‘Mahalo surfer nerds! How the breaks looking? Got some lefts, some rights? Some green rooms, A-frames?’
If, like 85% of Aussies, you live within 50 clicks of the coast, you’ve probably heard some sun-bleached blonde-haired, shirtless dude, talk some true surfer smack (while a Sex Wax air freshener dangles from their rearview mirror).
But WTF were they saying?
Surfing slang is a confusing and difficult dialect to decipher for anyone who doesn’t spend every morning, afternoon, and weekend sitting on the breakline.
As a bunch of amateur surfers (NOT kooks), the We Are Explorers team have taken on the challenge of decoding the most mind-boggling surf slang so even the biggest jerrys amongst us can communicate in the waves.
What Type of Surfer Are You?
Natural – Someone who surfs with their left foot in front and their right foot behind (doesn’t mean you have natural skill though)
Goofy – Someone who surfs with their right foot in front and left foot behind
Grommet/Grom – Young, keen surfers, always squealing and catching way more waves than you
Kook – A beginner surfer or someone who isn’t very good at surfing. We’re all a little kooky sometimes
Shredder – A skilled surfer who tears up the waves like they’re shredding up
Dick dragger/Gut slider – Bodyboarder
Fanny dragger – chick on a bodyboard
What’s The Swell Doing?
A-frame – A wave that breaks left and right at the same time, share it with a mate!
Barrel/Tube/Green Room – When a wave breaks to form a perfect hollow cylinder that folds over a surfer, completely surrounding them in water i.e a surfer’s greatest dream
Choppy – When the surface of the water is rough and uneven
Backwash – The water that rushes back from the shoreline and meets a breaking wave, sometimes launching you skyward
Flat – There’s no swell and no waves around. Go skateboarding, cry, or both
Glassy – When the surface of the water is smooth, clear, and shiiiiny
Onshore – The wind is blowing towards the beach/land, causing the waves to break quicker and become messier. Expect froth from waves, less froth from surfers
Offshore – The wind is blowing towards the ocean, rather than the land, allowing the waves to form a bit more before they break. Expect froth from surfers, less froth from waves
Heaps offies – Strong offshore wind conditions
Close Out – When the entire line of a wave breaks all at once, leaving no face to ride on and giving you a huge beatdown
Out the back – The area past the broken waves where surfers usually sit. Shark bait ooh ah ah
Pit/Trough – The low point of a wave
Crest/Peak/Lip – The tip of a breaking wave *chefs kiss*
Fat – Waves that have too much water in them and aren’t tipping over to break properly
Mushburger – A weak, sloppy wave
Whitewash – The tumbling water of a broken wave
Beach break – Surfable waves that are breaking onto a sandy beach. The break could be caused by a sandbar a little offshore, or by the beach itself
Shore break/Shorey – A wave that’s breaking right on the shoreline which can be tricky to paddle past and epic to surf if you like spinal injuries
Reef break – A surfable wave that’s breaking due to an underwater reef or rock shelf. These waves can often be found around headlands or quite far from the shore and surrounded by deep water. More dangerous but also more epic
Set – A group of (usually bigger) waves moving towards the break at once
Channel – A section of water between breaks where it’s easier to paddle out
Rip – A strong current of water moving directly away from the shore and out to the ocean, cutting through the breaking waves – handy for getting out the back quickly, but don’t get stuck!
Sharky – When the ocean feels like there are potentially sharks around, particularly when it’s overcast and the water is murky
Shoulder – The edge of a breaking wave where there’s less power, but more space for activities
Banks – A build up of sand on the ocean floor that allows waves to break. Banks can move in strong swell and storms ‘How shit have the banks been!’
Lineup – The spot just past the broken waves where surfers sit to be in the best position to surf incoming waves
Corduroy lines – Used as an adjective to describe short periods between sets and good conditions ‘The waves were coming in like corduroy lines’
But Did You Shred?
