Surf Wording


A

Acetone
Flammable, volatile, toxic chemical solvent used to clean polyester resin from tools, etc. .

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. The surfer often grabs a rail of the surfboard for stability and to control the surfboard’s rotation in the move. Originated from skateboarding.

A-frame
A peak-shaped wave, with left and right shoulders, and the highest point of the crest in the middle of the peak.

Airbrush
The tool used by an artist to spray color onto a surfboard. The airbrush is powered by compressor and sprays paint from a container (usually screwed or otherwise attached to the airbrush) out through a thin nozzle in a manner similar to an aerosol spray can.

Alaia
A type of surfboard, made of wood and usually around six feet in length, used by Hawaiian commoners to surf prior to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 19th century.

Aloha
Hawaiian word used as a greeting, a send-off, a sign of affection and/or a wish for good fortune or mercy. For more see

Angling
Original step toward performance in surfing. Refers to a surfer’s riding across the wave face at an angle to the shoreline, rather than riding straight toward the beach.

Artificial Reef
An underwater structure man-made for one or more reasons: 1) aiding ailing ocean ecologies by giving sea fauna a home/feeding ground or 2) creating quality surf where there’s otherwise none or 3) helping with beach erosion by lessening impact of swells pushing sand away from shore. For more see

Asymmetrical zippers
Wetsuit zippers with staggered teeth, invented to keep a tighter seal and let less water in. Common in newer zippered suits.

Atmospheric pressure
The air pressure or force exerted on the Earth’s surface caused by the weight of the air above, usually between 950 – 1050 millibars at sea level. Air pressure is also measured to indicate the presence and movement of weather producing high and low pressure systems.

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

B

Backdoor
(verb) The act of taking off deep behind the peak or a section on a hollow wave, and surfing through the barrel or tube of the wave to the other side of the peak. (Also a proper noun: the short intense right peeling off the reverse side of Pipeline in Hawaii.)

Backing off
The action of a wave as it passes from shallow water into deeper water closer to shore. The wave becomes less steep, or the broken whitewater fades away. Tends to occur shoreward of offshore reefs or sandbars. The wave may reform and break again in even shallower water closer to shore.

Backside
Surfing with your back to the wave, a goofyfoot going right, or a regularfoot going left. (Also called ‘backhand’.)

Backwash
A reflected wave, caused by water pushed up onto a steep grade of beach, which then rushes back out to sea against the general wave movement. This can create spectacular explosive wave effects, as the backwash and incoming waves collide.

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.

Balsa
Light, porous wood used through the 1940s and 50s as a key core material for surfboard manufacture. Balsa grows only in Ecuador and must be imported to the USA; it became popular when laminating techniques allowed surfboard cores to be sealed from contact with water. By the early 1960s it had been largely replaced by polyurethane foam, but is still used for some big wave guns and collector pieces. .

Bamboo
Can be used in thin laminar sheets as a replacement for fiberglass in the surfboard manufacturing process; i.e., Bamboo Surfboards Australia. .

Barrel
The space inside a breaking wave between the lip and face. A surfer may be completely hidden from view during a barrel ride, especially from shore. One of the most difficult, best and most enjoyable acts in surfing, but often very difficult to complete due to changing variations in every different wave. Another name for tube.

Bathymetry
The measurement of depths of water in oceans, seas, and lakes. The topography of the ocean floor or underwater bottom.

Beach break
Waves breaking over a sand bottom.

Beavertail
Early wetsuit design in the ’70s with a large flap affixed to the suit’s lower back, wrapped under the crotch and secured in front. Designed to hold the suit in place, the innovation didn’t really work and surfers took to letting the slab dangle. (Hence the term, « tail ».)

Blank
The original block of foam used to shape a surfboard. A blank often comes from a pre-shaped mold with a basic outline and rocker depending on the length and type surfboard being shaped. Usually made from polyurethane foam. .

Blindstitched
Seam that’s glued together, then sewn halfway through the material so you don’t see the stitching on the other side; generally on higher-end suits and considered flexible, fairly watertight and durable.

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.

Bodyboard
A small soft foam board used primarily with swim fins, and ridden prone (occasionally drop knee). Originated with the Morey Boogie-board invented by Tom Morey in the 70’s.

Bodyboarder
One who rides waves lying down on a bodyboard. Often beginners, although some bodyboarders, like Hawaii’s Mike Stewart, are considered among the best surfers in the world.

Bodysurf
The act of catching waves by swimming without a board. The most original form of surfing. In shallow water bodysurfers can push off the bottom, but usually need swim-fins to catch waves in deep water.

Bomb
Bomb-A very large wave, well beyond the session’s normal wave size.

Bombora
Australian term for big waves breaking further out and isolated by deep water. Also called bombie or cloudbreak.

Bonzer
A surfboard design first invented by the Campbell brothers, Duncan and Malcolm, in 1971. Forerunner of today’s popular single-to-double concave bottom shape. .

Bottom
Bottom-The underside of a surfboard. .

Bottom Curve
(see rocker) .

Bottom Turn
A turn made at the bottom of a wave, following the drop down the wave face. Often (but not always) the first real move of a ride, a bottom turn is a sweeping, powerful move that enables the surfer to establish speed and direction for the ride. The bottom turn also establishes or re-sets the rhythm of turns to be completed during the course of the ride. Probably the most important turn in surfing as it sets up all other maneuvers.

Bowl
A section of a given wave in which the line of the wave bends, or appears to bend, toward the shore. The bend creates added intensity, often causing the wave to build into a peak, or grow hollower or steeper throughout its general curve. Nicknamed « bowl » because the wave suddenly becomes concave from a variety of angles, not just from the base or lip.

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 wave face height.

Breaking
Breaking-When a wave passes from deep water to shallow water it steepens as the wave energy is forced upward. We call this « shoaling ». With increasing steepness, the wave face finally becomes too unstable and the crest or top part of the wave tumbles or « breaks » down the face of the wave.

