Surfing Terms Made Simple: 140+ Surf Sayings Defined

Sometimes, surfing slang and surf talk might feel like another language. In a sense, it is another language. In order to help you better understand the lingo, I’ve written this list of all the surfing terms I’ve ever heard, and I even learned a few new ones in the process of writing this list. Without further ado, here are all the surfing terms you need to know:

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A-D Surfing Terms


Playa Avellanas Surf

A wave that breaks in a peak, forming a shape like an “A.” You can ride it either right or left. 


A maneuver where a surfer launches off the lip of the wave and becomes airborne.

Dominical Costa Rica Surf


The term “amped” is often used in surfing culture to describe a feeling of excitement, enthusiasm, and heightened energy. It can refer to the adrenaline rush that surfers experience when riding a particularly challenging wave or the thrill of being in the ocean surrounded by the power of nature. The term can also be used to describe a state of hyperactivity or restlessness, which can be a result of the surfer’s excitement or anticipation of upcoming surf sessions. In general, being “amped” in the context of surfing means feeling energized, enthusiastic, and ready to take on the waves.


The term “aggro” in surfing culture is a shortened form of the word “aggressive.” It refers to a style of surfing that is characterized by intense, forceful maneuvers and a competitive attitude. Surfers who are described as “aggro” are often seen as highly skilled but also very competitive and prone to aggressive behavior in the water. The term can also be used to describe waves or surfing conditions that are particularly intense, challenging, or dangerous, such as large, powerful waves that require a highly aggressive approach to ride successfully.


In surfing, the term “backside” refers to riding a wave with the back facing the wave.

For a regular-footed surfer, this means riding left, and for a goofy-footed surfer, this means riding a right. 

Riding backside can be more challenging than riding frontside (the opposite)However, some surfers prefer riding backside as it can allow for more powerful, high-speed maneuvers.


Backdooring a wave is when the surfer takes off from behind the peak of a hollow wave and rides through the barrel, emerging on the opposite side of the peak. “Backoor” also refers to the backdoor of Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu, when surfers take the left rather than the right. 


There are meanings of the surfing term “bail”.

The first is when a surfer intentionally tosses or abandons their board. The second is when a surfer is paddling for a wave, and decides not to take it at the very last second. 


A “barrel” is a surfing term used to describe the hollow, tube-shaped section of a breaking wave. It is also known as a “tube” or “barrel ride” and is considered one of the most sought-after experiences in surfing. 

When a surfer “gets barreled”, they ride inside that hollow tube-shaped section while the wave breaks over them. 

Playa Negra Costa Rica Surf

Beach break

A “beach break” is a type of wave break that occurs when waves break over a sandy ocean floor, as opposed to a reef or a point break. Beach breaks are typically more forgiving than other types of breaks and can offer a variety of wave shapes and sizes depending on the conditions. They are popular among beginner surfers and are often found at popular surf spots around the world. 

Some of my favorite beach breaks include:

Blown out

“Blown out” is a surfing term used to describe surf conditions that are poor or unfavorable for surfing because they are too windy. Specifically, it refers to strong, onshore winds that create choppy, messy waves with poor shape and texture. When a surf spot is “blown out,” it’s usually too much onshore wind and not surfable. 


In surfing, a “bomb” is a particularly large and powerful wave. 

Bottom turn

The surf phrase “bottom turn” refers to when a surfer is riding a wave, gets to the bottom of the wave face, and turns to go back up the wave face. The bottom turn is typically performed by shifting weight onto the back foot and using the rails of the board to turn back up the wave face. 


The surfing term “break” has two definitions. One definition of “break”  refers to the point where a wave begins to crest and break, creating a surfable wave face. 

The second meaning is used to describe different places to surf. 

Example: “My favorite surf breaks are in Costa Rica” or “My home surf break is where I learned to surf”.


In surfing slang, “bro” is a friendly, informal way to address a fellow surfer, or just a friend. However, it can depend on the context. Surfers will also use the word bro when they’re upset with someone. 

“Bro, that was my wave!”


In surfing terminology, “carve” refers to the technique of making a smooth, arcing turn on the face of a wave.

Caught Inside

This surf phrase refers to a situation where a surfer is caught in the impact zone of breaking waves and is unable to paddle out to the lineup. This situation usually occurs when there is a big set of waves coming. 


