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Surfing Glossary

Wave Terminology

Chop/ Wind Chop

Moderate locals winds form little waves known as chop, which can kill a good surf sesson.


A wave that breaks along the entire length at the same time, making it unsurfable. Can be caused by either a strong offshore wind or sea floor topography.

Crumble/Crumbly Waves

Waves affected by an offshore wind are said to “crumble:· The lip of the wave crumbles along the line and, as a result, spoils the wave for surfers.


The area of the sea surface where the wind generates the waves/swell. Fetch is one of the key areas in the quality of a wave and the size of the waves.


Waves that have incredibly smooth faces due to the lack of local wind or a slight offshore wind.

Left Wave

A “left” wave is a wave that breaks from left to right as you are looking at it from the beach.


The upper most part of the breaking wave where a surfer will do maneuvers.

Offshore Waves

The wind blows from the shore. A ground swell mixed with offshore winds makes good surf.

Onshore Waves

The wind blows towards the beach from the ocean and as a result, the waves lose their shape.

Right Wave

A “right” wave is a wave that breaks from right to left as you are looking at it from the beach.


The lowest part between two successive waves.


The foamy part of a wave that has broken.

Surfing Terminology

Acid Splash

Typically a random mix of opaque pigments in the laminate coat that are spread across the board by using a squeegee.


Chemical solvent used to clean off polyester resin, as well as dirt or wax, on a cured board.

Advanced Composite Surfboard

See hollow composite sandwich, cored composite sandwich, thermo plastic skinned.


1. Air-compressed tool used to spray acrylic paint designs on foam or the sanded hot coat of a surfboard.
2. Use an airbrush.

Air Compressor

A generator that pumps compressed air into an airbrush or air hose.


In ancient Hawaii, a thin, wide surfboard for quick-breaking surf commonly made from koa or breadfruit; sometimes called omo.

Aloha (Hawaiian)

Hello, good bye, love, compassion.

Amu (Hawaiian)

A part of a canoe that connects the hull to the outrigger.

ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals)

The world governing body for professional surfing.

Banjo Board

Surfboard designed by legendary shaper/designer Dale Velzy.


A California term for “Barney.”


Someone who doesn’t surf very well. The term was derived from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Barney Rubble on The Flintstones. Usage: Get out of my way, ya Barney.”


A derivation of Barney – an unskilled or uncool surfer.

Belly Board

Short surfboard (three to five feet) used for prone surfing, most often by children or beginners. Popular in the 1950s and 1960s.


Also called stepdeck. A longboard designed to flex or bend during a ride, altering the rocker of the board, to make the board fit the contours of the wave better in certain situations. Usually this design is used to enhance noseriding. For more info see the book Surfboards by Guy Motil. CAlso what surfers may go on when the surf has been flat for a exceptionally long time.)


An attractive female. Derived from Betty Rubble, a character on The Flintstones. It has also been suggested that the term is named for the character Betty in Archie comics.

Big Time

An intensifier roughly meaning anything in high proportions, as in “to eat it or wipe out big time.”


The unshaped core material used to make a surfboard, usually of foam or wood.


An air bubble that goes all the way through the glass job that was caused by gas in the blank or the wood stringer; also called pinhole.

Bu, the Bu

Abbreviation for Malibu.


One-gallon container a glasses uses to hold working resin.

Buffing Pad

A soft backing behind the cotton mitt on a grinder that is used to polish a board along with rubbing compound.


When a hot coat to gloss coat is sanded away and exposes the fiberglass cloth, causing a weak point in the board: also sand through.

Chip, Malibu Chip

The name given to the first all balsa wood boards constructed in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Much smaller than the giant planks, they were referred to as potato chips; later they became known as Malibu Boards or Malibu Chips.


Great, as in “choice waves.”

Closed Cell Polyethylene Surfboard

(BZ, INT, Doyle, Morey, etc…) – Construction method using a high-density, resilient foam core with a semisoft sheet foam exterior and some type of hard skinned bottom.

Cored Composite Sandwich Surfboard

(Tufilite/Surftech, Boardworks, Placebo, Firewire, etc.) -Construction method using a low-density foam core covered by a sandwich of laminates and high-performance sheet foam filler.


(usually spelled with an exclamation mark) Usually an exclamation meaning awesome, great, Wow! 1 In the 1950s, Buffalo Bob used to open each episode of the Howdy Doody Show with this greeting to boys and girls all across the nation It caught on with the surfers of the 1960s (who grew up with the show) and became a part of our culture. 2. Cowabunga! The Surf Box. The quintessential compilation of surf music, released by Rhino records in 1963 (and still the best ever – the included booklet alone is worth the price; trust me on this). If you appreciate surf or rock history, you should find a copy of this music classic for your collection.


