windy conditions.

Chunder – waves that are completely unsurfable.

Clam Dragger – a female bodyboarder, a term sometimes used derogatorily.

Clean wave – a smooth wave with no turbulence or bumps.

Closeout – when a wave breaks suddenly and all at once, making it impossible to ride.

Clucked – feeling scared or intimidated by the waves.

Crease – damage to the surfboard caused by impact.

Crest – the highest point of a wave, the topmost part.

Curl – the section of the wave where it is breaking.

Cutback – a sharp surf maneuver done on the wave’s shoulder or flats to return to the surf line.

Cutting off – the act of catching a wave in front of another surfer who had priority, often referred to as “snaking.”


Dawn patrol – going surfing early in the morning, typically at dawn.

Deck – the top surface of a surfboard.

Dick dragger – a derogatory term for lying down on a board while riding a wave, often used for bodyboarders.

Ding – any damage sustained by a surfboard.

Double up or humpback – when two waves combine, with a larger wave closely followed by a smaller one.

Drop – the initial descent down the face of a wave when starting a ride.

Drop-in – similar to cutting off, refers to taking a wave in front of another surfer, also means dropping down the face of a wave.


Greenroom or Inside The Greenroom – the interior of a barrel, the hollow part of a wave when it is breaking.

Grom – a young and inexperienced surfer; also known as a grommet or gremmie.

Grubbing – falling off the surfboard while surfing.

Gun – a big wave surfboard designed for riding large waves.

Gurfer – a girl or female surfer.


Hang Eleven – a humorous term used to describe a male surfer who rides naked.

Hang Five – riding a surfboard with one foot placed on the nose of the board and five toes hanging over the edge.

Hang Loose – the gesture of making a shaka sign, a salutation often associated with surf culture.

Hang Ten – riding a surfboard with both feet placed on the nose of the board and all ten toes hanging over the edge.

Header – falling off a surfboard from the front, head first.

Heavy – refers to big, powerful waves that can be challenging and sometimes dangerous.

Helicopter – a surf move where the surfer spins their surfboard around from its nose.

Hit the lip – when a surfer turns up their surfboard to hit the falling lip of the wave, resulting in the surfboard being slammed back down.

Hodad – a person who hangs around the beach but does not surf.

Hollow – referring to barrels or tubes, the section of the wave when it is hollow and breaking.


Impact zone – the area where waves break the hardest and can be hazardous, especially for beginners.

Inside – the area between the shore and the impact zone.

Into the soup – inside the foam or white water of the wave.


Jacking – when a wave rapidly increases in size as it approaches shallower waters.

Jake – a surfer who inadvertently gets in the way of more experienced surfers.

Juice – the power of the wave.

Junkyard dog – a surfer with poor style.


Keg – another term for a barrel or tube, also used to describe something that holds beer after surfing.

Kick out – finishing a ride by exiting the wave, either by going over the back or through the wave.

Kneeboard – a special type of board meant for riding while on the knees.

Kook – a derogatory term for a rookie surfer or someone who isn’t skilled at surfing.


Layback – a surfing maneuver where the surfer leans backward on the wave. Also known as a Larry layback.

Leash – a cord or strap that attaches the surfer’s leg to the surfboard.

Left – a wave that breaks on the surfer’s left side, from the peak.

Line up – the area in the water, away from the swell, where surfers wait for their turn to catch a wave.

Lines – the approaching swell as it moves towards the shore.

Lip – the uppermost part of a wave, right before it breaks.

Localism – hostility displayed by local surfers towards non-local surfers.

Locked in – when a surfer gets trapped inside a crashing wave.

Longboard – a surfboard with a round nose that is at least 8 feet long.

Lull – a period of calm between sets of waves.


Macking – describes huge waves breaking or when the surf conditions are exceptionally fun and powerful.

Making the drop – successfully catching a wave and positioning oneself on the lower part of the wave’s shoulder to ride it.

Maxed out – refers to waves that are too large, causing them to break suddenly and completely.

