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Surfing Glossary



    Aerial - High-performance maneuver first attempted by skateboard-influenced surfers like Florida’s Matt Kechele and Australian Cheyne Horan, but later made popular by Californians Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold in the ’80s.

    A-frame - A wave peak shaped like the letter A; usually peels in both directions.

    Aggro - Describes an extremely aggressive, menacing, and potentially violent surfer.

    Air - Aerial maneuver.

    Air-drop - The term used to describe a takeoff in which the board becomes briefly detached from the wave’s surface, usually the result of a late drop and a steep wave face.

    Alaia board - Pre-20th century Hawaiian surfboard made of a koa wood plank, with a length usually between 7 and 12 feet.


    Backdoor takeoff - A maneuver in which a surfer takes off behind the peak, or breaking part of the wave, usually to set up a tube ride.

    Backwash - A strong and often-annoying surge of water up the wave face produced by water rushing down the beach back into the surf zone.

    Baja, California - The 780-mile long stretch is home to countless high-quality surf breaks, some of which are well known, while others are remote and remain quite desolate. Longtime destination for adventurous Southern California surfers looking to escape crowds.

    Bali - South-central island in Indonesia that is home to a bevy of world-class surf breaks including renowned breaks Uluwatu and Padang-Padag.

    Barney - Novice or beginner surfer.

    Barrel - Hollow, tubing wave produced by a pitching lip and light or offshore winds (also see “tube”).

    Beachbreak - Term used to describe a surf zone located on a sandy beach in which waves break over a sandbar. Usually beach breaks offer less consistent surf than point and reef breaks because they rely on a shifting, sandy bottom.

    Bellyboarding - Also called “bodyboarding” or “boogieboarding,” this is a method of riding waves in which a rider lies flat on a small, thin board.

    Biarritz - Scenic beachfront town in southwest France that is regarded as the birthplace of French surfing. Home to Cote de Basques and le Grand Plage beaches, Biarritz is home to a well-established surf community and is a stop on the pro-surfing World Tour.

    Big-wave surfing - Big-wave riding has existed for decades on the Hawaiian Islands, where surfers routinely push themselves into massive waves at famed breaks such as Oahu’s Waimea Bay. As the popularity of surfing spread, other big-wave zones have produced small pockets of ultra-committed, daredevil big-wave riders at breaks like Dungeons in South Africa, and California’s infamous cold-water big-wave spot, Mavericks.

    Blown out - Term used to describe messy, choppy surf resulting from an excess of onshore (blowing from the ocean towards land) wind. This is usually synonymous with the “no surfing today” command.

    Bodysurfing - The act of riding waves with little or no equipment, using the body as the primary surf object. Accessories such as fins and/or handheld paddles are often used to enhance the bodysurfers’ rides.

    Boil - A circular bubbling effect that occurs when a passing wave churns over a segment of reef or large rock not far from the ocean’s surface. Because they appear in shallow water, boils indicate a hazard to surfers looking to avoid reef and rocks.

    Bomb - Term used to describe an exceptionally large wave.

    Bonzer - Three- or five-fin surfboard design that features one large center fin and two or four small, angled side fins. Invented in 1972 by Malcolm and Duncan Campbell in Oxnard, California.

    Boost - The act of performing an aerial maneuver.

    Booties - Neoprene surf boots worn in cold locations along with a wetsuit, and occasionally at tropical surf spots where sharp reef presents a hazard.

    Bottom turn - Maneuver performed at the bottom of the wave in which the surfer performs a turn in anticipation of the top turn, or any following maneuver.

    Bowl - Describes a convex wave shape that resembles the side of a bowl, caused by a raised bottom contour. Generally results in a powerful and well-shaped surfing wave.

    Breakwater - See “Jetty.”

    Bro/Brah - Guy, man, dude, friend.

    Buoy report - Used by surfers to read the meteorological information provided by offshore buoys. Buoys record data such as barometric pressure, wind direction and speed, and wave height and period; many are overseen by the National Data Buoy Center.

    Burn - The unfavorable act of one surfer dropping in front of another surfer already riding a wave.


    Canoe surfing - The act of riding a wave via canoe. Polynesian cultures have been canoe surfing for thousands of years; the first European contact with surfing was in 1777, when British explorer Captain James Cook documented a Tahitian canoe surfer.

    Caught inside - Describes the hapless position a surfer faces when unable to paddle through the surf zone due to large and powerful waves breaking “outside.”

    Chandelier - Refers to the cascade of water that sometimes falls from the roof of an imperfect barrel.

    Channel - A channel is created by water being pushed from the beach back toward deep water and the open ocean; offers a surfer safe passage to the surf zone.

    Channel bottom - Surfboard design featuring a series of longitudinal grooves, or channels, on the bottom rear of the board.

    Charge - Surfing with reckless abandon and little concern for personal safety, usually in large waves.

    Cheater five - Manuever in which the surfer walks to the front of the surfboard, crouches, and places one foot over the nose of the board. Popularized during the mid-1960s “hotdog” era.

    Chicama - Majestic left-hand point break located in Northern Peru; regarded as the world’s longest wave, offering rides up to a mile long on a good day.

    Clean-up set - Describes a set of waves that breaks farther out to sea than where the surfers are sitting, thus “cleaning out” the lineup.

