Surf Glossary

 The below are examples from the comprehensive surf glossary included in Hubi's Surf Atlas - Part 1. Enjoy ... 


Aerial (Air)
Surf move. When a surfer launches into the air, flies above the crest of a wave and lands with their feet planted on the surfboard. 


Type of wave that rises up and begins breaking in one spot, like the peaky top of the letter A. The wave then breaks (peels) to both the right and left towards shore, like the legs of the A.

Surf move. Just after paddling into a steep wave, a surfer’s board can separate from the wave face and fall through the air. Super sketchy, but looks cool when a surfer sticks it! 


Axe (axed)
To be hit by the falling lip of a wave. Game over bro. 


Surf move. When a surfer enters the tube of a wave from behind its throwing crest (lip). 


When a surfer rides with their back to a wave. Opposite of frontside.


Water that returns back toward the ocean after having been pushed up onto shore, into rocks or against a seawall. 


Bail (eject)
Jumping off when things don’t look good ahead. 


Barrel (tube, pipe, pit, keg, green room, tubaso, shack, cavern...
The tubing, tunnel-like part of a wave. Can you imagine pulling into, riding and exiting a barrel? Practice barrel-riding by bodysurfing and bodyboarding sand-bottomed shacks. 


Beach Break
Surf spot where waves break over sand 


Wetsuit boots. Clean and dry them after every use or they’ll get stinky in no time.


Bottom turn
Surf move. A turn at the bottom of a wave. Might just be the most important move in surfing! 


Bro (sistah, brutha, dude, bruv, bruh, brah, mate, hermana, hermano)


Carve (speed carve, gouge, layback, Clayback, downcarve...)
Surf move. A flowing turn in the face of a wave, with multiple styles and variations.


Chop (choppy) 
Bumpy ocean surface due to wind, current or backwash. 


Clawed gloves (three-finger mitts)
Thick winter wetsuit gloves built like mittens, with one big chamber for either three or four fingers, and another for the thumb. Makes your hands look like lobster claws. Toasty! 


Clean (glassy)
When the water surface and waves are smooth. The opposite of choppy. 


Climate is the typical weather of an area over a very long time—more than 30 years. For example, tropical, oceanic, arid or Mediterranean are all climate types. Weather is temporary. Weather happens in an area on one day, over a few days or over a few weeks. Rain, snow storms and heat waves are examples of weather. Remember: climate is typical, weather is temporary.


A wave that breaks far ahead of a surfer, with no chance of their making it. Great for barrel practice. 


A tool used to find direction. A magnetic compass always points north, towards where polar bears live. One of ancient China’s “Four Great Inventions”! 


The highest part of a wave. 


Cutback (cutty, roundhouse cutback, wrap-around roundhouse)
Surf move. A full turn on the wave face, back towards the curl of the wave. A roundhouse cutback is when the turn is extended even more—to a “bounce back” off the wave’s foam or oncoming curl. Boom! 


Dawn patrol (dawnie)
Surfing before or around sunrise. Magic! 


Ding (pressure ding)
A crack, hole or bump in a surfboard. Yikes! Keep a roll of sticky duct tape or a some big stickers in your bag for a quick water-sealed fix in case you ding your board while surfing. Dry dings completely before real repairs. And always repair dings with a skilled adult.


Drop (the take-off)
Surf move. Sliding down a wave face after paddling in and standing up. Make the drop and you’ve made the wave! 


Duck dive 
Surf move. The way a surfer pushes their board under, into and through an oncoming wave or whitewash. Longboarders use the “turtle roll” method to get past waves and whitewash. Whether you dive like a duck, or roll like a turtle, knowing how to get past oncoming waves and whitewash is a must!



Face (wall)
The smooth, open part of a wave ahead of the curl.


Surf move. When a surfer skims across the top of a wave’s curling crest and drops back into the wave face, flats or whitewash. Not as hard as it looks, but enter with speed.


Freefall (air-drop)
Falling through the air, unattached to the face of a wave, with or without a board.