Men in grey suits – a humorous way of referring to sharks.

Messy – describes irregular and unpredictable waves with no distinct form.

Mini Simmons – a surfboard hull design style invented by Bob Simmons.

Mullering – wiping out or having a bad fall while surfing.

Mush/Mushy/Mushburger – refers to soft, non-surfable waves that lack energy.


Namer – a surfer who reveals a secret surf spot to others, possibly leading to overcrowding.

New school – refers to modern, innovative, and trick-oriented surfing styles.

Noah – another word for a shark, referring to the biblical story of Noah and the animals on his ark.

Noodle arms – describes tired or weak arms after an intense surf session.

Nose – the front and pointed part of the surfboard.

Nose guard – a rubber tip or accessory meant to protect the nose of the surfboard from damage.

Nose riding – a longboarding maneuver where the surfer rides on the nose (front) of the board.

Nug – a term used to describe a good wave, indicating it’s a great find. Often large in nature.


Off the lip – refers to a surf move where the surfer performs a re-entry off the top of the wave.

Offshore – describes winds blowing from the shore towards the ocean, creating favorable surfing conditions.

Onshore – refers to winds blowing from the ocean towards the shore, which can make the surf conditions choppy.

Outside – the area beyond the lineup, away from where the waves are breaking.

Outside break – the furthest point from the shore where waves are still breaking.

Over the falls – when a surfer goes over the lip of a wave and falls into the face of the wave.

Overgunned – when the surfboard is not suitable for the current surfing conditions, usually too big or too advanced.

Overhead – when a wave’s height is taller than an average surfer.


Paddlepuss – a person who plays in the whitewater close to the shore and is afraid to venture into bigger waves.

Party wave – a wave that multiple surfers are riding together.

Peak – the highest point of a breaking wave that generates both left and right surfable shoulders.

Pearl – when a surfer buries the nose of their surfboard into the wave, often causing them to fall.

Peeling – describes a wave breaking perfectly with a clean and smooth shape.

Pig dog – a surfing position where the surfer grabs onto the rails of the board while inside a barrel.

Pintail – a surfboard tail shape that is ideal for riding hollow waves.

Pit – another term for the barrel of a large and powerful wave.

Pit Dive – when a surfer doesn’t make the drop and ends up diving into the bottom of the wave.

Pocket – the powerful section of a barrel or a powerful wave where a surfer aims to position themselves.

Pointbreak – a type of wave that breaks around a point of land, usually creating long and consistent waves.

Pop up – the motion surfers make to transition from lying on the surfboard to standing up and surfing.

Pounded – when a surfer falls or gets consumed by a wave and gets a beating underwater.

Pull in – turning the surfboard up to enter a barrel or tube.

Pumping – describes excellent and exciting surfing conditions, often with consistently good waves.


Quimby – a beginner surfer who is often annoying to more experienced surfers.

Quiver – a surfer’s collection of different surfboards for various surfing conditions and styles.


Racy – describes a fast surfable wave, ideal for gaining speed and making maneuvers.

Rad/Radical – slang for awesome and impressive surfing, indicating a high level of skill.

Rails – the sides of the surfboard.

Rail bang – an incident where a surfer’s board is accidentally taken between the legs while falling. It can also refer to one surfer’s board hitting another surfer’s board on the rail while riding a wave.

Raked over – getting pounded by strong waves while paddling out to catch a wave.

Re-entry – a maneuver where a surfer goes through or over the lip of the wave and then goes back into the wave.

Regular footed – a surfer who rides with their left foot forward, which means they face the wave on left-breaking waves.

Ricos – a term used to describe waves that are rich and perfect, meaning they are of high quality.

Right – a wave that breaks on the right side of the surfer when facing the shore, from the peak.

Riptide – a stretch of water that is particularly turbulent and has strong currents.

Rock dance – the movements made by surfers as they navigate through a rocky section when exiting the water.

Rocker – the curve or bend of the surfboard from nose to tail.


