Surfing Lingo

Surfers often appear to speak a foreign language in which people known as "dudes," "brahs" or "bruddahs" engage in odd activities including "kicking-out" and "cutting back." If you find yourself baffled by the lingo, the Riptionary, an online lexicon of surfing terminology, is a good place to turn. Some of the most commonly used surfing terms are explained below:

Surfing terms

  • Air: Refers to a manoeuvre in which the surfer rides up the face of the wave and into the air above, before landing again on the top of the wave.
  • Bailing out: A term used to describe the action of a surfer who seemed to have committed to a wave, but changed his/her mind at the last minute and pulled out.
  • Cut-back: Refers to a turn in which the surfer moves back towards the white water, increasing the amount of time a wave can be ridden before the surfer pulls out.
  • Dropping in: Refers to ‘dropping in’ on a wave in front of someone who is already riding it, forcing them to abandon the wave. This is a serious breach of surfing etiquette, which is to be avoided at all costs!
  • Kick-out: A term which refers to the act of pulling out of a wave.
  • Snaking: A term which refers to obstructing a surfer who has right of way on a wave.
  • Snap: The name given to a sharp turn executed off the top of the wave.
  • Tow-in: A method used at many big wave surfing locations in which the surfer is towed into a wave by a jet-ski, bat or helicopter in order to surf waves which are too large to be successfully paddled into.
  • Walking the nose: Walking forward on the board to the nose.
  • Wipe-out: Word used to describe what happens when a surfer falls from his/her board whilst riding a wave.

Words used to describe waves and breaks

  • Barrel: A term used to describe waves which form a barrel or tunnel as the lip of a wave curves over. Also referred to as a ‘Tube.’
  • Beach break: Refers to waves which break over a sandy ocean floor, rather than rocks.
  • Blown Out: Winds blowing making the sea very choppy and unridable.
  • Breaker: Wave that breaks on it’s way into the beach.
  • Face: Refers to the front-face of the wave as it approaches the shore.
  • Ground Swells: Waves which are formed across long distances by tidal conditions and numerous other factors, as opposed to waves which are formed close to the shore by the wind.
  • Left: A wave which breaks from left to right (as you face the ocean) is referred to as a ‘left’.
  • Lip: The lip refers to the very top of the wave, which tends to curve over as the wave rears up and approaches the shore.
  • Reef break: Refers to waves which break over an ocean floor covered predominantly by rocks, rather than sand.
  • Right: A wave which breaks from right to left (as you face the ocean) is referred to as a ‘right’.
  • Tube: Used to describe waves which form a barrel or tunnel as the lip of a wave curves over. Also referred to as a ‘Barrel.’
  • Whitewater: Used to describe a breaking wave which produces foamy, white water.
  • Wind Swells: Waves which are formed close to the shore by local wind conditions, as opposed to those which are formed across long distances due to tidal conditions.

Surfing Culture

  • Aggro: Getting annoyed, often as a consequence of a breach in surfing etiquette.
  • Brah: Derived from the Hawaiian ‘bruddah’ meaning brother; a term of endearment used between surfing buddies.
  • Bitchin': The surfing equivalent of ‘cool’ or ‘awesome.’
  • Bogus: Used to describe something which is disappointing.
  • Brainfreeze: Used to describe the unpleasant effects of submerging one’s head in very cold waters.
  • Bruddah: Hawaiian word meaning ‘brother.’ Used interchangeably with "brah" between surfing buddies.
  • Da Bomb: The best.
  • Dude: A cliché, but a word still used commonly amongst surfers; a person or fellow surfer.
  • Fubar: *&%#$" up beyond all recognition.
  • Gnarly: A word used to describe a particularly intense wave (seriously!).
  • Hairy: See Gnarly.