San Diego Surfers Surfology Dictionary

Here is our attempt at providing a good depiction of surf terms and slang that are commonly found in today's surf lingo. If you have some lingo that we're missing and would like to contribute to, go ahead and submit it below!

Definition or Meaning:

San Diego Surfers Surfology Dictionary
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A Frame:

When a wave breaks and creates an A effect with both a right and left wave breaking at the same time. These often occur at beach breaks on a clean day of surf.


Angry or pissed off person or attitude. "That guy went aggro when the grom dropped in on him."


A surfing maneuver where a surfer catches air while on his board during any part of the wave. There are several different tricks to do while in the air but just catching air is a difficult task.

Ankle High:

A term used to describe wave size. Roughly 2 feet and under, in other words, get the long board!


To enter the tube from the opposite side of the peak from which the surfer is coming.


Surfing board shorts or trunks.

Bail out:

Get off a wave before it closes out on the surfer.


A surfer who is trying to act like a veteran, but in reality should still be surfing whitewater and does not have much experience.

Beach Break:

A surfing break with no rocks or reefs below the water. These breaks are usually sandy and great for beginners.


'70's design wetsuit in which a flap is pulled through between the thighs and hooked to the torso portion of a wetsuit.


A good looking girl or women.


A guy who pulls up to a surf spot in a convertible BMW with the egg board hanging out. (Also see Buffy)


The smaller fins located on either side of the main skeg or fin itself.


The foam in which the surfboard is constructed of internally.

Blown Out:

When a wind blows on the back of the waves making them mush over and lose power. (Also see Onshore Wind)

Bone Yard:

Inside the "impact zone."

Bottom Turn:

A turn at the bottom of the wave in front of the breaking portion.

Brain Bucket:

A helmet worn by some surfers while surfing.


A particular area where waves break upon the beach.


A term used in short with brother or good friend.


She's always with Biff. A beach bunny that hangs out while her partner surfs.

Chest High:

A term used to describe wave size. Roughly 4-6 feet.


Rough water conditions caused by strong winds and or a storm.

Church of the Open Sky:

The veneration caused by the act of surfing.

Clean Up Set:

A much larger set of waves that comes infrequently and breaks farther out. Since a majority of surfers will get caught and dragged in , the line up is said to be cleaned up.

Close Out:

When a wave does not break in any direction but just breaks all at once and doesn't allow for anywhere to surf.


A dedicated surfer who will go out in all conditions, with all qualities of wave.


Extreme happiness or overjoyfulness caused by surfing.


The highest point of one wave.


The breaking portion of the wave.


To turn back into the breaking portion of the wave to either slow down or have fun!

Dawn Patrol:

Being in the water to see the sun rise. Most dawn patrol sessions are on purpose to avoid crowds and to capture the best conditions of the day.


The top of the surfboard.


When the glassing of a board becomes detached from the foam core, causing bubbles.  Can spell doom for the board if left untreated.


A hole, puncture or scratch on a surfboard.

Ditch Witch:

Parents who use the beach as a baby sitter.


A Wahine who is a particularly good surfer.

Doggy Door:

The last unbroken face of a wave between two closeouts.  Sometimes the only exit off the wave


A term used very often in surf lingo. Depicts a friend or buddy.

Drop in:

To paddle and drop into a wave from the top of the crest. The initial starting point of the wave.


The best of the best, a perfect day of surf with no one out. This word describes a day, a surf session or a wave that you'll want to remember forever.

Expression Session:

A time during contests that competitors get to "do their thing" and surf freestyle, judging may or may not occur.

Extreme Tow-In Surfing:

A type of surfing that includes using a jet ski to obtain the speed to surf enormous waves that are too large to paddle into.


The portion of wave that has not broken. This is the portion that has the most power and provides the most fun!


A surfer with no regard or respect for fellow surfers.


No waves, no surf, a bad day for surfers!


The increase in rocker near the nose of the board.

Flip flop:

Traditional unofficial footwear of surfers.


When  a surfer rides the top of the breaking wave that is over the curl or barrel and air drops back into the wave itself.


A young slight of stature female surfer, combo of girl and midget.


An older experienced surfer who has wisdom of the waves. (Also see Sensai)

Glass Off:

Usually occurring in the early morning or late evening when the wind dies off and the ocean calms down and helps clean up the surf for better waves.


When the winds are calm or offshore, the ocean is smooth and calm which can resemble glass.

The Glide:

When it all comes together for a surfer on the wave, everything is synchronicous and kopasetik.


A scary, or amazing event in regards to surfing. Can also be used to describe a surfing move or wave, "That was a gnarly wave."

Goofy Foot:

When a surfer rides with there right foot forward.


From an ancient Popeye cartoon, goons rule their local breaks and the shores with an iron fist.

