UNDERSTANDING SURFING TERMINOLOGY

Do you ever feel left out when you hear surfers chatting? Or have you ever had entire articles on surfing go over your head? If so, this article’s for you. It’ll help you master the basics of this unique language, which is part of the sport’s mystique and charm.

TERMS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPOT


Oh wait... That’s one too... What exactly is a spot?
A spot is a place where you go surfing, and there are three different types: beach break, point break and reef break.

 

WHAT IS A BEACH BREAK?


It’s where the waves break on sandbanks; they therefore do not break in a uniform way or always in the same place. They are generally short waves.

beach break

 

WHAT IS A POINT BREAK?


At this type of spot, waves generally break on a rocky section of seabed, but at a few the seabed is in fact sandy. Whatever the case may be, at these spots the swell breaks around a point or headland.

point break

 

WHAT IS A REEF BREAK?


At these spots, waves are uniform, often long and often tubular. The waves break on reefs.

surftrip reefbreak

 

SPEAK LIKE A SURFER: DESCRIBING THE SPOT


It’s not uncommon for a non-surfer to overhear surfers at a spot chatting, knowing full well that they’re talking about the spot but not understanding a thing that they’re saying.

 

WHAT DOES FLAT MEAN?

Simply when there is no sign of a wave on the sea - when it’s completely flat like a millpond.

 

IT’S ‘GLASSY’?


This is a fairly common term. Generally, when the water is glassy, it means it’s ideal for surfing. It’s when there’s not a ripple on the surface and the water resembles oil. This means waves are smooth, making surfing more enjoyable and more fluid.

 

SURFING THE WAVE ‘INSIDE/OUTSIDE’


Outside is the first section of the wave, the bit that usually breaks furthest from the shore. Inside is the last section, which breaks nearest the shore, either by joining the outside section or reforming.

 

SURFING ‘SHORE BREAK’


Shore break refers to waves that break right on the shore, usually violently. There’s usually a powerful backwash with this type of wave. We strongly advise that beginners and those who don’t know the sea very well don’t try to surf shore breaks.

 

 

OFFSHORE WIND


A wind that blows off the land towards the sea, smoothing the waves. Generally, when the wind is offshore, the water is glassy.
Onshore wind is the opposite, and this makes the sea more choppy.

 

SPEAK ABOUT WAVES LIKE A SURFER


THAT’S A SERIOUSLY THICK LIP!


The thicker the lip, the stronger the wave. The lip is the tip of the breaking part of the wave.

 

WHAT IS A SECTION OF A WAVE?


When the lip of the wave doesn’t break in a uniform way, it breaks in sections.


IMPACT ZONE

This is where the lip breaks, or where the section breaks. Specifically, it is the point at which the lip hits the surface of the water. Naturally, this isn’t where the surfer wants to be when they’re trying to get back onto the peak...

 

HE MANAGED TO RIDE SOME ‘TUBES’ / ‘BARRELS’


Both of these terms refer to the space in which the surfer can surf when the wave is hollow enough. It’s a surfers favourite manoeuvre. You get a unique buzz from it, which is probably why it’s such a sought-after wave.

barrel

 

THE SURFERS ARE GATHERING AT THE ‘LINE UP’


No, it’s not the name of a local bar. Well... It might be the name of a local bar somewhere, but here it’s what surfers call the peak, that point where the waves break.

 

GET TO GRIPS WITH THE MANOEUVRES

If you’re going to speak to a surfer, it’s good to know the name of the manoeuvres, and most importantly to recognise them.

FLOATER

floater

A floater is a manoeuvre which involves surfing a long section by riding on the lip, as in the photo opposite.

 

CARVE 

carve surf Tribord

As you might guess, the carve is a manoeuvre that involves turning on the rail. It’s a turn that brings you closer to the froth in a zone where the wave still has some power.

 

roller

roller

During a roller, the surfer hits the lip with the board at the most critical point of the wave. As you leave the manoeuvre, if it’s done well, you’ll pick up quite a lot of speed.

cut back 

cut back

You do a cutback when you see that the wave is going to lose power. You do a rounded turn towards the froth until you meet it and set off again in the direction of the wave.

If a surfer decides not to simply set off again in the direction of the wave but instead does a sort of roller on the froth or the lip, it’s called a roundhouse cutback.

If there are any phrases that you’ve heard but that aren’t explained above, don’t hesitate to ask us about them by posting a comment.

 

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