Surfing Lingo Explained: Unveiling 111 Surfing Slang Words

two surfers on beach - giving the shaka sign

Surfing, the art of riding waves, has a language that is as vibrant and colourful as the sport. From gnarly wipeouts to epic barrels, surfers have developed a unique vocabulary known as surfing lingo.

This specialised slang is a means of communication and an integral part of the surfing culture.

If you want to jump straight to the A-Z List of words click here – Please help me out if you can think of a surfer slang word starting with the letter X, leave it for me in the comments!! ✌️

Importance of surfing lingo

Man giving shaka sign

Surfing lingo refers to the specific terms and phrases surfers use to describe various aspects of the sport. It encompasses everything from wave conditions and manoeuvres to equipment and weather-related terminology.

Understanding this jargon is essential for any aspiring surfer who wants to immerse themselves in the surfing community. The importance of knowing surfing lingo goes beyond being able to communicate effectively with other surfers.

It serves as a marker of belonging and demonstrates one’s dedication and passion for the sport. Using correct surf slang shows respect for the culture and helps establish credibility among fellow riders.

One of the most recognised is the “shaka surfing” sign 🤙, often recognized by the extension of the thumb and pinky finger while the three middle fingers are curled into the palm, has become an emblematic gesture of Hawaiian culture and, by extension, the global surfing community.

Its origins are traced back to Hawaii, with various legends attributing its inception to a local resident with a deformed hand or a symbolic gesture used by fishermen. Regardless of its roots, the shaka has evolved to signify a myriad of sentiments including “hello,” “goodbye,” “take it easy,” and “right on.”

In the surfing world, it’s a gesture that embodies the spirit of “aloha” and camaraderie among wave riders. Today, the shaka continues to be an essential part of surf culture, symbolising peace, friendship, and the laid-back ethos of the surfing lifestyle.

Whether on the shores of Hawaii or the beaches of Australia, flashing a shaka is a universal nod to good vibes and mutual respect among surfers. For more insight on this cultural trend, have a look here.

While diving into the fascinating world of surfing lingo is important, understanding the unspoken rules of the waves is just as crucial. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a newbie, adhering to proper surf etiquette ensures a harmonious experience for everyone out in the water. Get well-acquainted with these unwritten rules by checking out this comprehensive guide to surf etiquette.

How surfing lingo creates a sense of community among surfers

surfing comunity

Surfing lingo acts as a unifying force within the tight-knit community of surfers. It serves as a shared language that connects individuals who share a common love for riding waves.

When two surfers exchange phrases like “stoked,” “shredding,” or “dawn patrol,” they instantly recognize each other as kindred spirits in their pursuit of perfect waves. Moreover, using surf terms fosters camaraderie among surfers by creating an insider’s club where only those familiar with the jargon can fully participate.

Whether it’s discussing wave conditions or sharing stories about epic sessions, speaking in surfer slang creates bonds between individuals who might otherwise be strangers. Surfing lingo also embodies the spirit and ethos of surfing itself.

Many of the terms reflect the thrill and excitement that comes with riding waves. From “tube” to “wipeout,” these words encapsulate the unique experiences and sensations that surfers encounter in the water.

By using this language, surfers celebrate and express their love for the sport, forging a strong sense of community that transcends geographical boundaries. Surfing lingo is not just a collection of words; it’s a gateway to becoming part of the vibrant surfing culture.

Understanding and using surf terms allows surfers to communicate effectively, earn respect within the community, and forge meaningful connections with fellow riders. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your journey on a longboard, embracing the rich tapestry of surfing lingo will undoubtedly enhance your experience in the water.

Ever considered a surfing trip to Australia – I’ve got some secret spots listed in this beginner guide to surfing Australia.

Wave-related terms:

Swell: The series of waves moving across the ocean surface

Swell on the horizon

When you gaze out at the vast expanse of the ocean, you may notice a mesmerizing sight: swells. Swells are like the rhythmic heartbeat of the sea, formed by distant storms or wind patterns.

