Surfing Glossary: The Ultimate List

Wants to talk like a surfer?

A-frame: It refers to a wave that resembles the shape of capital A. It often refers to a perfect wave, allowing surfers to go left or right.

Aggro: Aggressive surfing behaviour, either with verbal or physical aggression.

Air: A maneuver that allows a surfer to launch him/herself in the air using the speed and ramp of a wave.

Alley-oop: Aarial maneuver, the surfer launches up in the air, turn 360 degrees and land in the same direction he is travelling

Ankle busters: Small waves.

Backdoor: At Pipeline, Hawaii, a right-hander break is called backdoor as it usually breaks left.

Backhand: Riding wave with heel side facing the wave. Opposite: Forehand

Backwash: A wave created by water going out to the sea. Click here to watch the video example

Baggies: Loose surfing shorts.

Bail: Abandoning a surfboard. Usually, a surfer abandons his board when paddling out instead of duck diving or holding on to a board because the waves are too big. It also refers to jumping off while riding a wave because of the risk of injury if riding is continued.

Barrel: A hollow space that forms by the wave, where the surfer can position him/herself inside the wave. Many consider barrel riding a highlight of surfing.

Beach break: Waves that break on top of sand bottom.

Beach bum: People who spend a long time on the beach without much purpose.

Blown out: Due to onshore wind (wind from ocean to land), the surfing condition has deteriorated.

Bomb: Big wave.

Bottom turn: A turn surfer performs at the bottom of the wave to go up the face of the wave.

Break: surfing spots where waves break, allowing a surfer to ride a wave.

Bro: Friendly term to call friends or fellow surfers. Sometimes, it refers to a non-professional average skilled surfer. (Pro level vs Bro level)

Caught inside: when a surfer is in the impact zone or where whitewash rolls in. Usually, this term is for big-set waves.

Carve: Surfing turning maneuver, often long drawn-out turns.

Charger: Courageous surfer who tackles big waves.

Clean: offshore or no wind creating smooth water surface.

Clean-up sets: Set of waves bigger than the average size of the day, resulting in removing surfers from the line-up.

Nice Clean up set at Jaws

Closeout: when the wave breaks all at once, not allowing surfers to ride a wave.

Cutback: Surfing Maneuver to get the surfer back into the steep part of the waves by turning 180 degrees, then turning again 180 degrees at the desired spot. Surfers use this maneuver when the surfer is on the flat part of the wave.

How to Cutbacks.

Dawn patrol: Early Morning Surf

Deck: Upper side of the surfboard, where surfboard wax goes on.

Dings: Damage to the surfboard.

Doggie Door: A narrow exit at the end of a barrel ride, providing a surfer a way out without being engulfed by the wave.

Double overhead: 8-foot wave. When a 6-foot person reaches their hand up in the air, it will touch the lip of the wave.

Down-the-line: waves

Drag: The resistance inside the water slows the surfboard down.

Drop-in: When a surfer disrupts another surfer by catching a wave when someone else is on the wave already and rightfully has priority for the wave.

Dumping wave: Instead of breaking smoothly, a large portion of the wave breaks at once, making it difficult to surf.

Duck diving: Maneuver to help a surfer avoid approaching waves by submerging the board and him/herself and letting the wave pass above him/her.

Epic: Great waves/surfing condition.

EPS: Expanded Polystyrene. It’s the foam inside the epoxy board. It requires Epoxy resin.

Eskimo roll: Turning the surfboard upside down, the surfer submerges into the water to reduce resistance from the whitewash while paddling out. Also known as Turtle Roll.

FCS: Fin control system, now a surfboard accessory manufacturer. Mostly well known for their fin system, widely used across the world. Future fins and FCS are two major fin manufacturers. See here to see the comparison of FCS and Future Fins.

Fins: Appendage that attaches at the tail end of the surfboard on the bottom side of a surfboard. Predominantly vertically orientated, assisting turns, control and generating speed.

Firing: Amazing surfing condition, with frequent high-quality waves. “It’s firing everywhere!”

Fish: Types of board resembling fish shapes. It mostly has a large twin-fin set-up. Suitable for waves with long walls.

Floater: Surfing maneuver where the surfer rides along the top of the wave as it breaks. The floater helps the surfer get over the closed-out section and get to the unbroken part of the wave. A floater also can be used as a closing maneuver at the end of a wave.

Floater examples.