    Closeout - Term used to describe a wave that does not offer a peeling, rideable shoulder, instead simultaneously breaking from end to end.

    Cloudbreak - Generic term used to describe a rare-breaking outer-reef surf spot. Also the name of a world class left-hand reef break in Fiji.

    Cocoa Beach - Beach town in Central Florida, generally known for producing mediocre surf. Nevertheless, Cocoa Beach has given rise to a handful of notable surfers including nine-time world champion Kelly Slater.

    Concave - Describes the geometric contour of a depressed area on the bottom of a surfboard. California’s Bob Simmons first experimented with concave in the 1950s, but concave bottoms didn’t catch on until later in the mid ’60s.

    Cover-up - Refers to a quick, semi-successful attempt to ride in the tube. Usually performed in smaller surf.

    Cranking - Consistent, powerful, and high-quality surf. See “pumping.”

    Crest - The top part of a breaking wave. Synonymous with “curl” or “lip.”

    Cross-step - Traditional method for getting to the front of a surfboard, in which a surfer places his back foot forward, crossing his front foot in the process. Usually performed on a longboard in anticipation of a nose ride.

    Curl - See “Crest.”

    Current - Describes the flow of water in the ocean, from large, transoceanic streams to smaller local eddies.

    Cutback - Practical and timeless maneuver in which a surfer moves out onto the wave face and then turns and redirects back towards the breaking part of the wave.

    Cutty - Short for cutback.


    Dawn patrol - Surfer lingo for rising early and going surfing at dawn.

    Deck - Refers to the top surface of a surfboard, where the surfer stands. The deck is usually covered in a layer of wax for added grip.

    Delaminate - Board deterioration that occurs when a surfboard’s resin-bonded fiberglass layer peels from the underlying foam core. Can be caused by repeated heel dents and prolonged exposure to heat.

    Dig a rail - Describes an often wipeout-causing error in which a surfer puts too much weight on one side of the surfboard, “digging” the board’s edge or rail into the water and abruptly stopping the board’s forward momentum.

    Ding repair - The process of fixing a damaged surfboard. Usually refers to a relatively minor repair, since a “ding” denotes less-serious damage.

    Doggy door - Exiting the barrel of a wave before it closes out, through a fleeting gap or window.

    Double-up - Occurs when two separate waves combine into a single, powerful wave. Often characterized by a “step” in the wave face, and a thick, wide tube.

    Draining - Describes the conditions when waves are hollow and tubular.

    Drop - Term used to describe a surfer’s takeoff and entry into a wave. After the surfer gets to his feet he rides down, or “drops”, into the wave.

    Drop-in - Describes the begrudging act of one surfer taking off in front of another surfer who is closer to the breaking part of the wave. An intentional drop-in is a blatant violation of proper surfing etiquette.

    Drop-knee turn - Maneuver in which a surfer executes a cutback or bottom turn by lowering, or dropping his back leg throughout the turn. Usually relegated to longboarding, the drop-knee turn was popular in the ’40s and ’50s.

    Dry reef - Refers to a shallow reef or rock that is close, or above, the ocean surface. Generally considered a surfing hazard.

    Duck dive - An action performed by a surfer attempting to dive under an approaching wave that has either recently broken or is close to doing so. The duck dive is executed by placing a foot on the middle of the board, pushing the board under the surface, and then ducking close the board as the wave passes overhead.

    Dungeons - Ominous big-wave break near Cape Town, South Africa. Dungeons is a right-breaking reef wave that breaks dangerously close to a rocky headland and can hold wave sizes in excess of 40 feet. Other hazards include an abundance of great white sharks, thick fog, and water temperature hovering in the low 50s.


    Edge - Describes the angled area on a surfboard where the line of the rail meets the flat bottom surface. Not commonly found on longboards; shortboards generally have a sharp, pronounced edge towards the rear of the board, with little or no edge through the middle and nose of the board.

    Egg - Mid-length, egg-shaped surfboard popularized by Australian surfer Wayne Lynch in the late 1960s. Similar to a hybrid, or “funboard.”

    Epic - Term describing exceptionally perfect surfing conditions, although can often be exaggerated.

    Epoxy surfboard - Surfboard made from epoxy resin instead of the standard polyester resin. Epoxy boards are often lighter, stronger, and more buoyant than traditional polyester resin. However, their overall performance is somewhat questionable due to an apparent lack of flex.


    Face - The unbroken, open “walled” section of a wave, where most surfing maneuvers take place.

    Fade - Maneuver in which a surfer angles his descent of the wave face back toward the steeper part of the wave, usually in anticipation of an upcoming maneuver, such as a tube ride.

    Fat - Describes a slow, mushy wave shoulder that breaks without pitching forcefully.

    Fiberglass - Thin, silica-based material that, together with resin, forms the outer layer of a surfboard.

    Fin - Attached to the bottom rear of the surfboard, the rudder-inspired fin serves to stabilize a surfboard and provide the surfer control while maneuvering the craft.

    Fin-first takeoff - Maneuver made popular during the ’50s “hot dog” era in which a surfer takes off with the rear end of the surfboard facing towards the beach, and then swiftly slides the board a half-revolution and resumes riding in a standard, nose-forward position.

