Surfer Talk


    180 / 360

    The spin of a surfer’s board during a manoeuver in degrees, e.g. 360 degree turn

    The perfect barreling surf, a cross-section of an A-frame wave reveals an “A” shape where it is breaking soooo nicely

    Aggressive attitude in the water; having a bad attitude

    Air / Aerial
    An advanced surfing manoeuver where the surfer and board leave the surface of the wave. Here are some great air photos

    Something surfers shout when they spot a huge perfect wave, or when they are shocked or surprised. Old School!

    Getting excited while surfing or really looking forward to a surf

    Ankle Busters / Snappers
    Small waves

    ASP stands for Association of Professional Surfing. These guys look after the professional side of surfing. Visit their site at

    Entering a barrel from behind the peak of the breaking wave. Backdoor is also the name of the right hand wave that sometimes breaks at the famous wave of Pipeline.

    Surfing with your back towards the wave. A regular footed surfer going left or a goofy footed surfer going right will be surfing backside. The opposite is frontside.

    To bail is to jump of the board to avoid an imminent wipeout.

    Sand on the sea floor of a beach break. Beach break waves are dependent on the quality of the sand banks to provide good, surfable waves.

    An inexperienced surfer, or someone who’s no good at surfing.

    A barrel is where the wave is hollow when it is breaking. For some surfers it’s the be all and end all of surfing. Is sometimes called a “tube.”

    Beach Break
    This is a wave that breaks over a sandy sea bed. You’ve not read up about waves, have you?

    Beach Leech
    The perfect description of a beach leech: “Some people don’t bring their own boards, and prefer to borrow your extra boards (they don’t rent). And for wax, some don’t really bring it. They just ask for some.”

    Bells Beach
    Bells Beach is one of the great right point breaks. Find it on the south Victorian coastline of Australia. Check out the Bells Beach Pro held in March every year. This was the setting for that tearful end bit in the movie “Point Break” when Patrick (twinkletoes) Swayze AKA Bodie ate it at the end of Point Break. (And no doubt that after reading the waves page and finding out what a point break actually is, you’re feeling particularly chuffed with yourself!)
    It should also be pointed out that it was not actually Bells Beach where the scene was filmed but India Beach in Oregon. Thanks to Danny from Oregon for this info.

    A non local.

    What Australians call a watering hole, but to everyone else it is one of the largest surfing equipment and clothing manufacturers out there.

    Old school for really good or enjoyable

    The foam used to shape a surfboard

    Blown Out
    Where the onshore wind turns the surf in to unrideable mush

    The fibreglass thingy under your feet

    Boardshorts / Boardies
    These shorts are quick drying, lightweight, and worn by those lucky enough to be surfing in warm water. Check the men’s boardshorts here and the women’s boardshorts here.

    Bombora / Bommie
    An aboriginal term for a wave that breaks over a shallow reef, located beyond the normal lineup and often some distance from the shore.

    Booger / Boogieboarder
    Slang for body boarders.

    Bottom Turn 
    This is the turn made at the base of the wave when coming down off the face. It’s often the first move made after dropping in. Get it right for great positioning for your next manoeuver.

    Carve / Carving
    The classic surfing manoeuver, carving is basically what turning on a wave is called. Carve is also a surfing magazine found in Europe.

    Caught Inside
    A surfer who is caught inside is too far in, and the waves are breaking further out. It can be dangerous in big surf.

    A surfer really going for it on a wave, surfing aggresively. Charges, as in “ho, that guy charges“.

    Chinese Wax Job
    Getting wax on the bottom of your surfboard

    Bitchin’, awesome, great etc.

    Where the surface of the ocean is rough / bumpy

    Used to describe the pollution conditions when there’s a turd in the lineup — “I caught some sick waves out there but it was hard trying not to swallow the chowder.”

    Waves that break from a single peak along it’s length, providing an open face for a surfer to ride on. The opposite of messy

    Clean Up Set 
    A wave or set of waves that are larger than average and break before the line up, resulting in clearing the line-up of surfers

    The process where a surfer turns up and down the face of the wave while surfing down the line

    Close Out
    Where a wave breaks along its length all at once

    Being scared of afraid of waves

    Swell lines that look like corduroy; see this corduroy swell picture that illustrates it perfectly.