Grabbing the Rail:

When a surfer grabs the outside portion of the surfboard rail while performing a maneuver or commonly seen while surfing backside in a barrel.

Green Room:

The barrel, tube or cavern of a wave. The ultimate place to ride the wave.

Green Wall:

The portion of the wave which has not broken, thus resembling wall.

Gremmie or Gremlin:

Archaic term used by surfers back in the '60's for young surfers.


A term derived from Hawaiian language which describes a young surfer.


A long, splendor, and thin board used to surf large waves. It allows the surfer to enter the wave early and gain speed.

Hanging Five:

A long boarding move when you put one foot over the nose of the board and ride the wave.

Hang Ten:

A long boarding move when you put the toes of both feet over the nose of your board and ride the wave.


A term derived from Hawaiian language which means a new person in the water or a foreigner.


To get a woodie while surfing.


Wave slider or surfer in Hawaiian

Head High:

A term used to describe wave size. Roughly 6-8 feet.

Hero's Takeoff:

Taking off on a wave just before the wave breaks. (See Two Paddle Takeoff)

Ho Dad:

Not the guy who gets all the chicks, a wannabe who spends more time on the beach than in the water.

Hold Down:

The amount of time that a breaking wave holds a surfer under its control before releasing him or her to return to the surface to get a breath of air.

Home Break:

Where a surfer learned to surf or surfs regularly.


To scream for your friend after they ride a particularly sweet wave.


Large crowd at your favorite peak.

Impact Zone:

The zone in the surfing lineup where the set waves break and make it difficult to paddle. This isn't the best place to hang out!


The inside section to where waves are breaking, this is closest to the beach with surfable waves.


Usually in terms to beach breaks but a jetty is a formation of rocks that jet out into the ocean to protect sand movement or prevent corrosion.


A large wave with an open barrel.


Increase in rocker at the tail of a board, opposite of "flick."

Knee High:

A term used to describe wave size. Roughly 3-4 feet and under.


Something who doesn't know how to surf or is always in the way on a wave. Usually this word is not used in good context.

The Landlord:



The cord, consisting of rubber and rope, that connect the board to the surfer.


When a wave breaks from right to left from the surfer's point of view.


This is where the waves consistently breaks and where most of the surfers sit and wait for the set waves to come in.


The breaking crest at the very top of the wave that has not fully broken yet.


When a specific surf spot has locals who get angry when new surfers come to surf the break.


Someone who generally rides a Long board.


When the tide is high, winds are onshore or if the swell does not have much power, the waves sort of crumble without much power.

Natural Foot:

When a surfer rides with their left foot forward. (Also see Regular Foot)

Night Surfing:

When a full moon occurs and it provides enough light to go surfing at night. This can be very dangerous so take cautions.


A surfer's adjective used to describe the water being cold. "The water is a bit nippy today."


After a particularly difficult paddle out, your arms are so weakened they feel like wet spaghetti.


The top of the surfboard where it comes to a tip on short boards and is rounded on long boards.

Offshore Winds:

Santa Ana winds that are often common in the Winter season. These winds blow into the waves which cause clean and glassy conditions. For the most part, these winds improve the lines of the swell and often cause the waves to barrel more frequently.


Circular dings in the glass of the board, may appear to be a small spiderweb.

Onshore Winds:

Usually a South or West wind that causes the waves to break prematurely and can often cause poor conditions.


The furthest point out to sea where the waves are breaking. Outside can also be used to describe an incoming set of waves.


A term used to describe wave size. Roughly 8-10 feet.

Over the Falls:

When a surfer is pitched over with the lip of the wave and  then dragged under water by the waves power.




The point at where the wave peaks over and breaks, which creates a surf able face to surf.


A surfer in the water who never catches waves and is a non-factor which makes the lineup look crowded but really isn't.

Perfect Wave:

A different definition for every surfer and can be anything from a 2 foot pealing wave to 12 foot barrels. Part of the fun in surfing is always searching for that perfect wave.

Pet the Cat:

Dragging your hand in the face of the wave to slow you down to enter the tube


Getting caught high on the face of the wave as it is breaking and being pitched with the lip as it throws out.]\

Pitched and Sucked:

The worse possible scenario. A surfer gets caught high on the face of a hollow breaking wave and then gets pitched with the lip. After landing in front of the wave, the surfer is then sucked up the face of the wave and pitched again onto the reef.


Another name for a Longboard, generally over 9' in length.

The Pocket:

The optimal position on the wave in which to catch the wave. The pocket can also be known as the curl of the wave where the barrel is occuring.


A surfer who talks the talk but can not walk the walk. Someone who looks, acts and talks like a surfer but can hardly paddle out or not surf at all.


The wrinkles in your hands and toes after a long session.

