10 Essential Surfing Terms to Describe Waves

If you’re new to surfing, or just starting to get more serious about the sport, you may hear experienced surfers using lingo that seems like a foreign language. Terms like “barrels,” “closeouts,” and “peaks” can leave you feeling lost and unsure of what’s happening on the waves.

In this guide, we’ll cover ten essential surfing terms used to describe waves. Learning these terms will not only help you communicate more effectively with other surfers but will also help you better understand the conditions and make informed decisions about where and how to surf.

#1. Barrel

A barrel, also known as a tube or a “green room,” is a wave that forms a hollow, cylindrical shape as it breaks. Experienced surfers love riding barrels because of the challenge and the thrill of being surrounded by the powerful force of the wave.

#2. Closeout

A closeout is a wave that breaks all at once, creating a wall of whitewater. Closeouts can be frustrating for surfers, as they don’t provide a long ride and can be dangerous if the surfer gets caught in the whitewater.

#3. Crumbly

A crumbly wave is one that doesn’t have a defined shape or a clean face. Instead, it breaks in a disorganized, messy way. Crumbly waves are often the result of choppy or windy conditions.

#4. Clean

A clean wave is one that has a smooth face and a well-defined shape. Clean waves are ideal for surfing, as they provide a long, predictable ride and allow for more advanced maneuvers.

#5. Lip

The lip of a wave is the top section that’s about to break. Surfers often aim to ride up to or even over the lip, which can create an impressive display of skill and athleticism.

#6. Shoulder

The shoulder is the section of a wave that runs parallel to the breaking section. Riding the shoulder can provide a longer ride and is often used by surfers to transition to a new section of the wave.

#7. Peak

The peak of a wave is the highest point where it’s starting to break. Experienced surfers often aim to catch the peak because it provides the most power and speed for a ride.

#8. Set

A set is a group of waves that arrives together. Sets can be predictable or unpredictable, and surfers often use them to their advantage by positioning themselves in the right spot to catch the best waves.

#9. Swell

A swell is a series of waves that have traveled across the ocean and are now reaching the shore. Swells can be predicted by surfers and can provide great conditions for surfing.

#10. Drop

The drop is the moment when a surfer starts to catch a wave and begins the ride. The drop can be the most challenging part of a ride, as it requires speed and precision to get into the right position on the wave.


Learning these ten essential surfing terms will help you communicate more effectively with other surfers and better understand the waves and conditions. As you become more familiar with these terms, you’ll start to develop your own surfing style and be able to talk about your rides with other surfers like a pro. So get out there, catch some waves, and start using your new surf lingo with confidence!

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