Putting clean space between your board and the top of the wave at high speed. Not to be confused with simply jumping off the back of a wave (known as 'kicking out'), catching genuine air is an advanced, highly controlled manouvre that's dependent on excellent timing both to launch into and to land successfully


See 'air'


A symmetrical wave that breaks equally on both lefthand and righthand sides, forming that classic 'A' shape and giving the surfer a choice of directions (as well as the opportunity to 'backdoor' it)


Excessively aggressive water, or (of surfers) giving out a negative attitude


An old-school surfer yell of enthusiasm (e.g. when spotting the perfect wave approaching!)


Classic historical (late 19th century) Hawaiian style wooden board


Both 'hi' and 'bye' in Hawaiian - handy!


Stoked, buzzing - excited about the surf



Ankle Busters

Smaller waves


Acronym for the Association of Professional Surfing



Taking off behind the peak (or further down the shoulder) of a hollow wave and surf through the barrel to the opposite side


Entering a barrel from behind the section

Back off

A wave is said to have 'backed off' when it breaks early or hits a section of deeper water. The wave's gradient levels out and it loses white water, but backed off sections can often reform into steeper peaks again as they approach shallower areas towards the shore

Back Paddle

Cutting another surfer off or going around them in a 'paddle battle', in order to jump ahead in the line-up. Considered very poor etiquette


Turning your back to the wave as you surf - heading left if your stance is regular (right foot to the back), or vice versa if your stance is 'goofy'


The reverse pull of a shore break retreating back out to sea; can create heavy mush, chop or foam if it collides with another incoming wave

Bail out

To err on the side of caution by hopping off your board into the surf - a common tactic when about to wipe out, or when confronted by a huge wave while paddling out that looks too big to duckdive safely


Sand banks beneath the surface of the water that will greatly affect the surfability of beach breaks


A newbie/beginner, or just anyone who plain sucks at surfing


The famous 'tube' waves that become hollow as they're breaking, allowing surfers to ride through them


The science of depth measurement across different areas of an ocean or surf site

Beach Break

Surf breaks that come in over a sandy sea floor (see 'banks')

Beach Bum

An idler - often with a penchant for surfing - who spends far too much time hanging about on the sand

Beach Leech

People who habitually turn up without their own board, wax etc and instead try to borrow everything from other surfers


Someone not from the local area


A major surfing equipment and apparel manufacturer; also the Australian term for a swamp or watering hole


Throwback seal of approval!


The foam body of a basic surfboard before it's gussied up and finished

Blown Out

Water that's been churned up into an unsurfable mess by annoying shore winds


If you need help with this one, you're probably reading up on the wrong sport

Boardshorts / Boardies

Classic board shorts for surfing in warmer climates - lightweight, comfortable and quick-drying


Allowing the nose of the board to ride too high up by distributing your weight too far back

Bombora / Bommie

The aboriginal for waves further offshore that break over shallow reefs out in deeper waters


An offshore reef break that happens out over corals or rocks in deeper waters

Booger / Boogieboarder

Body boarders; surfers who don't stand up


A king among large waves; one or more breakers that comes in head and shoulders above the pack


See 'dude'

Bottom Turn

After dropping in and coming down off the face of a wave, a bottom turn is made at the base to set up your next move


Carve / Carving

Turning on a wave mid-ride; one of the first moves most surfers learn after they've mastered the basics of staying upright

Caught Inside

A potentially dangerous situation a surfer can find themselves in when the surf is breaking further out than they're stationed; being stuck on the wrong side of the breaks


An overhead mass of water crashing down towards the opening of a barrel; not a very welcoime sight


One or more grooves carved into the underside of a board to encourage smooth flow of water and higher speed


Giving it some aggro on a wave; surfing with aggression and purpose

Cheater Five

An unconvincing han five (see also 'hange ten) pulled off by standing safely back on the board but extenging one leg out towards the nose.

Chinese Wax Job

Inadverently waxing the underside of your board (seldom a great idea)




Turbulent surface waters, usually due to stiff winds


Gross water pollution, especially of the fecal variety


A clean break is one that forms a single neat peak along the full length of a wave

Clean Up Set

One or more large waves that break unexpectedly early, taking waiting surfers out of the lineup


A wave is said to have 'closed out' when it breaks all along its line simultaneously, leaving little scope for lateral movement to stay on it


Chicken; frightened of the waves, especially bigger ones


A patterned effect seen in certain swell lines that resembles the classic ridged fabric


Stereotypical '60s surfer jargon, best hollered while cresting a huge wave and dropping in


Exciting surf conditions with good-sized waves


The absolute highest point of a wave as it gathers towards breaking

Cross Step / Stepping

A technique used in walking forwards and backwards along a longboard


Completely switching surfing directions in one flawless manouvre - harder than it looks!