In surfing, “charging” refers to the act of taking on and riding larger or more powerful waves, often with a great deal of speed and intensity. A surfer who is “charging” is often described as brave or fearless, and is ‘going for it’. 


“Chop” is a surfing term that refers to choppy or rough water conditions caused by wind or other factors. Choppy waves can be difficult to ride and can make it challenging for surfers to maintain their balance and control on the board. 


In surfing, “clean” conditions refer to ideal surf conditions that are free from chop or other factors that can affect wave quality. Clean waves have a smooth, glassy surface that is easy to ride and allows surfers to execute maneuvers with precision and control.

Cleanup set

When a huge set of waves comes out of nowhere and takes the whole lineup of surfers by the unaware, “cleaning up” the lineup. 


In surfing, a “closeout” is a type of wave that breaks all at once, with the entire wave face closing out or collapsing at the same time. Closeouts don’t usually have any rideable face. 

A variation of this is the surf phrase “closing out”, which is when you’re riding a wave and it breaks in front of you, or “closes out” in front of you. 


In surfing, the “crest” of a wave is the highest point of the wave as it begins to break. When you’re riding a wave and the wave starts to break right as you’re going, you can say the wave is “cresting”.


In surfing, a “cutback” is a maneuver that involves turning the surfboard back toward the breaking wave in a sharp, fluid motion. 

Daily Driver

A daily driver is a surfing term referring to someone’s surfboard that is versatile enough to take out in almost all conditions, that they take out usually every day. It’s a board that performs well in all types of surf. In other words, it’s someone’s “go to surfboard”.

Dawn patrol

A dawn patrol surf session is when you paddle out right at dawn, as the sun is rising. This is a great time to surf as it’s often before other surfers are even awake, so you get some of the best waves all to yourself! 


The top surface of a surfboard.


A ding refers to a small hole, crack, or other damage in a surfboard. Dings are caused by impact, like a surfboard hitting a rock, another surfboard, or anything else hard. Dings greatly affect the performance of the surfboard by letting in water, which can cause irreversible damage to a surfboard. Dings should be repaired immediately, either by a professional if it’s a bad ding, or you can do it yourself with some solarez if it’s a little ding. 


This surfing term refers to a wave that is twice the height of the surfer.


When the tide is too low and there aren’t any waves.


In surfing, there are two definitions of “drop-in”. 

The first is when you’re surfing, paddle for a wave, and the moment you catch it and ride down the wave is referred to as your “drop” or “drop-in”. 

The second is when a surfer is riding a wave, and another surfer catches the wave in front of them and cuts them off. This is called dropping in on someone, and is against the rules of surfing etiquette. 


Dropknee is when a surfer rides with one knee on the board. This technique is often used to tuck into a barrel, or on bodyboards.

Duck dive

A technique used by surfers to get their board under an incoming wave as they paddle out. The surfer pushes the board underwater so the wave rolls under them, and they can continue paddline out. It’s primarily a method used by surfers riding smaller surfboards to avoid getting hit by oncoming waves.

E-H Surfing slang

A technique used by surfers to get their board under an incoming wave as they paddle out. The surfer pushes the board underwater so the wave rolls under them, and they can continue paddline out. It’s primarily a method used by surfers riding smaller surfboards to avoid getting hit by oncoming waves. 


A type of surfboard construction material. Epoxy surfboards are made with a type of resin that is stronger and lighter than traditional polyester resin. This allows for the creation of boards that are more durable and buoyant. Epoxy surfboards have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their longevity compared to traditional surfboards.


An egg surfboard is a type of surfboard that is a hybrid between a shortboard and a longboard. It typically ranges in size from 6’6″ to 8’0″ in length, and has a wide, round nose and a wide, full tail. The egg shape provides good stability and maneuverability, making it a popular choice for surfers of all skill levels. The board is often used for cruising small to medium sized waves, but can also handle larger surf.


An abbreviation for “Fin Control System,” a popular fin system used in surfboards that doesn’t use screws. However, I recommend even using screws with an FCS fin system, because sometimes they fall out, and fins are way too expensive to lose! 


The front surface of a wave that a surfer rides along.