    Slang from 1960’s surf culture, cried out enthusiastically when surfing — The surfer’s cry “Cowabunga” as they climb a 12 foot wall of water and “take the drop.”

    When the waves are good, it’s said to be cranking.

    Cross Step / Stepping 
    This is the art of walking up and down a longboard, foot over foot. When you see some guy / gal running up and down their board, you’ll now know what to call it.

    Making a cutback is reversing the direction that you are surfing in one smooth fluid move.

    Dawn Patrol 
    Going surfing first thing in the morning

    The is the bit of the surfboard you stand on. (Hopefully you have your board the right way round in the water.)

    Surfboard damage — “Oh dear me, I’ve dinged my board!” (Perhaps a little more profanity will be used.)

    Dirty Lickings
    Taking a gnarly wipeout

    Drop, The
    The drop is where a surfer first gets up on the waves and drops down the face of the wave. It’s also referred to as “taking the drop.”

    Drop In
    Dropping in is a crime in the surf world. A drop-in is where a surfer catches a wave without having priority, i.e. there is already a surfer on the wave. Please see diagram above. Remember, it’s a CRIME!

    Drop Knee
    Riding a longboard with one knee on the deck of the surfboard

    Duck dive / Duck Diving
    Duck Diving is diving under an oncoming wave when paddling out. See duck diving in full detail in surfing lesson three — duck diving.

    Dude, we almost forgot dude! Dude can mean pretty much anything depending on the tone and inflection. (Thanks go to Corey Ferguson for this one.)

    Often caused by onshore conditions, where a wave will fold over in big sections, making it un-surfable

    Eat It
    Wiping out on a wave.

    Endless Summer
    “Endless Summer” is the absolute classic surfing movie. Forget all this new school tricky stuff. Watch this movie, and if you are not a surfer before viewing, you’ll certainly want to be after. I cannot emphasise how good this is — WATCH IT! (Even the other half will enjoy it!!!) Check out this video and others at the surf video page.

    Top class surf or extremely good waves; description of an awesome wave or surf session

    Eskimo Roll
    (See Turtle Roll)

    The unbroken part of the wave

    This is where someone rides backwards on the surfboard, tail first. It’s also what you are if you’re only reading this page so you can pretend that you’re a surfer.

    FCS stands for fin control system. This is a type of fin that is fully removable from the surfboard. It’s ideal if you break a fin (you don’t have to get a new on glassed back on), or if you are travelling. (It’s best to remove the fins to keep your board from being damaged.)

    The fin is the curved bit hanging down under your surfboard that you keep bashing when you tie your surfboard to the roof of your car. It’s sometimes called a skeg.

    Firing is the same as “going off”, where the surf is really good and the waves are breaking nicely.

    A type of surfboard shape, shorter and thicker than a standard shortboard. Fish surfboards are for surfing smaller waves

    No waves. Boo hoo!

    These are either whitewater waves or surfboards that are made out of foam. (They’re ideal for beginners.)

    The rate of change of thickness of a surfboard from the nose to the tail

    Surfing with your front towards the wave. A regular footed surfer going right or a goofy footed surfer going left will be surfing frontside. The opposite is backside.

    The foam left after a wave has broken

    A surfer who does not catch a wave for the whole time they are in the water

    A mid-length surfboard, often know as a minimal; see funboard examples here

    This is the nickname of the title character created in a novel by Frederick Kohner (and adapted for three further films). Gidget is a contraction of “girl midget,” which is why it went on to be used to describe small female surfers.

    Glass Job 
    The fibreglass finish on a surfboard

    This is ultra-clean surf without a ripple that often looks like glass. Click here to see a glassy wave.

    Particularly dangerous surf conditions

    Goofy / Goofy Foot
    Surfing with your right foot forward

    Goat Boater
    Derogatory term for kayakers and wave skiers

    Going off
    If the surf is really good, you could say it’s going off.

    Green Room
    Inside the tube or barrel

    Gremmie / Grommet / Grom
    Any of the above can be used to describe a young or inexperienced surfer. Grommet is also the cute doggie character in the Nick Park animation creations. (And they are really rather good!)