When a surfer rides with their face to the wave. Opposite of backside riding, when a rider’s back is facing the wall of a wave. Regular-footers are frontside on rights, goofy-footers are frontside on lefts and switch-footers ride frontside whenever they’d like to!


Skin or tissue damage caused by freezing air temperatures. Always pack your toes, fingers and nose in soft, warm, water tight and windproof gear while hunting frigid surf.  


Gnarly (Heavy, dangerous, scary)
When something crazy-looking in the surf makes your jaw drop and say, “Whoaaaa, that was gnarly!” 


Goofy Foot (goofy stance)
A surfer, skater or snowboarder who rides with their right foot forward. Oppossite of regular foot.


Grommet (grom, gremmie)
A young surfer, like us! 


Swell (wave energy) that has traveled for very long distances across open ocean. Summer groundswells that hit the US and Canadian west coasts are created between 5000–6000 miles away (8000–10,000 km), deep down in the South Pacific’s Roaring Forties above Antarctica! Groundswell waves have 12–24 second wave periods.


Gun (rhino chaser, big-wave gun, big-wave board)
An extra-long, extra-thick surfboard for big wave riding. 


Hang ten (toes on the nose, noseriding)
Surf move. A longboard art where a surfer sticks all ten of their toes over the nose of their board. The longboard’s tail must be under and pressed down by the falling curl of a wave to balance the weight of the rider up front. Work your way up from “cheater fives” first!


High tide
The two times a day when sea or ocean water is highest up on the shoreline. There are two high tides and two low tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes. It takes 6 hours and 12 minutes for the tide to change from low to high or high to low. 


Hold-Down (held under)
Being held underwater by tumbling or crashing waves. 


Hydrofoil (foil)
A lifting surface that works in water. Hydro (of water) + foil (lifting surface). Large hydrofoils are used to lift and push water aside to create waves in some wave pools. Small and very light hydrofoils are used by some surfers and kitesurfers to lift their boards out of the water to ride wave energy. 


Impact zone
The area in front of a breaking wave where the wave’s lip crashes down. Stay outta’ the impact zone!


Jacking (jack up)
When a wave rises suddenly and steeply before breaking. 


Jet ski (PWC)

A motorcycle-like personal watercraft driven forward by a powerful jet of water. Used to pull (tow) surfers into big or dangerous waves and for safety patrol. 


Jetty (groin)
A wood or stone structure built to protect a beach or harbor from wave energy, currents or high tides.


Kick out (pull out)
To stop riding a wave by riding over its shoulder and into the flat water behind it. 


Leash (leg-rope, leggie, cord) 
A stretchy safety cord that keeps a board from washing away into the beach, rocks or other surfers. The surf leash was invented in Santa Cruz, California, back in 1971, by Pat O'Neill, son of legendary NorCal waterman and wetsuit innovator, Jack O’Neill. 


The area at a surf break where surfers wait to catch waves.


Lines (swell lines, corduroy)
Long rows of waves moving across water. Waking up to lines is what it’s all about! 


The throwing, curling edge of a wave falling from a wave’s crest. 


Low tide 
The two times a day when sea or ocean water is lowest on the shoreline. There are two high tides and two low tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes. It takes 6 hours and 12 minutes for the tide to change from low to high, or high to low. 


Infectious disease carried by a tiny parasitic organism that lives in and is spread by certain types of mosquitoes. 


Mushy (weak, soft, gutless)
Waves that lack power, or punch.  


Neoprene (wetsuit)
A type of synthetic rubber used to make wetsuits, gloves and booties. Some wetsuits are made of natural rubber from hevea trees! Japanese Yamamoto neoprene comes from limestone, a rock! Keep your neoprene clean and out of the sun. 


Offshore wind
Winds that blow away from shore and towards the ocean. Offshore winds smoothen wave faces and help shape clean barrels. In big waves, strong offshores keep surfers held up at the crest of waves or create chattery chop—not good. Big-wave wipeouts are never good. 


Onshore wind
Wind that blows from the ocean towards shore. Onshore winds can create light texture, bigger chop and even waves! In fact, some surf spots on Earth need gale-force onshores to make waves. 