These majestic formations travel vast distances until they reach the coastline and transform into rideable waves for surfers to enjoy. Surfers eagerly anticipate swells as they bring life and excitement to their sport.

Break: When a wave collapses and forms a crest or white water

wave breaking - another surfing lingo term

Picture yourself standing on your surfboard, gazing at an approaching swell. Suddenly, anticipation builds as you witness that magical moment when the wave reaches its peak and begins to crash down with roaring force.

This powerful movement is known as the break, where the swell transforms into a crest or white water. The break is a surfer’s playground, offering thrilling opportunities for rides and maneuvers.

Line-up: The area where surfers wait for waves

surfing line up

If you’ve ever been to a popular surfing spot, you might have noticed groups of surfers gathered in a specific area in the water. This congregation is known as the line-up – a crucial spot where surfers wait patiently for their turn to catch incoming waves.

It’s like being in a queue, but instead of waiting for groceries or tickets, surfers eagerly await their chance to ride towards shore on an exhilarating wave. There is serious etiquette surfers need to know in relation to whose turn it actually is – I have a full rundown in this surfers etiquette guide.

Equipment-related terms:



The board, also referred to as your trusty steed in surfer lingo, is every surfer’s most prized possession. It comes in various shapes and sizes depending on factors such as skill level and preferred style of riding.

From the classic longboard to the nimble shortboard, every surfer develops a deep connection with their board, forming an unspoken bond as they navigate the waves together.

For those just starting out on their surfing journey, choosing the right board can make all the difference. Before diving into the deeper waters of surfing lingo and culture, ensure you’re equipped with the best gear. Discover the best beginner surfboards of 2023 to help you ride the waves with confidence.

Leash or Legrope:

When you watch surfers slicing through the waves effortlessly, have you ever wondered how they manage to stay connected to their boards? The answer lies in a small but essential accessory called a leash.

This sturdy cord securely attaches one end to the tail of the surfboard and the other end to either the ankle or leg of the surfer. The leash acts as a lifeline, ensuring that even if you wipe out or get caught in a tumble of crashing waves, your beloved board remains close by.

Wax: Applied on the board’s surface for better grip

Imagine standing on a slippery board while trying to balance and ride incoming waves – it would be quite challenging and potentially disastrous! To prevent such scenarios, surfers rely on wax, which plays a crucial role in providing them with enhanced grip and stability.

Applied onto the deck of their boards in strategic patterns known as wax jobs, this sticky substance allows surfers to maintain control over their movements while riding those thrilling waves. Surfing is not just about catching waves; it’s also about embracing an entire culture packed with unique terminology and slang.

Understanding these basic surfing terms helps outsiders dive into this vibrant world of ocean enthusiasts. So whether you’re chilling in the line-up waiting for that perfect wave or carefully applying wax on your trusty board before hitting those breaks – remember that surfing lingo is more than just words; it represents a shared passion and love for riding nature’s liquid playground.

Alongside understanding the rich surfing vocabulary, choosing the right surfboard tailored to your skills and the wave conditions is pivotal. To make sure you pick the perfect board for your surfing adventures, I’d like you to go into this comprehensive guide on how to choose a surfboard.

Carving: Riding the Wave with Style

surfer carving

Hangin’ Ten and Rippin’ It

When it comes to surfing, carving is an essential skill that allows surfers to maneuver and ride waves with style and finesse. Two fundamental carving techniques are the cutback and the bottom turn.

The cutback, also known as “slashing,” involves a surfer changing direction sharply while riding a wave. Picture this: you’re riding down the face of a wave, feeling the power beneath your feet, then suddenly you carve back towards the breaking part of the wave, spraying water in all directions.

surfer cut back

It’s a move that demands precision and perfect timing. Meanwhile, the bottom turn is like a dance move executed at high speed.

