Ripper, pumping, tubes, if you’re not ‘down with the lingo’ surfing terms, phrases and slang can seem like another language entirely.
And you’re not wrong, surfing culture has adopted its very own special vocabulary when it comes to describing the art of riding waves.
While you could go down to your local beach with a clipboard we thought we’d save you the trouble with our definitive list of surfing terms and phrases and a little bit of surf slang thrown in for good measure.
The definitive glossary of surfing terms
Let’s look at the many ways surfer’s have taken the English language into their own hands to describe everything about surfing life in our surfing glossary.
Amped or being amped refers to a feeling of excitement and readiness for an upcoming surf session. You could be ‘amped’ to go surfing tomorrow.
To ‘backdoor’ a barrel or tube requires you to enter it while it’s already breaking from the opposite side of the peak. This is considered an advanced surfing manoeuvre.
A large wave, you’ll often hear it used in phrases like ‘that wave looks like a bomb’ or ‘she caught an absolute bomb yesterday’.
When a surfer turns at the bottom of the wave face to perform a surfing trick or manoeuvre. The bottom turn is the foundation of great surfing and is arguably the most important aspect of quality surfing.
A daily driver is a new school surfboard shape that sits neatly between your shortboard and your groveller, allowing you to carry out high-performance surfing on waves in the 2ft to 4ft range.
This refers to the motion surfers use to dive under waves with their boards. They achieve this by pressing on the front of their board to dive followed by the rear to surface after the wave has passed over them.
This funny surfing phrase is used to describe the moment when a surfer grinds the breaking lip to reach the unbroken wave and has a lot of similarities with grinding on a skateboard.
An affectionate term for surfers who lead with their right foot. This slang/terminology is also used in skateboarding, snowboarding and various other board sports.
As you may have guessed the green room is surfing slang for when a surfer finds themselves inside the curl of a wave.
Grom is an affectionate term used for young surfers. Many junior surfing competitions will use the phrase ‘grom’ in their titles.
A hang five is a surf move that requires you to ride along the face of the wave with one foot and five of your toes hanging over the nose of the board.
A hang ten requires you to ride along the face of a wave with all of your ten toes hanging over the nose of the board. Both a hang ten and a hang five are commonly performed on longer boards like longboards and mini mals.
This old expression was originally Scottish slang but it’s been adopted by many UK surfers who’ll often say ‘it’s blowing a hooley’ to confirm the presence of strong winds.
Where the wave breaks consistently. The impact zone is clearly identifiable by the aerated water left in the wake of breaking waves.
A derogatory term that is used for a surfer an inexperienced surfer or a beginner surfer who typically causes a danger to themselves or other surfers/ ocean users.
This is Australian surf slang for your surfboard leash that attaches to your ankle. This phrase is suitable for both shortboard leashes and longboard leashes.
A rather unpleasant practice of using intimidation and violence to try and dissuade visiting surfers from entering the water.
You can find out more about the situations and mindsets that cause localism in our read on why surfers get so angry about waves.
When surfers say peak what they mean is the highest point of a wave. This will normally be where all the surfers wait to catch the waves.
A surfing term for when you get really deep inside a barrel and disappear from the view of onlookers.
The ‘pocket’ of the wave is the area just in front of the curl of the wave which is where you’ll find the most power for carrying out powerful turns like carves and layback snaps.
A phrase used to describe good waves.
A snap is a sharp turn that requires you to bottom turn before placing your surfboard as close to vertical as possible, connecting with the broken or breaking lip of the wave and redirecting back down towards the trough.
When a surfer rides that wave in
If you’re regular it means you surf with your left foot forward and your right foot on the back of your board or tail pad.
When an individual or collective group are surfing well other surfers might refer to it as ‘ripping’.
When a surfer refers to ‘sets’ he means the larger sets of waves that arrive periodically with ground swells.
Surfing at 100%, is normally associated with boosting massive aerials.
A small board used for progressive surfing.
The unbroken part of the wave next to the broken white water.
Shredding is when a surfer is performing very well. It’s typically high-performance, aggressive surfing with turns and manoeuvres that displace a lot of water.
A skeg or skegs is a common Australian surfing term for your surfboard fins.
A wave that breaks over rock or coral in very shallow water. Slabs normally provide short, intense barrel rides.
Slang surfers use to describe their boards. Iconic surfing brand Sex Wax uses the slogan “The best for your stick” firmly cementing this term in surfing history.
Take Off Zone
Where surfers sit and wait to catch the larger set of waves that roll in periodically.
A surfing term for a surfboard with two fins, you might also hear it referred to as a twin fin.
A surf move used to replace the duck dive on longer boards that are too buoyant to sink with your own strength. Surfers will flip their board over when a wave approaches to reduce their water resistance and right themselves after the wave has passed.
Wash is a surfing term used to describe the motion of water that pulls you back towards shore after the white water of a breaking wave.
A wipeout is when a surfer falls or bails while surfing or catching a wave.