    Grey Belly
    An older surfer with the big belly

    Falling off your board while surfing

    British surfing equipment manufacturer

    A surfboard designed for big waves

    Hang Eleven
    This is when a male surfer rides his board in the nude. (Such as nearby Black’s Beach in San Diegothanks to Gary M. Steinhaus for this one!)

    Hang Loose 
    See Shacka

    Hang Ten
    If you’re riding a longboard with both feet directly on the nose of the board, your hanging ten. It’s also the name of a longboard magazine.

    Heavy has a couple of meanings. When used as in “heavy waves,” it means big, gnarly, kick ass waves. Teahupoo, Mavericks and Pipeline are three waves that would have to be described as heavy with a capital “H.” The same term can be used to describe the locals at a spot. (For the same kick ass reason!)

    Anyone who annoys board riders while they surf (austral Women’s Weekly Oct. 24, 1962)

    A hodad is a non-surfing beach bum. (Pix Sept. 28, 1963) Thanks go to John Gentile for the Hodads.

    Tubing waves, a-frames, barrels

    Impact Zone 
    The spot where the waves are breaking

    In the Soup
    A term used when a surfer is in the white foam of the wave after the wave has broken

    Slang for Indonesia, home of some classic surf spots and a top surf trip destination

    The area of whitewater where the waves have broken, between the shore and the line-up. Also, inside can be used to describe the section of a wave that breaks towards the end of the ride, closest to the shore

    Popular brand of surf clothing

    Jeffrey’s Bay / J Bay
    Jeffrey’s Bay is a South African surf break of the highest calibre. It’s one of the world’s most famous, high quality right handers. (Don’t know what a right hander is? Then go learn your waves. Go have a look at the section on waves.)

    Junkyard Dog
    A surfer with poor style or a surfer who only surfs crappy waves

    Another word for a barrel / tube

    Kick Out 
    Finishing a ride by turning back out over the top of the wave

    A new school surf trick which involves rotating the board 360° along it’s length while airborne, and landing back on the board. Here’s a good example.

    A surfing spin-off, kneeboarding is riding the waves on your knees using a special knee board.

    A beginner or someone who is not very good at surfing. A try hard. Someone who surfs to try and look cool. Someone who does not follow the rules in the lineup, drops in etc. Are you a kook?

    The layback is a surfing manoeuver where the surfer literally lays backwards on a wave. It’s one of surfing’s more extreme tricks.

    This is the cord that is attached between your leg and your surfboard. Click here for more information about a leash or find out about how to attach your surfboard leash here.

    A wave that breaks from right to left from a surfer point of view when facing into the shore.

    Leg rope
    See Leash above.

    Australian slang for the leash.

    Line Up
    The line up is the place just outside the breaking waves where surfers wait for their waves

    Unbroken waves heading towards the shore. See corduroy

    The tip of the breaking part of the wave

    Locked In
    When a wave crashes and the surfer is inside of it

    A long surfboard with a rounded nose. See our longboard selection

    This is when the ocean goes flat between sets and everyone sits around waiting for the waves to arrive

    Mal / Malibu
    Another description of a longboard surfboard

    This is a famous big wave spot off the California coast. Not to be confused with the film “Maverick”, starring Mel Gibson, although you need to be pretty brave to tackle both.

    Men In Grey Suits

    Waves that close out, break irregularly and that are not ideal to surf on. The opposite of clean surf, generally caused by an onshore or cross-shore wind

    Multi-world champ and all round surfing legend Mark Richards

    Wipe-out of the highest order

    Mush / Mushburger
    Poor quality, slow, or non-powerful waves, often onshore

    Narrabeen is one of a whole host of quality surfspots on Sydney’s north shore. You lucky, lucky Aussies!

    New School

    The term given to trick surfing — airs, shove-its, etc.

    Noodled / Noodle Arms
    Being exhausted or having tired arms

    Another term for shark

    The pointy bit of the surfboard; the bit that points away from you when you are paddling and riding

    Same thing as a sea, only bigger

    This is when the wind at a surf break is blowing off the shore ;-), It makes for ideal surfing conditions.

    This is when the wind is blowing towards the land, spoiling the waves. Always remember; offshore good, onshore bad!

