If you’re learning to surf, you’ll need to immerse yourself in the language as well as the water. Drop into the sampling of surf lingo and surf slang below.



A wave that breaks both left and right


To go airborne and land back on the same wave

Air to Fakie

To get air, rotate mid-air, then ride backwards down the wave

Ankle Busters

Small waves


To pull into a tube from behind the peak


A novice


The hollow, covered portion of a wave forming a tube


Poor surf condition due to high winds


As a wave breaks outside and peels inside, the foam ball reforms into another wave over the inside sandbar/reef. This wave is usually steeper than the outside section and offers a bowl (or tube) section once reformed.


A sharp turn

Caught Inside

A surfer who is repeatedly getting caught on the inside foam section and having a hard time paddling out of the wave.


Place where the ocean floor dips deeper then the surrounding area. Deeper water results in smaller waves, making it easier to paddle out in a channel.

Clean-up Wave

A wave or set of waves that break further offshore then normal and allow surfers to paddle out farther, thus “cleaning” out the group of surfers caught inside


When a wave breaks all the way down the line, breaking in every spot simultaneously, preventing a long ride


The top of a wave, also the lip


Section of the wave face that curls over, right before it breaks. Surfers try to stay as close to the curl as possible. It’s the most powerful part of the wave.

Drop In

To steal a wave out of turn (to snake a wave); or to ride down the face of the wave after catching the wave

Face of the Wave

The unbroken section of the wave. The broken section is the foam ball that moves toward shore.


A loose ride or drift on top of a wave

Goofy Foot

Style where the right foot is placed in front of the left foot on the board


A young surfer


Waves that were generated from storms that were way offshore. These waves have traveled a greater distance to reach the shore than windswell waves, and are generally thicker, more powerful waves.


Same as wiping out: to fall off the board while surfing

Hang Ten

Have all ten toes on the front (nose) of the board


Term used to describe a wave with a great tube section. The surfer can ride inside, completely covered up by the wave, without having it break on him. Like riding in a tunnel.

Impact Zone

Where the waves first break

In the Soup

When a surfer is in the foam or whitewater after a wave has broken


Anywhere between the shore and a breaking wave

Kick Out

To go over or through the back of wave in order to end a ride


Derogatory term for a novice


A wave breaking to the left, from the surfer’s perspective. From the beach a left is a right-breaking wave.


The queue or line of surfers waiting to take a wave


The top part where a wave is starting to break


Protection of surf spots by locals and/or the existence of well-established hierarchy on the waves based on experience and seniority

Locked In

Another term for surfing in the tube, and being covered up by the wave


Weak-breaking wave


A wind from the shore blowing onto the ocean, usually resulting in great surf conditions


Get air by hopping the board and lifting the front of the board


Waves that break out further than most are said to be “outside”

Over the Falls

A wipeout while going from the top to bottom of a wave


To drive the nose of a board into the water to slow down


The bottom and most hollow part of a tube or barrel

Point Break

An area where readable waves form around a piece of land or obstruction jutting out from the mainland, or a break forming around an island

Prone Out

To pull out of a wave by lying down on the board.


To surf hunched over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame


Surfing to the top of the wave (the lip), usually getting air, and then cutting back into the wave


A wave breaking to the right from the surfer’s perspective. From the beach, a right is a left-breaking wave.


Making any series of fast-action surf moves while riding a wave; also to surf at peak performance

Scattered Peaks

Condition when a wave has broken lines and multiple peaks with separate readable areas (shoulders), usually because of clashing swells or overlapping periods


A group of similar waves, usually used to describe a series of good waves

Shoot the Curl

Surf through a barrel


The about-to-break portion of a wave; also called a corner


Aggressive surfing


Pushed underwater by a wave


A group of waves coming onshore that were originally formed in deep waters by wind; also used to describe waves coming from a storm


Gliding across the wave face. To be in trim is to be in perfect harmony with the wave.


The bottom part of a wave that is not breaking


A maneuver to get under a wave by flipping upside down while pulling the board underwater