Pull Out:

To end a wave by maneuvering the board over the back of the wave.


A collection of surfboards that can be used for different conditions or wave size.

Rag Dolled:

Being suspended and tumbled in the surf after wiping out.


The contoured sides of the board that assist in turning.

Reef Bounce:

Bouncing off the reef after being pitched from the top of the wave in shallow water.

Reef Break:

When set waves come toward the beach and break further out as a result of a reef under the water. Most reef breaks are a combination of rock and reefs that create the peeling effect on these such waves.


When a surfer carves up to the lip of the wave and then re enters the wave.

Regular Foot:

When a surfer rides with their left foot forward.


When a wave breaks from left to right from the surfer's point of view.

Rip, ripping or ripper:

Either a style of surfing or a surfer that surfs very aggressively and charges the waves.

Rogue Wave or Set:

A wave or set of waves that is much larger than those typically breaking that day, often performs a "clean up" of unwary surfers on the inside.


Experienced, usually older surfers who help out younger surfers. (Also see Gandel).


A series of waves in a swell that are surfed. Sets are usually 3-4 waves but can very greatly on swell conditions.


The gesture made by extending a thumb and little finger while rotating, also known as "hang loose."

Shark Biscuit:

Spongers or body boarders.

Shore Break:

Waves that break very close to the shore or on the shore.


The end section of the wave that has yet to break or be ridden.


A surfer who is quick and light on their feet and carves up the face of the wave.


The main fin on a surfboard.


Mushy, ugly surf that has little to no shape or form.


The perfect portion of the wave.

Snaking or to Snake a Wave:

To take off of another surfer on a wave and steal the wave. The surfer closest to the breaking portion of the wave gets the surf that specific wave. Taking off in front of that surfer is referred to as snaking and shouldn't be done.

Soul Surfer:

A surfer who often goes alone, and has a deeper understanding of the karma of surfing, the stoke.

Speed bumps:

Barneys or kooks who sit in the way of your ride without making an effort to get out of your way while you're surfing.


A body boarder, soft board or body surfer.


Another term for a surfboard.


To be very happy and excited. Surfers are usually very stoked after a good wave or an awesome session of surfing.

Squid Lid:

A hood worn to protect against cold while surfing during the winter.


A road trip to find the best surf or a trip to do nothing but surf.

Surfer's Ear:

A condition caused by extreme cold water penetrating the inner ear.  Causes the fragile bones in the ear to expand.

Surf Nazi:

Generally a local who feels that the beach belongs to them and them alone.  Very aggressive, although may not surf very well.  Best to avoid this type whenever possible.

Surf's Up:

A term used to describe good surf.


An expert surfer, usually senior in years.

Taco Stand:

A beach where it's just not happening.

Take Off:

The point when you drop into the wave and are about to start your ride.


The bottom of the surfboard.

Tandem Surfing:

When two  surfers are on one board riding a wave.


A log, a very long, thick surfboard.

Tidal Swings:

The change of tides throughout the day due to the moon and gravitational changes.


The movement of the ocean in and out throughout the period of the day due to Earth's location to the gravitational pull of the moon.


When the surfer is pushed so far underwater that his leash pulls the tail of his board under, and the front of the board stands upright in the water.

Top Turn:

A turn at the lip of the wave which angles the surfer almost vertical and then re enters the wave.

Tow in Surfing:

While surfing huge waves, a Jet-ski is often used to tow surfers into waves that are too large to paddle into.

Trunking it/Trunkable:

Water temp is adequately warm so that a wetsuit is not required to hit the surf.

Tube, Barrel or Cavern:

The tube of the wave where it pitches outward and creates a spherical tube in the wave where you can get covered by the wave.


Waves are breaking very hollow or something is really cool (Archaic, from the 80's)

Two Paddle Takeoff:

Taking off on a wave just before it begins to break.

Victory at Sea:

Unsurfable, stormy conditions that resemble the fake ocean that was used in the TV show.

Waist High:

A term used to describe wave size. Roughly 2-4 feet.


A Hawaiian term which means "girl"


A barney or a kook.

Walk the Nose:

A long board term used to describe when a surfer walks up to the nose to either Hang Five or Ten.


The face of the wave before it has been broken.


The surfer who drops in behind you after you have been riding the face of a wave for a while. Also could be used as "That guy just weaseled my wave."


When a wave is steep and has sections which creates wedges in the wave that can increase speed and create a fun place for an air or huge cutback.

Whitewater or White Wash:

The white foam part of the wave that occurs after the wave has broke. This can also be known as the Soup.


Getting "worked" or traumatized by a wave during a wipe out. Being Worked usually involves getting pitched, sucked, doing a reef bounce or experiencing


(See Impact Zone)

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