Terms and Slang: Surfing


Have you ever listened to surfers talk in a group or at a shop? For any new surfer or outsider it can sound like they are speaking a foreign language. This is just another aspect of surfing that can be intimidating. Here we will go through a list of some of the most basic terms and phrases so you can start to understand (at least partly) what in the hell these guys are saying. In no time you too can sound like just like Spicoli. 

Barney - a beginner or novice surfer. Don't feel bad if you're called Barney, it's not a put down. 

Barrel/Tube - the hollow, tunnel-looking part of the wave that is created when a wave folds over (or breaks).

Brah - if you've seen Point Break you know this one. It's the term for bro or brother. Not used as much in reality as you'd see in movies.

Blown-out - a result of unfavorable winds, the waves are pretty much unsurfable. 

Drop-in/Snake - to take a wave out of turn or to start riding a wave when someone else had better position than you on that wave. This goes against etiquette and may result in getting called derogatory names (see kook.) 

Firing - refers to the waves are big and perfect.

Gnarly - usually reserved as a synonym for heavy, dangerous or awesome.  

Grom/Grommet - young surfer (typically a child.)

Kook - (rhymes with nuke, not pronounced cook). This is a derogatory term used for wannabe surfers or surfers who don't follow etiquette. Sometimes used for beginner surfers but anyone who does that is just an asshole. That term is Barney (see above). You can sniff out a kook really quickly with a little experience. They usually talk the biggest game and break the most rules. We suggest following @kookoftheday on Instagram for some comical examples and the lighter side of surfing.

On-shore and off-shore - refers to wind direction and greatly impacts the quality of waves. On-shore wind means wind blows toward shore and causes waves to fall apart. Not good for surfing conditions. Off-shore is when winds blow out to sea. This is best for conditions. A good way to remember is flag direction. If the flags point to the ocean, grab your board, if they point to land then just head home. 

Pitted - when a surfer drops deep into a barrel or tube (see above.)

Set - a group of waves that come in one after another, typically referring to a group of good waves that are similar in size and shape. 

Yew - (yep, pronounced you and ew combined) typically yelled in a high-pitch chirp when something exciting happens, like when your best bro (or brah, as we learned above) gets pitted. Or, these days, written as a thumbs up on any excellent Instagram post (yyyeeeeewwwww).