Broken up
A surf condition in which waves approach the beach and break apart into different peaks/lines with a clear separation between the ridable shoulders. This is usually caused by two swells from different directions and or periods overlapping the same break. Also called « scattered peaks ».

Buckle
(see crease) .

Bumpy
Bumps on the ocean surface created by wind, usually between 6-10 knots in velocity. Definitely not clean but not choppy or blown out either.

Buoy
A floating object moored to the bottom of the ocean to mark a channel, anchor, shoal, rock, etc. Buoys with sensitive meteorological and oceanographic instruments are also moored in deep-water locations to measure wind, weather, and wave information. This information is used to help forecasters monitor the progress of swells as they pass the buoy location.

C

Carbon Fiber
A type of super-strong fiber, soakable in resin, which is occasionally laid in strips along the length of a board during glassing to help prevent creasing.

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; when a good surfer slices up a wave using his board like a large knife.

Catalyst
(see MEKP)

Caught inside
A circumstance in which a surfer is trapped between the shoreline and breaking waves. This usually means the surfer will have to wait for a lull between the larger breaking waves for a chance to slip into clear water.

Central Pressure Index (CPI)
The minimum atmospheric pressure in the eye or center of a hurricane, which is used to estimate the wind velocities in the storm. The lower the CPI, the faster the wind speeds.

Channel
Bottom shape dating back to 1970, credited to Jim Pollard of Australia, in which grooves are cut lengthwise along the surfboard, usually through the tail half. Many different types of channels have a variety of effects on performance; generally they add drive and direction to turns, especially in the most common modern variation, the six-channel « clinker » bottom.

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.

Clean-up set
A much larger wave or a set of waves, which breaks further outside than normal. A clean-up set usually « cleans » the line-up of surfers caught further inside.

Climbing and dropping
Turning up and down the face of a wave as you surf down the line. A very good technique for gaining speed with each turn.

Closeout
When all parts of the wave-down the line or crest of the wave-break at the same time. (Opposite of closeouts, the ideal waves for surfing are ones that break from one side to the other so the surfer can angle across the face of the wave.)

Combo swell
A combination of swells from varying directions, which will create peaky and crossed up conditions as the waves merge together. Combo swells are great for most beachbreaks but break up the perfect lines at most reef and point breaks.

Computer
(« computer board », « computer shape ») Many top shapers currently use highly accurate machines to cut blanks into near-ready shapes, or « pre-shapes ». These are driven by computer programs, which use data from the shapers’ prototype designs (see « plug »). The computer has reduced man-hours on a shape job to as little as 15 minutes.

Concave
Design feature involving a slight scooping out of an area of the board, usually the bottom from rail to rail, during the shaping process. Concave is a paradox because it provides both lift (a skatey freeing up of the board) and drive (from pressure on the water along the exit rail).

Consistent
A surf condition when waves are coming in very frequently and in predictable quantities.

Continental Shelf
The underwater shelf extending from a continent out to sea to a depth of about 165 fathoms or 1,000 feet. Long period swells of about 20 seconds will begin to feel the ocean floor at about 1,000 feet.

Contour
A line on a map or chart representing points of equal value compared to datum or starting point. An isobath is a line connecting points of equal depth below a datum to measure bathymetry, and an isobar when used to represent atmospheric pressure.

Corduroy
Describes the vision of a series of swells marching in from the horizon.

Corners
The end sections or shoulders of waves. A term usually used on the more closed out days when surfers try to find shoulders or corners to ride.

Crease
Damage to a surfboard caused by heavy general impact, in which the surfboard flexes further than the glass and resin allows. Usually indicated by a fracture line running across the board on bottom, deck or both. A bad crease may shatter glass around the rail and lead to a complete break in the affected board.

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

Curl
Older term used to describe the concave face of the wave just before breaking; the area just before the barrel. (« Shoot the curl » was a popular longboard expression from the ’60s.)

Cutback
A classic surfing move used to change direction when streaking ahead of the curl of a wave with a powerful turn back towards 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. See also Roundhouse cutback.

Cyclone
An atmospheric closed circulation rotating counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Can be a high-pressure or low-pressure cyclone.

D

Dawn patrol
Early morning surf session before the sunrise. This time usually offers the least crowded and cleanest conditions before the winds pick up. Also the name of Surfline’s early morning surf report.

Deck
The top surface of a surfboard on which you apply wax for traction.

Deck Grip
Rough-surfaced material patch, usually a fraction of an inch thick, which can be glued to the deck of a surfboard to increase traction instead of wax.

Deep Water
Water deep enough so that surface waves are not affected by the bathymetry on the ocean bottom. Generally, water more than 1,000 feet, or at least deeper than one-half the wavelength of the existing waves is considered deep water.

Deepwater breaks
Surf spots where the swells have a steep transition from deep water to shallow water so the waves are generally bigger and more powerful than elsewhere. Also includes surf spots where the deep water bathymetry of the ocean floor can greatly focus longer period swells (over 16 seconds) to create larger and more powerful waves. Spots with underwater canyons like Blacks are a prime example.

Degrees
A) The unit of measurement for direction to analyze where wind and swell direction is coming from. North is 0 or 360 degrees (12:00 o’clock); and then moving clockwise, east at 90 degrees (3:00 o’clock), south at 180 degrees (6:00 o’clock) and west at 270 degrees (9:00 o’clock). Northeast may be anywhere between 0 and 90 degrees, southeast between 90 and 180 degrees, southwest between 180 and 270 degrees and northwest between 270 and 360 degrees. B) Degrees also are used to measure Latitude and Longitude, with minutes and seconds used a fractionals between the degrees. One degree of Latitude will always equal 60 miles at that same location. One degree of Longitude will always vary due to the curvature of the Earth toward the poles.

Delaminate
A breakdown of the bond between the fiberglass and foam of a surfboard, where the fiberglass becomes separated from the foam. Usually caused by water seeping in under the fiberglass due to a ding of other fracture of the waterproof bond. Can also be caused by the surfboard being exposed to excessive heat like in a hot car, which will cause the foam to shrink slightly away from the fiberglass bond. Delaminations should be fixed immediately as they will spread and the surfboard strength will be weakened dramatically.

