Surf Slang to Master Before Your Next Trip to the Beach

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Navy

If you've been surfing, you already know there are lots of steps to perfecting the process.

One of the most difficult to teach, however, might be surf slang. You've heard it before. Most likely it was in a cheesy movie with actors making fun of the distinct lingo of the surfing culture. But there really is much more to the unique dialect. Whether it's the phrasing, accents or words coined for a specific purpose, you'll find plenty to decipher. 

Most of it makes a lot of sense, especially after you learn the reasoning. But we've taken a look at the subculture and some of the most common surf slang. And even though we were familiar with most of what we found, some of it was even brand new to us. So before you pick up your board, take a look at our list and confidently join in any surfing conversation.

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Credit: Pixabay, deborahkbates


Pro tip: Don't think of surf slang as mere 'surfer dude' talk.

Too often, people think of a slacker who can't be bothered to speak correctly. This is not the case. Like most subcultures, surf slang grew out of a close knit community. These people speak a certain way for a reason. And while there are certainly some 'surfer dudes' out there, it does not describe the entire group.

No matter your age, gender or occupation, on the beach you'll be speaking a common language. It's important that you understand what fellow surfers are saying. Not only do you want to join in conversations, but sometimes it could be vital information. A few of the most important terms are listed below, along with our best effort to define them.

1. Going Off

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Credit: Max Pixel

Let's start with this one. 'Going off' is a term you will want to hear often when you are heading out to the beach. There are a lot of surf slang terms for waves. This one might be the best of the bunch. Basically, if someone tells you the situation is going off, it means the waves are just about perfect. Go out with your board expecting large swells and useful breaks.

2. Slotted

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Shalom Jacobovitz

It's easy to get slotted when the beach environment is going off. A perfect wave can allow you to hang ten like a master. If you're surfing like a pro when you're used to just being so-so, you can describe yourself as slotted. When people start to use this surf slang to talk about you more and more, you know you're moving up.

3. Skunked

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Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior

Maybe you can tell from the root of this word that getting skunked stinks. If you want to hear your buddy say the waves are going off, you don't want to hear he got skunked. That means a surfer has tried unsuccessfully to find a decent wave to surf. If you're hearing a lot of this word in the surf slang of a day, you might just want to stay home.

4. Frothing

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Credit: Pixabay, Stocksnap

Here's a term that transcends the beach. Whether you're slotted or skunked, you can still be frothed. This is a term that describes excitement about pretty much anything. Often it refers to the conditions of the ocean. But it could just as easily be your reaction to a great movie or a delicious meal. To put it simply, you'll want to be frothed as much as possible. There's always something to be excited about. And surfers are among the best at expressing that great anticipation.

5. Kooks

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Credit: pxhere

In any group, you'll have those who, for whatever reason, don't fit in. Surfing culture is typically quite inviting, though, so this is not often a big problem. There are those who either disrespect the sport or other surfers. These people are often called 'kooks.' Suffice it to say you don't want to be considered a kook by your fellow surfers. Some of the behavior that might earn you that label could take place on the water. If you ruin someone else's day, or even crash their wave, you're probably acting like a kook. And maintain good manners on dry land, too. In surfer slang or otherwise, nobody wants to hang out with a kook.

6. Shacked

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Jeff Rowley

This is one of our favorites. We like it not only because it describes a spectacular wave, but because the word makes sense. You get shacked when a huge wave provides a full cover as you ride it. You know, like a shack. Waves like this come along when conditions are going off. And they'll leave every surfer frothing.

7. Ankle busters

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Credit: Free Stock Photos, Johnny Magnusson

Unfortunately, you're not going to get shacked if all you see are ankle busters. These shallow waves are not even worth the effort of trying to surf. Just like those in cold climates have many different words for snow, so do surfers with waves. On great days, they have words to describe the awesome swells. But on days where all you've got are small waves, there are other words for those. Which brings us to ...

8. Mush

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Credit: Public Domain Pictures, Circe Denyer

Perhaps the most frustrating type of waves to encounter are mush. Some surfers call them mushburger. Either way, avoid them! They are soft and weak and there is no way to get any hang time on them. If you've been surfing more than a handful of times, you've probably encountered mush. That's why it's so important to hit the beach with your 


If you're going to walk the walk, you need to talk the talk.

We hope you enjoyed our intro to surf slang. If you plan to head out on your board, it pays to know a few of the key words. You'd hate to mistake slotted for getting skunked.

If you enjoyed our surf slang list, share it with the surfers in your life. And leave us a comment below to let us know your favorite beach lingo terms.

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