Goofy-footed: Describes a surfer who surfs with their right foot forward.

Grom: A young surfer generally less than 16 years old.

Regular-footed: Describes a surfer who surfs with their left foot forward. Also called natural-footed in Australia.


Fin: Rudderlike device(s) used beneath a surfboard to assist control, direction and drive. Many different fin shapes are possible, but most are designed to resemble a dolphin's dorsal fin. 

Shortboard: A smaller, performance surfboard generally in the 5 to 7 foot range, designed for maximum speed through turns.

Understanding the Ocean

Beach break: Waves breaking over a sand bottom.

Break line: The line where waves begin to break. All things being equal, waves will begin to break when they reach water depth equaling approximately 1.3 times the height of the wave face.

Crest: The top part or lip of the wave or swell.

Set: A series of waves approaching the lineup. Waves almost always arrive in sets, and the periods in between sets are called lulls. 


Barrel: Also known as a "tube." This is a type of wave that breaks in a cylindrical shape, leaving a hollow tunnel inside that surfers can ride through. Surfing inside the barrel of a wave is known as "getting barreled" (or "getting pitted"). Teahupo'o, the location in Tahiti that will host Olympic surfing in 2024, is famous for its barrel waves.

Blown out: A surf condition caused by strong onshore winds, which create ugly chop on the wave faces and through the lineup. Generally considered unridable.

Choppy: Bumpy ocean and wave conditions that are rough due to strong winds and/or currents. Wind velocities are usually over 12 knots to create choppy conditions.

Clean: Good surfing conditions with decent wave energy, a smooth or glassy ocean surface and very little onshore wind. Offshore winds blowing into the faces of the waves can create clean, groomed conditions.

Flat: When there are no waves to surf. Unridable surfing conditions. Some waves also have "flat" sections, which are mushy and powerless.

Offshore: Winds that blow toward the ocean from the land, usually creating clean and groomed conditions. Offshore winds often hold up the waves so they break in shallower water than normal and become much more hollow.

Onshore: Winds that blow from the ocean toward the shore. Onshore winds over 8 knots create bumps and chop on the water, making for ugly surfing conditions.

Swell: Waves created further out at sea, usually by a storm.

Out in the Water

Aerial: Complex small-wave maneuver in which both surfer and board launch into the air off the top of a wave, before dropping back down into the same wave.

Axe/axed: A heavy wipeout, usually involving the wave's lip impacting directly on a surfer. Also called drilled, pummeled, etc.

Bail/bail out: To abandon or ditch one's surfboard before getting wiped out by the wave, either paddling out, or while riding the wave.

Carving: A surfing technique in which the surfer creates big, deep turns by sinking much or all of the rail of the surfboard during each turn.

Cutback: A classic surfing move used to change direction when streaking ahead of the curl of a wave with a powerful turn back toward the breaking part of the wave. Cutbacks are an important element in surfing as the maneuver repositions the surfer closer to the power of the wave. 

Drop-in: When a surfer initially goes down the face of the wave after catching a wave. Also a term used to describe catching a wave in front of another surfer who is already riding, which is a general breach of surfing etiquette.

Pitted: "Getting pitted" (or "getting barreled") is when a surfer rides inside the hollow, tunnel-like part of a barrel wave. Also known as tube riding.

Re-entry: A classic maneuver in which the surfer goes through and/or over the lip of the wave, almost to the point of pulling out, then drops back down into the wave. A re-entry is the base term for numerous move varieties, such as floaters and off the lips.