Designer
An expert surfboard shaper or rider who originates ideas for surfboard shapes. See shaper.

Diffraction
The process of wave energy filtering into the lee of obstacles such as breakwaters by the transfer of the wave energy along wave crests. Diffracted waves are smaller than the original waves.

Ding
Damage to surfboard caused by dropping or collision with another hard object or surfboard. Dings must be dried out and repaired immediately otherwise water will weaken the strength of the board.

Direction
Where the wind or swell is coming from. In the marine community, directions are always identified as the direction the swell or the wind is « coming from, » not the direction it’s headed. Surfline uses directions in true degrees as:

Double blindstitched
Seam is glued together and blindstitched on the outside, turned inside out and blindstitched on the inside; considered a very watertight seal.

Double up
When two waves combine, often creating an extra powerful wave with twice the amount of energy. Double up waves often create the best waves to get barreled or tubed on because the interaction of the waves forces the waves to break in shallower water than normal, which creates hollower, steeper waves.

Down Rail
A rail (see rail) shape in which the deck slopes down to meet the bottom, rather than vice versa. Credited to Mike Diffenderfer of the USA in the 1960s.

Down-the-line
A reference to the direction further along the crest of a wave from the location from where a surfer drops into the wave. The direction toward which the surfer is riding. Waves can also be described as « down-the-line » when the wall is long and fast.

Drag
The effect that causes water flow to be slowed or disrupted as it passes along a surfboard’s surfaces. Causes of drag are usually present in the leading edges of a surfboard: the forward rail line, the forward rocker and outline, and the leading edges of fins, and in bottom features which cause water resistance, such as tail vee. Controlled drag is an essential requirement of surfboard design.

Drive
The effect of water pressure pushed against a surfboard’s surface, which creates acceleration down the line on a wave. This is the simple way of describing drive and its immediate effect. Looking at it more closely, we see that « drive » in a surfboard context implies a couple of factors. – First, it’s about pressure. Specifically, water pressure working against a surface. To harness the pressure, you’ve gotta have a surface for it to work against (ie., a fin). – Second, it’s about direction. Drive is aimed; it’s purposeful, not random. Drive doesn’t have an opposite so much as a corollary, which is Drag. Drag results from friction between waterflow and wetted surface, and it’s not altogether a bad thing; without some elements of Drag, as without Drive, a surfboard would be virtually impossible to control. (Best example I can think of: a surfboard without any fins at all.) Almost without fail, wherever you create the possibility of Drive, you’ll also have the possibility of Drag. Getting that balance right is the key to great surfboard design. A middle fin adds Drive and Drag at a central point of a surfboard’s tail. This adds control and direction, providing an anchor for turns. In the classic Thruster setup, the side fins are reduced in volume in order to balance the design. Take the middle fin away, and both Drive and Drag are removed; waterflow gets past the fins more easily, giving the board a skatier, skimmier feel, but some control and direction is lost. This is only partially made up for by the larger fin size of the classic Twin-fin design.

Drop
The initial part of a ride when a surfer slides down the face 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.

Duckdive
To duck under a broken wave by pushing the front of your surfboard under the water, then levering the back of the board with pressure from your knee or foot as the wave passes overhead. The desired result is to pass your body and surfboard underneath the powerful whitewater to pop out the back of the wave. Originated by Shaun Tomson and the South Africans in the ’70’s.

Dumping
Used to describe waves that are very hollow and hard-breaking.

Duration
In wave forecasting, the length of time the wind blows in the same direction over the swell generating area, or the fetch. Duration is one of the three key elements in the fundamental wave generation formula-along with wind velocity and fetch length-used to determine wave heights and wave periods in a storm or wave generating area.

E

Eddy
Eddy-A circular movement of water, air, or wind that develops on the side of the main body of movement. Eddies will develop in areas adjacent to where the main body of movement is interrupted by projecting obstructions like points of land or islands. Southern California is a classic area for a near-shore south wind eddy system when strong northwesterly winds blow in the outer waters. Point Conception, the offshore islands, and low-pressure inland all contribute to the development of the eddy circulation.

El Nino
A warming of the ocean surface in the Eastern Pacific that begins off the western coast of South America. The warmer water can greatly enhance tropical cyclone development in the Central Eastern Pacific, as well as wintertime storms throughout the North Pacific due to the contrast between the warm water and cold air. The North Pacific jet stream and storm tracks shift further south which generates more wind, swell, and stormy conditions in California, while the areas further north experience milder weather. For more see .

Energy
A unit of measurement for the power in a wave. Usually in meters squared or centimeters squared.

Entry
A term used to describe the area of the surfboard where water first comes into contact with the rocker.

Entry line
The line a surfer will draw when dropping into a wave.

Epoxy
A type of plastic resin used by some manufacturers in place of polyester resin. Usually an epoxy-user also uses a polystyrene blank, which can be badly affected by polyester resins.

Expanded Seam Technology (EST)
Developed by a skin graft specialist in the late ’90s, EST is a way to have a « stitchless » suit by weaving the panels together in hexagonal patterns; touted a few years back as the next giant thing, now mainly used in super cold water suits.

Exposure
A term used to describe how breaks within a region will pick up an incoming swell relative to whether they face the incoming swell or not. For example, if you have three breaks facing different directions: break #1 faces south. Break #2 faces southwest. Break #3 faces northwest. Now if we have a incoming S swell: Break #1 would be the best-exposed, #2 would be partially exposed and would most likely be consider average, it would get enough energy to break but not as much as the first beach. Break #3 would be facing away from the swell and would not break.

Extratropical
A term used to indicate that a tropical cyclone has lost its « tropical » characteristic-a warm core center that was the storm’s primary energy source. Once « going extratropical » the remains of the tropical cyclone often merges with a cold « winter type » cyclone. The resulting effect of mixing the remnants of warm tropical air with cold air creates a « combustible » type of weather system, which often supercharges the storm with very intense wind speeds and extremely large waves. Extratropical storms usually happen in the fall when late season tropical cyclones converge with early winter storm systems. The storm in the movie « Perfect Storm » was a classic example of an October extratropical storm.