As you approach the bottom of a wave, imagine yourself leaning into it while simultaneously shifting your weight and redirecting your board upward. This technique not only enables surfers to gain speed but sets them up for other maneuvers such as off-the-lips or aerials.

If you’re looking to truly immerse yourself in the surfing culture and master the art, consider joining a surf camp. Especially for women, surf camps can be an empowering experience. Check out this guide on women’s surf camps to unleash your inner surfer.

Aerials: Taking Flight Above Liquid Glass

surfer getting some air

Defying Gravity with Surf Style

Aerial maneuvers are often considered the pinnacle of modern surfing, combining skill, creativity, and sheer audacity. There are various types of aerial tricks out there, but let’s focus on two exciting ones: floaters and air reverses. The floater is all about defying gravity while staying in control.

Imagine yourself riding on top of a breaking section of a wave rather than going through it. It requires precise timing to launch yourself onto that foamy section just as it starts to break.

Maintaining momentum and balance during this maneuver is crucial – one wrong move can send you plunging into an unforgiving watery abyss! Now let’s talk about air reverses – they are nothing short of mind-blowing.

It’s when a surfer launches off the wave and rotates mid-air, all while changing direction. The combination of technique and creativity required for air reverses is awe-inspiring.

Picture yourself launching off the lip of a wave, twisting and spinning like a ninja in mid-air, before landing smoothly back on the wave face. It’s an adrenaline rush that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible on a surfboard.

Surfing lingo is peppered with terms to describe these manoeuvres – you might hear surfers talking about “flaring” an air reverse or “ripping” through their cutbacks. The blend of technical skill and fearless attitude embodied by these moves truly showcases the freedom and artistry that surfing represents.

So, whether you’re perfecting your cutbacks or launching into aerial acrobatics, mastering these maneuvers takes practice, persistence, and a genuine love for the sport. Embrace the challenge, ride those waves with style, and let your imagination soar as you become one with the water.

Surfing Conditions and Weather Terms

Wave Quality: Riding the Perfect Wave

no waves for this surfer

When it comes to surfing, wave quality can make or break your experience on the board. Clean waves are the holy grail of surfers, featuring a smooth face without any choppy sections. Picture yourself gliding effortlessly across the clean face of a wave, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you carve through its perfectly shaped walls.

However, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with our surfing dreams. Sometimes waves can become crabbed, which means they break unevenly due to factors like wind or underwater obstacles.

Imagine paddling hard to catch a wave, only for it to crumble in front of you and leave you scrambling for balance. It’s a humbling experience that all surfers encounter at some point.

Another less desirable wave quality is mushy waves. These waves lack power and often result in slower rides.

It’s like trying to skate on wet cement instead of gliding effortlessly on ice – not exactly the thrill you’re seeking as a surfer. Mushy waves can be caused by various factors such as small swells or unfavorable tide conditions.

For those looking to dive deep into the world of surfing, Australia offers some of the best beaches and learning experiences. If you’re considering a trip down under to catch some waves and learn the ropes, check out this comprehensive guide on how to learn to surf in Australia.

Tides and Swells: Dance with the Sea’s Rhythm

Understanding tides and swells is essential for any serious surfer who wants to catch those epic waves consistently. Let’s start with high tide when the ocean water level reaches its highest point along the shore during a tidal cycle. During high tide, waves tend to break closer to shore and may have less power due to shallow water depth. For an in-depth look at tides and surfing, check this out.

tide time table of noosa heads

Swell is another crucial element for surfers since it determines wave size and energy. Swell refers to long-period oceanic waves generated by distant storms or weather systems far out at sea.

When these swells reach coastal areas, they transform into rideable waves with varying sizes depending on the swell’s strength. Surfers eagerly anticipate large swells, as they create more powerful and thrilling waves to conquer.

