Surfing Vancouver Island  

Surf, Wave & Surfboard Terminology  


wave terminology

board terminology

surf terminology

wave terminology

  • ground swells - waves formed over vast distances, well formed and powerful, mackers

  • wind swells - waves formed close to the shore by local wind conditions, unorganised, tendency to be slop

  • reef breaks - wave is formed over an underwater reef or rock, consistent

  • beach breaks - wave is formed over sand and sand bars, can shift seasonally and from storm to storm

  • point breaks - wave forms in reaction to the land form, consistent

  • river mouth breaks - wave forms on the sediments deposited at the river mouth, similar to beach breaks but sometimes more susceptible to change

    ~ ~ ~

  • backwash - flood of water returning off the foreshore against incoming waves

  • cnoid waves - as waves come in to shallow water their shape changes to something called a 'cnoid' which has a short, steep crest and a long shallow trough - those are what we see as lines of corduroy.

  • channel - a channel of deeper water where excess water, piled up by waves, flows out to sea

  • clean - faces are unrippled - usually offshore or no wind

  • face - clean, smooth wall on the shore side of a wave

  • fetch - determines the size of a wave. wind speed X time X distance

  • frequency downshifting - the increase of wave period within a fetch .... a decrease in frequency is an increase in period.

  • impact zone - the point where the waves break for the first time

  • inside - where waves continue to break, reform, and break again if it's big enough

  • lip - curling lip at the top of a wave

  • line-up - just beyond the impact zone where you wait to catch waves

  • outside - offshore, beyond where the waves break

  • pitch - the act of the lip throwing out in front of the wave

  • period - time between waves. wind swell less than about 10 seconds /approx/ 12 seconds and longer is ground swell (the energy / power of a wave is proportional not only to its height but its period.)

  • section - any appreciable length of wave that has common characteristics and timing
    ie: breaking in sections - sectiony

  • shore-dump / soup / slop - unorganised sloppy foam, no good for nothing

  • sine waves - in deep water swells are very well-approximated by pure sine waves.

  • steep - refers to angle or pitch of wave face


board terminology

  • shortboard - shortboards are the most common, they range in length from 5' to 7'6", and tend to be used for high-performance contest-style surfing. Shortboards usually have pointed noses and three fins, although other configurations are common. A shortboard sacrifices paddling and floatation for the sake of performance.

  • longboard - longboards are usually over 9' in length. Because of their size they are easier to paddle and get into waves sooner. On the downside, they are less manoeuvrable and can get pretty unwieldy in steep waves.

  • gun - a board for big waves they are long, narrow, and pointy both at the nose and the tail for maximum rail contact. Usually thick and heavy and ranging in length from 7'to 10'
    aka "elephant gun", "rhino chaser" so named because you take it with you when you are hunting big game...

  • hybrid - hybrids range from 7'-9' and attempt to give some of the floatation and paddling of a longboard as well as the performance of a shortboard.

  • fun board - mid size board designed for ease of ride in small conditions,

  • fish - short board with added width and thickness, designed to improve wave catching capability while maintaining performance, a shorboard for small conditions

  • kneeboard - aka kneelo

  • bodyboard - aka boogie boards, sponge, a paipoboard modified in 1971 by Tom Morey to ride dangerous shallow reefs safely. Lay prone and augment with swim-fins

  • paipoboard - Hawaiian wooden bodyboard

  • skimboards - glassed plywood disc or oval for riding shallow beaches on the waters' edge.... run - throw it down - hop on

  • log or stick - slang for surf board

  • tanker - longboard

  • mal - a longboard most places except America

  • mini-mal - mid size board with longboard characteristics

  • twinzer - four fin board, two normal size fins with two smaller fins mirrored a few inches outside and forward of them

  • quad - four fin board, two normal size fins with two smaller fins in line behind them

  • tri fin - three fin board, one large and two smaller fins

  • twin - two fin board

  • thruster - three similar size fins

  • toe in - pushing the front of the fins in, for some boards they would put the toe in such that a string from the nose of the board to the fin was the alignment for the fins--toe-in. Of course this represents a lot of toe-in! Toe-in causes pressure on the outside of the fins to be greater than on the inside, ie., making the board want to swivel to either side with a little surfer input, this eliminated tracking on the earlier twin fins, and makes for a looser more responsive board.