Eye
A relatively calm area found near the center of storms, primarily hurricanes and typhoons. Also termed as the « eye of the storm ». In hurricanes or typhoons, the eye is either completely or partially surrounded by the eyewall cloud.

Eyewall/Wall Cloud
A deep, thick band of clouds that surround the eye or center of a tropical cyclone.

F

Face
The steepening shoreward front of a wave, where most waveriding occurs.

Face height
The measurement of surf and wave heights by the front of the wave from the top of the crest to the low part of the trough in front of the wave. Surfline uses this form of wave measurement.

Fade
A) When a surfer drops in and angles back into the power of the wave to get deeper and closer to the breaking part of the wave. B) A wave may fade or weaken as it passes from shallow water to deeper water closer to shore.

Fan
The spray generated from a strong, slicing turn, creating a trail of water, which may be temporarily suspended in the air. Similar to the spray or fan created by a water skier’s turn.

Feathering
A wave state just prior to the wave breaking, when the crest begins to show a little whitewater as the wave face steepens. Most often seen in offshore wind conditions.

Fetch
The area across the ocean over which a wind with a consistent direction generates waves and sea state. The fetch length is one of the three key elements in the fundamental wave generation formula-along with wind velocity and wind duration-used to determine wave heights and wave periods in a storm or wave generating area.

Fiberglass
The woven glass cloth that is saturated with resin, which is used in surfboard lamination to produce the hard outer surface of a surfboard.

Fin
A) 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. Today fins are mostly used in groups of three-two ahead, one behind-a configuration known as a Thruster (see Thruster). They’re also used, less frequently, in pairs or singles. B) Rubber swim fins worn on the feet of body boarders and body surfers to help catch waves in deep water.

Fin System
A catchall phrase referring to various inventions allowing fins to be attached and removed easily and quickly, i.e., Fin Control Systems.

Firing
Really good surf. Also called pumping, or going off.

Fish
A surfboard design invented by Steve Lis of San Diego, California, which features a wide nose and broad swallow-type tail design, with a twin-fin setup; in recent years, refers to almost any short, stubby, wide surfboard.

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

Flatstitched
(flatlocked) Seams which have the stitching sewn through the material; generally usually used in warmer-water suits because-though it’s super flexible-it does let water through.

Floater
Floater-A maneuver in which the surfer rides over and/or along the top of a breaking wave, sliding across broken foam or a pitching lip, then drops back down into the main part of the wave. So named due to the floating weightless sensation induced by the move. Advanced surfers may finish the move with a free-fall down with the lip of the wave as it breaks.

Foam
1) The liquid polyethylene material used to mold surfboard blanks, which hardens or cures into a soft but firm foam, and is then shaped by hand. 2) Also the white water of a breaking wave and/or the bubbles left over from a breaking wave.

Foil
1) The rate of change of thickness from nose to tail of a surfboard. 2) The rate of change of thickness of a surfboard fin from its front to its back edge.

Forehand
(see frontside)

Forerunners
1.5 times the swell period to be exact.

Forward Vee
(see reverse vee)

Freeboarding
Generally refers to the act of riding a surfboard behind a boat, similar to water skiing. Tow-in surfing’s humble origins.

Frontside
Facing the wave while surfing. A goofyfoot going left or a regularfoot going right. Also called forehand.

Fujiwara Effect
When two tropical cyclones rotate about each other. This is caused by the lack of steering winds in the upper atmosphere so the cyclones actually end up affecting each other.

Fullsuit
As the name implies, a wetsuit that covers the whole body. (Though some companies make short-arm fullsuits) Ranges in thickness from 2mm to 6mm, but the most common fullsuits are 3/2mm and 4/3mm. (Called « steamer » in Australia.)

Funboard
A compromise surfboard design, combining the superior paddling attributes of a longboard, but stripped of some of the unwieldy length and bulk so the rider may have a taste of shortboard maneuverability.

G

Gale Warning
A warning when sustained surface winds are reported or forecasted to be in the range of 34 to 47 knots over the water.

Gaskets
Three areas on a suit-wrist, ankle and neck-where the rubber is rolled inwards to create a fairly inflexible seal, which inhibits water seepage. The neck in particular is a delicate balance between flexibility and tightness, seepage and breathing. Some companies no longer use gaskets, relying instead on form-fitting rubber.

Gelcoat
(see hotcoat)

Glass job
The protective fiberglass and resin coating applied over the foam of a surfboard.

Glasser
A person who is employed to laminate surfboards using resins and fiberglass (thus the name).

Glassy
A windless surf condition in which the texture of the ocean surface is ultra-smooth, like glass.

Glosscoat
A final coat of thin, hard resin applied to many surfboards in order to bring up a slick shiny surface.

GMT
Greenwich Mean Time. The Greenwich Meridian is located at 0 degrees longitude, over a town named Greenwich in England. GMT is World Time and the basis of every time zone in the world. It is fixed all year and does not switch to daylight savings time. All other time zones have a GMT correction to determine local time. For Standard time, New York is minus 5 hours from GMT, and California is minus 8 hours. So if GMT were 1200, California would be 0400 Pacific Standard Time. GMT is also sometimes called Zulu Time, especially on weather charts which may display 12Z for 1200 GMT (Noon), or 00Z for 0000 GMT (Midnight).

Gnarly
Heavy, intense waves or situations. Often overused.

Going off
When the surf is very good and firing or pumping. Also refers to a surfer who is surfing particularly well, i.e., « Kelly Slater’s going off. »

Goofyfoot
A surfer who surfs right foot forward and faces the wave on lefts, and doesn’t face the wave on rights.

Great Circle
The shortest distance between two points on a curved or spherical surface like the Earth, which is actually a curved line when projected on a flat surface like on a Mercator chart. These lines are called Great Circles. Swells travel in Great Circles around the Earth. As an example, if you take a string and extend it between two points on a globe, you can see a good representation of a Great Circle.