Tidal shifts are now occurring due to climate change and can affect your local surf break. Read more about it here.


surfer running into water

As we dive into the rich tapestry of surfing lingo, it becomes evident that this unique language mirrors the vibrant and exhilarating world of surfing itself. From discussing wave quality to understanding tides and swells, surfers have developed a lexicon that not only serves as a means of communication but also fosters camaraderie among those who share a deep passion for riding the waves.

So, whether you’re chasing clean waves or conquering mushy ones, embracing the highs and lows of surfing conditions is part of the journey.

Each wave offers an opportunity to test your skills, experience pure bliss, and connect with nature in its most formidable form. So grab your board, paddle out into those salty surfer slang-soaked waters, and ride on with unbridled enthusiasm!

While we’re riding the wave of surfing lingo and diving deep into the rich vocabulary that shapes our surf culture, it’s essential to note that being a surfer isn’t just about mastering the jargon. It’s also about understanding every aspect of the sport, from catching the perfect wave to maintaining your gear.

Dings and damages are a part of a surfer’s journey, and knowing how to repair them is crucial. For those unexpected moments when your board takes a hit, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on the Top Surfboard Repair Kits of 2023. Equip yourself with the best tools and knowledge so you’re always ready to tackle the next wave, both in conversation and in the ocean!

Here are a few examples:


  • A Frame: A peaky wave with left and right peaks
  • Aerial: A maneuver where a surfer flies above the wave after launching off the lip.
  • Aggro: An aggressive surfer or aggressive style of surfing.
  • Aloha: The Hawaiian spirit of love, peace, and compassion. Also a greeting.
  • Amped: Excited or stoked about a surf session.
  • Alaia: Ancient Hawaiian wooden surfboard.
  • Apnea: Surf apnea is a specialised training program focused on improving breath-holding abilities and enhancing mental control for surfers. Read my article with tips here.


  • Backdoor: Entering a tube from behind its peak.
  • Barney: An inexperienced surfer.
  • Barrel: The hollow part of the wave when it’s breaking.
  • Beach Break: Waves that break over sandbars.
  • Bogging: When the surfboard’s nose digs into the water.
  • Bomb: A particularly large wave.
  • Brah: Bro or mate, often used among surfers.
  • Break: The area where waves start to break, can be point break, reef break, or beach break.
  • Bust Out: To perform a big maneuver or trick.
  • Bottom Turn: The first turn made at the base of the wave after dropping in.


  • Carve: A smooth, long turn on the wave face.
  • Choppy: Rough water caused by wind.
  • Clidro: Closeout; when a wave breaks all at once.
  • Corduroy: The appearance of successive sets of waves.
  • Crest: The top part of a wave.
  • Cross-Step: Footwork used to walk to the nose of a longboard.
  • Cutback: A turn cutting back towards the breaking part of the wave.
  • Cactus: Surf spot in Australia
  • CO2 Table: A way of training surfers for longer breathholds


  • Dawn Patrol: Early morning surf session.
  • Deck: The top surface of the surfboard.
  • Ding: Damage to the surfboard. To fully grasp the importance of understanding dings and how to repair them yourself, check out our comprehensive guide on ding repair. It’s a must-read for every surfer keen on maintaining their board in top condition!
  • Drop: The initial descent down the wave face after catching it.
  • Drop In: To catch a wave without priority, essentially “stealing” it from another surfer.
  • Duck Dive: Technique to dive under an oncoming wave while paddling out.


  • Epic: Exceptionally good waves or surf conditions.
  • Eskimo Roll: A technique to roll under an oncoming wave with a longboard.


  • Face: The unbroken part of the wave.
  • Fins: Protruding blades on the bottom rear of the board, aiding direction and stability.
  • Flat: No waves.
  • Foam: The bubbly, white water left after a wave has broken.
  • Froth: Excitement or foam on the sea surface.


  • Glassy: Smooth water surface, typically due to no wind.
  • Goofy-Foot: Surfing with the right foot forward.
  • Green Room: Inside of a barrel or tube.
  • Grom (Grommet): A young or inexperienced surfer.
  • Gun: A surfboard designed for big waves.
  • Ground Swell: A ground swell is an ocean wave generated by distant weather systems, known for its longer wavelengths and ideal surfing conditions.


