Surfing Terms


Surfer rides across the face of the wave at an angle to the shoreline, rather than riding straight toward the beach.

Association of Surfing Professionals. Governing body of professional surfing.

Surfing with your back to the wave. The opposite of frontside.

The returning water from a breaking wave after it reaches its apex on the shoreline. Also known as undertow.

Riding inside the tubular part of the wave. Like riding inside a large sewer pipe.

Beach breaks
Waves breaking over a sand bottom. The shape can vary from day to day and hour to hour.

The piece of foam that is shaped into a surfboard.

Blown out
A surf condition caused by strong, usually, onshore winds making the waves un-rideable.

Bottom turn
Rather than taking off toward the shoulder of the wave the surfer drops to the bottom of the wave to make the turn.

A surfing maneuver in which the surfer creates big cut backs (turns) like he is slicing up the wave.

Caught inside
Surfer is caught between large breaking waves and the shoreline, waiting for an opportunity (see lull) to get out to the line up.

Smooth glassy conditions, with little or no onshore winds.

When the whole wave breaks from top to bottom at the same time making it unrideable other than straight in. Walled

When the waves are good, rideable and frequent.

The top part or lip of the wave.

Surfing maneuver, turn, performed to bring the surfer who has gotten ahead of the breaking portion of the wave back to the breaking or critical part of the wave.

Dawn patrol
Early morning surf session before everyone else arrives, usually still dark.

Damage to a surfboard that breaks the fiberglass outer layer and allows water to get to the foam. Get out of the water, dry it out and patch it before your next session.

Dropping in
When a surfer first catches a wave and gets into position to ride.

Duck dive
To duck under a breaking wave by pushing the front of your surfboard under the whitewater, allowing the wave to pass and the surfer to come out the back of the wave.

Face, Wave
The non-breaking rideable portion of the wave travelling towards the shore.

The woven glass cloth used to wrap the shaped surfboard blank.

Surfboards rudder.

The polyethylene material used to mold surfboard blanks.

Facing the wave while surfing. The opposite of backside

A wetsuit that covers the entire body, except for your head, hands and feet.

Surf condition in which the ocean surface is smooth as glass. Little or no wind

A surfer who surfs right foot forward.

Grom or Grommet
A surfer under 16 years of age.

The way Dewey Weber rode a longboard.

Hang Five
Surfer hangs five toes over the nose of a longboard.

Hang Ten
Surfer hangs ten toes over the nose of a longboard

Hit the lip
Surfing maneuver in which the surfer goes vertical to the wave and hits the lip of the wave with the board and uses the impact to turn back down the front of the wave

Impact zone
Location where the waves are breaking. Not the area you want to be in, especially if the waves are large.

A surf condition in which waves don’t cooperate.

Kick out
Ending the wave ride by kicking the surfboard over or through the back of the wave.

A surfer with limited ability or brains or both that ruins waves for the other surfers. Doesn’t know the rules of etiquette or doesn’t care.

The urethane cord that attaches a surfer to a surfboard

A wave breaking on the surfers right with open face to the left.

Where you see the crowd of surfers in the water waiting for waves

Regulars at a particular surf spot.

A surfboard typically nine plus feet.

A long period of time between waves.

The material from which wetsuits are made.

National Scholastic Surfing Association. The highest profile amateur competitive surfing association in the United States

Over the falls
A bad wipeout. Not quite making it over to the backside of the wave and being pile driven downward.

Wave that is greater in height than the height of the surfer.

A wave that is higher in the center and peels off to the right and left, like an “A” frame cabin.

Pearl (AKA Pearl Diving)
A wipeout where the nose of the surfboard goes under the water, usually upon take off.

Reef breaks
Waves that break over rock or coral. Typically more consistent and better shape than beach breaks.

A surfer’s collection of different types and shapes of surfboards for varying surfing conditions.

Regular foot
A surfer who surfs left foot forward.

A liquid plastic that is applied with the fiberglass for the exterior skeleton of the shaped foam blank surfboard.

A wave breaking on the surfers left with open face to the right.

A breakdown of a portion of the wave ahead of the surfer.

A series of approaching waves.

Surfboard in the 5 to 7 foot range.

Also called corners, the unbroken part of a breaking wave still makeable by the surfer. Not sectioning.

Single fin
One fin instead of the typical 3 fin set up in today’s shortboards. Usually found on cruiser longboards.

Another term for the fin, from the Golden Age of Surfing.

Damage to a surfboard similar to a cracked windshield. Not yet leaking water to the foam, but should be patched before the next session.

A person or act by a person to sneak around behind another surfer to take his priority position away in the line up. Or a surfer that drops in to the wave in front of a surfer already riding the wave. Serious breach of etiquette.

Soft board
Soft top surfboard for beginners rather than fiberglass or epoxy. Doesn’t hurt as much when it hits you.

Wetsuit used for cool water and temperatures. Usually short sleeved and short legged.

Intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, happy, elated and excited about something.

The strip of wood down the center of the surfboard. Adds strength and stability to the board.

Paddling maneuver used by longboarders. Rolling over on your back, positioning the surfboard so the fins are pointing up and letting the breaking wave pass overhead.

When the whole wave breaks from top to bottom at the same time making it unrideable other than straight in. Closeout

A paraffin substance rubbed on the deck of a surfboard for traction.

Made from neoprene. The type of suit you purchase depends upon the conditions in which you will be surfing. Fullsuit for cold conditions. Springsuit for cool conditions etc…

Falling while surfing.

Comments (2)

  • natalie
    August 5, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I love this post. D’ya think you could educate us on how to use some of the words in a sentence? I always get confused about ‘gnarly’…is it good or bad?

  • chazeAuthor
    August 5, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Gnarly could be just bad or bad in a good way, like that was crazy, but your glad you did it. 😉

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