Grom or Grommet
A young surfer generally less than 16 years of age.

H

Hotdogging
Older term generally defined as surfing for flash rather than function, occurring in small conditions, with little regard for making the wave. Presently called getting rad, ripping or blowin’ up, etc. For the most part, a state of mind is characterized by youth, as older surfers tend to grow increasingly conservative and set in their ways.

G

Groundswell
A swell with a swell period over 11 seconds between successive waves. As a rule, the harder the wind blows in a storm, and the longer it blows over a longer distance of ocean, the bigger the swell will be and the longer the swell period will be between successive waves. The longer the swell period, the deeper the swell energy extends below the ocean surface, which interacts more with the ocean floor, or the « ground » so to speak. This is contrary to a windswell, which has a shorter swell period, and is always generated by local winds with brief duration and over a limited distance of ocean. Groundswells with longer swell periods can wrap (refract) greatly into many spots due to deeper interaction with the ocean floor compared to shorter period wind swells.

Group Velocity
The forward speed of a swell, or wave group. In deep water, it is equal to 1.5 times the swell period between successive waves in the wave group. The waves within the wave group move twice as fast as the overall wave group at 3 times the swell period. If a swell or wave group has a swell period of 20 seconds, the individual waves will be moving at 60 knots, while the group as a whole will be moving forward at 30 knots. As each wave moves forward within the wave group and reaches the front of the group, it will fall back to the rear and repeat the cycle.

Gun
A special surfboard designed to ride big waves. Generally longer than normal surfboards so the surfer can paddle faster to catch the bigger, faster moving waves, with a pulled-in tail to handle the high speeds.

Gusset
The panel that runs down the arm, invented to make paddling easier.

H

Hang Ten
A longboarding maneuver where the surfer hangs ten toes of both feet over the tip or front of the surfboard. (Hanging five is also possible.)

Hard core
Extremely dedicated surfing or committed to the surfing lifestyle.

Height vs. Period
A selection tab on Surfline’s LOLA swell model, which offers a look at the amount of energy or wave height within each swell period band. Very effective to see how much longer period energy is in a swell, and also good to spot early long swell period forerunner energy which precedes a swell.

Hindcast
The process of using past wind and wave information to re-forecast the wave characteristics for a past scenario. This is opposed to using the actual real time information to forecast wave heights and arrival time for a current or future forecast. Hindcasting is a great way to « reverse engineer » forecasting procedures when the end outcome of a swell is already known. This was the process Sean Collins of Surfline used to learn how to forecast in the 70’s before more pertinent real time information became available in the 80’s and 90’s.

Hit the lip
An advanced move in which a surfer turns the surfboard up to strike the falling lip of the wave, and allows the board to be swung back down with the impact. Generally seen as an aggressive, powerful move requiring excellent timing.

Hollow
A wave state in which a tube or barrel forms underneath the lip or crest of the wave. When you get tubed on a hollow wave, you ride in the barrel.

Hollowboard
A type of surfboard invented by Tom Blake of the USA in 1932, which used redwood sheets to create a long, narrow board much lighter in weight relative to the solid redwood boards of the time.

Hood
Generally made of super soft neoprene, as it needs to fit snugly; can cover up to just under the nose in ultra coldwater suits. Hoods can come attached to the suit (some companies feature snap on/off detachable hoods), attached to some kind of nylon or polypropelene rashguard, or on their own.

Hot Curl
A surfboard type designed in the 1950s by Californian Dale Velzy.

Hotcoat
A coat of resin applied during the laminating process, just after the initial coat of resin and glass. So named because the resin and catalyst are mixed to force a fast gelling. The resin, also known as sanding resin, is also blended with wax substances to complete the hardening on the hotcoat’s surface, thus permitting sandpaper work. The hotcoat seals the glass-resin layer, fills any bumps or holes, and is later sanded back to the original surfboard shape.

Hull
A bottom shape reminiscent of a boat, in which the bottom swells out to the stringer from the rails. Common in longboards designed before 1967, and in some longboards today.

Hurricane (Typhoon,Cyclone)
A tropical storm in which the maximum sustained surface winds are 64 knots (74 mph) or more. These tropical cyclones are called « hurricanes » when located in the Northern Hemisphere and east of the International Dateline of 180 degrees Longitude to the Greenwich Meridian of 0 degrees Longitude. Everywhere else they are generally called typhoons or cyclones.

Hurricane Season
When the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) moves to a point of 5 degrees or more North or South of the Equator, and other conditions favor the development of tropical disturbances. The hurricane season in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico runs from June 1 to November 30. The hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific runs from May 15 to November 30. The hurricane season in the Central Pacific runs from June 1 to November 30.

Hurricane Warning
A warning issued by the National Hurricane Center that sustained winds 64 knots (74 mph) or higher in a hurricane are expected within a specific area in 24 hours or less.

Hurricane Watch
An announcement issued by the National Hurricane Center for specific areas that hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours.

I

Impact Zone
Spot in the lineup right where the waves are generally breaking. Surfers want to avoid being caught in this area when sitting or paddling out.

Inconsistent
A surf condition in which waves don’t arrive frequently or predictably, and there are long, uncertain waits between sets.

Inside
The takeoff position on a wave closest to the curl than any other surfer. Also « caught inside »: being located inshore of the breaking waves or inside the impact zone or break line.

Interval
See swell period.

Isobars
Lines of equal atmospheric pressure on a weather chart. The closer the lines are together, the faster the wind blows within the isobars.

J

Jacking
A wave condition in which a swell rises very quickly as it passes from deeper water to shallow water. A radical shoaling process caused by an extreme variation in water depth as the swell hits the shallow reef or ocean floor. Often creates very hollow and intense waves that appear to grow suddenly in height; thus « jacking up ».

Jersey
The molded inner material that holds the neoprene together, made from any combo of polypropylene, nylon, titanium, etc.