Carve – To turn the board on a wave while riding, like a knife through a Thanksgiving turkey
Drop in – When a surfer steals a wave by dropping down the face of the wave in front of someone who’s already surfing it and had right of way i.e the greatest sin in the surfing world
Bottom turn – The first turn that happens after take off, when the surfer reaches the bottom or ‘trough’ of the wave. Typically done to set up the next big vertical turn
Chucking buckets – You’re whacking it that hard that your turns are throwing bucketloads of water through the line up
Snaked – When someone paddles around you in the line up, despite you having priority for the next wave. Snakes are especially common at reef breaks. ‘That guy keeps snaking my waves’
Duck dive – Diving under a breaking wave while holding onto your board and taking it with you
Hang ten – When all ten toes are hanging off the front of your board, only really possible on longboards but very steezy
Getting shacked – Getting barrelled
Drop wallet – A big layback hack on your frontside where it looks like you’re picking up the metaphorical wallet you dropped out of your back pocket
Grovel – When the waves are shit or non-existent but you take the board out anyway
Pitted – When you’re surfing through the barrel of a wave – ‘You just drop in and smack the lip, woopah! Then drop down say, baaahahahah, and then after that, you just drop in, and just ride the barrel and get pitted, so pitted’
Pop-up – The movement to go from lying on the board to standing on the board
Wipeout – A breaking wave knocks you off your board as you’re surfing it. Basically an almighty dumping
Party wave – When you and your friends all catch the same wave, usually preceded by shouting ‘Party wave!’ to let everyone know that dropping in is legal just this once
Fin chop – An injury caused by colliding with a fin (of the surfboard variety, not the dorsal kind)
Pig doggin’ – Hitting a backhand while grabbing rail like a steezy mofo (or ultimate kook if you can’t get up afterwards)
Hold down – When a strong and powerful wave forces you under the water, preventing you from resurfacing for multiple seconds or waves ‘Dude that was like a three wave hold down’
Nose dive – When the front of the board dips under the water and you come off as you’re trying to catch a wave. The surfing equivalent of going over the handlebars
What Stick You Using?
Stick – Another name for surfboard
Quiver – A collection of surfboards (Or what surfers do when they see a peeling barrel)
Single fin – A longboard with just one large fin
Twin fin – A surfboard with two equally sized fins
Thruster – A surfboard with three equally sized fins
Fish – A surfboard that’s shorter and thicker than the average surfboard
Foamie – A surfboard made of foam that’s lightweight and often used by beginners
Malibu/Longboard/Log – A wide, heavy and sturdy surfboard, usually between 9-11 feet long
Mini mal – The same shape and style as a Malibu/longboard, but a few feet shorter
SUP – Stand up paddleboard
Esky lid – Bodyboard
Deck – The top side of the board where you stand
Nose – The front point or tip of a surfboard
Rails – The side edges of a surfboard, ‘Don’t bail, grab rail’
Tail – The end of a surfboard
Leash/leggie – The cord that straps around your ankle or leg and the tail of the board to stop it washing away when you wipe out
Rocker – The curve in a surfboard between the tail and the fin
Ding – Damage to a surfboard, usually in the form of a dent
Wettie – Wetsuit, worn to keep surfers warm in the water
Steamer – A thick, full-length wetsuit that’s worn in cold water
Springy – A short sleeve and legged wetsuit worn when the water begins to warm up
Chat You Might Hear in The Surf
Getting a couple? – Have you managed to surf some waves?
What’s the tide doing? – Do you know what stage the tide is at?
It’s hell pumpin out there! – The waves are great! Use the word hell as often as possible
Frothing, stoked, pumping – Excited
Tunnel vision – When U deep in DA bazzzzzz
Tubular – Used to describe things that are great but not necessarily tubey in everyday life
Bit of a crew on it – A lot of people are out surfing today!
How shit have the banks been? – The sand bars haven’t been creating good waves recently
Kettlish behaviour – Heaps bong smoking/weed related behaviour (kettle = bong)
What a frother! – That person is certainly excited
A few froth burgers out there! – The waves are certainly powerful and large today
Aqua bog – Probably self-explanatory (please do not do this)
YEEEEEEEEEW! – How fucking good is this!
Although there’s standard surf slang used and recognised, you can pretty much bang any combo of frothy words together and kinda sound like you know what you’re on about! Yeeeew!
Catch ya in the green room!
Feature photo by @kwjko