    Finner - A turn in which the surfer elevates the surfboard’s fins up out of the water and over the top of the wave.

    Fish - Short, wide surfboard shape invented by Californian Steve Lis in the late 1960s. The traditional fish design features a twin-fin setup and a flat rocker.

    Flat - Term used to describe an absence of waves. A “flat spell” refers to an extended period without surf.

    Floater - Maneuver in which the surfer angles slightly up the wave and rides, or “floats” laterally over a breaking section of the wave before dropping back onto the wave face.

    FlowRider - Brand name synthetic standing-wave designed by San Diego’s Tom Lochtefeld in the early ’90s. The first Flowrider opened in Texas in 1991; can be ridden on a small, surfboard-like craft or on a bodyboard.

    Foil - The distribution of thickness throughout a surfboard, from nose to tail.

    Four-Fin - See “quad.”

    Free ride - Highly influential surf movie released in 1977; featured the surfing of Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew.

    Freefall - The unfortunate, and sometimes dangerous, plunge from the crest of a steep wave down toward the bottom, or trough of the wave.

    Frothing - Eager, excited.

    Fullsuit - A wetsuit that features long-sleeves and full-length legs.

    Funboard - Hybrid surfboard design; features the length of a shorter longboard and the shape of a shortboard. Designed with the beginner surfer in mind.


    Gaff - Aggressive turn in which the surfer quickly redirects the board’s direction, resulting in a large displacement of water, or spray.

    Gidget - Subject and name of Frederick Kohner’s novel, focused on the Malibu (Calif.)-based adventures of his daughter, Kathy, nicknamed “Gidget.” The novel sold well, and was quickly adapted into a successful Hollywood movie, released by Columbia pictures in 1959.

    Glass-off - Describes the late-afternoon condition that occurs when the day’s onshore winds begin to ebb and the ocean becomes “glassy” and smooth.

    Glassy - Condition when the ocean is in an ultra-smooth, “glassy” state due to a lack of wind. Generally a preferred surfing condition.

    Gnarly - Surf lingo for dangerous, or “crazy.” Often used to describe enormous surf or a particularly wild and perilous ride.

    Goofy foot - A rider who places his right foot forward on a surfboard.

    Greenroom - Surf lingo describing the sensational view seen from inside the barrel. See “tube.”

    Gremmie - Slightly disparaging term given to young surfers. Originally derived from the term “gremlin.”

    Grommet - Modern-day adaptation of the term “gremmie,” given to overzealous young surfers; often shortened to “grom.”

    Ground swell - Refers to a swell type that originates from a distant storm system and is characterized by a period longer than 15 seconds of fast, powerful surf.

    Grovel - Describes a surf session that takes place in sub-standard or mediocre conditions, due either to large crowds or poor wave quality.

    Gun - Big-wave surfboard, 7 to 12 feet in length and generally featuring a narrow, streamlined shape. The term “gun” originated from big-wave surfer Buzzy Trent, who referred to his board as an “elephant gun.”


    Hack - Fast, aggressive turn. See “gaff.”

    Hang five - Nose-riding variation in which the surfer puts one foot, or five toes, over the front of the board.

    Hang ten - “Hotdog” longboard maneuver in which a surfer puts both feet (or ten toes) over the front of the surfboard; considered the ultimate nose-riding feat.

    Haole - Somewhat derogatory term used by native Hawaiians to describe Caucasian visitors or non-natives to Hawaii.

    Hawaii - The epicenter of ancient and modern surfing, the Hawaiian Islands are located 2,090 miles southwest of the U.S. mainland. Hawaii’s four major islands are Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii; Oahu is by far the most populated island, and is also home to the world’s most revered surf breaks, including Waikiki, the Bonzai Pipeline, and Waimea Bay.

    Head dip - Maneuver performed in small surf in which a surfer crouches and inserts his head into the crest of the wave.

    Hollow - Describes a wave that pitches top to bottom with enough force to produce a tubular, hollow barrel. Wind conditions can also help produce a hollow wave, as offshore wind often holds up a wave face, allowing the lip to project outward.

    Hot-dogging - Flashy, showman-inspired longboard surfing of the ’50s and ’60s. Popular hotdogging maneuvers included headstands, spinners, walking the nose, and the fin-first takeoff.

    Huge Monday - Classic Pacific Ocean swell that hit Oahu’s North Shore January 17, 1972, producing some of the biggest, cleanest surf ever seen at Pipeline. Standout surfers on Huge Monday included Gerry Lopez, Owl Chapman, Sam Hawk, and Jock Sutherland.

    Hybrid - Surfboard design that falls somewhere between a performance shortboard and a longboard; regarded as beginner-friendly.


    Ice cream headache - Describes the painful sensation that occurs after a surfer submerges his head into cold water; similar to a “brain freeze.”

    Impact zone - Refers to the area at a surf spot where the waves are repeatedly breaking.

    Inside - Located between the area where the waves are breaking – the impact zone – and the beach. See “caught inside.”


    Jaws - Notable big-wave spot located on the north coast of Maui in Hawaii, Jaws is reputed as holding some of the biggest waves on the planet, with huge winter swells often producing waves in excess of 40 feet. Regarded as a tow-in only wave.