  • Cant - angling the outside fins toward the rail so that the inner angle is 90 degrees + some number. Cant really puts the fin in a place where it needs to be. As when you are doing a bottom turn ,the inside fin is angled more toward the rail and is in a better position to hold the board in, especially now that you have 1 or more fins out of the water. This makes the board handle better on its rails

  • bonzer - in Australia, bonzer is equivalent slang for "Bitchen". The term was adopted by the Campbell Brothers of Southern California in the 70's for their 5 fin surf board.

  • egg - refers to the slow rounded shape of a nose, tail or rail

  • rail - side edge of a board,

  • hard rail - sharper edge to grab a wave

  • soft rail - rounder edge so the board is looser

  • down rail - the deck curves down to meet the flat bottom at a hard edge

  • rhino - a gun - a board for big waves they are long, narrow, and pointy both at the nose and the tail for maximum rail contact. Usually thick and heavy and ranging in length from 7'to 10'
    aka "elephant gun", "rhino chaser" so named because you take it with you when you are hunting big game...

  • rocker - the arc of the tail that bends up, more rocker = easier turning & less speed

  • tail kick - an increase in the rate of rocker near the tail

  • flick nose - an increase in the rate of rocker near the nose

  • spoon - concave in the underside nose of a longboard. Increases lift for nose riding

  • swallow tail - double pointed tail with an indentation in the center. Functional on single fin boards to aid in the holding characteristics of the board.

  • pin tail - pointed tail, aids in stability of board

  • square tail - with the introduction of multi fins, it became a advantageous to loosen the board up with a clean profile tail design

  • squash tail - wide, rounded tail, introduced after the advent of advanced fin systems to loosen the board up

  • leash - a line attaching the board to the riders ankle (shortboard), calf just below the knee (longboard) or wrist (bodyboard). Before the mid seventies we used surgical rubber tube. Modern leashes have little elastic property, in line swivels to stop fouling, and optional quick release pins at the ankle.

  • reverse V - hard chine protruding ridge running lengthways on the bottom of a board

  • concave - soft chine indentation running lengthways on the bottom of a board, believed to create lift


surf terminology

  • air - getting airborne

  • aerial - airborne manoeuvre

  • amped - charged up - stoked - fired

  • backdoor - to pull into a tube from behind the peak

  • bail - to abandon a board - jump off - usually without regard to the boards future

  • bake - a closeout

  • bashing - body surfing

  • boost - getting airborne off the lip

  • brah - from bruddah, Hawaiian pidgin for brother

  • bro - a buddy or friend

  • bucket - helmet

  • bump - a swell

  • bumps - the build-up of wax on a surfboard deck.

  • carve - symmetrical, fluid turns

  • cheater five - five toes on the nose - keep your weight back on the board to maintain trim and speed, squat down and extend one foot forward

  • clucked - afraid, intimidated by the wave

  • crew - a group of surfers defined by break or area

  • dogging - going backside in the pit.

  • drop - as in dropping from the crest of the wave to the pit

  • dropping in - catching a wave that is already occupied ... taking off on the shoulder while someone is taking off deeper

  • drop in late - catching the steepest part of a wave

  • dune - a big peaky wave

  • falls - the pitching lip of the wave - don't get sucked into this

  • fan - a fan of spray off a turn such as a water skier throws

  • fluff - spray off the lip

  • falls - top of the wave pitches out and throws a waterfall shoreward.

  • frigged - snaked.