The surfing term firing refers to when the waves are really really good, and there are LOTS of ‘em.


The opposite of firing- there aren’t any waves. 


A maneuver in which a surfer rides up onto the top of the breaking wave like their floating over the whitewater at the top of the wave.


The shape and design of a surfboard, including the rocker, rails, and bottom contours.


The opposite of backside, so you face the wave as you ride it. For goofy surfers, you ride lefts fronside. For regular surfers, you ride rights fronside. 


A fish is a type of surfboard with a tail like a fish. 

Full suit

A wetsuit that covers the entire body, including arms and legs, used for surfing in colder water.


A small, usually triangular-shaped device attached to the bottom of a surfboard to help stabilize and steer the board.


The other fin system in which you screw your surfboard fins in. 


A funboard is a type of surfboard that is typically shorter and wider than a longboard, but longer and narrower than a shortboard. Funboards are designed to be a happy medium between the stability and ease of use of a longboard, and the maneuverability and performance of a shortboard. They are a popular choice for surfers who want to transition from riding a longboard to a shortboard, or for surfers who want a versatile board that can handle a range of conditions. Funboards usually have a rounded nose and a rounded or square tail, and are typically between 6’6″ and 8’6″ in length.


To be super excited, usually about the surf.

Goofy foot

Surfing with your right foot forward on the board. For more info on surf stances, check out my blog post on goofy surfing vs. regular surfing.


A surfing term used to describe the surface of the water when it is calm and smooth, with little to no wind or waves.


“Gnarly” is a surfing slang term used to describe something that is extreme or dangerous, particularly in the context of surfing. It can refer to the size or power of waves, or the difficulty of a particular surf spot. It can also be used more broadly to describe anything that is intense or impressive.


The sensation of smoothly and effortlessly riding a wave, often associated with longboarding.

Grab rail

A technique used by surfers to hold onto the rails or sides of their board while performing maneuvers or turns.

Green room

A term used to describe being inside of a barrel or tube wave, where you’re surrounded by the greeness of the water. 

Green wave

A wave that is unbroken and has not yet begun to curl or break, allowing a surfer to ride it for a longer distance.


A type of wave created by distant storms or winds, characterized by long wavelengths and greater energy than locally-generated waves.


A young surfer, usually under the age of 16.


A type of surfboard that is longer and narrower than a standard shortboard, designed for riding larger and more powerful waves.

Hang Ten

A classic longboarding maneuver in which a surfer walks to the front of the board and hangs all ten toes off the nose.

Hang Loose

“Hang loose” is a gesture used as a greeting, farewell, or to convey a relaxed attitude. It involves making a fist with the thumb extended and then waving the hand back and forth from the wrist. The gesture is associated with Hawaiian and surf culture and is often used to convey a laid-back, friendly vibe. It’s the same thing as a Shaka. 


A term used to describe a wave that is large, powerful, and difficult to surf.

Hit the lip

“Hit the lip” is a term used in surfing to describe a maneuver where a surfer turns their surfboard up towards the lip of a breaking wave, smacks against it, and then surfs down the face of the wave. You might also hear it as “smack the lip.”


A wave that is barreling.

I-N Surf phrases

A technique some surfers use to get past a section in a wave, which involves smacking the front of their surfboard up and down in a sort of “hopping” motion. 

Impact zone

The area where waves break.

Inside section/Inside

The inside is the space between the shore and where the waves are breaking. 


Slang for a surfer who is inexperienced or more importantly, someone who displays poor etiquette in the water.

Late drop

When a surfer catches a wave after it has already started breaking, typically requiring a steep drop down the face of the wave.


A left is a wave that breaks towards the left. Surfer’s left, that is, which is the same concept as stage left. 


The area where surfers wait for waves and position themselves to catch them. If you’re curious about how a lineup works, check out my guide covering the essential rules of surfing.


The top part of the wave that is breaking or has just broken.


A longer surfboard (typically 9-10 feet).


A cord that attaches the surfer’s ankle to the surfboard.


Surfers who live in a particular area and surf there every day. 