    Jeffreys Bay - Legendary right-hand point break located at the base of Cape St. Francis, South Africa. Broken into five sections: The Point, Tubes, Boneyards, Magnatubes, and Supertubes, J-Bay is regarded as one of the best surfing waves in the world and can sometimes produce rides up to 1,000 yards long.

    Jetty - Manmade structure made of rocks or concrete “jacks,” stretching from the beach outward into the ocean. Jettys are often built to redirect sand flow, and can sometimes produce well-shaped surfing waves.


    Keg - Large, hollow wave. See “slab.”

    Kelp - Long, vine-like plant that grows up from the ocean floor. Found in cold and temperate climates, kelp can benefit surfing conditions by keeping the ocean smooth when a light wind persists.

    Kick stall - Maneuver performed to slow to a near stop on the wave face, generally in order to set up an oncoming tube or noseride. The surfer puts weight on the rear foot, momentarily lifting the front of the board from the water, before re-stabilizing and continuing the ride.

    Kiteboarding - Sport evolved from windsurfing in which a rider attaches himself to a harness-bound kite and uses a board secured by foot-straps. Kiteboarding gained popularity in the late ’90s and is divided into three competitive categories: Freestyle, hang-time, and best trick.

    Knee paddle - Paddling a surfboard from a kneeling position, with both arms working simultaneously; popular longboard paddle method, especially in smaller surf.

    Kneeboarding - The act of riding a surfboard from a kneeling position; the surfer places his knees on the deck of the board, and often wears fins for added wave-catching ability. Kneeboarding was popularized in the ’60s and ’70s and is considered the forerunner of modern progressive surfing. Notable kneeboarders include George Greenough and Steve Lis.

    Kook - Derogatory term given to the beginner surfer entrenched in ignorance and blissfully unaware of surfing custom, culture, and etiquette.


    Layback - Maneuver in which a surfer draws a sharp cutback turn while simultaneously bending the back and shoulders onto the wave face before regaining a centered balance and returning to an upright position. Popularized in the late ’70s and still a semi-prevalent maneuver.

    Leash - Urethane cord attached to the tail end of the surfboard and the surfer’s back ankle; used to keep the surfboard from being washed in toward the beach. The modern surf leash was invented in the early ’70s, though surfers had been experimenting with leashes since the 1930s.

    Left - A wave that breaks from left to right, as viewed from land looking towards the ocean.

    Lineup - Name given to the area where surfers congregate as they wait for oncoming waves. Lineups can vary greatly in size depending on the surf spot.

    Lining up - A visual cue such as a tree or building that a surfer would use to mark the appropriate spot to sit while waiting for a wave.

    Lip - The generally preferred term for the very top, or crest, of a wave.

    Localism - Social phenomenon that often results in a dispute or altercation, physical or otherwise. Since the initial surf-mania explosion in the 1950s, the sport of surfing has grown drastically, leading to the overcrowding of numerous surf spots in popular surf locations like Hawaii, California, and Australia. The territorial rift between beach locals and visitors or traveling surfers manifests itself as surf localism.

    Log - Slang term used to describe any hefty, and potentially awkward looking longboard.

    Longboard - Type of surfboard, coined in the 1960s to differentiate it from other, shorter designs; generally over eight feet in length with a blunt front end, longboards can have one or three fins and come in a variety of dimensions, from thick and bulky to relatively slim and streamlined.

    Lull - The quiet period in between sets of waves in which the ocean appears relatively calm and waveless.


    Macking - Describes surfing conditions in which the waves are extraordinarily massive.

    Makaha - Historically significant surf break located on the west side of Oahu, likely ridden by ancient Hawaiians, but first surfed in the pre-modern era by Kuho’oheihei “Abner” Paki in the 19th century. Became the original site for big-wave surfing in the early ’40s, quickly gaining a reputation as the ultimate proving ground for surfers looking to ride powerful waves in excess of 15 feet.

    Malibu - Renowned sand-bottom point break in Los Angeles County, California that functioned as the epicenter of the surf world from the mid ’40s until the mid ’60s. The wave itself can produce beautifully flawless right-hand peelers, giving the first performance-driven surfers the perfect testing track for new riding styles and board designs. Legendary Malibu surfers include Dale Velzy, Dave Sweet, and later Johnny Fain and the “Black Night of Malibu,” Mickey Dora.

    Marine layer - Persistent layer of coastal fog caused when warm, inland air comes into contact with a cold body of ocean water; common occurrence on the Western Coast of the United States.

    Mavericks - Feared big-wave surf spot 25 miles south of San Francisco, California pioneered in the mid-1970s by local Jeff Clark, who rode the wave alone for 15 years. Winter wave heights can reach 40 feet and beyond; water temperature hovers in the low 50s, and great white sharks sightings in the area are common.

    Mental - Describes an extraordinary wave or conditions, or a specific surfing maneuver. See “epic.”

    Morey Boogie - Original foam bodyboard designed by Southern California surfer Tom Morey, originally marketed as a waveriding tool that could be ridden in surf zones that surfboards couldn’t. Eventually, Morey’s design led to the widespread popularity of bodyboarding, which would later become its own unique sport.