  • Hang Five: Placing five toes over the nose of a longboard.
  • Hang Ten: Placing both feet (all ten toes) over the nose of a longboard.
  • Heavy: Powerful waves.
  • Hodad: A non-surfer who spends time at beaches masquerading as a surfer.
  • Hollow: Waves that are barreling or tubing.


  • Impact Zone: The area where waves are breaking most powerfully.
  • Inside: The area of water closer to the shore than where waves are breaking.
  • Interceptor: A wave that comes in larger and faster than the others, often catching surfers off-guard.


  • Jelly Legs: The feeling of unsteadiness after a long session.
  • Jetty: A man-made wall or barrier built into the ocean.


  • Kick Out: Ending your ride by turning back out towards the incoming wave.
  • Kook: A term for someone who’s a novice or clueless about surfing.


  • Left: A wave that breaks from the right to the left, from the surfer’s perspective.
  • Line Up: The area where surfers wait for waves.
  • Lip: The top, curling part of the wave.
  • Longboard: A long surfboard, typically over 9 feet.


  • Mush/Mushy: Weak, slow waves.
  • Mal: Short for Malibu board or longboard.


  • Narly (or Gnarly): Describes something that’s extreme or radical, often referring to challenging surf.
  • Nose: The front tip of the surfboard.
  • Noseriding: walking up to the nose of the board while surfing


  • Offshore: Wind blowing from the land to the sea, holding up the wave face.
  • Onshore: Wind blowing from the sea to the land, making choppy conditions.
  • Outside: The deeper water beyond the breaking waves.


  • Peak: The highest part of the wave, where it begins to break.
  • Pitted: Getting deep inside a barrel or tube.
  • Point Break: Waves that break around a point off the shore and peel perfectly in one direction.
  • Pop Up: The act of jumping up from a prone to standing position to start riding a wave. I have a whole article dedicated to this topic here.
  • Pumping: When the waves are coming in consistently and with power.


  • Quiver: A collection of different surfboards owned by a surfer.


  • Rail: The sides of the surfboard.
  • Reef Break: Waves that break over a coral reef or rock.
  • Regular Foot: Surfing with the left foot forward.
  • Ride: The act of surfing a wave.
  • Rip (or Riptide): A strong current pulling seaward from the shore.


  • Set: A group of larger waves.
  • Shaka: A popular hand gesture in the surfing community meaning “hang loose”.
  • Shorebreak: Waves that break very close or directly on the shore.
  • Shortboard: A shorter, more maneuverable type of surfboard.
  • Slab: A heavy, often shallow wave over a reef or rock.
  • Surfer Mom: Mom who surfs


  • Tail: The back end of the surfboard.
  • Thruster: A three-finned surfboard.
  • Tube: The hollow part of a wave when it’s breaking. Also known as a barrel.
  • Turtle Roll: How longboards get under the waves. I have an article on how to do it here.


  • Uluwatu: A famous surf spot in Bali, Indonesia.


  • V-bottom: A type of surfboard bottom contour, characterized by a deep V shape.
  • Volume: Refers to the amount of space a surfboard occupies, typically measured in liters.


  • Wax: Substance applied to the surfboard deck for grip.
  • Wave Hog: Someone who doesn’t share
  • Wahine: A Hawaiian term meaning “woman” or “female surfer.”

X – ???


  • Yep!: A traditional Australian warning meaning “Look inside, you idiot! I’m already taking off!” Used when two people are paddling to the same spot, and the person who is deepest uses “Yep!” to call the other person off.


  • Zone, The: This is the place from which there is no escape from the wrath of the oncoming wave. You are caught inside. You’re too far in to catch the wave, and the wave is breaking too far out for you to paddle outside of The Zone. You get pounded in The Zone. Bye now.
surfer giving peace sign

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *