14 terms every surfer should know

Are you a beginner surfer eager to learn more about this ocean activity? Are you looking to better prepare yourself for your upcoming session in the big blue? Here are terms every surfer should know.

Well, something you should know is that surfing terminology is one of the most important aspects for every beginner’s success.

It can make understanding both fellow surfers and surfing as a whole much easier. Down below are 14 basic terms that every surfer should know to better prepare for their next session!

1) Terms every surfer should know: Swell

This term may sound familiar to you as you’ve probably heard it before in a place like science class.

Essentially, “swell” is the word used to describe the energy from winds that create various periods of waves.

Oahu’s South shore is provided with really great swells in the summertime whereas the North shore is gifted with better ones in the winter months.

2) Set

“Set” is the word used to describe a group of 2 or more waves that are accompanied by grace periods in between them.

It’s important to note that sets can vary in size and strength depending on the swell and conditions, so be patient and make sure to choose the right one for your skill level!

3) Break

Have you ever looked out at the ocean and noticed that those beautiful blue waves end up transforming into white, foam-like ones?

Well, that transformation area is where the “break” is. Break is a term every surfer should know. It is used to describe the location of where a wave starts to become white wash.

A wave will first break at its peak, and a lot of surfers will try to take off in this area.

Learning and practicing on the whitewash, the result of a wave that’s already broken, can be an easy way for beginners to get more comfortable in the water!

4) Shoulder

The area of a wave that has yet to break or is unbroken is called the shoulder.

After spending more time out in the water, you’ll notice that surfers tend to ride away from the peak and towards the shoulder.

There are certain waves, however, that break all at once. These types of waves are called closeouts.

And because the whole wave breaks simultaneously, it will have no shoulder.

5) Lineup

“Lineup” can be used when talking about both the surfers that are sitting and waiting to catch waves as well as that area as a whole.

It’s usually right behind where the waves break, as this makes for an optimal ride!

14 terms every surfer should know

The lineup is guaranteed to be full of regulars and locals, so always make sure that you’re showing up with intentions of respect and mindfulness.

Remember that everyone is out there to have a good time!

6) Inside/Outside

Understanding these two terms are super important in helping you gain better awareness of your surroundings and space.

The inside is the area where the waves have already broken and where whitewash is present, and the outside is where the line up is.

You may also hear the statement “getting caught in the inside”. When someone says this, they’re referring to when one gets stuck due to a large amount of wave breaks and white wash, usually from an incoming set.

These situations can sometimes be extremely scary and dangerous for beginners, so make sure you’re with someone who can guide and help you.

7) Turtle roll/Duck dive

You’re probably wondering: “well, how would I get through strong breaks and white wash then?”

Turtle rolling and duck diving are two techniques for this, both of which require you to submerge yourself under the wave with your board.

Turtle rolling is commonly associated with longboarding, so it’s definitely a good idea for beginners to familiarize themselves with this term.

Duck diving on the other hand is really only associated with shortboarding.

8) Dropping in

The term, “dropping in” is one every surfer should know, which means when you catch a wave that you don’t have priority over or that someone is already riding. Never drop in on someone as it is practically a surfing sin.

If you do happen to make this mistake, always apologize!

9) Popping up

“Popping up” will be one of the first words you hear when learning to surf.

It refers to the movement that one partakes in when they transition from their paddling position to their standing up position.

It is part of the terms every surfer should know!

Popping up can be tricky at first, but like everything, practice makes perfect!

10) Regular/Goofy footed

You might be wondering: “goofy footed? What the heck does that mean?”

Well, the term goofy footed actually refers to your stance on your board. If you find yourself standing with your left foot at the back of your board and your right foot in the front, you have a goofy footed stance.

A regular stance would be the opposite, or if you were to have your right foot as your backfoot and your left foot as your front one.

A regular stance is definitely the more common one of the two.

11) Frontside/Backside

The terms ‘frontside’ and ‘backside’ refer to which way your body is facing while riding a wave.

They’re pretty self explanatory, since surfing frontside is when your chest is facing the wave whereas surfing backside is when your back is facing it.

Girl surfing

12) Cutback

Making a cutback requires a surfer to have immense control.

This term is used to describe the fluid motion a surfer makes, usually on the shoulder, to turn back towards the break of the wave.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t immediately make a cutback when you’re first starting out. It takes a lot of time, practice, and technique!

13) Pearl

No, we are not referring to the pearls you find in jewelry.

When you’re riding a wave and you pearl, this means that the nose of your board submerges underwater, usually resulting in a nose dive, something no one wants.

The best way to avoid a situation like this is to make sure you’re not paddling or standing too far up on your board.

14) Wipeout

You may have heard the term “wipeout” a good amount of times before whether that be in a movie, tv show, or somewhere else.

A wipeout is when you fall off of your board, and can happen a lot when you’re beginning your surfing journey.

Don’t be embarrassed as everyone experiences wipeouts when they’re starting out. Even professionals wipeout from time to time!

Remember that surfing terminology is one of key factors in furthering the success of your surfing journey.

We hope that this mini vocabulary lesson will make you feel much more confident and prepared for the next time you’re headed out to partake in this ocean activity!

If you ever need a refresher, remember that this article is always here to help, and if you are looking to get deeper into surf and its benefits check out this article!

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