Dawn Patrol

Waking up early to hit the surf


The actual standing platform of your board


What bellyboarders do, because they lack the skills to stand upright yet


A dent, nick or hole in a surfboard as a result of a wipeout or other accidental damage

Dirty Lickings

An especially heavy wipeout

Double Overhead

Any wave that clocks in at twice the height of the surfer attempting to ride it


Rough guesstimate of where a surfer will end up if he rides a wave in its current direction right to the end of its break

Drop, The

Getting up on top of a wave and starting to descend down the face; the first thing you'll generally look to do after standing

Dropping in (on someone)

The act of barging in and catching a wave that someone's already riding. Like jumping the queue, but worse. A great way to make enemies

Drop Knee

A lonboard surfing stance where one knee is resting on the deck

Duck dive / Duck Diving

Dipping under an oncoming wave while paddling out if it's breaking too early (or looks too big to get around!)




A wave that folds over in whole big chunks due to unfavourable conditions onshore, making it impossible to surf, is said to be 'dumping'


Eat It

See 'dirty lickings'

Eddie would go

A bumper sticker often spotted in Hawaii, paying tribute to legendary surfer Eddie Aikau and his willingness to attack waves others thought were too heavy

Endless Summer

Only the single greatest surfing movie ever made, that's all


Multipurpose terms of enthusiasm, but most often used for amazing waves or a particuarly good surf session

Eskimo Roll

Same as a 'turtle roll'



The surfable part of a wave, i.e. the unbroken part that rises up underneath the white water


Switching direction away from the break to follow the direction the wave is breaking in along its line


Flipping around 180 degrees on your board and riding back-to-front


Fin Control System; generally refers to a detachable fin that can be snapped on and off the board for travelling or easy mending


The distance travelled over a body of water by a given wind without changing direction; a key factor in wave formation


The stabilising rudder affixed to the rear underside of your board; stops it from sliding sideways

Fin chop

A nasty (but annoyingly common) gash caused by unplanned interaction with someone's board fins

Finsfree snap (or "fins out")

Cutting across the top of the wave with your board fins as part of a sudden sharp turn


When the surf's firing, it's really up - nice breaks, great conditions


A stubbier, thicker board ideal for riding smaller waves


A heartbreaking absence of surfable waves. The WORST


Also known as swim fins


Staying high up on the shoulder and riding the crest of a wave as long as possible, before crashing down right on top of the break


Whitewater breakers that churn up a load of air and don't fully support the weight of the board


A board's foil refers to how streamlined its profile is; essentially the change in thickness ratio between nose and tail


The opposite of 'backside' - a surfing stance where you're positioned facing the wave, whichever direction you're moving in


Bubbles or fizz in the water left behind after a heavy break


Surfers who splash about in the water all day without actually making any serious inroads towards catching a wave


Surfers who splash about in the water all day without actually making any serious inroads towards catching a wave


Otherwise known as a 'minimal', this is a mid-length board ideal for those just learning the art


Gas chamber

Slang term for the tunnel of breathable air that a surfer can momentarily get caught up in when a long keg wave rolls over


A female surfer of diminutive stature

Glass House

See 'green room'

Glass Job

That sleek and sexy fibreglass surfboard finish


Clear, super clean waves that give the impression of being made of glass (due to having little foam or white water churn as they rise)


Hardcore surfing conditions, generally considered dangerous even for experienced riders

Goofy / Goofy Foot

The opposite stance to 'regular'; i.e. right foot towards the nose of the board

Goat Boater

A diss term generally aimed at lesser wave riders, especially kayakers

Going off

See 'firing'

Green Room

The inner chamber of a big breaker; the hollow or barrel

Gremmie / Grommet / Grom

A newbie

Grey Belly

Pot-bellied gentlemen surfers in their autumn years


A less extreme version of 'eating it'


Renowned UK-based manufacturer of surfing gear


A specially modified board designed primarily for attacking huge waves


A female surfer


Hang Eleven

Surfing in your birthday suit

Hang Heels

Like a hang ten, where the toes extend over the nose of the board, but facing backwards

Hang Loose

Famed old-school surfer hand gesture - see 'shaka'

Hang Ten

Surfing on a longboard with both feet planted firmly towards the nose end


What a Hawaiian might refer to you as if you're not from around his 'hood

Hawaiian scale

A tried and tested metric for wave measurement practiced in Hawaii


(Of waves) meaning gnarly


The earlier qualifying rounds of a surf contest


Advanced take on the aerial launch that involves some additional arm work to imitate a bird in flight


Somebody being a pain in the butt around other people trying to surf (generally a non-surfer)

Hold down

See 'locked in'; a two-wave hold down can feel like it lasts about 15 minutes


Waves with a 'green room'; tubes


Aka a 'double-up'; a deceptive wave formation where a single large swell almost splits and thus has two peaks in quick succession


Impact Zone

Right where you don't want to be when a big wave breaks - it's duckdive time!