    Mundaka - Famed left-hand rivermouth wave located near the fishing village of Mundaka in Spanish Basque County; regarded as the premier surf break in all of Europe. On a good day, Mundaka produces perfect eight-foot barrels that can run for hundreds of yards.

    Mysto - Unknown or rarely surfed break.


    North Shore - Famed stretch of beach located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, also known as “The Seven Mile Miracle” due to its uncanny prolificacy of world-class surf spots. The most famous waves on the North Shore are the Banzai Pipeline, Backdoor, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Rocky Point, and Velzyland.

    Nose - A surfboard’s front end.

    Noseguard - Rubber cap that fits over the nose of a surfboard, invented as a safety device in 1986 by Hawaiian surfboard shaper Eric Arakawa and David Skedeleski.

    Noseriding - Maneuver in which a surfer walks to the front of the surfboard (usually a longboard) and remains positioned there while riding across the wave face.


    Off the top - Basic surfing maneuver in which a surfer approaches and touches the top, or lip, of the wave, before redirecting the board back down the wave face. Different variations of an “off the top” include the “re-entry,” the “snap,” and the “rebound.”

    Offshore wind - Preferred wind condition in which the coastal wind blows from the beach toward the ocean, resulting in groomed wave faces and potentially hollow tubes.

    Olo board - Massive surfboard used by pre-20th century Hawaiian surfers, ranging from 14 to 18 feet and usually constructed from wiliwili wood. Believed to have been designated for use by Hawaiian royalty exclusively.

    Onshore wind - Wind condition where coastal wind blows from the ocean inland; detrimental to wave quality, as onshore wind pushes waves down before they can take their preferred shape.

    Outside - Term used to describe the area beyond where the waves are breaking. A surfer will sometimes shout “outside!” to indicate an approaching set that may break farther out than where the surfers are sitting, thus sending the pack scurrying toward the horizon.

    Over the falls - Describes a wipeout in which a surfer gets thrown, or pitched, over the lip before he can get to his feet. The result is a freefall down the wave’s face and a landing at the bottom, or trough of the wave.


    Paddleboarding - Offshoot of surfing, with the focus placed on paddling rather than riding waves. Paddleboards are long, narrow crafts similar to a surfboard, although they are not designed to surf on. Rather, they’re used to glide over the open ocean, often miles from the shore.

    Paddling - Swim-like strokes performed by a surfer in order to maneuver the surfboard in the lineup, and eventually into the wave itself.

    Peak - Symmetrical, triangular wave that breaks in both directions. Also used to describe the part of a wave that is the first to break.

    Pearl - Wipe-out causing error in which a surfer puts too much weight over the front of the surfboard and digs the board’s nose under the water’s surface.

    Peel - Describes the fast and fluid breaking action of a well-shaped wave, usually found at high-quality pointbreaks such as South Africa’s Jeffrey’s Bay.

    Period - The measured time between two consecutive waves as they pass a stationary point. Also known as “interval,” swell period weighs heavily in determining wave height because a swell’s period also indicates the wave’s depth. A long period swell translates into fast, powerful waves that will pitch with great force upon breaking.

    Pier - Long, wooden structure originally built to function as a cargo transfer point. Piers can sometimes produce good surfing waves, as they tend to create sand buildups and deep channels. Notable surfing piers include the Huntington Beach Pier in California and New Jersey’s Casino Pier.

    Pigdog - Functional backside (surfer has his back to the wave face) stance in which the surfer crouches and grabs the edge of the board’s outside rail. Used to maintain steady balance; expert surfers will employ various stall techniques along with the pigdog stance in order to control speed during a tube ride.

    Pintail - Long, narrow surfboard tail; preferred tail shape for large, steep waves. Almost all big-wave boards (guns) are pintails.

    Pipeline - Regarded as the preeminent surfing wave on the planet, located on the North Shore of Oahu. During the winter months, the “Banzai” Pipeline routinely delivers massive, hollow left-hand tubes that offer a challenge too even the most skilled surfers in the world. Legendary surfers renowned for their prowess at Pipeline include Butch Van Artsdalen, Jock Sutherland, Gerry Lopez, and more recently Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Derek Ho, Tamayo Perry, Kelly Slater, and Bruce Irons.

    Pit - Extraordinarily large tube or barrel.

    Planing surface - Bottom area of the surfboard that comes into contact with the water.

    Plank (surfboard) - Type of finless surfboard made from solid wood, outdated by the 1940s. A modern resurgence in riding ancient “alaia boards” surfaced in the late 2000s.

    Pocket - Describes the steepest section of a breaking wave, located just in front of the falling wave crest. Dimensions of a pocket differ depending on the shape of a particular wave.

    Pointbreak - Wave type that breaks around a headland, or point. Ideal point breaks produce long, tapered waves; famous pointbreaks include Honolua Bay on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, California’s Rincon, and South Africa’s Jeffery’s Bay.

    Power surfing - Method of surfing characterized by fluid, powerful turns. Noted power surfers include California’s Taylor Knox, Australia’s Mark Occhilupo, and Hawaii’s Pancho Sullivan.

    Pullout - The act of exiting a closed-out wave by veering up and over the back of the wave face; also called kick-out.