K

Kevlar
A type of glass-plastic cloth which is ultra-strong; occasionally used by surfboard manufacturers for certain equipment, but generally shunned because of its high cost.

Kick
A term referring to amount of rocker in the tail.

Kick out
A ride-ending maneuver in which the surfer turns out through-or over-the back of the wave.

Kneepads
Often made of slightly harder rubber than the rest of the suit to protect neoprene from constant duck diving pressure. Many suits feature molded kneepads, which are pre-formed rubber that ostensibly helps with flexibility.

Knot
The marine term for a nautical mile, which equals approximately 1.2 miles per hour on land. Wind speed and other velocities are always termed as knots when used in marine and aerial environments.

Kook
A person who has an exaggerated idea of his/her surfing capacity, and who as a result interferes with other surfers’ enjoyment of the waves. Often-but not necessarily only-applied to beginner surfers.

L

La Nina
A cooling of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America. The opposite of El Nino.

Laminate
The first coat of resin applied to a shaped surfboard blank. Laminating resin is used to soak the fiberglass cloth and seal it to the blank; the resin hardens securely, but leaves a sticky residue on its surface, requiring the application of the hotcoat.

Leash Plug
A small plug with a crosswise metal or plastic bar used to attach a leash to a surfboard, usually inserted in the deck near the tail of the board.

Latitude
The distance north or south of the Equator, as measured in degrees along a line or meridian. Each degree of latitude equals 60 nautical miles at that specific location. The combination of latitude and longitude measurements is used to accurately specify an exact location on the surface of the earth. See longitude.

Layback
A maneuver where the surfer leans back off his/her board, usually either in the barrel, or during a cutback.

Leash
The urethane cord used to attach the surfer to a surfboard or bodyboard. Also called leg rope.

Left
A wave breaking towards the left from the vantage of a surfer riding the wave. From a beach viewpoint, a wave breaking toward the right as the onlooker is facing the ocean.

Length
A term describing the surfboard’s dimension from nose to tail along the stringer.

Line-up
The area where surfers sit waiting for waves. Generally just outside of the break line or impact zone. The line-up may vary depending on the size of the waves and will move with the tides and currents. Surfers in the line-up can also use a marker on the beach, or points of land, to create bearings so they can maintain their position in the line-up.

Lined up
Waves or swells with long crests, either in deep water or as they break. If they waves are too lined up they will close out. Perfect waves at point breaks are very lined up but still break from one direction toward the other so surfers can still surf through the entire wave. Sometimes called « mostly walled » in surf reports.

Lined up peaks
When a combination of swells merge to create long peaks with long lined up rights and lefts. Different from « peaky lines » which are usually dominant in one direction or the other. Peaks offer much shorter rides.

Lines
The swells approaching the shore before they break. Also refers to the track a surfer takes on a wave.

Lip
The part of a wave that pitches out from the top as the wave begins to break. This is where most of the moving power of a wave is located. This is also the part of the wave to avoid if you’re paddling out.

Locals
Long time regulars at a particular surf spot or area. Locals may or may not live at or near the spot, but their regular surfing means they are accepted as particularly knowledgeable or experienced by the local surfing community. Locals can be very protective of their surf spot and outsiders need to be very aware to the fact that they are visitors.

Locked in
A ’60’s term for when a surfer is tubed on a wave, or rides in the barrel. A surfer does this by pulling into the hollow part of the wave under the lip.

Long period swells
A term used by Surfline surf forecasters to identify swells with swell periods over 16 seconds between successive waves. These swells are able to wrap into many protected areas because the swell energy extends much deeper below the ocean surface and interacts much more with the ocean floor. They are also able to grow much more during the transition from deep water to shallow water, contrary to short period swells under 15 seconds, which wrap and grow very little during the transition from deep to shallow water. See also groundswell.

Long wave
Waves with periods greater than 30 seconds. Extremely rare, and the ultimate forerunner.

Longboard
A surfboard distinctly longer and broader at the nose and tail than a conventional « short » board; usually over nine feet in length and 22″ or more in width, often with a rounded nose, based on surfboard designs pre-1968. Longboards were replaced by shorter boards in the late 60’s but became more popular again in the late 80’s and 90’s. Longboards are great for learning because they are more stable, float better, and catch waves more easily.

Longitude
The distance east or west of the prime meridian, which is located at 0 degrees longitude at Greenwich, England, as measured in degrees along a line or meridian. Each longitude meridian runs in a north-south direction and connects at both the north and south poles. The combination of latitude and longitude measurements is used to accurately specify an exact location on the surface of the earth. Also see latitude.

Lull
A period of time when there is a break in the consistency of the waves.

M

Macking
When waves are really big and firing with massive size. The waves don’t have to be good, just big. Also, when the swell is peaking. (After Mack trucks.)

MEKP
Methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, a noxious toxic chemical used in small quantities as a catalyst or « hardener » for polyester resin.

Mercator
A type of chart that shows a flat surface to the Earth, which is actually a curved surface. A straight line on the curved surface of the Earth actually shows up as a curved Great Circle line on a Mercator chart.

Meter
The metric equivalent of 3.28 feet.

Meters per second
A scientific measurement for speed, which equals about one half of a knot. Example: 10 meters per second would equal about 5 knots.

Midpoint
The point on a surfboard exactly halfway between the nose and tail; not necessarily the wide point (see wide point).

Millibars (mb)
Units of atmospheric pressure equal to one thousandth of a bar. Standard atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 1,013 millibars. Strong high-pressure systems can be around 1040 millibars while deep low-pressure systems can drop to around 930 millibars.

Millimeters (mm)
Refers to thickness of neoprene. Wetsuits are rarely all one thickness, usually using a thicker rubber in the torso for warmth and a thinner rubber in the arms and legs for flexibility. While thickness can range from 0.5mm to 5mm, typical suits are 3/2mm for cool to cold water and 4/3 for cold water.

Mini-back zip
Small zipper, often flanked by a layer of rubber behind it to prevent seepage, which was developed as a compromise between ease of entry of zippered suits and flexibility and warmth of zipperless suits.

