What Are The Surf Terms and Surfer Phrases?
It is said that some dialects have more than 50 words that people refer to on a daily basis. I think of surfing just like any other sport although surfing gives you a different lifestyle Lots of surf terms and surfer phrases with a down to earth way of living compared to any other sport. With surfing, everyone that is passionate about it will take the day off when the waves are going off and breaking really good, any other sports they will go on about their day like they planned and then would go to practice after school or work. So I believe surfing is VERY different and a lot more down to roots than many other sports.
But just like other sports, they all have some terms and phrases that are not so easy to understand and that only practitioners of that sport understand. Here is a quick example, Judo. Judo has the techniques name in Japanese and the students have to learn them in Japanese everywhere around the world to progress through the next belts.
Well in surfing, surf Terms and surfer phrases as well. You might have heard of a couple like, just pitted, duck dive, kook, air, backside, bottom turn, carve, charging, pumping, Chinese wax, and so much more. In this article, we will go over the terms that you will hear the most and have to be familiar with so you can understand the language.
Surf Terms and Surfer Phrases Everyone Should Know
Okay, let’s get started. Just a little warning, some terms might seem weird and make no sense but we all use it… It is just apart of the sport and how surfers talk about the waves and everything else.
This is when a wave breaking so nicely that it forms an A with its whitewater. This is a wave that can be surfed right and left. The best type of wave!
Air AKA Ariel
This is an advanced move where the surfer projects himself/herself off of the wave and in the air and the landing it back on the wave.
Getting excited before going out to surf. Usually when watching the conditions and getting ready to paddle out.
The height of the wave that does not exceed the height of an ankle or about ankle high in the water. It is a very small wave.
This is when you are surfing on the wave and your back is toward the wave. For a regular footed surfer, a wave going left would be their backside. And vise versa for a goofy footed. Also, the opposite of backside is frontside.
This is when a wave is coming back to the ocean where the incoming waves are after it has rebounded onto the shore, cliff, or even a rock. This is usually seen when the tide is going to low tide and there is a lot of water movement going on. It can make some bumpy waves that are fun to ride.
This is when a surfer jumps off their board to avoid a wipeout.
Barrel 0r Tube or Pitted or Shaked
This is a type of wave that advanced surfers are always looking for. It’s a wave that is very hollow when it breaks and surfers get in that spot in the middle and are what we also called getting tubed. This can also be a very dangerous wave because of how much pressure and suction is involved in it.
A beach break is when the waves are breaking on a sandy bottom. This is a great type of wave for surfing when you are starting out.
This describes the surf conditions where the wind is blowing too strong and making the waves choppy, rough and plainly just unrideable.
This is when a really big wave comes in and it is bigger than the others that have come before.
Caught on the inside or Impact Zone
This is when a surfer is in the middle of the impact zone where the waves are breaking. This can be a dangerous place to be in bigger surf.
This is when a surfer catches a wave and surfs it aggressively in a good way. Most of the time that term is referred to advanced surfers doing great turns on the wave or dropping in on some bombs.
Chinese wax job
This term is often used to describe wax on the back/ Bottom of the surfboard.
Clean or Glassy
It is also a term for surf conditions when the wind is good and makes the waves perfect with a great open face to surf. This is what all surfers dream of.
This is when a wave closes itself, not giving anymore open face. It becomes all whitewater when it closes out.
This is when you surf first thing in the morning. Usually around dawn time.
This is the side of the surfboard that you stand on. This is not the side where you put the fins.
This s when you made a hole or pressure on the surfboard.
Describes the height of the waves being twice as big as the surfer on it. In this image, the surfer is in the middle of the wave, but if he was at the bottom, you would notice right away that this wave is double the surfer’s height.
Drop or also called take off
This is when the surfer first stands up on the surfboard to start going down the wave.
Dropping in and Priority
Dropping in: We talked about this in the surf etiquette. This is when a person paddles into a wave when there is already somebody on it.
Priority: The right of way of a surfer depending on where they are placed in the lineup.
You duck dive to go under a wave coming at you. Instead of struggling to go over it or even being dangerous and ditching your board, you go under and back up behind the wave. This can only be done on shortboards effectively since they are smaller and lighter.
This term is mainly used when it is a bigger day and the waves are very hollow. Usually at low tide when there is not much water for the wave to break on. Can be dangerous and sometimes not fun to surf if it is always sketchy do drop in on the wave.
Eating it or Wipeout
Falling off your surfboard while riding the wave is referred to as a wipeout or eating it. Other terms like getting a pounding, got annihilated or anything else you would like when you know it was a bad fall.
Surfers use this term when it is a perfect day and the waves are amazing. Can also be used as an extremely good surf session or specific amazing moment in surfing.
This is the part of the wave that is not broken yet.
This is the same as going off and epic. The waves are amazing and every one is wanting to go out.
The surf condition that occurs when there are no waves at all. Not fun, but still amazing!