    Pumping - Large, consistent, and exceptionally outstanding surf. See “cranking.”

    Punt - Contemporary verb used to describe the act of performing an aerial maneuver.


    Quad - Four-fin surfboard; often seen as providing more speed and drive, but less control than a tri-fin configuration.

    Quiver - Term describing a surfer’s repertoire of boards.


    Raglan - Breathtaking left-breaking point break located on New Zealand’s North Island, near Auckland. Regarded as one of the best waves in the world, Raglan can produce crisp, seemingly endlessly long walls.

    Rail - Perimeter of a surfboard, from nose to tail and deck to bottom.

    Rail turn - Describes a deep, powerful turn in which the inside rail of the surfboard slices and submerges into the wave.

    Railgrab - Act of crouching on the surfboard and gripping the side, or rail of the board. Often performed in conjunction with the “pigdog” stance.

    Ramp - Describes a wave that offers a ramp-like section fit for maneuvers such as an aerial.

    Rash guard - Shirt-like garment made from Lycra and worn to protect the chest and belly from chafing against the surfboard; also offers sun protection.

    Red tide - Water condition caused by an abnormally large algae bloom; results in a reddish-brown water color.

    Reefbreak - Type of wave that breaks over a rock or coral reef. Notable reefbreaks include Hawaii’s Pipeline and California’s Mavericks.

    Regular foot - Rider who places his left foot forward on the surfboard. Also called “natural foot.”

    Resin - Thick, semi-liquid polyester chemical compound used to repair a dinged surfboard by spreading it over the damaged area.

    Reverse - Describes a maneuver which ends in the surfboard’s fins being momentarily disengaged, causing the surfer to end up riding backwards. A variety of difficult maneuvers, including the cutback or the aerial, can end in a reverse.

    Right - A wave that breaks from right to left, as viewed from the shore looking towards the ocean.

    Rincon - Renowned sand-bottom point break located in Santa Barbara, California. Capable of producing flawless, spinning waves that break for hundreds of yards; known as the “Queen of the Coast.” Notable Rincon locals include surfer Tom Curren and shaper Al Merrick.

    Rip - Verb used to describe an expert surfer performing a series of precise, aggressive turns. See “shred.”

    Riptide - Current that pulls from the near-shore water out towards the open ocean, with varying degrees of strength; considered dangerous to swimmers and beginner surfers.

    Rivermouth - Surfbreak created by sand deposited from a nearby rivermouth.

    Rocker - Curve of a surfboard, from nose to tail as viewed from the side; affects the board’s hydrodynamic properties, translating to speed and maneuverability.

    Rogue wave - A somewhat mythical, extraordinary wave that’s far larger than the other waves breaking during a particular swell.

    Roller coaster - Maneuver popularized in the 1960s in which a surfer arcs up the wave face before banking off the lip and continuing back down toward the trough.

    Roundhouse (cutback) - Variation of the basic cutback maneuver, in which a surfer returns to the breaking part of the wave and then redirects off the whitewater back onto the wave face.

    Roundtail (rounded pin) - Popular tail design; essentially a more rounded version of the pintail.


    Sandbar - Buildup of sand on the ocean floor; can produce well-shaped surfing waves.

    Santa Cruz - Central Californian town 70 miles south of San Francisco, California; home to dozens of quality cold-water surf breaks, including Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point. Hawaiians Jonah David, and Edward Kawananakoa became the first people to surf in the mainland United States when they rode waves at the San Lorenzo river mouth in 1885.

    Sebastian Inlet - Sand-bottom wedge wave that breaks near a jetty on the north side of Sebastian Inlet State Park, about 15 miles south of Florida’s Melbourne Beach. Long considered the hub of Florida, if not East Coast surfing; notable Sebastian Inlet regulars include Kelly Slater and Lisa Anderson.

    Section - Refers to the specific portion of a wave ahead of where it is breaking.

    Set - A series, or group of waves that arrive sequentially; usually numbering between two and six waves, but can be upwards of 12.

    Shack - Tube or barrel.

    Shoot the pier - The somewhat perilous act of surfing under a pier, from one side to the other.

    Shorebreak - Wave that breaks close to shore, or directly on the beach.

    Shortboard - Surfboard under seven feet in length, with a streamlined outline and a tri-fin design.

    Shortboard revolution - Refers to the period of time between the late ’60 and early ’70s when shorter surfboards first became popular; experimentation with both board design, and other extracurricular activities, persisted. Important innovators included Californian George Greenough and Australian Bob McTavish.

    Shoulder - Open portion of a wave, ahead of the face and breaking crest.

    Shoulder hop - Etiquette-violating maneuver in which a surfer takes off in front of another surfer who is already up and riding on the wave.

    Shred - Term popular in the ‘90s; used to describe the aggressive shortboard surfing of the era. See “rip.”

    Sick - Term of praise, used to describe anything from exceptional surfing conditions to an impressive maneuver or a new surfboard. Synonymous with cool, awesome, rad, sweet.

    Sideshore wind - Wind that blows diagonally across oncoming waves, resulting in potentially poor wave quality. Often a precursor to onshore wind.

    Single fin - A surfboard equipped with one fin.

    Skateboarding - Offshoot of surfing, developed by surfers in the late ’50s by attaching roller skate wheels to a piece of wood.