Localism refers to the aggressive behavior and territorial attitudes exhibited by some surfers toward others who are not from the local area. This can include verbal abuse, intimidation, and even physical violence in extreme cases. Localism is often associated with popular surf spots and is fueled by the desire to maintain control over the waves and protect the local surf culture. However, localism is generally frowned upon in the surfing community as it goes against the spirit of sharing and camaraderie that is at the heart of the sport.


A period of time when there are no waves breaking, and everyone is sitting around waiting for the waves to come.


Slang for a longboard.


Surfer slang for big waves or epic surf conditions.

Men in the grey suits



A mid-length surfboard is a type of surfboard that falls in between a shortboard and a longboard in terms of length and shape. They typically range from 6’6″ to 8’0″ in length and are designed to provide a combination of speed and maneuverability. 


Describes waves that are weak and lack power, typically caused by wind or tide conditions.

Mini Mal

A smaller version of a longboard, typically around 7-8 feet long.


A material used to make wetsuits.

Noodle Arms

When you surf so long you can barely paddle anymore, and your arms feel limp like spaghetti noodles.


The front part of the surfboard.

Nose ride

A maneuver in which the surfer walks up to the nose of the board and rides the wave with both feet on the front of the board.


O-S Surf jargon

A type of longboard designed specifically for nose riding.


Wind blowing from the land toward the ocean, which can create clean and groomed wave conditions.



Wind blowing from the ocean toward the land, which can create choppy and messy wave conditions.



Waves that are taller than the surfer’s height.


The area beyond the breaking waves where surfers paddle out to wait for waves.

Out the back

Refers to the area beyond the breaking waves where the bigger waves typically form.

Over the falls

When a surfer falls off the board and goes over the crest of a wave. Or, when you’re paddling for a wave, decide to bail, and get sucked over anyways. Or, when you’re trying to paddle OVER the wave to get away from it, and get sucked over. Going over the falls is NOT a fun experience.

Paddle out

The act of paddling from the beach out to the lineup where waves are breaking.

Party wave

A wave that multiple surfers ride together, usually a group of friends who have agreed to share the wave


A term used to describe when the waves break smoothly and cleanly, providing long, rideable sections for the surfers.


The highest point of a breaking wave where it begins to fold over and break.


When a surfer is paddling for a wave with their weight too far forward, the nose of the board slides underwater, and the surfer slides forward off their board. 


Swell period is the amount of time, in seconds, from one wave to the next. Typically in surfing, a longer period is better, although it depends on the break.


“Pitted” is a term used in surfing to describe a situation where a surfer is inside the hollow part of a breaking wave, also known as the barrel or the tube. 


The area of the wave face closest to the curl, where the wave is steepest.

Pop up

The act of quickly getting to your feet on your board. The “pop up” is how you go from paddling for a wave, to riding it. 

Pull in

The act of riding inside the barrel of a wave, often requiring a sharp bottom turn and quick acceleration to stay ahead of the wave’s crashing lip. Same thing as “tucking in”.


A technique used by surfers to generate speed on a wave.


Describes a wave that has a sudden increase in size or power.

Point break

A type of wave that breaks along a rocky or sandy point, producing long, clean waves that peel in one direction.


In surfing, a quad is a board with four fins. Or, your surfboard might have a “quad setup” where it is intended to be used with four fins. 


A collection of surfboards that a surfer owns and uses for different wave conditions or styles of surfing.


The edge or side of a surfboard.


Ragdolling in surfing refers to being thrown around violently underwater by a wave after a wipeout. When a surfer wipes out and gets caught in the wave’s turbulence, they may be thrown around like a ragdoll, tumbling underwater and losing all sense of direction and control. 

Reef break

A type of surf break that forms over a coral reef or rocky underwater structure.


The opposite of goofy footed. A surfer who rides with their left foot forward. It is more common for a surfer to ride this way, which is why it is referred to as regular. 

Rip current

A strong, narrow current that flows away from the shore.


A surfer is “ripping” when they are surfing very very well, usually in a way that is aggressive and fast. 


The curve of a surfboard from nose to tail.

Set wave

Every once in a while, a bigger group of waves come through the lineup than all the others. These are called set waves. 


Sendy is a surfing term used to refer to someone who really goes for it, and drops in on bigger, sketchy waves, or makes a lot of late drops.


Shacked is yet another surfing slang word to refer to someone inside a barrel.