This is the opposite of backside. When standing up on your surfboard and riding the wave, you are facing the wave. A regular footed surfer would be frontside on a wave going right.
This is the excitement from surfers that can’t wait to go surfing that day or amped to surf a specific spot.
Very dangerous surf conditions.
The waves are really good and firing. Everybody wants that to happen!
Goofy or goofy foot
When standing on your surfboard your right foot will be the front foot.
A term used to describes a child surfing.
A term usually used to describe the waves when they are big and can be dangerous.
A type of age describes for barrels or even A-frames.
The part of the lineup where the waves are usually just whitewater. Great for beginners. These waves are e ones closest to shore.
When you decide you are done with the wave by backing out on top of the wave and behind it.
Describes somebody that is not very good at surfing. But don’t think of it as a negative thing because even advanced surfers call each other Kooks. It can also be used for somebody that try’s too hard and wants to look cool. But also can also be used when somebody does not follow the surf etiquette and is being disrespectful to others.
When taking off a wave at the last possible moment. It is sometimes too late.
Leash/ leg rope/ leggy
All described for the cord that is attached to your surfboard and yourself. The part of the equipment that is especially when surfing so you don’t have to swim back to shore every time you fall off a wave.
A wave that breaks from right to left from a surfers point of view looking at the shore.
It is the place just outside the waves a breaking are. This is where we wait for waves.
The tip of the wave about the break.
This is when the set is done and it is this period between the set. Surfers sit there and wait for the next wave during the lull.
Men in grey suits
Surf conditions describing close out sections and irregular surf. Not ideal for surfing and usually caused by onshore for cross winds.
Slow, poor quality and non-powerful waves, usually onshore winds cause it.
Glassy (Image Below)
When the waves and conditions are really good with little to no wind. Makes a perfect clean wave.
This is when the wind is blowing off the shore towards the waves. This wind is the best wind for surfing, makes the waves perfect.
This is when the wind is bling in the shore towards the beach. This wind is not the best wind and usually generates choppy waves.
Choppy (Image Above)
This describes the surf conditions when the wind is making white caps and the waves rough.
Refers to the next wave coming up which is far out the back of the lineup. This wave will be breaking a lot further out so you better start paddling when you hear somebody saying that.
Over the falls
A wipeout when the surfer falls off the face of the wave and gets sucked up the circular motion of the wave and down the falls.
When the wave is bigger than the surfer on it.
When multiple surfers are one the wave at once. This will not be considered dropping in.
In the pocket
The most powerful part of the wave. This is just ahead of where the wave is breaking.
The motion a surfer makes when going from laying down on their board to a standing up position.
A, swell when the waves are nice and powerful. It is also used when a surfer is gaining speed on a wave.
A surfer collection of different surfboards.
An impressive surfing style, with a risk taking type of maneuvers.
Rail to rail
This a type surfing when the surfboard is constantly moving on the water, going from one side to the other. It will get you more speed on a wave but very tricky to do.
When a wave that has already been broken, forms again and is surfable again.
Regular/ regular footed
A surfer when standing on their board has the left foot forward.
A wave breaking from the left to the right. From a surfers eye view looking at the shore.
Rip/ Rip Current
A very dangerous current that takes every from shore to after the lineup. The only way to get out of it is to paddle to the side. Here is more on rip tides and some surfing tips (link to blog 1)
The bottom curve of your surfboard.
A hand signal you have probably seen before used by surfers. With an extended thumb and little finger.
The surfable part of the wave that is not white water.
Shred / shredding
An aggressive surfer that makes surfing look easy. We say things like ” oh wow he shreds” to say that he surfs really well.
A term to describe something impressive like somebody doing an air. Not that you swallowed too much salt water.
This is used to describe something that is kind of scary. Like when there is a bunch of bait, there is obviously sharks under it so it is sketchy to surf.
This is when a surged does a complete S around another surfer just to get the priority on the wave. This is as bad as dropping in and if you do it you will get the stink eye.
The spray that comes out of a barrel.
A term used to describe a body surfer.
Being very happy.
Stand up paddleboard
Refers to solid, real waves.
Catching bigger waves by getting towed by a jet ski.
The hollow part of the wave when breaking. We get tubed in a tubular wave.
This is a technique longboarders use to get over the wave since they cannot duck dive. They do this by laying down on their board and flipping it upside down while holding on tight to it. When the wave has gone by, they flip it back over.
A female surfer
I would say the most important ‘equipment’ to have. The wax smells good and gets stuck to your chest hair guys. It makes the surfboard sticky and does a grip effect on it so when you stand up you are not falling off because it is slippery. Wax is to put on before going out for a session.
Worked or Washing machine
When you fall of a wave and get spun around and around underwater by the wave. Just like clothes getting washed in the washing machine.
The broke part of the wave. The best part of the wave to first learn how to surf.
Here you have it, the basic surfing terms dictionary. This does not include the surf equipment and different types of surfboards, but we have that coming up for you very soon. Now that you know, surfing is a whole lot her language to learn. Have fun and Shaka brah!