    Sketchy - Perilous or risky. See “gnarly.”

    Skimboarding - Surf-influenced sport in which a rider uses a small, thin board to slide across a thin layer of water left on the sand by a breaking wave, and then attempts to ride the shorebreak wave.

    Sled - Surfboard.

    Slide - Act of gliding across a wave face. Also see “trim.”

    Snake - Slang term for a surfer who disregards etiquette and “drops in” on other surfers.

    Snap - Sharp, quick top turn performed just under the lip.

    Soft surfboard - Surfboard made entirely, or partly of foam; preferred craft for beginners.

    Soul arch - A ’70s era maneuver in which a surfer stands up straight and arcs his back while performing a front-side bottom turn.

    Soul surfing - Non-competitive surf philosophy; emphasizes a sense of adventure, as well as creativity and “soul” when riding waves.

    Speed surfing - Short-lived style of surfing invented by Hawaii’s Joey Cabell in the mid ’60s; utilized a parallel “ski” stance and emphasized long and fast turns.

    Spit - Explosive burst of spray that shoots horizontally out of a large barrel; caused by a compression of air and water inside the wave’s interior.

    Sponge, Sponger - Playful, somewhat derogatory name given to a boogieboarder; refers to the foam, “spongy” bodyboard.

    Springsuit - Short-sleeve, short-arm wetsuit.

    Square - Particularly thick and hollow wave that creates a square-shaped barrel.

    Squaretail - Surfboard tail shape with squared off, right angles.

    Squashtail - Slightly rounded version of the square-tail surfboard design.

    Stall - Maneuver in which the surfer deliberately slows his speed, often to set up an oncoming tube ride; common stall types are the kick-stall and the arm-stall.

    Stand-up tube - Barrel ride in which the surfer stands upright inside the tube; requires a large, overhead barrel.

    Stinkbug stance - Crouch stance often performed by a wobbly beginner surfer because of its stability.

    Stoke - Surf lingo used to describe the emotional joy of surfing; roughly translates to the ancient Hawaiian word “hopupu.”

    Stoked - Euphoric state induced by a positive surfing experience.

    Stomp - Successfully landing a difficult maneuver, usually an air.

    Straighten out - Act of veering the surfboard directly towards the beach.

    Stringer - Strip of wood that runs down the center of the surfboard, from nose to tail, providing structural strength; usually made with a thin cut of balsa wood.

    S-turn - Conjoined series of turns in which a surfer starts by turning toward the wave’s shoulder before redirecting back into the pocket, finally ending in a bottom turn.

    Sunset Beach - Historic surf break located on the Oahu’s North Shore in the Hawaiian Islands; regarded as a difficult, yet thrilling wave. Divided into six sections: Val’s Reef; The Bowl; West Peak; Sunset Point; The North Wall; and Backyards.

    Surf shop - Retail store selling surfboards and surf-related equipment, as well as surf-inspired clothing.

    Surf wax - Paraffin-based wax applied to the top, or deck, of the surfboard for grip; first used by Californian Alfred Gallant in 1935.

    Surfboard - Long, slim surfing craft ranging from 4 to 14 feet and varying in thickness from 1 to 5 inches; first ridden by ancient Hawaiians who crafted boards from local trees. Modern surfboards come equipped with one, two, three, four, or five fins and fall loosely into two types: Longboards and shortboards.

    Surfboard racks - Strap system arranged on the top of a car; used to transport surfboards to and from the beach.

    Surfboard shaping - Process of building a surfboard; refers specifically to the “shaping” of the foam “blank” using various saws, sanders, and planers. Notable shapers include Bob Simmons, Dick Brewer, Simon Anderson, and Al Merrick.

    Surfer’s ear - Medical condition in which a surfer’s ear canal becomes obstructed by the growth of bone deposits under the skin; results from excessive exposure to wind and water and treatment by surgery is known to be excruciatingly painful.

    Swallowtail - Surfboard tail shape resembling a “W.”

    Swell - General term referring to a collection of waves that are formed from the same wave-producing storm system; can also refer to a single wave.

    Swell of 1969 - Storied winter swell, sometimes called “the swell of the century;” produced massive waves in Hawaii and the western coast of North America. Hawaiian big wave spots saw clean 50-foot waves in late November, early December, and the biggest waves ever ridden up to that point in California were tackled by Ricky Grigg, shaper Al Merrick, and David Nuuhiwa, among others.

    Swell window - Area that must be traversed by a storm system’s generated waves in order to produce surf at a given location.

    Switchfoot (Switch) - Ability to surf with either the left or right foot forward.


    Tail - The back area of the surfboard, opposite the nose.

    Tail waft - Manuever in which the surfer pushes the surfboard’s tail out of the water.

    Tailslide - Maneuver in which a surfer performs a sharp turn at the crest of the wave and exerts enough force to momentarily break his fins free of the water.

    Takeoff - Maneuver in which a surfer begins his ride by pushing up to his feet and dropping down the wave face.

    Tandem surfing - Surfing sub-sport introduced in the 1920s, in which a male and female partner group simultaneously ride a surfboard, with the man lifting the woman into a variety of poses and positions.