Caused when moisture from acrylic paint released during the canalization process get trapped in the resin and forms crystal-like bubbles.

Cut Lap

The visible cut line along the cloth on the rail.

Da Cat

1. Nickname for legendary surfer Miki “Da Cat” Dora.
2. Surfboard model created by Miki Dora and Greg Noll in the 1960s (and a later limited edition in the 1990s). Both boards are highly sought-after collectibles. Dale Velzy. Legendary surfer/surfboard designer/shaper generally credited with developing the commercial tools and strategies that allowed the then fledgling surf community of the 1940s and 1950s to begin building the global surf industry we see today.

Deck Traction

1. Generally referring to self­adhesive rubber pads applied to the deck of a surfboard to give a surfer better grip with his feet (e.g., Astrodeck).
2. May also refer to spray-on traction coatings.


When the layer of resin and fiberglass separates from its bond with the shaped blank.


A term used in a derogatory or joking sense to describe someone who is lacking in intelligence; short for the word derelict. Usage: “What a derel.”


To plug in – like a telephone. Usage: “Let’s dial in on some waves.”


To be connected or hooked up. Usage: “Ah, dude, your room is fully king; you’re so dialed.”

Disc Sander

A disc-shaped power tool used for sanding surfboards; also known as a power sander or grinder.


A term glassers use when the laminate resin kicked too slowly and drained off the board, somewhat exposing the texture of the fiberglass weave.


A surfing enthusiast, usually of the male gender. Females are sometimes known as dudettes. The word was popularized by the 1982 movie Fast Tunes at Ridgemont High by the character Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn)_


A resin that is compatible with polystyrene foam.

EPS/ Epoxy Surfboard

A construction method using an expanded polystyrene or extruded blank, fiberglass cloth, and laminated with epoxy resin.


Fine filaments of silica glass made into a yarn and woven into a fabric that is used to reinforce resin.


The resin and fiberglass support area at the base of a glassed-on fin.

Fin Rope

A rarely used material made of fiberglass strands woven into rope that is applied for strength when glassing on fins. See also roving.

Fin System

Generic term to describe the various removable fin setups using plugs or boxes.

Fire; Firing

Go off: going off. Another superlative to describe good surf. Usage: “Hey, Supers is firing on all cylinders.”


To make eccentric. often funny arm and body movements: to surf in a clumsy manner, Usage: “Tommy flails.”

Flap, Flappin’

To make spastic arm movements: to flail.

Foam Core Surfboard

See also polyurethane/foam and fiberglass (P/U): also see EPS/epoxy.

Free Lap

A lamination technique used with Silane cloth and ortho resin where the cut lap step is eliminated because the cloth is not visible under the resin.


Person who applies laminate resin and fiberglass on a shaped blank.

Glass job

Overall term used to describe the process of applying and/or the finished product of a surfboard’s fiberglass and resin coat.

Gloss Coat

A special, thin coat of resin brushed on after a board has been sanded, which is later polished to make a shiny. reflective finish.

Greenough Spoon

A type of knee board.

Haole (Hawaiian)

White skinned, foreigner: comes from ha. meaning breath of life. and ole. meaning not. or lack of.

Hatchet Fin

The “Turn Fin” developed by Dewey Weber for the Performer surfboard in the mid-1960s.

Hawaiian Redwood Plank

Early Hawaiian solid redwood surfboards (1800s to 1930).

He’e (Hawaiian)

To slide. to surf.

He’e Nalu (Hawaiian)

To surf; a rider of the waves; wave sliding.

Hoe (Hawaiian)

Paddle for a canoe.

Hoku’ (Hawaiian)


Hollow Composite Sandwich Surfboard

Category of surfboard construction; includes boards that feature a hollow skeleton made of a composite material such as carbon.

Hot Coat

Layer of resin applied after the laminate coat has kicked that makes a glass job possible to sand; also called sanding resin.


Really great; usually used to describe the surf. Usage: “It was totally insane.”

lsophthalic, Iso

A slightly stronger polyester resin with a slight tint that is used in color laminations or with Volan cloth.

Kahuna (Hawaiian)

A priest. sorcerer. or expert practitioner in all things surf and waves.

Kakala (Hawaiian)

The style of surfing used when riding an alaia board for fast­breaking waves.

Kai (Hawaiian)

The sea, seawater.

Kane (Hawaiian)


Resin that is catalyzing.

Kiko’o (Hawaiian)

A very long surfboard. 12′ to 18′, used in more-challenging surf conditions.


A complimentary word meaning awesome or great. Usage: “That was a killer wave” “Let’s go get some killer slices [pizza]:’

Killing (killin) It

Surfing well. When you’re ripping hard. Usage: ”You were killing it out there today.”

Kioe (Hawaiian)

A small surfboard.

