Surfer slang is a beautifully unique and one of the most recognizable slang languages out there. Numerous movies portray the special way surfers communicate with one another.
Having your unique way of communication depicts culture, principles, and a way of life. Not to mention, surfing is a tribal sport, and surfers are notorious for being unwelcoming to outsiders. To clarify, localism is deeply rooted in surfing, and surfers are extremely possessive of waves.
One can say that the ocean and waves are from nature and no man can own it. However, surfers are territorial, and some have valid reasons, while others are simply extremists.
Nevertheless, the sport is one to be appreciated, and there are fun and welcoming surfers that will leave you with brilliant memories.
Therefore, understanding their slang will help you bond with them. As long as you are careful and do not ruin their waves and fun, you’ll have a great time.
The Importance of Surfing Terms and Phrases
As aforementioned, surfing terms and phrases have a significant value in the surfing culture. It is a means of communication, and what better way to bond than to speak the same language?
However, there are so many surfing terms and phrases that if you put them in a list, one can open an entire academy. There are deeper meanings to short phrases. Moreover, these are crucial for another reason.
The reason is - surfing is an intensive sport, and you do not have time to say full sentences. Therefore, short phrases and terms come in handy. For instance, there is a huge wave coming up, and you have only a second or two to tell your fellow surfers.
In this particular situation, saying “Bomb,” which is a surfing term, is much faster than saying, “There is a huge wave coming this way; be careful!”
Popular Surfing Terms and Phrases: Alphabetical order
Now, without further ado, let’s get right to some of the most popular surfing terms and phrases out there:
When a surfer is being visibly aggressive, they are called an “aggro.” Normally, you’d see such a surfer splashing and cursing.
Amped is a surfer slang similar to stoked. When you’re feeling uncontrollably excited, you say that you are amped.
3. Ankle Slappers
Ankle slappers is a surfer slang for small waves that go only as high as your ankles. These are dead waves and not so exciting.
4. Barrelling Wave
Ever seen a wave curling up in real life? That’s what a barrelling wave is - when the tip of the wave curls in and forms a hollow cylinder.
Just as previously mentioned for waves, these are also multiple surfing terms used to refer to a surfer's position. That is to say, are you facing forward toward them or have your back toward the wave.
A bomb is the name given to dangerous waves. If you get caught in one, just be ready to get rag-dolled all the way through.
If you’re standing or putting the weight at the back of your board, it will result in boggings - when the nose of the board elevates from the water surface.
As the name suggests, this is a backflip, but in surfer terminologies, it means when a surfer performs a mid-air summersault on a surfboard and lands back on the wave.
This is another surfer term for a wave that would break once it hits the shore. The name is rather obvious and also known as a beach break.
10. Bottom turn
Bottom turn is the name of a surfing technique in which a surfer will ride the bottom part of the wave and smoothly transition towards the top.
This is a commonly used slang worldwide, and it's a friendly term to address a friend. Short for “brother.”
Carve is yet another surfing maneuver that can only be performed at high speeds where the surfer dives through a curve from wave top toward the bottom by using only the rails of the surfboard.
13. Caught Inside
When a surfer gets caught between the wave-breaking zone and shoreline, they say that they are “caught inside.”
Charging is a reckless surfing technique in which a surfer rides big waves spontaneously to demonstrate their mastery of the craft.
15. Choppy waves
When winds blow onshore, the wave is disrupted. It is a similar phenomenon to any sort of disruption. Surfers call such messy waves “choppy.”
16. Clean waves
This is the opposite of choppy waves. These waves are generated as a result of offshore winds or no winds. They are smooth and easy to ride.
For any person who wants to be a surfer and speak like one, cutback is an important surfing term you need to know. Just like duck dive, cutback is a technique. It is more of a surfing maneuver. This move is pulled off by carving the open face of a wave and pulling the board around in an arch shape.
When a surfer is riding a wave, and it breaks off immediately, they refer to this as a closeout. Implying that the wave is no longer adequate for surfing.
