Surfer Vernacular 101

Hilary Billings’ Dictionary of Resourceful Urban Lingo Presents…

Surfer Vernacular 101: Basic Terminology Necessary for Surf Savvy Interactions

Gnarly- Adjective. 1. Awesome or cool or extraordinary. “That party was so gnarly!” 2. Bad or unpleasant. “I took a couple of gnarly tumbles on those waves.”

Stoked- Adjective. 1. To be exhilarated, uplifted, unbelievably excited, or filled with a sense of accomplishment. “I am so stoked about that ride I took earlier!”

Ripping- Verb. 1. To kick some major ass, whether it be on water or land. Mostly applies to performance on waves, but can refer to rocking and owning any other type of activity.

Talei ripping. Photo by Andrea Preziotti

Fired up- Phrase. 1. Similar to stoked, used to express unrequited excitement. Being pumped, ready to go, or in the zone.

Wave break- Noun. 1. The point where the wave starts to break over (creating that tunnel or whitewash effect). Waves tend to break in the middle so you can either take them right or left depending on your preference and who has the right of way.

Whitewash- Noun. 1. A wave that has already broken and will push a board across flat water. Ideal for beginner surfers to learning how to stand up on their boards.

Whitewash that we surfed every day. Photo by Andrea Preziotti.

Green Waves- Noun. 1. Waves that have not yet broken into whitewash, normally on the outside. These tend to be bigger and perfect for riding and carving.

Carving- Verb. 1. Turning on a wave.

Popping up- Phrase. 1. The act of standing up on your surfboard. You should ideally be centered along the median of the board. This is a swift motion, hence the ‘pop’ in the name.

Girls of Suave Dulce practice their pop-ups. Photo by Emily Rieman.

Regular Foot- Noun. 1. A surfer who surfs with their left foot in front and their right foot on the back of the board as their steering foot. They tend to carve to the left with their backs to the wave.

Goofy Foot- Noun. 1. A surfer who surfs with their right foot in front and their left foot on the back of the board as their steering foot. They carve to the left of a break with their bodies facing the wave.

Holly is a goofy foot. Photo courtesy of

Duck Diving- Verb. 1. Pushing your board under a wave and then back up again to avoid being hit by the swell. This is done by short boarders only.

Turtle Rolling- Verb. 1. Rolling under your board, holding the nose close to your chest so that the wave rolls over you. This is an alternative method for paddling over the waves for long boarders. It helps to save you energy.

Holly explains how to turtle roll.

Entonces- Transitional phrase. 1. Spanish word representing saying such as, “And so/And then/So/Alrighty then.” (Holly used this at almost every encounter throughout our stay as our “1, 2, 3 break!” or when there was an awkward pause. It fast became an ongoing joke and silence filler).

Alright, my newly educated readers! Go on brush your sandy shoulders off and approach fellow surfers with confidence!

Make me proud… Or at least not embarrassed… Right.  Entonces!


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