  • fully - with commitment and intensity

  • full on - with commitment and intensity

  • gash - very sharp turn

  • gnarly - awesome and intimidating

  • going off - a break under optimum conditions

  • gouge - sharp, fast turn

  • gremmies - grem or gremmie is short for gremlin - Sixties US term for young, possibly or probably mischievous surfer, pre-adolescent surfer

  • green room - inside a full cover-up tube

  • grommet - adolescent surfer

  • gunned - undergunned or overgunned refers to the size of your board in relation to wave conditions

  • hiddie - from hideous, intense

  • hoot - howling and yelping approval and encouragement to buddies

  • jag - retreat after getting worked

  • nipped - nipples rubbed raw by board or suit

  • noodle - exhausted, overall condition or specific as in noodle armed

  • meatball flag - black with a yellow dot in the middle, means no surfing today

  • pop - kickout

  • pit - the hollowest portion of a breaking wave

  • pitch - throw - angle of any run to rise

  • pitted - being in the pit of the wave

  • pearl - to go pearl diving, the nose of you board submerges and usually the wave pushes the rest of the board over the nose, you too

  • poser - a non-surfer playing the role of a surfer

  • pucker factor - the effect an intimidating wave has on ones ability to remain relaxed

  • puff - a spitting wave.

  • pumping - above average large swell

  • quiver - a surfer's collection of boards, a board bag that holds several boards

  • rip - to surf to the height of one's abilities

  • room - inside a large barrel.

  • schlong - thick, long, old style single-fin surfboard

  • squid - unlikeable individual

  • scab - a reef or rock

  • scabbed - getting damaged by a reef or rock

  • shred - ability to execute rapid repeated turns - shortboard term

  • sick - excellent, top notch - describing a surfer, stunt, manoeuvre or conditions

  • sideslip - when your board stops tracking forwards and moves sideways

  • slam - bounce off the lip as it begins to pitch

  • slash - cutback.

  • snake - paddling around behind someone who is in position and stealing their wave. Effectively the snake is taking ownership of the wave by being the closest rider to the breaking portion of the wave.

  • stink-eye - hard, cold, menacing stare

  • stoked - geared up, wound up, full of enthusiasm

  • stylie - with good form - with grace

  • surfer's knots - large bumps on the tops of feet and on knees caused by callusing where one continuously contacts a board

  • stuffed - getting driven under the water by a wave coming down on you

  • swish - a meek or fearful surfer

  • thrashed - when a wave lays a beating on you

  • throwing tail - sliding the tail in a turn, breaking the grip of the fins

  • tow-ins - getting towed into waves that are too large to paddle into

  • trim - adjusting your position on a board so that it planes, and achieves its maximum speed

  • tube - the cylindrical or cone shaped hole created when the lip pitches out far and clean enough to create a space between the wave and the falls

  • vertical - turn straight up the wave

  • waffling - rapidly working the board back and forth

  • wannabe - wan-na-be, someone who wants to be

  • wax - paraffin + colour + scent + additives to make it apply at specific temperatures. Used on deck of boards for traction

  • wipe out - a fall, particularly a spectacular fall

  • worked, getting - the action a wave plays on you. It feels like being in a large washing machine.


more surf lexicon

wave terminology

board terminology

surf terminology

Spanish Surf Lingo - Diccionario de Surfear -

Surf Glossary -

Riptionary - Surf Lingo Lexicon -

surfrikan surf slang -

Hebrew Surf Lingo







♠ learn to surf
Learning to Surf - a BC surfing tutorial - Surfing Vancouver Island Learning to Surf - a BC surfing tutorial

» Learning to Surf by Chris Payne
» Learner surfer's FAQ by Stephen Whelan
» The Complete Surfing Guide for Coaches by Bruce Gabrielson

» PD's Trick Tips   Backside Roundhouse

Frontside Carving 360
Frontside Carving 360
The Frontside Snap
Frontside off the Lip
Frontside Air Reverse
Backside Air Reverse
Speed on a Backside Wave
Backside Bottom Turn
Backside Air

Layback Snap
Backside Floaters
Backside Re-entry
Pumping on a Frontside Wave
Frontside Bottom Turn
Frontside Air
Frontside Roundhouse
Frontside Cutback
Frontside Floaters

♠ more surf stuff

» Ding repair FAQ
» wave / board / surf terminology
» Surfboard Design Guide
» surfboards we love
» Rip Currents & Undertows - Ray McAllister - Steve Baum - Neil Savage
» about waves & sets - John Sidles - Timothy B. Maddux
» foam in the surf? - James G. Acker
» Lud's Wave Prediction - Ludwig Omachen
» cold water & rubber
» local surfing Q & A
» surf travel tales and pics
» bc/pnw surf comps archive



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