Surf School: Surfing Terms 101

Surf slang is mainstream, but knowing actual surf terms is a little more impressive.

Do a quick search on the Internet for surf terms or surf slang, and you will find a plethora of sites offering a "dictionary" for surfers, or non-surfers as the case may be.

Some terms are consistent and some are not—and some common terms may not even be included in a particular "dictionary."

But surf terms, or slang, are about more than being "stoked" or "wiping out" on a wave, and is almost another dialect.

For the average person who wants to know "What is he talking about?" elementary surf terms are the easiest way to start.

First, surfers love to talk about their collection of surfboards. Different surf calls for different types and sizes of surfboards. This is where a surfer's individual style, skills and experience come into play.

Whether they ride a shortboard, longboard or like both depending on the conditions, the board will be referred to in terms of feet and inches. For example, my board is an 8-0 tri fin longboard, which means I ride a board that has three fins and is 8 feet long.

All surfboards have a fin setup that is either "glassed in" meaning that the fins can't be adjusted or an AFS (adjustable fin system), which is "boxed in" and can be adjusted.

While some prefer a single-fin set up and others will opt for a twin-fin setup, a tri-fin setup with the center fin, or "skeg," that's longer than the two side fins is a common setup. A quad fin set up, with two on each side, is used for speed.

A beginning surfer isn't going to notice the fin set up as much as an advanced surfer will.

The anatomy of a board is easy once you know a few terms. The thin strip of wood running down the center of the board is the "stringer." The front of the board is the "nose," the end is the "tail," the sides are the "rails," the top is the "deck," and the bottom curve of the board is called the "rocker."

The rocker is considered one of the most important design features on a surfboard. The "nose rocker" is the curve upward from the front or nose of the board. When you hear a surfer say their board has too much or too little rocker, this is what they are referring to.

Every surfer has a different surf stance, or "footedness," which is much like the stance on a skateboard or a snowboard. The footedness of a rider is determined by what feels most comfortable and the most balanced to the individual.

For example, I am what is called "regular footed," which means that I surf and snowboard with my left foot in the front and my right foot in the back. Someone who is "goofy footed" rides with his or her right foot forward and left foot back.

Professional surfer and famous big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton is regular footed, while professional surfer Rob Machado is goofy footed.

Common surf slang often makes its way into the mainstreams, so  non-surfers sometimes use these words just as much as surfers do despite never sticking a toe in the water.

I think it is more important to know the terms of the sport and not necessarily the slang. Although, who wouldn’t love a being in the surfer's "green room" (hollow space in the wave, or tube).


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