This mini-glossary includes terms used to describe the culture, people and physical environment central to surfing, perfect for newcomers to the sport.

As surfing has grown in popularity, expanding from California to South Africa and beyond, surfers’ vernacular has also grown, from a few words of slang into a distinct and expansive language. Bits and pieces of surfer lingo have become common -- dude is now in the Oxford English Dictionary -- while many words and phrases sound completely foreign to non-wave riders.

Learning a few key words and phrases is always a good idea for tourists wanting to immerse themselves in a new culture – and this holds true for surfing newbies. We compiled this mini-glossary -- which includes terms used to describe the culture, people and physical environment central to surfing -- with help from the following resources: Surfline, Riptionary, the Riptionary book, Aloha Surf Guide, Australia’s Surfing Coast and Wavescape.  

People and behaviour
brah (n) – a friend or buddy; surfspeak synonyms: bro, brosef, bru (in South Africa)

kook (n) – a novice or inexperienced surfer; sometimes used as a derogatory term

grommet (n) – Australian term for a young surfer; sometimes shortened to grom

stoked (adj) – excited, enthusiastic; surfspeak synonym: amped

aggro (adj) – aggressive or angry in behaviour

aita! (exclamation) – a South African greeting among surfers

aikona (exclamation) – an especially emphatic expression for “no” among South African surfers

shaka (exclamation) – a Hawaiian expression asserting agreement or positivity; related to the shaka hand gesture used as a greeting sign

bark the dog (v) – South African idiom meaning “to vomit”

swell (n) – surfable waves

ankle biters (n) – very small waves, not optimal for surfing

breaking (v) – when a wave moves from deep to shallow water, gets higher (and rounded, as its back moves faster than its front) and falls

barrel (n) – the hollow space inside a breaking wave; surfspeak synonyms: green room, tube   

da kine (adj) – a Hawaiian term used to describe the best waves; da kine is also used in general Hawaiian slang as a placeholder for something whose name one cannot recall

gnarly (adj) – a term used to describe particularly intense or extreme waves

The sport

ripping (v) – surfing very well

wipeout (n) – the act of falling off one’s surfboard 

eat it (v) – to fall off one’s surfboard

hang ten (v) – to hang all of one’s toes off the front of a surfboard while longboarding

closeout (n) – the condition when all parts of a wave break at once, “closing out” the surfer

drop-in (n) – the act of catching a wave that another surfer is already riding, essentially cutting that surfer off; used to describe poor surfing etiquette

bail; bail out (v) – to abandon one’s surfboard, often mid-wave

man in the grey suit (n) – a term used in Australia and South Africa for “shark”

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