Everyone knows a few surfing terms. Expressions like “wipeout” and “duck dive” have long been part of the wider public’s parlance. And even if you’ve never surfed in your life, you might be familiar with a few surfing terms for waves, like “barrel” or “shorey”. But if you’re really wanting to polish up your surfing terminology — and don’t want to look like a kook in the process — you need to go a bit deeper.
Now, there’s no universal list of surfer words. As with any subculture that uses slang heavily, there are regional variants and some specific to particular surf communities. But with our surfing glossary, you’ll definitely be ready for the next time you hit the waves. Let’s dive in!
A wave that doesn’t gradually break across its surface in an even pattern but rather simply collapses in a straight line. They don’t offer a great deal of surface to ride and can end up dumping you straight in the water. Best avoided, to reduce any chance of injury.
Dropping in/Cutting off
Essentially, jumping the queue for a wave or obstructing another surfer who was already on the wave. A serious breach of surfing etiquette — even if you’re a more experienced surfer — and may well lead to you being called a “Kook” as a result.
Getting pitted in the Green Room
You’re on your board, deep inside a barrel, surrounded by the green wall of the wave and its overhang — and hopefully, you made it out safely without a wipeout too. A mark of skill when executed successfully and an ideal photo op if you’ve got your GoPro handy. It’s an experience everyone should have at least once.
Nothing to do with the Disney character. It’s a surfer who rides their board with their right foot positioned at the front. Contrast with “natural”.
A young surfer, usually a tween or teenager. This is more connected to age itself than actual level of experience; many grommets are highly skilled surfers. Rarely used for adults — unless they’re brand new to surfing and even then, only in the ironic sense.
Another name for a wave that’s barreling. “Caught a few kegs out at the beach today.”
The leash around your leg that attaches you to your surfboard. Can be very handy if — and when — you fall off!
One of the most important surfing terms to know. A catch-all term for anyone who’s acting like a fool while they’re out on the water. Whether they’re actively unsafe on their board, have poor wave etiquette or are simply unskilled, a kook is easy to spot. Typically it’s got an association with newer or inexperienced surfers — but kooks of all ages and levels of experience exist.
A shark. Watch out for them while you’re in the waves!
“Natural” has nothing to do with inherent skill at surfing — someone who rides “natural” is simply placing their left foot at the front of the board. Often considered the standard position for surfing, though there are plenty of Goofy riders who will disagree.
Short for wetsuit. Essential gear if you’re surfing in cold water or just want to avoid sunburn all over your body.
Putting your surfing slang terms to good use
Looking to put your newfound knowledge to good use? Here at Kalon Surf, we can help you learn how to surf — then you’ll be able to show off all of your new lingo and surfing skills. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our surfing experiences.