Kipapa (Hawaiian)

To surf laying in the prone position.

Koa (Hawaiian)

A soldier. brave. a tree (Acacia koa).

Kokua (Hawaiian)

To help; consideration.

Kona (Hawaiian)

South; southwest; his, hers, its.


An unskilled or uncool surfer.

La (Hawaiian)

Sun; the day.

La’au (Hawaiian)



1. The first layer of resin used to hold the fiberglass cloth to the shaped blank.

2. The act of applying the first layer of resin.


A term to describe the materials used to laminate a board.

Lay Up

The act of applying fiberglass and resin to a surface. See also laminate.


A very heavy surfboard.


When huge waves roll in, big and powerful as a Mack truck. Usage: “The waves are fully macking.”

Mahalo (Hawaiian)

Thank you, to wonder, appraise.

Ma’hina (Hawaiian)

The moon.


Big Time. Usage; “a major lull.”

Ma kau (Hawaiian)

Toward the mountains.


Australian term for an old-style longboard. From the 1950s “Malibu board:’

Malibu Chip

Balsa wood surfboard from the early 1950s. See also Chip.


Putt on masking tape to keep resin or paint off of a desired area.


Abbreviation for methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, commonly known as a catalyst or hardener for polyester resins.

Nalu (Hawaiian)

Surf; ocean; wave.

Nalu ha’i lala (Hawaiian)

A diagonal breaking wave.

Nalu kua loloa (Hawaiian)

A wave that breaks for a long way.


1. The juice, or energy, of a wave.
2. Any fruit juice, such as papaya, passion fruit, or mango.
3. Sweet, like nectar; used to describe an attractive female. Usage: “She’s really nectar’.’

Noseride, Noseriding

Riding the wave while standing on the front foot or two of one’s surfboard.


1. A type of surfboard specifically designed to allow the surfer to stand on the nose of the board while riding the wave.
2. A surfer who is especially good at riding on the nose of his board.

Ohana (Hawaiian)

Family, relatives.

Onaulu loa (Hawaiian)

A lengthy and great wave.

Olo (Hawaiian)

A thick, long, narrow surfboard that was generally reserved for kings and chiefs; good for non­breaking waves.

Omo (Hawaiian)

Same type of surfboard as the alaia.

One (Hawaiian)


Onini (Hawaiian)

A very thick surfboard made of wiliwili wood: is very difficult to ride.

‘Opu’u (Hawaiian)

A large swell.


Nontransparent, white-based color paint pigment added to laminating resin: used to give a glass job any desired shade of color.

Orthophthalic, Ortho

Commonly used polyester resin that has a crystal-clear finish.

Pacific Systems Holmes

Generally considered to be the first production surfboards.Initially using a swastika symbol for their logo. it was subsequently changed in the late 1930s for obvious reasons.(See Surfboards by Guy Motil for more info.)

Paha (Hawaiian)

Type of surfboard.

Paipo Board

Similar to a belly board but sometimes made of plywood or other thin wood panels in addition to traditional surfboard building materials. Sizes vary dramatically (2’0 to 6’0). Popular in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the Hawaiian Islands. See also belly board or body board.

Palule Aloha (Hawaiian)

Aloha shirt.


Palm tree.

Papa He’e Nalu (Hawaiian)

A board for wave sliding.

Particle Mask

Small, light paper facemask used to keep out dust or air particles.

Pau (Hawaiian)

Ended, finished, done.


Created by surfing legend Dewey Weber (and his prime design collaborator Harold “Iggy” Ige). the Weber Performer is the most popular surfboard model ever made. First released in the mid-1960s, it is still in production today.

Pig, Pig Board

A board with the wide point behind center that when viewed from above looks like the template of a pig. A term first coined by the Velzy/Jacobs collaboration (1950s) and later a major model release by Dewey Weber Surfboards (1971). The design has inspired many variations. including the very successful Cheyne Horan single-fin designs of the 1980s.

Pin Air

Air bubbles that are visible in between the weave of the fiberglass in the laminate coat, usually a sign of a bad lamination See also blow­through.


A thin, decorative stripe of paint or resin. typically put over a cut lap or along the edge of a color.


1. A power tool used to cut down the foam of a blank being shaped.
2. A hand tool (plane) used to cut down the wood stringer of a blank being shaped.


A person who performs the last process of a glass job by fine wet and dry sanding and then buffing out the gloss coat into a mirror-like shine; also called rubout guy.


The most common type of plastic resin used in the surfboard industry; works only with polyurethane foam blanks or wood.


A lightweight type of plastic foam blank that works well with epoxy resins.


The most commonly used plastic foam blank since the late 1950s; compatible with polyester and urethane-based resins.