    Out Back
    Beyond the breaking waves. “See you out back

    The area beyond the line-up. You’ll sometimes hear surfers shout “Outside!” as a warning to other surfers that a larger than usual wave is approaching and will be breaking further out that normal.

    Waves that are bigger that a surfer when standing up

    Someone who stays and plays in the whitewater close to the beach

    Party Wave
    A wave surfed by several people at once

    Perl / Pearl
    This is a common term describing when a person buries the nose of their surfboard in the wave and goes “over the falls.” It’s often referred to by the actual surfer as “@#%%@#@!”

    Pipeline (see pipeline surf spot map)
    This is the classic Hawaiian wave — amazing, barreling, and mean. It’s one of the most famous and most photographed waves there is. If you have just read surfing lesson one – catching waves and are ready to go out and try surfing for the first time, then Pipeline is probably the last place on the planet you want to be.

    Pocket / In the Pocket
    The pocket is the most powerful part of the wave, just ahead of where the wave is breaking

    A mass producted surfboard made by machine

    Pop Up
    Describes the move a surfer makes to go from lying on the surfboard, into the standing position to ride a wave

    Which surfer has the right of way, fully explained here

    A decent swell where the waves are nice and powerful; also used to describe a surfer trying to generate speed

    Pretty much everyone, surfers and non-surfers alike, will already know about Quiksilver. They’re one of the largest manufacturers of surfing equipment and surf clothing on the planet. The lads have done well from their boardshort beginning on Torquay — good on ya! (See Quiksilver boardshorts in the store.)

    A surfer’s collection of different surfboards. (I’ve heard people say it’s the place where they keep their boards but not sure about that. Thanks go to Kris Carré who suggested “quiver” as an entry.)

    Radical / Rad
    High performance or risk taking surfing, awesome or impressive

    Rails are the sides of your surfboard, running from nose to tail and back again. More details can be found on the surfboard rail page.

    Rail Bang
    To fall off and take the surfboard between the legs (Ouch!)

    Raked Over
    To be hammered by incoming waves while paddling out

    Regular / Regular Footed
    Surfing with your left foot forward

    Rip / Riptide
    A riptide is a strong current heading out to sea. It can be dangerous for surfers and swimmers alike. Check out the waves section to find out more details.

    Rock Dance
    Getting into or out of the surf over rocks

    The bottom curve of a surfboard

    See Surfers Against Sewage

    Getting completely barreled, riding a phat tube

    A common hand signal used by surfers, with an extended thumb and little finger. Hang loose!

    A shove-it is a manoeuver where the rider shoves the surfboard round underneath the feet, 180 or 360 degrees. It’s a good trick if you can do it.

    Someone who buys surf gear and clothing but does not surf

    A term used to describe when someone does something impressive, e.g. “that was a sick air” — not just because you have swallowed too much sea water

    The opposite of surfing smoothly with style

    Sternward extension of the keel, or a single center fin on surf board.

    A rapid turn off the top of the wave, hopefully throwing loads of spray off the top

    Slater, Kelly
    He’s famous for being in Baywatch and his alleged dalliance with Pamela Anderson. Oh yes, we’ve heard that he’s a pretty tidy surfer as well.

    Snake / Snaking
    Waves should be shared, but snakes take it all. To snake is to drop in out of turn.

    Where spray blows out of the end of a barrel. Tube spit.

    A bodyboarder

    Steamer Lane
    This is a famous Northern California surf spot

    Step Into Liquid
    This is what happens when you go walking in puddles. It’s also the the name of a surf video by surf vid guru Dana Brown. Check it out at our video store: Step Into Liquid.

    Surfer slang for a surfboard

    Very happy

    This is the bit of wood that runs up through the length of your surfboard. (It’s there if you have a fibreglass one and not one that you have fashioned out of an old ironing board!) More info is available on the surfboard information page.

    Sucking Dry 
    Where breaking waves cause all the water to be drawn off the sea bed, leaving it exposed

    Surfers Against Sewage
    SAS is an organisation campaigning for clean water for all. These guys are incredibly high profile and lobby endlessly to ensure all water users are surfing in clean water. Check them out at become a member. Everyone should become a member.

