How to speak the surf lingo?

16 August, 2022

surf lingo

To the uninitiated, surf lingo is a language of its own. Some say it was invented by veteran surfers wanting to keep their secret locations and tricks private. Others say it was because surfing was a whole new adventure, and so if you knew surf lingo, you could be part of the family.

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Nowadays, it helps to know surf lingo in order to understand tips and tricks from the veterans and the experts. You also get to learn a thing or two as you listen to your instructor in surfing lessons in South Australia, and while watching Youtube tutorials.

Here are some of the especially important terms you need to know, from A to Z:

Back - This is the area beyond the breaking waves, and it is where the lineup forms. Once surfers make it past the waves of the sets, this is where everyone stays and waits for their turn on the break.

Barrel - this refers to how the wave looks like. Barreling waves become hollow as they break, creating the near-perfect tunnel/barrel space. Many surfers consider surfing a long barrel as an epic win.

Dawny - dawn, or early morning.

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Ding - this term refers to most damage to the boards. This may happen more often on epoxy boards, compared to most other boards, like soft top boards. When you get a ding on your board, have it fixed promptly as dings can allow water to tank the board slowly.

Drop-In - catching a wave ahead of someone in the lineup, or getting on a wave that already has a surfer on it. This is basically ignorance of etiquette in surfing or a lack of manners.

Duck Dive - this is a technique for slipping under a breaking wave when padding towards the lineup, since of course no one wants to be bruised and battered by the wave itself. Push down the nose of the board into the water, allow the body and board to dive underwater, and ascend gradually. This way you get under the breaking wave.

Goofy footed versus regular footed - the stance on the board which you are most comfortable with. You are goofy-footed if you place the right foot in front and the left foot at the back. But if your left foot has the front seat then you have a regular stance.

Hang ten - a really cool trick usually done on longboards. With the right mix of timing, momentum, and balance, you get to ride the moving board with both feet planted on the nose of the board, with all ten toes gripping the rail of the nose.

Kook - initially applied to those who show poor understanding of surf etiquette, it is nowadays used to refer to someone who exhibits behaviour that endangers himself or others. Nevertheless, some experienced surfers also make mistakes and end up with bursts of kookism.

Lineup - This is where surfers wait for their turn to catch the waves. The rule of thumb is that the one nearest the breaking point of the waves gets to have first dibs. Anyone who’s done with a wave and returning back to the lineup, surfing etiquette says you’ll be last in line and will wait for your turn.

Offshore / Onshore - These two refer to wind direction. In simple terms, offshore winds blow from the shore to the ocean. Onshore winds blow from the ocean-going inland. The difference is important as an offshore wind direction improves the quality of surfable waves. Many people consider surfing as part of their winter activities since winter conditions enhance the wind direction.

Pop up - a basic movement everybody learns as a new surfer. It is the smooth transition from laying on the board to standing to ride the wave.

Set - several waves approaching the lineup. Careful observation will show that the waves of the set are better than the in-between ones. Some surfers will actually conserve strength and wait to surf the better sets.

Swell Period - the estimated distance between two waves. This is another important indicator since longer swell periods mean bigger waves.

Wipeout - falling off your board while surfing. It happens to all surfers and there are no exceptions!

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Bonus terms

Add in phrases that express excitement such as "stoked", "it was sick", "it was filth", or "all time" and you'll be sounding like an "old sea dog" surfer in no time.

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