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Surfer Slang & Terms

   August 17th, 2020   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Surfer Slang: Popular Surfing Terms & Use

Surf-speak has evolved over the decades and is forever changing as new generations of coastal locals and traveling surfers rise. Surfer slang is tossed around in the lineup, on the sand between sessions, or inside the local surf shop. Some terms stick around while others fade and more than likely you’ve heard surfer slang in movies such as the 60s surf film Endless Summer, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, or the 1991 action movie, Point Break with Keanu Reeves playing an undercover surfer who undermines surf rebel, Patrick Swayze. But which slang for surfers is relevant in 2020?

 

Surf slang is unique because it derives from the personal stoke of surfing. The word, stoke, or stoked, meaning fired-up or excited, derives from the act of harnessing water beneath your feet while charging a big wave. A feeling only a few people experience in their lifetime, and a feeling that has altered the human language worldwide. Hardly any other extreme sport or action activity carries such a lengthy and well-known vocabulary as surf slang does and if you’re around it long enough, you may start to notice a change in the way you describe the beach environment or your surfing experience.

 

Surfing is tribal, and surfer slang differs across many coastlines. If you’re interested in learning some of today’s top surfing terms and definitions, here are some bangers you may come across in the lineup or at the pier.

surfer slang and terms

Surf slang for clothing & board nomenclature

  • Boardies- Board shorts or trunks.
  • Wettie- Australian term for a wetsuit.
  • Shortie- Spring suit (Short sleeve wetsuit.)
  • Full Suit- Full body wetsuit.
  • BootiesNeoprene footwear for extremely cold surfing conditions.
  • Hoodie- Neoprene wetsuit hood for ear and face protection.
  • MM- Wetsuit thickness in millimeters.
  • RashguardNon-wetsuit protective shirt in short or long sleeve. Prevents wax rash and sunburn for the upper body.
  • Screen, Zinc, or Block- Sunscreen.
  • Surf Wax- Grip for feet and usually has a fantastic aroma.
  • Stick- Surfboard.
  • Leash- Ankle strap with a stretchable and durable chord. Additional safety and saves time from treading water.
  • Shortboard- Surfboards under 5’11 – 6’ feet in length.
  • Longboard- Surfboards over 7-8’feet in length.
  • Funboard- Medium size board is ideal for carving. Funboard shapes may be a combination of short and longboard. Also, funboards have thicker rails.
  • Bodyboard (a.k.a Boogie board or Sponge)-Square-like board made from sponge material with shin or arm leash.
  • Gun- Big wave surfboard. Think longer-looking shortboard.
  • Ding/Pressure Ding- Bottom dents or gouges in your board.
  • Rail- Side edges of your surfboard.
  • Nose- Tip of your surfboard.
  • Rocker- The bottom curve of the surfboard.
  • Tail- The lower bottom end of a surfboard.
  • Pintail- Pointed or rounded tail.
  • Fishtail- V-cut tail shape. Enhances flow and riding style.
  • Squash Tail- Squared bottom.
  • Channel- The bottom grooves beneath surfboard.
  • Triplefin- Smaller size shortboard fins.
  • Single fin- Typically a funboard or longboard/Paddleboard fin.
  • Hydrofoil Foil BoardA Board that rides below-surface currents with a large, elongated fin.
  • Traction pad- Rearfoot grip, occasionally sold as a front foot grip strip.

Popular surfing maneuvers & tricks

Nothing feels worse than not knowing what you’re doing on a wave or how to describe your last amazing ride to someone who is, or isn’t familiar with surfing terms. Some common terminology for surfing tricks are as follows:

 

  • Duck dive- Dodging white water or a breaking wave by ducking beneath. Push the surfboard firmly to sink it, lean forward, and push the foot into the grip pad or rear portion of the board.
  • Floater- Riding atop the barrel as it breaks.
  • Pitted/Piped/ In The Green Room- Going deep within a wave’s barrel.
  • Snapback- A cutback maneuver at the crest of a breaking wave where you pivot the board.
  • Shoot-the-Pier- Bravely riding a wave through the pier pilings.
  • Cutback- To cut back toward the whitewash of the wave, snapping back forward to re-catch the wave’s momentum.
  • Stall- To shift your weight backward to slow your speed or before pull-out.
  • Aerial/Boosted- Launching above the lip or crest of the wave.
  • Backdoor- Shooting for a barrel before the curl breaks.
  • Paddle out- To paddle out past the wave break.
  • Caught inside- Stuck in the whitewash of a wave.
  • Hang-ten (Toes to the Nose)- Longboarding maneuver where both feet are at the nose of the board.