19. Clean up Set
“Clean up set” is a group of waves that wash up all the surfers while breaking out beyond the pack.
20. Coffin Drop
When a surfer lays down on his back with his feet first, they call this technique a coffin drop. It may sound easy, but it is rather difficult to perform in real.
Crease is a surfer term similar to ding. It means that the board has been damaged halfway through snapping.
Crest is a surfer slang but also a real word in the dictionary. It refers to the highest point of a wave.
23. Dawn Patrol
Dawn patrol is a wonderful surfing term as it refers to the surfers who go early in the morning when the dawn is breaking.
Dawny is similar to dawn patrol, but this refers to someone who starts surfing at first light. At the same time, dawn patrol talks about the group and the process.
25. Double-up Wave
As the name suggests, when a smaller wave merges with a larger one and creates one powerful wave, it’s called a double-up wave.
26. Doggy Door
Doggy door is more of a failure than a technique. When you’re trying to attempt a barrel, but the clean exit seems impossible, so you just punch your way out, it's called the doggy door.
27. Double overhead mush burger
Double overhead mush burger is yet another name for a wave that is two times bigger than the surfer and loaded with foam from a previously broken wave.
If you ever damage your surfboard, break it, crack it, or any visible abnormality, it is called a ding. You can use it in sentences like “My surfboard got a ding.”
29. Drop in
Drop in, as the name suggests, means that you drop in on someone. Remember, this is not a good thing, and the basic rules include never dropping in on a surfer.
30. Duck dive
Duck dive is quite a popular terminology as it refers to a surfing technique where the surfer dives into the water along with the surfboard toward an approaching wave. As you can see, the name reflects how a duck normally dives into water.
Yes, the deck is the top surface of a surfer’s board. The same term applies to both long and short boards.
Dragging is a surfing technique in which a surfer riding the barrel or pig-dogging on backhand drags their rear into the wave to decelerate.
Unlike stoked or amped, dope is a term to describe something and not emotions. For instance, you see a really good-looking surfboard, and you’ll say, “that’s dope!”.
Fizzing is a surfer term to express excitement for something that has been anticipated.
Frothing is a popular surfer slang that carries the same meaning as fizzing. To froth means you are excited about something.
36. Full Rota
Full rota is short for full rotation. It is another surfing technique in which a surfer performs a 360-degree rotation in mid-air.
After a strong offshore wind drains power from waves, it is called feathery. This is a surfer slang for weakened waves.
38. Getting Barrelled
Yet again, getting barrelled is a follow-up term for the barrel wave. As you have guessed, when a surfer gets covered up by that wave, it is called getting barrelled.
This is an old surfing slang that you might already be familiar with. Yes, gnarly means something good or better. Commonly used as “that’s so gnarly, dude!” meaning that it was so good.
40. Goofy Footed
Goofy foot is a term used to describe the stance of a surfer on their board. If you have your left foot back and the right foot front, you are goofy-footed.
41. Going over the falls
Going over the falls is a surfing phrase that is not as gentle as it sounds. That is to say when a surfer gets sucked over with an enormous breaking wave or fails to perform a duck dive, it is called going over the falls.
42. Gorkin Flip
Gorkin flip is something similar to a full rota. This is a surfing technique in which a surfer jumps mid-air and does a 360 with a backside double grab.
Grom is a surfing term used to describe a kid surfer. It is commonly used among surfing tribes across the world.
44. Hang Ten
Hang Ten is a widely renowned surfing technique, and it is mostly done on longboards when a surfer starts to move forward on the board and stands straight with their toes hanging over the nose of the board.
45. Hang Five
Hang Five is a variation of the Hang Ten. As you might have already guessed, this slang means to stand with 5 toes hanging over the nose of the board.
45. Hang Loose
Hang Loose itself does not carry a specific meaning, but it is a Hawaiian surf culture phrase that is used in a friendly manner to tell others to relax.