Section – a location in the water where the waves aren’t breaking, and surfers are waiting for their turn to ride.

Set – a series of waves that are approaching the lineup one after another.

Shacked – riding a great, big barrel, although not completely enclosed by the barrel, with the lip just overhead.

Shaka – a hand gesture used by surfers, made by extending the thumb and the little finger while keeping the other fingers curled.

Shape – a term used to rate the quality of breaking waves, with perfect shape referring to waves breaking evenly.

Shore break or shorepound – waves that mostly break right on the shore, making them difficult to surf.

Shoulder – the unbroken part of the breaking wave, adjacent to the barrel or critical section.

Shove-it – a surf maneuver where the surfer moves the surfboard (180 or 360 degrees) beneath themselves while riding a wave.

Shubie – a person who buys surfboards and surf clothing but does not surf, often used derogatorily.

Sick – slang for astounding, impressive, and amazing surfing.

Sketchy – a term used to describe bad form or technique while surfing.

Slotted – a surfer who is well-positioned inside a barrel or tube wave.

Soft board – a surfboard with a soft surface, designed primarily for beginners and safety.

Soup – referring to the whitewater or foamy part of a wave.

Spat out – the action of a surfer exiting a barrel alongside air and foamy water.

Spit – the water that gets sprayed out from a barrel when a wave breaks.

Sponger – a derogatory term for a bodyboarder.

Stall – a surf move meant to slow down the surfboard, often used to set up for maneuvers.

Stick – another word for a surfboard.

Stoked – feeling pumped, extremely happy, and excited, often used to express enthusiasm for surfing.

Sucking dry – the action performed by powerful breaking waves that expose the seabed due to their force.

Surf camp – a surf vacation package that includes accommodation and surfing instruction.

Surfer’s knots – swellings on the front side of the leg, below the knee, resulting from kneeling on the surfboard while waiting for a wave.

Swell/Groundswell – refers to surfable waves, particularly those caused by distant storms or swells generated far out at sea.


Tail – the backside or rear of the surfboard.

Take off – the action of catching a wave and starting a ride.

Through – refers to the bottom part of the wave as it begins to break.

Tombstoning – a situation where a surfer is wiped out and sinking below the surface while their surfboard bobs up and down connected to them through a leash.

Tow in – a technique used by big wave surfers where they are towed into the wave by a jet ski to access larger waves that are difficult to paddle into.

Tube – another term for a barrel, describing the hollow part of a wave.

Tubular – slang for awesome, great, or radical, often used to describe an impressive wave or surf session.

Turtle roll – a technique used to get a surfboard to go through a breaking wave while the surfer hangs on to the rails, fully submerges, and allows the surfboard’s fins to become visible. Most often performed on a longboard.

Twin fin – a type of surfboard with two fins, providing a unique surfing experience.


Victory at Sea – describes waves that are big and unrideable, likened to conditions shown in the movie of the same name.


Wall – refers to the face of the wave.

Washing machine – the situation of getting rolled around underwater by a breaking wave.

Wave hog – a surfer who is unwilling to share waves with others and consistently takes more than their fair share.

Wax – a substance applied by surfers to their surfboards to provide traction and prevent slipping.

White water – the broken, foamy part of a wave, often encountered after it has broken.

Wipeout – the act of falling off a wave while surfing.

Worked – getting knocked off the surfboard by a wave and subsequently being caught in the washing machine.

Dan L

Dan is the founder and editor of SwellSpy and frequently surfs Sebastian and Ft. Pierce inlets. He loves classic Land Rovers, a good BBQ, and an uncrowded peak with friends.

Catching Waves: 15 Best Surf Movies & Documentaries of All Time
How to Choose a Longboard Surfboard: A Beginner’s Guide
Rip Curl GPS Watch Review

More surf news

Catching Waves: 15 Best Surf Movies & Documentaries of All Time
How to Choose a Longboard Surfboard: A Beginner’s Guide
Rip Curl GPS Watch Review