Polyurethane/Foam and Fiberglass (P/U) Surfboard

Often referred to as the “traditional” surfboard construction method, this process uses a polyurethane foam blank, fiberglass cloth, and polyester resin. Most surfboards made from 1955 to 2000 were constructed using this process.

Rad, Radical

Super cool. Usage: “Those waves were rad.” “That was a radical bottom turn.”

Redwood Plank

A type of surfboard made popular once redwood became readily available in the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s. Used extensively in the early 1900s by Duke Hahanamoku and others. As a result, the type of surfboard exported throughout the world.

Resin abstract

Resin design that uses mixed or unmixed pigments and then blends them together by using a squeegee in the lamination coat to create a desired design. See also acid splash.


Safety mask with carbon filters that helps reduce inhalation of resin fumes and dust.


The curved shape of a surfboard when viewed from the side.


Power tool used to route a groove or hole in the board to install a fin box, fin system, or leash plug.


Long strands of fiberglass used to support the base of a surfboard fin.

Rubbing Compound

Diatomaceous paste used to polish the gloss coat.

Sanded finish

A board that has been sanded on the hot coat or gloss coat but has not been polished.

Sanding pad

A bited backing pad attached to a disc sander that is used behind sandpaper or a buffing mitt.


Long. heavy-duty scissors used for cutting fiberglass cloth.


A fiberglass cloth with a clear finish that makes the weave undetectable when saturated with resin.


Soft surfboard. See also closed cell polyethylene surfboard.


1. Type of kneeboard popularized by the designs of Geroge Greenough in the 1960s.
2. Type of longboard where the nose portion of the deck is scooped out to reduce weight or increase flex in the front third of the board.


Wide, flexible rubber tool used to apply laminating resin.


See Bender.

Stand-up Paddleboard

See SUP.

Stand-up Paddle Surfing

See SUP.


A type of surfboard designed by Hawaii’s Ben Aipa in the 1970s.


Wood strip that is glued down the center of a blank to provide added strength.

Styrene Monomer

1. Toxic solvent added to resin to give it a wetter, thinner liquid form tint.
2. Transparent coloring added to laminated resin.


A board made of wood or foam and fiberglass (among other materials) for riding ocean waves.


The act of riding a wave.

Surfing America

IOC-recognized national governing body for surfing in the United States. Surfing America’s mission is to promote the growth, competitive success, and positive image of sufing in the USA and to provide the best possible experience for all participants by encouraging, advancing, and administrating the sport while producing champions. Contact:

Surfing Heritage Foundation (SHF)

A nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, presenting, and promoting surfing’s heritage for the appreciation and education of current and future generations and to achieving the goal of surfing being more accurately understood, represented, and enjoyed. Located in San Clemente, California. Contact:


Abbreviation for stand-up paddleboard. A type of surfboard, surfing, and paddling in which the surfer always stand erect.


Cool; said of anything you like. Usage: “That’s sweet.”

Take Gas

1. To have trouble, especially the kind that leads to a wipeout.
2. To get trapped in the curl of a wave and lose one’s board: to wipeout. Usage: “I saw you taking gas out there.”

Tank, Tanker

A very old and heavy longboard.

Thermoplastic Skinned Surfboard

(NSP, BIC, South Point, etc.) -This category of surfboard construction includes boards that generally feature a medium-density foam core reinforced by fiberglass and resin and covered in a thermoolastic skin.


A transparent coloring added to laminated resin.


A surfboard with three similar sized fins. See thrusters.

Tube Ride

Surfing in the tube of a breaking wave.


Excellent or fantastic.

Two Plus One

A type of multiple fin setup that uses two small outside fins and one larger center fin. More common on longboards and mid-lengths. Also 2+1.

Ukulele (Hawaiian)

Flea: small guitar.

Valley, Val

Derogatory term originally applied to the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles and to anyone living there who came to the beach. Has come to mean any place inland or anyone living there.


A fiberglass cloth used in the 1950s that has a chromium finish, giving it a greenish, almost teal color.

Wa’a (Hawaiian)


Wa’a kaukahi (Hawaiian)

Single-hulled canoe

Wa’a kaulua (Hawaiian)

Double-hulled canoe.

Wahine (Hawaiian)

Female, women.

Waikiki, Wai (Hawaiian)

Wai means freshwater, referring to the freshwater swamp behind the shoreline. 2. The famous main surfing beach at Honolulu, Hawaii.

Waimea (Hawaiian)

Referring to the reddish freshwater (wai) that flows into the bay. To surf spot on Oahu, Hawaii, famous for its huge winter surf.

Wet and Dry Sandpaper

Fine-grit sandpaper used with water in the final stages of sanding or in preparing a surfboard for polishing.

Waimea (Hawaiian)

Referring to the reddish freshwater (wai) that flows into the bay. To surf spot on Oahu, Hawaii, famous for its huge winter surf.