45. Head Dip
Head Dip is a surfer slang for when a surfer dips their head inside a barrel that is incredibly small.
Helicopter is a surfing move that is similar to the full rota. However, it is done by performing the 360 on a longboard while standing at the nose of the board.
Yep! Indo means Indonesia. It’s a short surfer term and incredibly popular because it is a highly sought-after location by surfers all around the world.
48. Impact Zone
Impact zone is a surfer phrase to describe the area or zone where waves are breaking continuously and consistently.
Inside is a surfer term for describing a zone of the wave. This is located inside the impact zone of the wave.
Kook is one surfer term you wish to never hear. It is a different level of insult that cannot be comprehended. Experienced surfers also fall victim to this, as Kook refers to a surfer who causes problems for other surfers and even puts them in danger. These people lack the common knowledge of surfing.
Keg is another surfer term that is used as an alternative for barrel wave. The usage of the term varies from location to location.
52. Kick Out
When a surfer pulls off a wave intentionally, this process is called a kick out.
Layback is an exciting surfing technique and a maneuver in which surfers reach high speeds and occasionally lean back far enough so that they are basically lying down on their backs on the board.
Leggie refers to the lease or legrope that you can find on the surfboards. It acts as a link between the board and your ankle. Hence, providing safety in case you crash into a wave and do not lose your surfboard.
This is linked with “The Back”. Lineup is the name given to the area out the back, and yes, this is the space where most surfers sit and wait for good waves to come.
The lip is similar to the crest but different; it is the uppermost part of the wave but is used to refer to the tip of the wave.
This is a nasty surfer term. Surfers often have the claim that they have a divine right over a specific area, and no outsider is welcome to ride them.
Macking is a surfing term used to describe enormous and dangerous waves. They are not so easy or safe to ride.
59. Maxing/Maxed Out
This is a follow-up term for macking waves. When a wave becomes too large to handle, it is called maxed out.
These waves are the opposite of maxing and macking. The mushie waves are too soft and carry no power. Hence, making them useless.
61. Mal or Malibu
It can easily be confused for the place, but no, this term is used specifically for a 9 to 11-foot-long surfboard (longboard) that has incredible buoyancy and neat rails.
Messy waves are too inconsistent and are breaking constantly. These waves are also rendered useless to the surfers and called messy.
63. New School
New school is a surfing phrase used to describe surfers who have abandoned the traditional surfing ways and use new and advanced approaches.
64. No Man’s Land
No man’s land is not a place but a sticky situation when a surfer gets caught between a series of merciless incoming waves and the shoreline. This makes it incredibly hard to paddle your way out.
Nica is a surfing term that is an abbreviation of Nicaragua. You might be familiar with the name as it is one of the top three tropical destinations where you can find the surf camp of Rapture.
A nug wave is one which is a unique and beautiful wave of excellent quality that is highly contested for among the surfing community.
When a surfer rides only the front-most part of their surfboard, it is referred to as nose-riding.
When a surfer is surfing through a wave, and it reaches over their head, they call that particular wave an overhead.
Onshore and Offshore are popular terms that may sound alike but can never be used at the same time. To clarify, Offshore refers to the winds that blow away from land to the sea. At the same time, Onshore are winds that blow towards land from the sea.
70. Over the Falls
Over the falls is a phenomenon that occurs when a surfer is spontaneously dragged over the wave lip and gets hammered by the wave.
When a macking or maxing wave occurs, and a surfer feels that the wave is too much for them to handle, they refer to it as being over-gunned.
When a wave grows to the point that the height exceeds that of a surfer, it is called an overhead wave.
Pocket is another popular surfing term used to address the nearest curl area of the wave. This particular area gives you a maximum speed boost.
When a surfer who is lying on their belly on the surfboard stands up on it, they call it a “pop-up”.
75. Pura Vida
Pura Vida is a must-know term for any surfer who is going to Costa Rica for surfing. This is a slang greeting commonly used in Costa Rica. When you say Pura Vida, you are expressing positivity, optimism, and joy.