Foam/Foamy: Also known as whitewash. It occurs after the wave breaks when it hits the shallow ocean floor. It also refers to soft surfboard/ softtop surfboard.

Foil: Change in thickness of surfboard. It is most commonly thick in the middle of the board and tapers close to the nose or tail of a surfboard.

Forehand: Riding wave with toe side facing wave. Forehand is easier than backhand for most people because you can face the wave more easily and better control the board with your toes.

Frothin: extremely excited

Fullsuit: Full-length wetsuit, where leg and arm are covered except hands and feet.

Funboard: Also known as Minimal, ranges 7″2′-710′, longboard shapes, but more generous width and round nose—ideal for beginner surfer or on small wave board.

Gnarly: when surfing gets rough and dangerous with big and powerful waves.

Goofy: Stance with right foot forward position. Opposite: Regular

Green room: space inside the barrel.

Groundswell: Swell/waves generated from a far distance. Groundswell usually provides better quality waves than wind swel, which is locally produced swell often with a short wave period.

Grommet: Yound child surfer. Also known as grom.

Groveler Surfboard: Groveler surfboards are crafted for use on smaller waves. They typically feature a short and wide outline, along with increased thickness to boost volume without compromising performance.

Gun Surfboard is specifically designed to ride big waves. It’s often over 8 feet in size, has a shortboard-like nose, and has a narrow width with a pulled-in tail.

Hang five: Nose riding with one foot at the nose of the longboard (5 toes on the nose, hence the name)

Hang ten Nose riding with both feet placed on the nose of the board (10 toes on the nose, hence the name)

Heavy: “Heavy Wave” refers to waves with large volumes of water, creating tremendous power. a

Hold: Hold is the resistance against the surfboard’s ability to go side to side. It is determined by height of the fin. Increase in size = Increase in hold = Less maneuverable.

Inside: section of the impact zone, where the wave breaks. Usually described as ” caught inside”, meaning a surfer ends up in the impact zone, unable to paddle out due to strong current and wave.

Impact zone: where the waves break and land on the flat part of the water.

Inside section: Located a bit nearer to the shore than the typical lineup, this area is often prone to waves breaking, which may deter many. Nevertheless, this section can offer excellent opportunities, especially when it’s crowded.

Jelly: over exhausted from exercise/paddling, in a state of not being able to use arm properly. “I’ve got jelly arm”

Keg: Same as tube, barrel or tunnel. the hollow part of a wave formed by the circular motion of a wave.

Kook: Beginner surfer.

Leash: a cord that attaches a surfer to a surfboard. Usually, it attaches to an ankle, but there are knee straps for longboards.

Left: direction of while riding a wave. From the surfer’s perspective, left his/her left side. If you are looking at a surfer from the beach, it’s on the right side.

Line-up: where surfers position themselves and wait for waves to arrive. Usually more than 5-10 metres further out to the sea from the breaking zone.

Lip: Top of the wave where it’s just broken

Log: Longboard. The term is usually used to describe the nose rider type of longboard.

Logger / Log rider: Longboard surfer

Malibu: longboard surfboard. Also, a city in California.

Mavericks: Located in north California, well known for gigantic waves.

Mellow: Soft, slow and small. The term is used to describe the wave quality.

Noseride: surfing maneuver. Surfers ride a wave while standing on the nose of the surfboard.

Offshore: Wind blowing from land to sea, creating clean conditions.

Onshore: Wind blows from Ocean to Land, creating irregular and choppy wave surface.

Out the back: Well beyond the regular lineup. Often, a surfer may sit in this position anticipating bigger sets or avoid getting big waves on their head.

Over the falls: When a surfer mistimes the wave and falls with the lip of a wave.

Peak: Highest point of a wave. It’s where a wave begins to break.

Pearling: Same as nose dive. The nose of the board digs into the bottom part of the wave, usually during take-off.

Period: Time between two consecutive waves. If they are too close together, quality waves can be challenging to form.

Peeling: Unbroken wave slowly breaks from the top, with a long stretch of wall. Often occurs with offshore wind, which helps them keep the wave up.

Pipeline: Famous surfing spot located on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. One of the most amazing and dangerous surfing spots.

Pitted: Got inside the barrel.

Point break: Wave breaks along the headland or structure/land, creating long waves as the wave wraps around it.

Pop-up: Motion of a surfer, getting from a prone position to standing up on a surfboard.

PU Board: polyurethane blank; it requires polyester resin for glassing.