Minigun
A design credited to Dick Brewer of Hawaii around 1968, which among other things featured the first hints of the modern outline in a pulled-in tail and pin-nose.

Molding/Molded Boards
generic term for a type of surfboard manufacturing in which a hard plastic molded shell is injected with expanding foam; currently practiced by Europe-based BiC Surfboards.

Monochromatic waves
Waves generated in a laboratory wave pool for scientific study where each wave has the same length and period.

Mushy
A surf condition in which waves are crumbly and soft without any steepness or much energy. Gutless and weak.

N

Nautical Mile
Same as knot. The marine term for a mile, which equals approximately 1.2 statute miles on land. Wind speed and other velocities are always termed as knots when used in marine and aerial environments.

Neoprene
« Discovered » by Jack O’Neill in the ’40s in the aisle carpeting of a DC-3. Wetsuit neoprene is ultra stretchy rubber made from melted-down petroleum chips which are blown into a mold-not unlike a waffle iron-that ends up 3 or 4 inches thick, which is then cut down to size and formed by a fitted jersey (see jersey). It is closed cell, meaning it’s made up of hundreds of tiny cells that don’t allow water to flow from cell to cell, which is why it works so damn well-one damaged cell doesn’t affect the whole suit.

Nose
The first 12 inches of a surfboard.

Noseguard
Trade name, becoming generic, for a silicon tip designed to be glued to the nose of a surfboard, theoretically blunting the destructive effect of its collision with the human body or another board.

NPAC
Abbreviated for North Pacific.

Nylon
Smooth material, usually used as a liner/jersey, and to keep the neoprene from expanding and falling apart.

O

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.

Off-the-lip
An advanced move when a surfer turns the surfboard up to meet the lip of the wave as it is coming down. Similar to « hitting the lip ».

Olo
A type of surfboard, sixteen to eighteen feet in length and made of Koa or wiliwili wood, used by Hawaiian royalty to surf prior to their overthrow in the late 19th century; the basis for the design of Tom Blake’s hollowboard (see hollowboard).

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.

Out-the-Back
see Outside.

Outline
The defining shape of a surfboard from nose to tail as seen from the deck or bottom. Outline is the first step in a designer’s work, and can be gauged accurately by measuring width from rail to rail at various points along the board. Also known as the template, or template curve.

Outside
The area outside of the lineup or break line where surfers in the lineup initially observe sets of waves as they approach. Often a term used to warn other surfers in the lineup that a new set of waves is approaching. « Outside! » Same as « out-the-back » (often used by Australian surfers.)

Over the falls
The worst kind of wipeout. A surfer is sucked back over the top of the wave as it breaks, and free-falls down with the lip-the most powerful part of the wave. This type of wipeout can cause bad injuries because the surfer will likely hit the reef or ocean floor.

Overall Height and Period
The significant wave height and dominant wave period that is traditionally reported from the offshore buoys. Significant wave height is the average height of the highest one-third of the waves. When both swell and wind wave energies are present, it will equal the square root of the sum of the squares of the swell energy and wind wave energy. Dominant wave period is the period with maximum energy, which may be swell or wind wave energy. Example: A buoy reporting 15 feet at 10 seconds could be monitoring a multitude of different swells to equal 15 feet, but the dominant swell at that location has a swell period of 10 seconds. That does not mean there is a 15-foot swell with a swell period of 10 seconds, although it could. Best bet would be to use Surfline’s LOLA buoy information to decipher exactly the size and energy of each swell.

Overhead
Wave heights that are great than the height of the surfer on the wave. Often used as a measurement scale of waves such as 2 feet overhead, three feet overhead, double overhead, triple overhead. Etc.

P

Paipo
A wooden handboard or bodyboard historically used by Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders.

Panels
Neoprene is cut into sheets that are formed to various parts of the body and then joined together at the seams. Panel development is ongoing and fierce, as rubber gets more and more flexible; fewer panels (and fewer seams, always a good thing) are needed.

Peak
A) A wave with a distinctly higher central point of the wave, tapering down smaller toward the shoulders or sides of the wave. A peak will offer rides to go both left and right with most rides starting from the center of the peak. Similar to an A-Frame. B) When a swell is at its maximum size.

Peak periods
The swell period with the most energy during a wave or swell event. Typically a swell will initially arrive with lower energy in the longer swell periods, peak with maximum energy in the swell period a few seconds less than the initial swell period, and then the energy will slowly drop in the lower swell periods.

Peaky Lines
A combination of Lined Up and Peaky-the wave is a long line connecting across the beach with defined peaks at spread along it. You can take off at any of the peaks and usually get some sort of ride before the smaller sections between the peaks start to close out. Generally, there is one dominant direction with longer rides in one direction, and shorter rides in the other direction.

Pearl
A wipeout where the nose or front of the surfboard goes under the water, usually when dropping into a steep part of a wave. (After « pearl diving ».)

Peeling
A wave condition in which the wave breaks perfectly from takeoff all the way down the line, the lip creating a curve or arc of similar angle from start to finish.

Period
See interval or swell period.

Phazer
A type of surfboard design with golfball-like dimples on the bottom. The dimples are intended to create air pockets underneath the board, which would lessen water drag to make the surfboard faster.

Pidgin
Pidgin is the street language of the Hawaiian Islands and other islands in the Pacific, where a variety of European, Asian and native cultures mix. In linguistic terms, pidgin is a simplified version of some language, often augmented by features from other languages. A pidgin typically arises in colonial situations and is used solely as a trade language. Unlike Creoles, pidgins do not have native speakers.

Pigdog
Crouching low and grabbing the rail of a surfboard when going backside to hold in the barrel or tube.

Pintail
A tail shape in which the two sides of the board come together in smooth curves to form a point. The pintail is a sensitive controlling shape, ideal for powerful hollow surf.

Pit
The power pocket of a hollow, intense wave, usually a barrel or tube. This is where you want to be if you’re an advanced surfer, but probably not where you want to be if you’re a beginner, or if you’re paddling out.

