The Surfer’s Dictionary

Having trouble understanding what those ‘burn out’ surfers are saying? Just follow these phrases and words to mastering the vocabulary of a surfer.

Joshua Caudillby Joshua Caudill

When people hear surfers talk, they're usually left wondering "Wait…what did they just say?"  Surf lingo can sound like its alien gibberish. It’s like its own language out there. So here is your guide to understanding a surfer's vocabulary.

I have to warn you…this won't be easy. Grab a pen and paper.

  • Amped- To be stoked or one with the stoke. To be excited about the surf.
  • A-Frame- A peak shaped wave
  • Air-where the surfer and board, jump out of the the top of the wave with all fins out of the water
  • Aerial- An airborne maneuver with your board
  • Backdoor- Entering the wave from behind the peak
  • Backside- Surfing with your back towards the wave. When a regular surfer (left foot forward) goes left or when a goofy foot surfer (right foot forward) goes right.
  • Bail- To jump of your board to avoid a bad wipeout
  • Barney- A terrible surfer
  • Barrel- Also known as a 'tube' Barrel is where the wave is hollow when its breaking
  • Board- That thing surfers have beneath their feet. Well, its true.
  • Booger- Another term for 'body-boarders'
  • Carving- When a surfer is making fast cuts and turns on a wave. 
  • Caught inside- When a surfer is stuck/trapped in the middle between breaking waves and the shoreline. This is a nightmare and super dangerous. Very difficult to paddle out to the outside when this occurs.
  • Clean- Smooth ride-able waves. 
  • Close out- When the wave breaks along its length all at the same time.
  • Dawn patrol- surfing at sunrise. THE BEST TIME, MY FRIENDS!
  • Down the line-  The direction a surfer is headed while riding the wave
  • Drop in- This is the biggest sin in the world of surfing. Its when a surfer catches a wave when another surfer is already riding the wave and thus does not have priority. This is the cause of 99 percent of fights out in the water.
  • Duck dive- is when a surfer is paddling out and to avoid a huge wave, dives while pushing the board under his body and under the wave that is breaking.
  • Fin- That curved thing under the board. I honestly don't know how to describe this to you. Just make sure your board has at least one of these when you buy it.
  • Goofy foot- When a surfer surfs with his right foot forward on the board
  • Grommet- A young and inexperienced surfer
  • Gun- A board made for big wave surfing
  • Impact zone- Where the waves are breaking
  • In the sou- When the surfer is in the white wash of the wave after the wave has broken.
  • Kick- out- When a surfer finishes with a wave by riding up and over the top of the wave.
  • Kook- The most derogatory of the surf language. Its to describe a beginner or newbie who isn't very good and usually causes chaos due to their lack of talent, for the other surfers in the water
  • Leash- The chord attached to your dog, you and the porch. No, its the chord attached to your leg and your board so you don't end up dying or losing your board.
  • Line-up- The place where surfers all wait for a wave to ride
  • Mush- Poor quality waves
  • Overheard- Waves taller than the surfer trying to ride the wave.
  • Point Break- To speak like Keanu Reeves. I just wanted to see if I could sneak that in there.
  • Pop up- The motion a surfer does when going from laying on the board to standing on the board
  • Rail- The sides of the surfboard
  • Sex wax- Not a 'dirty' thing', guys. Surfers rub this on the deck of their boards for traction.
  • Stick- Slang for surfboards. If someone uses this term, they are trying really hard to be 'cool.'
  • Thruster- Surfboard with three fins
  • Tube-The inside of a hollow wave
  • Tubular- Saying of Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is appropriate for all dinner conversation.
  • Wetsuit- If you don't know this term you probably eat paste and wear a box for a hat. This is a lifesaver in the freezing cold water though.
  • Wipe out- To fall off your board in a big way. There is no 'cool' way to look when wiping out. Its pretty awful and pretty dangerous.

Hopefully these terms will help you fit in next time you try to wear a Hollister t-shirt with a surfboard on it. Often times when you don't surf and you hear these phrases, you're left with the same feeling you get when two people are speaking Spanish and you don't know if they're talking bad about you. This dictionary will help solve that dilemma and you can now chime in with a few words of your own.

Rest easy…SURFERS ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU. Well, that is unless you're a 'barney' or a 'kook.'

Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter@JoshuaCaudill85 or subscribe at 

Photo Credit: Getty