Surfer lingo: You may recognize the words—but what do they mean? Duck diving to the line-up? Kicking out after some kook dropped in your tube? Uhhh… come again?

Maybe the last time you eavesdropped on surfers at the beach has left you more than a little confused. Or maybe you’ve just taken up surfing and want to avoid sounding like a total grom. Either way, you’re in the right place.

Welcome to Swim Guide’s Surf Lingo Fluency course. Class is in session.


Here are some of the most popular surfing terms and what they mean:


Wave anatomy

Double up: when one wave combines with another, creating a twice as powerful wave

Lip: the curled part of a wave

Line-up: the spot where you catch waves, right behind where the waves begin breaking

Set: a group of (usually large) waves coming in to shore

Tube: also called the barrel, this is the hollow, curved part of a wave, where you want to surf

Photo by Jeremy Bishop


Water conditions

Blown out: bad, mushy surfing conditions caused by onshore winds

Corduroy: a series of wave swell lines that resemble the aforementioned fabric

Photo by Elizabeth Haslam

Flat: unsurfable waters with no waves to be found

Glassy: very clear waves that look like glass

Gnarly: forceful, extreme waves that are both exhilarating and dangerous


Surfboard anatomy

Fin: a curved, rudder-like device under the board that helps control direction

Leash: a cord usually attached to the ankle to keep the board near the surfer

Longboard: usually 9-12 feet in length, best for beginners and a classic and relaxed style of surfing

Photo by Roland Pernter

Rocker: the curvature running along the bottom of a board

Shortboard: usually 5-7 feet in length, best for advanced surfers and a high energy style of surfing

What’s the difference between longboards and shortboards? Click here to find out.


Sick tricks

Aerial: when you maneuver your surfboard into the air and land it back onto the wave and keep riding

Cross-stepping: a footwork maneuver that involves shifting your weight up and down the board

Hanging ten or hanging five: surfing with one or two feet on the nose of your longboard

Hit the lip: turning the surfboard upwards to meet the crashing lip of the wave

Photo by Guy Kawasaki

360: turning the board (you guessed it) 360 degrees in a full circle on the wave’s face


Righteous maneuvers

Bottom turn: turning at the bottom of a wave to gain momentum and direction to set up a trick or maneuver

Cutback: a turn on or in the wave so you can get back to the surf line

Duck dive: a quick way to get to the line-up by diving under an incoming wave with your board

Kick out: a move used to intentionally exit a wave

Pop-up: when you stand quickly from a kneeling or paddling position a board to catch a wave–hard to master, but totally necessary

Photo by Carter Brown


Not so righteous maneuvers

Dropping in: also called “snaking”, this is a surfing faux pas where one surfer gets in the way of another surfer already riding a wave

Fin chop: being hit by the fins of a surfboard

Locked in: when a surfer is caught underneath a breaking wave

Wipeout: unintentionally falling off your board… it happens to the best of us

Over-the-falls: one of the most dangerous kinds of wipeout, where you are sucked backwards over a breaking wave and down the lip to sea floor

Photo by Guy Kawasaki


Which one are you?

Dude/Dudette: a friendly name for a fellow surfer

Kook: a derogatory term for a beginner surfer who causes trouble for other surfers by getting in the way or snaking waves

Grom: shortened from “grommet,” an Australian term used to describe an inexperienced or young surfer (it’s the not-insulting counterpart of ‘kook’)

Photo by Nathan Rupert

Logger: someone who surfs on a longboard

O.G.: stands for Original Gangster, a term used to describe an older, skillful, and respected surfer


Congrats! You’ve graduated Surfer Lingo 101.

Now that you know your line-ups from your pop-ups and your kick outs from your wipeouts, you’re ready to aerial on some gnarly sets!

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