In the Soup

Bobbing around in the froth left behind afer a heavy break


Indonesia, famed nation of some truly epic surf locations


The general vicinity of the impact zone; closer to the shore than the lineup. A frustraing (and potentially dangerous) place to be caught


Another well-regarded surfing apparel label



An extreme form of 'shoaling' caused by very sudden drops in water depth with a powerful swell; wave heights can suddenly rocket up dramatically with little warning

Jeffrey's Bay / J Bay

Epic South African surf spot

Junkyard Dog

A surfer who only tackles easy or boring waves, or who lacks finesse to a troubling degree



A surfing don; a wizard of the waves


Yet another synonym for those glorious hollows and barrels

Kick Out

A manouvre often seen at the end of a ride when the surfer cuts back over a breaking wave


Ridiculously technical move lifted from skate culture - literally flipping the board through 360 degrees while catching air, and landing to complete the ride


The slightly less upright version of surfing, using a special board


A measurement of speed across water; one knot equals one nautical mile per hour


An awkward newbie, and a poser to boot. Generally reserved for those who disregard etiquette and get everyone's backs up. Not who you want to be



Serious 'look at me!' move that involves literally reclining on the wave while riding. You won't be doing it on your first run out


The length of light cord that tethers the surfer to their board


The length of light cord that tethers the surfer to their board


A break direction moving from right to left as the surfer sees it (heading in to shore)

Leg rope

Same as 'leash'


Short for 'leg rope'

Line Up

The general zone where surfers congregate waiting to catch the wave, a little further out from the breaks


Same general concept as 'corduroy'


The very outermost surfable edge of a breaking wave; the last part of it that hasn't yet broken


When surfers from a particular area claim a wave-riding hotspot as their own, and guard it jealously

Locked In

A surfer caught inside the spin cycle of a breaking wave and unable to surface


Classic elongated board type, typically with a more blunt or rounded-off nose


Eaxactly what it sounds like - a break in the action due to a sudden calming of the surf



See 'heavy'

Mal / Malibu

See 'longboard'


California surf hotspot infamous for some particularly huge and gnarly waves

Men In Grey Suits

Generic term for any and all sharks spotted around a surf site


Unpredictable and difficult surf characterised by irregular break patterns and lots of churn/froth


Mark Richards, old-school Aussie surf champ and all-round legend of the waves


Absolutely epic/gnarly wipeout

Mush / Mushburger

Slow, draggy, foamy waves that are difficult to surf and/or don't offer a very exciting run

Mysto spot

'Firing' breakers spotted a long way offshore



Derogatory term for a surfer who just can't keep their mouth shut about a little-known local hotspot that's supposed to be an open secret


Another famed Australian riding hotspot off Sydney's north shore

New School

A modern emerging surfing discipine chiefly concerned with showy tricks and techy manouvres

Noodled / Noodle Arms

Excessive limb weakness brought on by accumulated fatigue, especially after a long or hard swim


See 'men in grey suits'


The front-facing tip of the board when you're facing/riding in the 'right' direction

Nose Guard

Rubber padding added to the front end of a board with the intention of reducing potential injury to the surfer or other water users

Nose Ride

Effectively a more protracted version of the 'hang ten'; typically only really possible on a longboard


Abbreviation of 'golden nugget' - a great wave; a 'bomb' or a really clean, glassy tube



Big wet thing in front of the beach


Wind blowing out to sea from the beach towards the breaks; likely to result in the best surfing conditions

Off the hook

See 'firing'

Off the Top

A sharp or carving turn executed right up at the peak of a big wave


The opposite wind direction to 'offshore' - often spoils a good session by ironing out the surf

Out Back

Further out to sea, way past the break line


The overall profile of a particular surfboard when viewed from above


A break zone further out that anticipated, beyond the line-up; most often used as a warning that you'll need to move out to it


Any wave taller from base to lip than a standing surfer

Over the falls

Going through the washing machine; a wipeout in which the wave lifts you back up its face and spits you out over the top again. Not our favourite


Paddle battle

When two or more surfers are both heading for the same wave opening, hoping to make it to the curl first and thus gain priority