76. Party Wave
Party waves are those on which groups of surfers, mainly friends, ride together. Given the nature of the riding style, they are called party waves.
When a large wave slowly starts to break down, surfers refer to it as a peeling wave that slowly shrinks over time.
78. Point Break
Point break is a surfing term that describes a wave breaking off a headland and different waves wrapping around, resulting in slow peeling.
Pumping is another surfing expression used to describe waves that are undeniably good for riding.
Aerial is another surfing technique term that refers to propelling the surfboard over the edge of the wave and jumping into the air. It is also known as a punt but mostly aerial because of its nature.
This slang refers to a collection. If a surfer tells you, they want to show you their quiver. They mean that they want to show you their collection of surfboards.
Ragdolled is more of a slang surfer term. You might have heard it outside the surfer community as well. Similarly to that, when a surfer is swung around underwater and thrown away, it is said that he has been ragdolled.
Ramp is a surfing term that is used to depict the point of ejection. It is a follow-up of the aerial. To clarify, this is the point where the surfer leaps into the aerial technique.
Reformer is not a term for a surfer but for the phenomenon where a wave breaks out the back only to get a whitewash done. A reformer is an excellent wave for you if you are a beginner.
85. Regular Footed
This is an additional slang to the one mentioned previously. If you put your left foot forward and the other back, that stance is considered regular footed.
Re-entry is an advanced level surfing technique in which a surfer rides the wave lip and moves their surfboard to change direction and surf all the way back to the beach.
Normally, surfboards are curved from the tail to the nose. The curve of a surfboard is called the “rocker” of the board.
Unlike the ones mentioned before, set waves are enormous, and they always come in groups; the least number ever seen is two. They are highly sought by seasoned surfers because of the power and duration they offer.
89. Swell/Wave period
This term refers to the visible distance between two waves that may pass through a stationary point and are measured in seconds.
The shoulder is a part of the wave past the wave pocket. It has less energy compared to the rest of the wave but is excellent for lateral maneuvering.
91. Surfer’s froth
Surfer’s froth is a beginner's slang. When you say you’re frothing to surf dangerous tides, you show optimism and happiness towards advancement.
As the name suggests, shorey is the term to describe waves that tend to break on the shore. However, they are tough waves to ride as they normally break quite hard. You may also know them as shorebreak.
When a surfer says they are stoked, they mean that they are feeling unrivaled feelings of joy and excitement. This slang is mostly used to express happiness.
Shaka is a term that carries the same meaning as hang loose, and it’s a friendly expression that tells the other person to take it easy.
Thruster is a term for surfboards, even though it gives the impression of a technique. The three-finned surfboards invented in 1980 are popularly known as thrusters. Simon Anderson, an Australian surfer, was the one who invented these popular boards.
96. The back
The back is a surfing term to address the area beyond the waves where the surfing lineup is. The back will be your point of surfing once you advance from the beginner level.
Have you ever come across a twin-fin surfboard? They were first made in the 1940s and were popular before the thrusters took over. Yes, Twinny is the name given to those vintage surfboards.
Wipeout is when a surfer is riding a nice wave and just falls off the board for any reason. This term is quite popular among beginner surfers.
When a wave breaks, whitewash is the name for the section that is broken. These waves have less energy and are perfect for beginners.
Wettie and Leggie go together because they both refer to surfing equipment. The wettie is a slang for wetsuits used by surfers. They come in varying thicknesses for males and females.
When the waves collide with the shore, they form a foamy part. That white-looking bit is called whitewater because of its color.
This list contains the biggest collection of popular surfing terms and phrases that you can find anywhere. If you learn all the words in this list, you’re good to dive into the surfer tribe and bond quickly to become part of the family.
However, be careful with the words and don’t get carried away; the first rule is to stay humble and polite. Keep your ears open as surfers tend to sometimes merge the slang and create something different.