A measure of wave size. Overhead waves are taller than the person riding. The human body is often used to describe wave size: ankle-slappers, knee-high, waist-high, chest-high, shoulder-high, head-high, overhead, double overhead, triple overhead. 


Over the falls 
Like riding over the edge of a waterfall! When a surfer is sucked from the top of the wave and directly down into the impact zone. Going “over the falls” can push a surfer into the sand, coral reef or rocks below. Falling on your bum and flattening your body is the best bet if you go over the falls in shallow water. Never fall head-first. 


The spot where the crest of swell begins to break and become a wave. At a surf spot, it’s where surfers hang out and wait to catch waves.


Pocket (curl)
The powerful, curling part of a wave closest to where the lip is throwing over. Play in the pocket and feel the energy! 


A sharp or rounded bend in a rocky or sandy coastline at the end of a bay, inlet, sand spit or cove.


Point Break
Type of wave that breaks along a rock or sand point. The longest type of wave. Beginners usually surf inside peaks, where waves are lined-up and open-faced, but not too powerful. Experienced surfers catch point break waves at peaks further outside, where waves are often much bigger and more powerful. 


Surf move. Quick push up from being on your belly to a standing position on the surfboard. Pop-up quick—like popcorn! 


Surf Move. Quick up-and-down leg motions used to gain speed on a wave. 


Punchy (punch)
A powerful wave, one that packs a punch! Even small waves can be punchy. Opposite of mushy


Quiver (board collection)
The collection of surfboards ridden by a surfer.


Rash guard (rashie, rash vest, lycra)
A light shirt used under a wetsuit to protect a surfer from rashes under the arms and around the neck. In warm water, rash guards are useful to protect the belly and chest from rashes, and to protect the back and shoulders from sun. 


Reef break
Type of wave that breaks over rocks or coral. 


Regular foot
A surfer, skater or snowboarder who rides with their left foot forward.


Rescue sled (sled)
A floating sled that is connected to a jet ski. Used to pick up or rescue riders in big waves.


Rip current (rip tide)
A strong, short-lasting current of water that pulls away from the beach and out towards sea. Spot rips by looking for unusual streams of sandy or rippled water moving away from the beach. Ask a lifeguard if there are any rips before swimming or paddling out. If sucked out in a rip, don’t panic or swim against it. Just swim sideways, along the beach, and head in further down. No worries mate!


An outstanding surfer—like you in a few years! 


River mouth (delta, estuary)
Where a stream or river flows into a lake or the ocean. The constant flow of water exiting a river mouth can form long sandbars that create perfect waves. 



Sandbar (sandbank, trough bar)
A mound of sand underwater that causes waves to peak up and break. When shaped well, sandbars create excellent beach break or river mouth waves. Sandbars come and go, depending on wave action, rainfall, wind, tides and currents. 


Sand spit
A narrow stretch of sand sticking out into the ocean. 


Seagrass (seagrass meadow)
Ancient ocean grasses that shelter and feed lots of fish and other marine organisms! There are 60 species of seagrass that live everywhere from underneath the ice to alongside tropical coral reefs.


Set (set wave)
A packet or group of larger waves that arrives every few minutes.


Shack (barrel, tube, pipe, pit, keg, green room, tubaso, cavern...)
Surf move. A very deep barrel ride. Getting shacked is what it’s all about, dude! 


Hand sign. Relax. Open the palm of our hand. Fold your three middle fingers in. Spread your thumb and pinky in opposite directions. Now throw that shaka out to whoever is beside you. No need to wiggle it grom, just throw it with a quarter twist. Or, however you like! That’s it . . .  just like that. Shaka! All good vibes, relax, hang loose! Pura vida! 


Shorebreak (shorey, shore dump, shore pound)
Waves that crash directly onto the sand or in very shallow water. 


Shoulder (wall)
The open face of a wave. The side of a peeling wave that has yet to break. 


Shred (shredder, rip, tear, shredding)
To perform a lot of stylish and flashy moves on a wave. 


A shallow rock or coral reef shelf that rises quickly from much deeper water. Slabs cause waves to slurp up and tube heavily in a fraction of a second. Experts only, helmets advised. 