  1. “It’s Pumping” = Amazing condition.
  2. Manuever to generate more speed down the line. Click here to watch the video.

Quiver: Collection of own surfboards, generally consisting of surfboards for different conditions

Rail: Side of a surfboard.

Regular: A surfer with a stance on a surfboard with a left foot forward. “I am a regular”

Reef break: Types of surf break, where waves break over the reef.

Rip: A part of the beach where the water goes out to the sea. Its ocean floor is deeper than the surrounding. It can be dangerous for some, but surfers often use it to go out to the lineup to avoid waves.

Ripper: A very good/talented surfer

Riptide: A strong current that flows around/inside the rip.

Rocker: the curvature of a surfboard, the nose and the tail end of the board are lifted upwards. The degree of the rocker determines how easily it turns, fits within the walls of the wave and floats.

Roll in: Describe the motion of waves as they come to the shore.

Sandbar: Deposits of sand within the beach. This area is shallower than surrounding area, allowing wave to break over them.

Set wave (Often called a Set):

Waves that are clumped together, consisting of 5-6 waves at a time. When the waves come, it generally comes in a ‘set’ especially true as the waves gets bigger than 2 feet.

Shaka: The hand gesture, predominantly employed by Hawaiians but also adopted by surfers around the world, serves various purposes including greetings, farewells, expressions of approval, and displays of solidarity.

Shacked: Getting Barrelled.

Shore break: waves that break at the edge of the shoreline. The term often indicates heavy and dumpy waves that break very close to the shore. e.g. Shore Pound.

Example of Shore break.

Shoulder: Part of a wave, unbroken but vertical enough for a surfer to ride on. Also called a wall.

Sick: Amazing. E.g. “That was a sick one!” = “That was an amazing wave!”

Snake: A surfer who doesn’t have the right of way may try to position themselves behind another surfer to take the inside section of the wave and assert priority. This is considered an undesirable move.

Soup: White water, a broken wave that rolling in.

Stoked: Extreme happiness, “I am So Stoked!!”

Stringer: The material is positioned along the vertical axis in the centre of the board, offering essential structural support. While many boards feature a solitary wooden central stringer for this purpose, alternative materials can also be employed, including carbon.

Stringerless board: Some boards do not have a stringer in the centre. Instead, they may have different methods to strengthen the board. Firewire Helium Tech and HS Future Flex surfboard are good examples of these products.

Stringlerless boards are often made of epoxy, which is structurally stronger than traditional PU boards.

Style: Style in surfing refers to the individualized approach a surfer employs while riding a surfboard. It encompasses a blend of posture and technical proficiency, and the assessment of one’s style is often a subjective matter.

Surfboard: A device on which a surfer stands to ride waves.

Swell: In simple terms, it is the synonym for a wave.

Swell magnet: Swell magnet refers to a surfing spot or beach that consistently generates waves in contrast to the neighbouring beaches.

Spit: Spit refers to the ejection of water and vapour formed by breaking waves and pressure inside the barrel.

Waves with spit.

Sponger: Boadyboarder. See here if you want to learn the difference between bodyboarding and surfing.

Take-off: It’s the moment right after a surfer successfully catches the wave and the wave propels the surfer forward.

Thruster: Three fins set up, all in equal size.

Tide: Fluctuations in water level occur due to the moon’s proximity to the earth, causing a cyclic rise and fall.

Traction pad: This item, also called a deck pad, deck drip, or kick pad, is made of a rubbery, foam-like material. Typically positioned at the board’s tail, it provides additional traction to prevent the back foot from slipping.

Tube: Same as Barrel: A hollow space that forms by the wave, where the surfer can position him/herself inside the wave. Many consider barrel riding a highlight of surfing.

Twin fin: Fin set-up involving two identical fins on each side. It’s typically larger than thruster-sized fins used for fish surfboards. Also known as Twinny

Wall: Same as the shoulder of the wave, unbroken part of the wave,

Washing machine: The term describes the experience during a wipeout. Surfers encounter severe turbulence and get tossed around during wipeouts, which is a result of the circular motion of the waves.

Wetty: Wetsuit. Different types of wetsuits are available for various water temperatures.

White water: Same as broken waves or whitewash. Once the wave has broken, the air gets mixed in with the turbulence of water, creating a white appearance.

Wind swell: Waves generated by local wind. Compared to ground swell, it has a shorter period and a messier condition.

Yew!: Surfers shout this to show their excitement.


My name is James, the person behind With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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