    Teahupoo - Regarded as one of the most dangerous waves on the planet, Teahupoo (pronounced “cho-pu”) is an almost impossibly heavy left-hand reef wave located on the southwest tip of Tahiti. When over eight feet in height, Teahupoo produces a thick, detonating barrel that breaks with astounding force over a shallow reef for about 75 yards.

    The Endless Summer - Groundbreaking motion picture about the adventure of surfing made by Californian Bruce Brown in 1964. This film was a surprise commercial hit, and helped spread the surf-mania of the era.

    Three-sixty - Maneuver in which a surfer and his board rotate 360 degrees. Multiple varieties of the three-sixty exist, such as the “sliding 360,” the “carving 360,” and the “backside air reverse.”

    Thruster - Originally the model name for Simon Anderson’s tri-fin surfboard; later became the generic moniker for any three-finned surfboard.

    Tide - Refers to the intervallic rise and fall of the ocean’s water levels, caused by gravitational pull from the sun and moon.

    Tow-in surfing - Utilizing a personal water craft (PWC), or Jetski, in order to “tow” a surfer into a wave with increased speed; often used in large surf when the waves would otherwise be too fast to catch by paddling.

    Traction pad - Bumpy, rubber pad secured to the tail end of the surfboard deck; used for increased grip of the back foot.

    Trestles - Series of high-performance cobblestone point breaks located on the border between San Diego and Orange County, California. Lowers, the area’s best known break, is considered one of the premier waves on the United States mainland.

    Tri-fin - Surfboard design with three fins. Also see “thruster.”

    Trim - Angled path across a wave face; also describes the sustained glide across a wave.

    Tri-plane hull - Popular bottom design introduced in 1968 by Hobie Surfboards; features a multileveled bottom, often accompanied by concave.

    Trough - Refers to the flat low point, or bottom of a wave.

    Tube - Hollow, barreling part of a wave created when the pitching lip projects out and over the trough with great force.

    Tuberiding - The act of surfing inside the hollow “tube” of a wave; considered one of the hallmark abilities of a great surfer.

    Turn turtle (turtle roll) - Maneuver in which a paddling surfer rolls to one side and then holds the surfboard overhead as a broken wave of whitewater passes over the board.

    Twin-fin - Surfboard with two fins; usually refers to the stumpy “fish” design.

    Twinny - Twin fin, or fish surfboard.

    Twinzer - Four-fin surfboard design invented by California’s Will Jobson in 1988.


    Uluwatu - Famed left-breaking reef wave located on the Indonesian island of Bali; broken up into three sections: Outside Corner; The Peak; and Racetrack.

    Undergunned - Refers to a surfer riding inadequately small equipment in large surf.


    Waikiki - Iconic stretch of beach located on the south shore of Oahu; considered the birthplace of modern surfing. Waikiki contains more than 20 reefbreaks, from the hollow tubes of Ala Moana to the slow rollers of Canoes.

    Waimea Bay - Revered big-wave surf spot located on the North Shore of Oahu; famed big wave surfers at Waimea Bay include Greg Noll, Pat Curren, Buzzy Trent, Duke Kahanamoku, Eddie Aikau, Mark Foo, Richard Schmidt, and Noah Johnson.

    Wakesurfing - Surf-inspired sport in which a rider “surfs” the wake created by a moving boat.

    Walk the deck - Maneuver in which the surfer walks across the deck of the surfboard using the cross-step method.

    Wall - Refers to a long, tapered wave face that holds a vertical shape for a considerable distance.

    Waterlogged - Decaying state of a surfboard that is oversaturated with water, usually as a result of unfixed dings and prolonged water exposure.

    Waterman - General term used to describe an individual dedicated to the ocean in a variety of disciplines, both as a surfer and as a swimmer, diver, fisherman, or sailor.

    Wavepool - Surf-simulator in which a mechanized-pool creates waves.

    Wedge - Wave formed by swell refraction, usually from a jetty, rock, or cliff. The most famous wedge waves are Newport Beach’s appropriately-named break know as “The Wedge” and Florida’s Sebastian Inlet.

    Wetsuit - Tight-fitting neoprene bodysuit worn to provide insulation and thereby increase body-warmth in cold water. Wetsuits were invented for the U.S. Navy during World War II and were first produced for surfers in the 1950s by San Francisco’s Jack O’Neill.

    Whitewater - The bubbling, tumbling chaos of foam and water produced by breaking waves.

    Wind swell - Swell generated by near-shore storm activity; typically results in small, disorganized surf.

    Windansea - Historic surf break located in the affluent San Diego (California) community of La Jolla; one of California’s most consistent waves, with a right and left break over a flat rock reef. First surfed in 1937; Windansea legends include Woody Ekstrom, Bob Simmons, Pat Curren, Mike Deffenderfer, Mike Hynson, Skip Frye and later Chris O’Rourke and Joel Tudor.

    Wings - Surfboard rail design which features a jagged “bump” outline.

    Wipeout - Surf lingo used to describe falling, crashing or coming off the surfboard while riding a wave.

    Worked - Describes the destruction resulting from large or punishing surf taking its toll on a surfer.

Check out this Surfing glossary to find the sport-specific definitions for which you have been looking. From A to Z, we've got all the words covered.
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