Standing wave (stationary wave)
A wave that stays in one place, like those found in rivers. Standing waves move up and down, but not sideways. 


Stick it (land, make the landing)
Surf move. To get to the bottom of a wave after a gnarly take-off, air-drop, floater or aerial. 


Straighthander (closeout)
When a wave breaks all at once. Fun for bodysurfing, wave play and learning how to stand up. (


SUP (stand-up paddle surfboard)
Type of surfboard that is moved forward using a long paddle. May be used on flat water or in waves. 


Wave energy that rolls through the open ocean. Swells are created by large areas of long-lasting storm winds blowing over the ocean, seas or large bodies of water. 


Swell shadow 
An area of coastline where incoming swell (wave energy) is blocked or bent by an island, underwater rock or sand bank or landform on the coast, like a headland. Just as light shadowed by an object doesn’t block out all light, landforms don’t usually block all swell. The amount of swell shadow depends on how big and far away the obstacles are. 


Take-off (dropping into a wave, the drop)
The beginning of a surfer’s wave, just when they pop up and begin their slide down the wave face. 


Tidal bore 
A wave formed by the edge of a very high tide as it moves into and up a river. 


Tow-in (tow surfing) 
Type of surfing where personal watercraft (PWCs/jet skis) are used to tow surfers into waves. Tow surfing is used for waves that are too big and fast to paddle into, where strong winds are a problem or for gnarly slabs where cavernous barrels need to be “backdoored” to be made.


Trade winds (trades)
Large bands of steady easterly winds in the tropical and lower latitudes (between 5°-30° north and south of the equator). Trade winds blow towards the Earth’s equator, but slant easterly because of the spinning of our planet. 


Tropics (tropical)
The warm, sun drenched part of our planet nearest to the equator. (between 0°-23.5° north and south) Tropical areas usually have only two seasons, a wet season and a dry one. 


The lowest part of waves, between wave crests.


A wave created by an earthquake or underwater volcanic eruption that causes large areas of water to move suddenly. Can be very large and destructive!


See Barrel


Typhoon (hurricane, cyclone)
A powerful storm that spins around an “eye” in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. Typhoons and hurricanes are “cyclones” as well, but named differently. 


V-shaped waves that move away from a boat or ship as it moves across water. 


Wall (wave face, shoulder)
The smooth, unbroken wave face breaking away from a wave’s curl. 


Wave forecast (wave model, swell chart)
A computer tool used to find out where and when swells will be created and when waves will arrive. 


The distance between back-to-back wave crests or troughs. 


Wave period 
The time that it takes for two back-to-back crests of a swell to pass the same point. Wave period is measured in seconds. For example, waves of a 17-second groundswell, no matter the size, will hit the same rock, pier piling or spot on a beach roughly every 17 seconds. What’s the wave period at your beach today?


Wave size 
The height of a wave. The distance between a wave’s trough (bottom) and its crest (top). 


A hard but sticky wax rubbed onto the deck (top) of a surfboard. Without wax or something to grip with, surfboards are too slippery to ride. 


Wedge (wedging peak)
A wave created when one or more waves get sandwiched into one spot. Usually powerful, with lips that throw out thick barrels. Bodyboarders and wedges go together like milk and cookies.


Wetsuit (wettie, neoprene)
Tight rubber clothing to keep you warm in the water. The first neoprene wetsuit was invented in 1951 by physicist Hugh Bradner of the University of California, Berkeley. Surfers Jack O’Neill and Bob Meistrell began sewing up neoprene wetsuits in Santa Cruz and Redondo Beach, California soon thereafter. 


Whitewash (whitewater)
Frothy, foamy, rough water created after a wave breaks. 


Windswell is a type of swell (wave energy) formed from local winds, usually within 100 miles (180 km) of the coast. Windswell waves have wave periods of between 1 and 10 seconds. 


The side of an island, boat or structure that faces into the wind. Opposite of leeward.


Wipe out
Surf move. Falling from a surfboard or losing control while riding a wave.