A less intrepid surfer who prefers the relative safety of the shallows


A less intrepid surfer who prefers the relative safety of the shallows

Party Wave

A miniature bodyboard

Perfect 10

A completely clean competition run; a perfect ride

Perl / Pearl

Getting the nose of your board stuck down in the water at the top of the wave, just as you start to drop towards the face, and going 'over the handlebars'

Pipeline (see pipeline surf spot map)

The most archetypal surfing wave of them all: the classic Hawaiian long, rolling barrel


See 'hollow'; see also 'impact zone' (can be used for either)


Riding in the 'green room' or 'glass house'

Pocket / In the Pocket

The top of the wave right above the break, just behind the lip; the part of the wave that generates the most force

Point break

Favourable surving waves caused by the presence of an underlying rocky outcrop offshore

Pope's living room

See 'green room'


A cheap-and-cheerful machined board that's churned out by the factory-load

Pop Up

The transition from lying prone on the board to full standing position; the start of a ride


The order of the line-up; who has right of way on a given wave

Pull in

Cutting back up the face of a wave slightly to enter a barrel


(Of waves) see 'firing'; (of a surfer) executing a manouvre that aims to increase speed midway through a ride


Executing an aerial maneuver


A jetski (acronym for Personal Water Craft)



One of the biggest names in surf clothing and equipment


A newbie, especially one who causes headaches and hassles for more experienced surfers


Your board collection in storage; the equivalent of a multi-car garage for pistonheads


Radical / Rad

Nailing a ride; taking risks and getting away with it in style

Rag dolled

Ragdolling is what happens to you when you're being worked under a heavy wave; you're basically a big tangle of limbs


The sides of your board; can be either rounded and bulky for better buoyancy, or sharper and narrower for increased turn control

Rail Bang

When a wipeout results in the board's rails bucking up and whacking you in a sensitive area

Raked Over

What happens when you're paddling out and get caught by a series of heavy breaks

Rash guard/h2>

Skin-tight garment worn under a wetsuit to prevent chafing


Dropping on to the lip of the wave as if to ride down the face, but then digging out a sharp turn and getting back on top of it

Reef break

Breaking wave formations over coral beds or sharp rocks, often in slightly deeper waters


Wave force rebounding off a hard surface back against the direction of its travel


What happens when a swell reaches shallow enough waters for the wave properties to be heavily impacted by the sea bed


A surf session held in poor conditions; a labour of love despite its limited value

Regular / Regular Footed

Standard surfing stance (left foot nearest the nose of the board)


To be 'rad'

Rip / Riptide

An strong current that carries water (and anyone in it) away from the shore

Rock Dance

Clambering over slippery or sharp rocks to get in or out of the surf


The convex underbelly of the surfboard; the curved underside between nose and tail

Rogue wave

One-off open-water waves that are grossly outsized in relation to prevailing conditions

Rooster tail

A particularly impressive lip spray during a hard slice

Roundhouse cutback

An advanced manouvre in which the surfer digs in and whips the board around a full 180 degrees to re-enter the white water from the wave breaking behind them



Surfers Against Sewage

Schwip thingS

Any item to hand - purpose-made or otherwise - that's successfully used to scrape the old wax off a board before rewaxing


Any areas of a breaking wave that offer a rideable route down or along it


A series of waves of similar size

Set waves

A group of successive 'bombs'


A widely recognised and parodied hand gesture beloved of old-school surfers, a bit like the universal sign for a phone


A board designer-maker


The effect on swells of reaching shallower waters that causes wave heights to increase


A high-tide condition where heavy breaks right along the shoreline can trap surfers in a shallow 'washing machine', leading to a serious 'mullering'


A reduced-length surfboard often used by beginners


A cut-down wetsuit, often without limb coverings


The powerful top part of a wave that has yet to break; where you want to spend a little time before the drop, ideally

Shoulder hopper

A derogatory term for a surfer who takes off on the shoulder of a wave rather than waiting until they're in the pocket, and as such can't see who else might already be riding below them. See also 'dropping in'

Shorey/shore break

Waves that make it all the way into the shallows before rolling over and breaking, meaning you can theoretically ride them all the way to dry land


A classic wannabe; head to toe surf gear but probably never even got their feet wet


See 'rad'


Riding a wave down at a perpendicular angle to where the board's actually pointed


Unimpressive technique; lack of style or flair


A type of fin located towards the central rear of the board, designed to improve directional response


A heavy reef break that rolls into very shallow water from much further out


Whipping into a sharp turn at the lip of a wave that sends up a satisfying (and cool as hell) spray of foam