A hand gesture made by extending the thumb and pinky finger, often used as a greeting or expression of stoke.

best surf watches


“Sharky” refers to a surf spot where it feels like there are lots of sharks. Or, it refers to a surf spot where there are lots of sharks

Shore break

Waves that break close to the shore, often resulting in a more powerful and hollow wave.


A shortboard is a type of surfboard that is typically under 7 feet in length. Shortboards typically have a pointed nose, narrow width, and thin profile, and are very maneuverable and responsive.


In surfing terminology, the “shoulder” refers to the sloping section of the wave face next to the breaking section. It’s the part of the wave that is unbroken, but still steep enough to ride. 


In surfing, the term “shred,” “shredding,” or “shredder” usually refer to riders surfing at a high level of performance and skill, often characterized by aggressive and stylish maneuvers.A shredder is a term commonly used to describe a skilled surfer who is able to rip up the waves with style and confidence.


In surfing slang, “sick” is an adjective used to describe something that is awesome, amazing, or impressive. It can refer to a great wave, a skilled maneuver, a cool surfboard, or anything else that is deemed impressive or noteworthy. It is a positive term commonly used among surfers to express admiration or excitement.


In surfing terms, a “snake” is someone who paddles around someone paddling for a wave so that they are closer to the peak. This is the same thing as backpaddling someone, and it is very poor surfing etiquette


Spitting happens when a wave is barreling, at the end of the barrel a huge plume of water comes spraying out of the barrel. Essentially, the wave “spits” water out at the end of the barrel.

Spring suit

A spring suit is a wetsuit with shorter arms and legs, usually used in the 65-75 degree Fahrenheit range when it’s warm out.


Excited or enthusiastic, often used to describe the feeling of catching a good wave or being in the water.


In surfing, “steep” refers to the slope or angle of a wave face. A wave is considered steep when it has a sharp and sudden increase in the angle of its face. 


In surfing, a stringer is a thin, narrow piece of wood, carbon fiber that runs down the center of a surfboard from nose to tail. Its purpose is to add strength and stiffness to the board.

Surfer’s ear

A common condition among surfers where bony growths form in the ear canal due to prolonged exposure to cold water and wind.


The series of waves that move through the water, often caused by distant storms or weather patterns.


Riding with your non-dominant foot forward on the surfboard.

T-Z Surf sayings


The initial moment when a surfer catches a wave and begins riding it.


A surfboard design featuring three fins, which provide more control and maneuverability.


A cylindrical pocket of water formed by a breaking wave, also known as a barrel or pit.

Turtle roll

A maneuver used by surfers to get past incoming waves, by flipping their board upside down and holding onto the rails. This is usually practiced by longboarders, as their surfboards have too much volume to duckdive.

Learning how to turtle roll is also one of our top tips for beginner surfers!

Traction pad

A grippy surface attached to the top of a surfboard, allowing the surfer to maintain better footing and control.


The low point between two waves.

Twin fin

A surfboard design featuring two fins.


The act of riding inside a barrel or tube created by a breaking wave.


The overall feeling or atmosphere of a surf spot, influenced by the people, the waves, and the environment.


A wavehog is someone who takes an unfair amount of waves in the lineup, rather than waiting their turn and letting other surfers catch waves. Don’t be a wavehog! 

Washer machine

Getting “washer machined” in the surf is similar to being ragdolled. It happens either when you wipeout, or get hit by a wave, ang get spun around underwater with all the turbulence so badly it feels like you’re inside a washer machine.


Wetsuits are worn by surfers in cold water to stay warm. They’re usually made of a thin layer of neoprene.

White water

The broken part of a wave that occurs after the wave has broken.

Wind swell

A wave that is created by strong winds blowing over a large area of water.


A sticky substance that is applied to the top of a surfboard to create better grip and traction for the surfer.


When a surfer falls off their board while riding a wave.


A type of sunscreen that provides strong protection from the sun’s harmful rays. It’s one of the only types of reef safe sunscreen

Go test out your new vocabulary of surfing terms

That’s a wrap on my glossary of surfing terms! I hope this guide has helped you learn the lingo, and better understand just what the surfers in your life are actually trying to say. If there are any other words you think should be added to this list, drop a comment and I’ll add it. Happy surfing! 

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