Slang for weather and surf conditions

  • Point Break- The point where wave sets roll in. Pointbreaks can be at the shallow tip of a pass or inlet and or a rock jetty.
  • Reef Break- Usually the shallow and sharp area where a wave breaks. You should be at least at an intermediate skill level before paddling out at a reef.
  • Jetty- Commonly a rock jetty with shallows that create excellent peelers. Watch out for boats and sharks.
  • Ankle Slappers- Small waves.
  • Glassy- Smooth and clean waves.
  • Shorebreak/Pounders- Heavy waves along the shoreline. A Prime spot for bodyboarders.
  • Blown-Out/Washed Out- When the afternoon winds turn the conditions choppy.
  • Close-Out- When the wave breaks ahead of the surfer or on top.
  • Dawn Patrol- Early morning surf sessions.
  • Riptide/Undertow- The strong current below the surface that can drown you.
  • A-Frame- An A-frame wave breaks perfectly in the middle, sending barrels in both directions.
  • Lefts & Rights- A left breaking wave, from the perspective of the view onshore, breaks to the viewer’s left-hand side. If you were to take a left breaking wave in a goofy-footed stance, your back would be to the wave in a backside stance. And if the waves are peeling right, the surfer who is riding goofy-footed would face the wave in a “front side” stance.
  • Chest High- Waves you can see over or at chest level.
  • Overhead & Double Overhead- Unless you’re in the NBA, overhead waves are taller than the surfer while standing on the board. Double overhead means, get prepared to hold your breath.
  • Snake- Taking another surfer’s wave or dominant take-off position.
  • Double-Up- When a wave splits into two humps. Increases chances for a wipeout or unexpected aerial.

Local Surfer Slang Terms

Slang terms between surfers and fishermen vary across the world. Some words like “Kook” and “Barney” are universal and even the term “Googan,” which means trashy shore fishermen are being used in certain surf communities.

 

If you’re not from the area you are surfing and it’s crowded, depending on your skill level you might hear such words shouted at you by an individual or within a group of locals. But not to worry and the best advice is to ignore it. There will always be a surf hierarchy of dominance within the locals especially if the surf spot is a slice of paradise.

 

Local surfers know the beauty of their beach and it’s human instinct to protect their precious wavescape from newcomers. If you’re arriving at an unfamiliar surf spot, always remain respectful and leave with your garbage to avoid being called out or confronted. Below are some terms you may come across in a local surf community.

 

  • Grom/Grommet- Young or up and coming surfer.
  • Haole- Hawaiian term for unwanted tourists in the wave lineup.
  • Kook- Universal word for a novice or disrespectful surfer. A danger to those surfing near them.
  • Barney-Newbie, goofy surfer.
  • Q-Tip- Elderly person with white hair, and white sneakers. Also known as pier walkers.
  • Chaefin- The rough red patch between on the thighs from prolonged board straddling in the wave lineup.
  • Gnarly(Gnar-Gnar)- Twisted or gross, insane.
  • Beef it/ Eat it– Slang for a wipeout.
  • Nosedive- Wipeout falling forward over your board.
  • Thirsty- A craving or longing for waves.
  • Dryspell- Prolonged period of flat conditions.
  • Kiter- Kiteboarder.
  • Paddle Pirate- Die-hard fitness paddle boarder or salty social paddler.
  • Skimmer- Skimboarder.
  • Sponger-Bodyboarder
  • Skeeter/Tweaker- Sketchy homeless individual who takes beach valuables while owners are in the water.
  • Beach Creature-Avid beachgoer or beach bum.

What not to say

Surfing is so free-spirited that anything that comes to mind and out of your mouth is welcomed as long as it isn’t derogatory or hateful. However, some words have lost touch over time, or are flat out cringe-worthy terms in today’s world. One should steer away from saying slang terms from cartoons or movies. Words should be avoided like:

 

  • Cowabunga!
  • Shoobie
  • Far-out
  • Radical (Rad is usually acceptable)
Patrick Kirk

Patrick Kirk

Patrick Thomas is a Coast Guard veteran who grew up surfing and fishing in southwest Florida. Having lived in Puerto Rico and the Outer Banks, NC, he now works as a full-time photographer and author in Austin, TX. More of his work and photography is available at pkthomas.com.
Patrick Kirk

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