A Lesson in Surf Slang

Cabarete has gained its reputation as the kiteboarding capital of the world. Our beaches get consistent, world-class wind, and you’ll see loads of kiters and windsurfers at play. You may not have heard that you’ll also find world-class surf in Cabarete. I’m talking about Encuentro beach.

The varied reef breaks make Playa Encuentro a great place to surf, no matter your experience level. You’ll see the pros going at it right next to the first-timers!

On any surf vacation, it can help to have some fresh vocab to hand. Use it on the beach to chat with fellow wave-seekers, and take it home to impress your friends!

Here’s our run-down of essential surf slang, so you can rave about the waves to your heart’s content.

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Wave Basics

Barrel, keg, tube: the tube-like hollow part of a wave

Break: when the swell or wave turns into white water

Crest: top of a wave

Curl: the most powerful part of the wave, the bit that you can see curling over, just before it breaks. Surfers aim to stay as close as possible to the curl

Face: unbroken section of the wave

Green room: the inside of a barrel. So called because the water is clear and green in there

Soup: white, foamy water

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Types of Wave

A-frame: a wave that breaks on the left and right, in the shape of a peak

Ankle busters: small waves, too small to ride properly

Beach break: area where waves break over sand

Bomb: a massive wave

Foamies: waves made of white foamy water

Groundswell waves: waves that are brought in by storms offshore, making them big and powerful

Hollow: a wave that has a great barrel, and surfing in it feels like you’re inside a tube

Novelty waves: fun, unpredictable waves that might catch you off-guard. Not technically great, but super fun

Nug: a good wave

Overhead: a wave that is higher than head height

Party wave: a wave that multiple people are surfing

Point break: area where waves break around a bit of land that juts out from the shore, often at angles

Reef break: area where waves break over rock or coral on the seabed

Catching a Wave

Aerial: leaving your board and getting some air

Bailing: general term for jumping off your board to avoid a bad situation

Barrelled, locked in, slotted, pitted, shacked: surfing in the barrel of the wave, surrounded perfectly by the hollow of the curl. All these terms try to express the amazing feeling of getting it just right, so you feel you’re in a cosy home in the wave

Carve: a sharp turn or move on a wave

Charging: attacking a wave with aggression

Dawn patrol: going surfing very early in the morning. A sign of commitment

Goofy foot: riding with your right foot forward and left foot back on the board

Hang five: surfing with one foot at the nose of the board, five toes hanging off the front

Hang ten: surfing with both feet on the nose of the board, ten toes hanging off the front

Hang eleven: a surfer who rides naked. I’ll let you do the maths

Lineup: the orderly queue of surfers waiting for waves, must be respected

Snaking, cutting off, dropping in: taking a wave out of turn, or stealing it from someone else who might have been closer or more deserving of the wave. Bad etiquette

Stuffed: pushed underwater by a wave

Washing machine, worked, battered: getting rolled around underwater by a wave, generally getting owned by the waves

Wiping out, grubbing, heading, mullering: falling off the board while surfing

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Surfer’s Who’s who

Barney: a beginner surfer, an uncool surfer

Benny: a non-local surfer, tourist. Not a poached egg on an English muffin, with hollandaise sauce

Frube: a surfer who fails to catch a single wave in the whole session

Grom, grommet – young surfer, usually a child.

Gidget: contraction of ‘girl midget’, a small female surfer

Hodad: someone who hangs out on the beach and doesn’t surf

Jake, quimby: someone who gets in the way of other more experienced surfers

Junkyard dog: a surfer with bad technique or style. Not enviable.

Kook: an annoying surfing newbie, or someone who is disrespectful or arrogant out on the water.

Men in gray suits, Noahs: sharks

Namer: someone who spills a secret surf spot to others

Quasimodo: a person with a hunched surfing stance that makes you look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame

Shubie: someone who buys into the surfer look and attitude but does not surf

Wave hog: a surfer who can’t share a wave

Raving about your surf trip

Epic, far out, rad, radical, sick, tubular: awesome

Going off, firing, cranking: the waves were great and you had a lovely time. ‘It was going off yesterday!’

Shaka: the surfer’s sign of goodwill, made by making a loose fist with extended thumb and pinky finger. Referred to as ‘hang loose’ and a sign of friendship and solidarity in the surfing community.

Skunked: you had a bad time as there were no good waves. ‘You got skunked out there.’

With these terms, you’re ready for any conversation with a surfer. Well, most. But, at least you can be sure you won’t be washing machine rinsed on the beach by your bros on vacation!

(Side note: Kiters and aspiring kiters, check out our Kiteboarding Lingo for Beginners!)

Join us in Cabarete this autumn for some seriously epic waves. Surf’s up!

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