We're excited to announce a new Club of the Waves! View the new site

Surf speak

Surf culture

Surf culture has developed its own form of language. This language is basically slang, which only members of the surf community can understand, thus successfully excluding itself and its members from the wider society.

There are certain surf terms that are recognised by the wider society, words or terms like beach break, offshore and swell. Then there are unique surfer terms like grommet, in the soup, mullering, pipeline, stoked and worked. Then of course you have the stereotypical slang like dude, radical, cowabunga and a whole host of similar words.

The amazing thing about surf culture though is how these words have made their way from the shores of California, Hawaii and Australia, to mainland big cities, miles from the coast, and surfing as a whole! To our school playgrounds, television and movie screens, bars and even our literature. The mass commercialism of the sport via the media is almost directly responsible for this spread.

Below are a selection of commonly used surf lingo and their definitions, so next time you are on the beach at Waikiki or J-Bay you'll know what the hell their talking about…

180 or 360 - a surf manoeuvre, more commonly associated with skating, this is where the surfer performs an aerial turn of 180° or 360°.

Aerial - part of a manoeuvrewhere the surfer and his/her board leaves the water.

Air - after a good bottom turn with lots of speed, head up the face, off the lip and into the sky.

Barrel - a hollow-faced wave. The barrel is where the wave is hollow when it is breaking. Surfers love to be in the barrel, otherwise known as the "tube" or "green room".

Beach Break - a wave that breaks over a sandy beach, best suited for learning to surf.

Blown-out - unridable, due to the wind's blowing so hard that the surf is chopped up.

Boardies - board shorts worn by surfers in warm water (not the UK!), they are generally knee length, quick drying and lightweight.

Bottom Turn - a surf manoeuvre, where a turn is made at the base of the wave when coming down off the face wave.

Bowl - a shallow spot in the path of the wave that causes the wave to break a little harder.

Brah - a word used by native Hawaiian's in reference to a surfer friend.

Caught Inside - stuck on the shore-side of a breaking wave (going to take it on the head!).

Carve / Carving - what sufers sometimes say referring to surfing waves, or turning the board on or through waves.

Channel - a relatively deep spot where the waves don't normally break.

Clamshell - condition that occurs when the lip section in front of the surfer doesn't break smoothly and gradually, but chomps down suddenly, eating up the surfer in one ruthless bite.

Clean-up-wave - a wave that breaks outside of the line-up and dumps on the entire line-up.

Cross Step / Stepping - a rather fancy manoeuvre performed on a longboard, where the surfer literally cross-step's or walks down the length of their board while still riding the wave. Look in any surf history book and you'll see images of Hawaiians walking down their old long longboards. Some even get cocky and ride with their dogs or passengers on the nose of their boards!

Close Out - condition where waves break all the way across a bay or normally safe channel rendering a surf spot unridable (because surfers can't paddle out to the line-up).

Cut-back - a surf manoeuvre, its a 180° turn that's done on either of the two rails of the surfboard, basically reversing the direction that you are surfing in.

Deck (of the surfboard) - the top-side of the surfboard (the side you stand, lay or sit on).

Drop - the initial downward slide on the face of the wave after taking off and before the bottom.

Drop In - to cut in on someone else's wave, you definately won't be popular if you do this!

Dumping - a scenario similar to a "clean-up-wave" or "close-out" where a wave breaks in big sections making it un-surfable.

Eating It - another word for wipe-out (falling off your board).

Face (of the wave) - the part of the wave where the lip begins to curl overhead.

FCS - this stands for "Fin Control System". It is a type of fin that is fully removable from the surfboard. This is definately an advantage as if a fin breaks on your board you can easily replace it, where before you'd need a new one glassed back on (fibreglass that is). It also makes it more convenient for packing your board for travelling purposes.

Fetch - the distance the wind blows over the water.

Fin - a curved bit hanging down from the bottom of the surfboard near the tail (back of board). Aids the surfer in carving waves and executing tricks. It also adds stability to the board.

Floater - a surfer who rides his board loosely along the top of the breaking up or foam of the wave.

Goofy-foot - a rider who surfs with his/her right foot as lead foot.

Green Room - inside the barrel of a wave. The green refers to the colour the wall/lip of the wave, with the light shining through from behind the breaking wave. A great place to be.