    Surfer’s Knots
    Soft-tissue swellings on the dorsum of the foot and just below the knee, as a result of kneeling for long periods of time on the surfboard while waiting for a wave

    Swallow Tail
    You’ll really have to go and read up on the surfboard tail shapes section. I can’t be explaining everything over again.

    Swell or groundswell refers to solid, real waves. (As apposed to rubbish wind chop) Why not read more on how waves are made.

    Switch Stance
    Riding the surfboard standing the other way round, i.e. if you’re regular footed you would be surfing goofy

    This is the bit of the surfboard at the opposite end to the nose. Read more about surfboard tail shapes. For more info on the other bits of the surfboard, have a look at the surfboard section.

    The tailslide is a move where the tail of the board slides across the lip of the wave

    Tow In 
    Catching big waves with the aid of a Jet ski

    Popular name for a tri-fin shortboard

    Traction Pad
    A traction pad is a permanent replacement for surf wax, stuck directly to the surfboard. It is normally seen placed just in front of the leash plug, providing grip for back foot. Full length grip is available, but is not seen so often. You might find it referred to as deck grip, traction, or a riser pad.

    Keeping the surfboard in a straight line at the optimum angle and cruising down the line

    The tube is public transportation in London. Oh, you mean Tube! The tube is where the wave is hollow where it’s breaking. For some surfers it’s the be all of surfing. It’s sometimes called a barrel, keg, or pit.

    Turtle Roll
    This is a technique for getting a longboard out though a breaking wave. (As apposed to duck diving for a shortboarder). See our how to turtle roll article for more info.

    Twin Fin 
    A surfboard with two fins

    Ulluwatu is one of a large number of quality Indonesian surf breaks

    You are not seriously looking for an explanation of this are you?

    Vanuatu is a smallish island in the Pacific, complete with numerous great waves. If you are planning a tropical surfing trip, you could do worse!

    A female surfer.

    It smells nice, gets stuck in your chest hair (not you ladies!), and is used to stop your feet slipping off your board. Also, surf wax can be used as to repair almost anything — leaky roof, rusty zip… you name it.

    Washing Machine
    Getting spun around and around underwater by a wave

    It’s made of neoprene, keeps out the cold, and makes you look like a seal. Check out the wetsuit section for more information.

    Falling off your board is referred to as a wipe-out. Other terms are donut, mullering, eating it, taking a pounding, or pretty much anything else you would like.


    Yes, you guessed — we couldn’t think of a surfing word truly beginning with “X.” Its definition is exactly the same as in the dictionary. Tow in surfing is the latest type of extreme surfing.

    Xtrak is one of the leading manufacturers of surfboard traction pads. We’ve finally got a proper

    Surf spot in Western Australia. (Now we are really struggling!)

    (Thanks to those who have sent us “Z” letters. We were struggling for a while but now the section is looking pretty rosy.)

    Zamba, Frieda (Born October 24, 1965)
    Florida’s first four-time world champ

    Zogs (Mr.) Sex Wax
    Zogs is a popular brand of surf wax found wherever there are surfers. Get some surf wax here.

    This is often considered the “holy grail” of wetsuits, as zippers, no matter how tightly made, will always let water through. Invented in ’89 by Body Glove, the first zipperless wetsuits were actually way too stiff for surfers to use. In ’93, the Japanese came out with another model that was still too stiff, but by ’95, most wetsuit companies offered a high end zipperless suit. Advantages include flexibility and warmth; disadvantages include short lifespan (due to super stretchy rubber) and difficult entry/exit.

    This weather pattern term means that all of the storm activity in one particular region is moving in a consistent west-to-east pattern along the same latitude. While this can happen anywhere in the world, it’s usually associated with the Southern Ocean (around Antarctica) and is caused by large ridges of high pressure in the mid-latitudes, “pancaking” the active storm track into the upper latitudes. Since most of the swell energy in these storms will only travel the direction the fetch is pointed, it means that all of the swell is also going west-to-east. For most of the eastern half of the Pacific (California, Baja, Mainland Mexico, and Central America), zonal activity in the SPAC is bad for swell production. It’s good for an area in its path like Chile, but bad for the rest of us.

    This is the same as GMT or Greenwich Mean Time. Zulu time is used on weather charts, which may display 12Z for 1200 GMT or 00Z for 0000 GMT. Weather charts play an important part in predicting surf.