surf slang

If you are new to the world of surfing, you may have already realized that surfers have their own unique language. From "beach break" to "kook," the surf community has plenty of surf terms and slang that can be confusing for beginners. To help you understand this new language, we've compiled a list of some essential surf terms and their definitions.


Swell refers to the series of long waves that travel across the ocean and break along the coastline. Consequently, surfers often check swell forecasts to find the best days to catch some waves.

Beach Break

A beach break is a surf spot where waves break over a sandy seafloor.  Therefore, these spots are popular with beginners due to their forgiving nature. Even though beach breaks are generally safer for beginners, it's essential to be cautious as some beach breaks may pose hidden risks, such as rip currents and underwater rocks, making them potentially dangerous.

Point Break

A point break is a surf spot where waves break along a rocky point or headland. Additionally, these spots often offer long, peeling waves that are great for more experienced surfers.

Reef Break

A reef break is a surf spot where waves break over a coral or rocky reef. Moreover, these spots can be risky, but they offer some of the best waves in the world.


Off-shore winds blow from the land toward the ocean, creating clean and smooth wave conditions that are highly sought after by surfers.


On-shore winds blow from the ocean toward the land, creating choppy and messy wave conditions that are less favorable for surfing.

Line Up

The line up refers to the area where surfers wait for waves and catch waves. It's important to respect the line up rules and wait your turn to catch a wave.


In surfing, a "current" is the flow of water influenced by tides, wind, or coastal features. Consequently,  it plays a crucial role, in affecting surfers' movement and wave formation. While some currents help to paddle out, the others, like rip currents, pose dangers by swiftly pulling surfers seaward.


A channel is a deeper section of water between sandbars or reefs that provides a path for surfers to paddle out beyond the breaking waves.


The drop is the initial maneuver, descending the face of a wave when a surfer catches it. As a result, it's an exhilarating moment that requires skill and balance.


Dropping in refers to catching a wave that someone else is already riding, violating their right of way.  As a result, it's considered poor surf etiquette and can lead to collisions.

Duck dive

Duck diving is a technique used to push a surfboard under an incoming wave while paddling out, allowing the surfer to pass through the wave without getting pushed back.

Eskimo Roll/Turtle Roll

"Eskimo roll" or "turtle roll" is a technique used by beginner surfers and longboarders through an oncoming breaking wave while on their surfboard.  During this maneuver, a surfer flips the board upside down and holds onto the sides (rails), allowing the wave to pass over them without getting caught in the impact zone.


Paddle out in surfing refers to the act of paddling from the shore to the line up or the area beyond the breaking waves, where surfers position themselves to catch waves.

Pop-Up/Take Off

The quick and controlled movement a surfer makes to go from lying position on the surfboard to standing up in a surfing position. Therefore, this is a critical maneuver in catching a wave and is essential for maintaining balance and control while riding.                    Read more about the correct pop-up technique.


In surfing, a "set" refers to a series of larger waves that arrive in succession. Also sets typically consist of multiple waves that are larger and more powerful than the average waves, creating opportunities for surfers to catch and ride them consecutively. That's why surfers often anticipate and prepare for sets to position themselves optimally for catching these larger waves.

Wipe Out

Falling off a surfboard or getting knocked off by a wave while surfing.

Washing  Machine

When a surfer gets caught in a wave and tossed around underwater, similar to being in a washing machine.


Sneaking refers to paddling out and catching waves in the line up without waiting your turn, often considered disrespectful by other surfers.


A stance in surfing where the surfer places their right foot forward on the surfboard and uses their left foot to control the board. This is considered the "goofy-foot" stance and is the opposite of the more common "regular" stance.


A stance in surfing where the surfer places their left foot forward on the surfboard and uses their right foot to control the board.


A "kook" refers to an inexperienced, unskilled, or clueless surfer who may pretend to be much more professional, display awkward behavior, or lack of proper etiquette in the lineup.

The list of surf terms here isn't everything, but it's got the important stuff for beginners diving into surfing. Besides the more you surf and travel, the more words and slang you'll pick up along the way. Enjoy the ride, and soon you will be talking the talk of the surfing crowd! Moreover, if you're eager to put your newfound knowledge into action, join our surfing classes and ride the waves with us!