Grom / Grommet - a young surfer.

Gun - a long and thin surfboard ranging from 6 to 10 foot, used for big-wave riding. The name derives from the term "elephant gun", and means the board is the surfers' gun for hunting down big/giant surf.

Hang Ten - riding a longboard with both feet on the nose of the board.

Haole - what the ancient Hawaiian's referred to in regards to white men. Who at the time, were missionaries, and strange folk to the islands.

Hollow - an extremely concave, curling wave.

Impact Zone - spot where the waves are breaking.

In the Soup - soup is what surfers refers to as the white foam of a wave that has broken.

Layback - a surf manoeuvre, where the surfer literally lays backwards on a wave… difficult trick to execute!

Leash / Legrope - you'll probably need one of these, it is a cord that is attached at one end to the tail of the surfboard and the other strapped round the surfers ankle. Nice trick for not losing your board!

Line-up - the place in the water just outside of where the wave breaks. This is where surfers wait laid or sat on their boards to catch a wave.

Lip (of the wave) - the top of the face of the wave which usually curls forward a bit.

Macker - a wave big enough to drive a Mack truck through!

Mullering - something you never want to experience! But if you must know its one hell of a wipe-out! Ouch!

Mushy - describes slow, sloppy waves of little power that don't offer great surfing.

New School - describes the modern style of surfer, performing tricks on their boards.

Nose (of the surfboard) - the pointed bit at the front of the surfboard.

Offshore Winds - when the wind is blowing off the shore… ideal conditions for surf!

Onshore Winds - when the wind is blowing towards land… not so great for surf as it spoils the waves.

Pit - the place directly in front of the crest of the wave… the bit you land face first in when you wipe-out!

Pitched - tossed off the lip (top) of the wave and usually off the board.

Pocket (of the wave) - the arc beneath the cresting lip of the wave.

Point Break - a wave that breaks onto a rocky point.

Quiver - the different types, shapes, styles of surfboard there are, from the old "sandwich" or "hot dog" boards to the modern "fish", "gun", "malibu" or shortboards. A quiver refers to the boards in your set or collection. Serious surfers tend to have a large 'quiver' to suit different surf conditions.

Rail (of the surfboard) - the sides of the surfboard.

Reef Break - a wave that breaks over a coral reef, these tend to be beautiful spots to surf, but if you wipe-out you'll do yourself some nasty damage!

Ripping - executing drastic and radical manoeuvres on the wave.

Rocker (of the surfboard) - generally refers to the bottom curve of a surfboard from the tail to the nose, more visible as the horizontal up-turn of the nose of the board. Flatter or more curved rockers give the boards different performance capabilities.

Shubee - a tourist who buys surfing gear and dresses surf, but has never surfed in their life.

Sick - descriptive word for something impressive, cool, thrilling etc…

Skeg - another word for a fin.

Slash - a surf manoeuvre, it describes a rapid turn off the top or lip of the wave, usually throwing up loads of spray.

Snake / Snaked / Snaking - to steal another surfers wave, to drop-in out of turn before the other surfer… don't do it!

Stick - slang word for a surfboard.

Stoked - a word used to describe an awesome ride, or state of mind… a happy surfer!

Stringer - is the thin strip of wood running down the centre of the modern day surfboard, between two halves of foam, encased in fibreglass.

Surf Wax - wax rubbed into the deck / surface of the surfboard to provide grip for your feet.

Tail (of the surfboard) - the rear end of the surfboard.

Tailside - a surf manoeuvre, where the surfer allows the tail of their board to slide across the lip of the wave.

Template (of the surfboard) - the outline / shape of the surfboard.

The Zone - the place where there is no escape from the wrath of the on-coming wave.

Top Turn - a surf manoeuvre similar to the re-entry, but the approach is less vertical and performed to gain speed.

Tube - condition where the crest falls over the hollow barrel, forming a pipe-shaped wave (the best place to be!).

Tube-ride (in the barrel) - condition where the surfer rides behind or inside the broken curl of the wave.

Wipe-out - falling off your board… can be painful!

Worked - yeah, you don't want this to happen to you! To get 'worked' is to wipe-out and then get thrown around under water while being held under by the force of the wave. Many surfers have sadly lost their lives this way!

Bookmark and Share COTW