Slater, Kelly

Surf legend, sometime Baywatch actor and all-round solid dude


See 'Pope's living room'

Smack the Lip / Hit the Lip

Heading back up the face of a wave to the lip after riding it down and executing a bottom turn

Snake / Snaking

See 'dropping in'


A sudden switch of direction executed at the top of the wave

Soul arch

Posturing stance with an arched back while riding, intended to convey casual bravado

Speed bump

A popular term for dissing a bodyboarder


The blast of foam spray that's blasted from the open end of a collapsing tube


See 'bodyboarder'


Causing additional drag in the water, either by digging the tail of the board lower or using a trailing hand, to allow a barrel to catch you back up

Steamer Lane

Another famed California surf site

Step Into Liquid

Epic surf video by Dana Brown, one of the true masters of getting this stuff on tape


A surfboard


Excited, thrilled


One or more lengths of wood or carbon fibre running through the body of your surfboard like a spine (and performing a not dissimilar role)

Sucking Dry

Eerie effect whereby a dry seabed is exposed momentarily due to the power of huge breakers sucking water back


Acronym for Stand Up Paddleboard

Surfers Against Sewage

Major politically active conservation and surfer protection lobby group based in the UK

Surfer's Knots

Telltale bumps, knocks and callouses on the feet and knees caused by years spent widing waves; the surfing equivalent of tennis elbow or housemaid's knee

Surf's up

It's 'firing'!

Surging wave

A heavy swell coming in from deep to shallow waters too fast to achieve a proper break

Swallow Tail

A particular shape of surfboard tail with a central cutaway


Proper, solid, nicely rideable waves


An incoming mass of water pushed towards land by storms out over deeper ocean; becomes a series of large breakers when it reaches the shallows

Switch Stance

Surfing in the opposite stance to what comes most naturally, be that goofy or regular



The rear end of your surfboard, opposite to the nose


Dragging the rear of your surf board laterally across the top of a wave with the nose raised up

Tandem surfing

Two's company, baby


The moments during and immediately after popup; the opening phase of a ride

Tidal bore

A significant tidal wave within a river system, only occuring under quite specific conditions


The effect sometimes seen when a surfer is locked in and trying to climb the leash back to their board, which bobs or 'tombstones' at the surface

Tow In

The practice (primarily in big wave surfing) of using a jetski to pull surfers out to the gnarliest breaks in deeper waters


Common shorthand for a three-finned (TriFin) sufboard

Traction Pad

Aka a deck grip or riser pad - a permanent addition to the deck of the board that performs the same basic role as board wax


Holding a nice firm line at the perfect angle as you ride a wave down


The lowest part of a wave formation, often below the general surface level of the surrounding ocean


See 'barrel' or 'keg'


Seriously '80s alternative to 'awesome'

Turtle Roll

The longboarder version of the shortboarder's 'duckdive' - an effective way of getting out beyond the breaks to the lineup

Twin Fin

One fin shy of a thruster



Prime surf site in 'Indo'


Where you are when the wet stuff is above you



Pacific island wave-riding hotspot



A surfing woman

Washing Machine

What it feels like when you're locked in under a gnarly breaker and being mullered


When both sides of a wave collapse inward, rather than forming a nice curl, it can leave surfers with no convenient place to drop in - this is sometimes known as a 'wally' (because it resembles a solid wall of water)

Wave height

The measurement, typically in feet, of a wave's tallness from trough to crest

Wave period

The measurement in time between the crest of one wave and the next


The physical distance, typically in feet, between the crests of one wave and the next

Wave train

A series of 'sets'; multiple incoming swells of a fairly consistent wavelength


The fragrant tacky stuff we rub onto our boards, both to protect the finish and to help stop us sliding straight off into the swell


An especially steep-faced wave with a sheer front profile


A cold-repelling neoprene bodystocking that leaves little to the imagination but works wonders in chillier waters

Wettie warmer

Bracing oneself against particularly cold waters by urinating in the wetsuit you're wearing; not thought to do the materials any favours in the long run


The turbulent, foaming mass of air bubbles and water caused by powerful churn as a wave starts to break


Any swell created directly by winds in the local area (as opposed to far out to sea)


What happens when you mess up and take a spill. If it's a particularly bad one, see 'mullering'


To be worked over, 'mullering'; often goes hand in hand with a wipeout, especially if you get 'locked in'



Any of the various thrill-seeking, high-risk categories of riding (big wave surfing etc)


A leading maker of traction pad board add-ons



A favoured destination of Western Australian wave hunters


Zogs (Mr.) Sex Wax

One of the more popular brands of surf wax out there


A high-end type of wetsuit that offers even better insulation