Pitching out
A wave condition in which the lip throws forward creating a very hollow wave face, barrel, or tube. This happens when the wave is shoaling over a fast transition from deep to shallow water such as an abrupt reef. See jacking.

Planer
An electric tool designed for carpentry and co-opted by surfboard shapers to trim foam from the blank during shaping. Usually the Skil 100 brand. Loosing importance over the years, due to the development of computer shaping machinery; still widely used by « backyard » low-volume manufacturers.

Plug
In shaping, a highly crafted shaped blank produced by a top designer as a template for a computer shaping machine. Also a similarly crafted shape supplied by a designer to a blank manufacturer as a basis for blank molding.

Plunging Waves
Mostly a scientific term to identify steep, hollow waves that break quickly with lots of power.
Variety of surf break when waves wrap around a point of land creating perfectly lined up, peeling waves. The waves actually interact with the bottom contours just offshore of the point to refract and wrap around the point.

Polar stereographic
A type of weather chart which shows the curved surface of the Earth, contrary to a Mercator chart which shows a flat surface of the Earth.

Polyester
A type of plastic resin; the most common type used in surfboard manufacturing.

Polypropylene
Wicking material (i.e., it doesn’t absorb water) replaced many nylon linings in wetsuits in the late ’80s and is often used for insulating rash guards today.

Polystyrene
A type of plastic foam used to make surfboard blanks, usually employed together with epoxy resins.

Polyurethane
A type of plastic foam; the most common type used in surfboard manufacturing, usually employed together with polyester resin.

Pop-up
The process of a surfer getting to ones feet on a surfboard, just after catching the wave.

Primary swell
The dominant swell in the water at a specific location like a buoy. The second dominant swell would be called the secondary swell, and the third dominant swell would be called the tertiary swell.

Prog
Abbreviation for prognosis chart, which is a weather chart for a forecasted time in the future. Surf forecasters make final decisions on « analysis » charts, which are real time charts, and other factual information after the storm actually happens. But the progs are great for looking out further to get a heads up on what may happen in the future.

Propagation
The term defining the movement of swells through the ocean. Waves and swells will « propagate » from the storm source to other areas.

Pull in
The process of turning the surfboard up to enter the barrel or the tube.

Pull out
See kick out.

Pumping
Excellent surf; a surf condition of very consistent waves with a very strong swell. Also, the act of making deep quick turns on a surfboard to gain speed down the line.

Punchy
A surf condition in which the waves are powerful, but not extraordinarily so. Often used to described short interval beachbreak.

Q

Quiver
Possession of a number of surfboards combining various lengths, templates, rockers, and bottom contours suited to varying types of surf.

R

Racy
Another term for a fast wave. A racy wave is makeable but really fast down the line so you need to have a lot of speed.

Radical
Used to describe dramatic and difficult maneuvers, situations, or conditions.

Radius of Maximum Winds
The distance from the center of a tropical cyclone to the area where the maximum winds are located. In strong hurricanes, the maximum winds are generally found at the eyewall immediately bordering the center of the hurricane.

Rail
The edge of a surfboard where the deck wraps around to meet the bottom; usually used to describe the lower half of the edge. and

Rail grab
Holding or grasping the rail of a surfboard to maintain control. Most commonly used in backside tuberiding (see « pigdog ») but also used in aerial surfing.

Rake
The distance between the back edge of the fin base and the tip of the fin, measured lengthwise down the surfboard.

Real-time
The descriptive term for information gathered and distributed at close to the current time.

Reef break
Surf that breaks over a solid base, usually rock or coral, instead of sand. Some reef breaks can be a combination of rock and sand. Generally more dependable than a beach or pointbreak.

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.

Reflection
A surf condition in which a wave or swell bounces off a hard object like a seawall, jetty, or rock, and merges back into the original wave or swell. Reflected waves often create bowly, peaky waves, which are good shape for surfing. Reflected waves also include « backwash » when a wave is returned seaward after a wave impinges on a steep beach, barrier, or other reflecting surface.

Refraction
A) The bending or turning of the wave crests toward shallow water. When a wave drags its bottom over an uneven ocean floor, the portion of the wave dragging over shallower water slows down while the portion wave passing over deeper water maintains its speed. The part of the wave over deeper water begins to wrap or bend in toward the shallower water-much the same as how waves wrap and bend around a point like Rincon or Malibu. Deep-water canyons can also greatly increase the size of waves as the portion of the swell moving faster over deep water bends in and converges with the portion of the swell over shallower water. B) Also the bending or turning of wave crests by currents.

Regular foot
A surfer who surfs left foot forward and faces the wave on rights, and doesn’t face the wave on lefts. Also called natural foot in Australia.

Release
The effect that allows water flow to be accelerated as it passes along a surfboard’s surfaces. Causes of release are usually available in the second (tail) half of the board, through tail rocker, outline curves and trailing fin edges, and through bottom features which open up opportunities for water to move, such as concaves and channels. Controlled release (along with its opposite, drag) is essential to successful surfboard design.

Resin
A liquid plastic that is catalyzed (set hard) when mixed with MEKP; used in surfboard manufacturing to seal the shaped blank and repair dings.

Reverse Vee
A bottom shape dating back to 1991, credited to Maurice Cole of Australia, in which vee is placed in the front half of the board, flattening out through the tail, accompanied by considerable tail rocker. This design idea completely reversed the traditional image of the surfboard, thus the name « reverse vee ». Reverse vee, also known as « revee » or forward vee, is in common use, particularly in large-wave boards.

Rhino Chaser
Big wave board (see gun)

Right
A wave breaking towards the right from the vantage of a surfer riding the wave. From a beach viewpoint, a wave breaking toward the left as the onlooker is facing the ocean.

Rip
Also called current or riptide: Water traveling along the shore or seaward in a coherent distinguishable mass. Rips are created by water piling up near shore after a series of waves, and then escaping back out to sea in the attempt to equalize the water level. Rips, like rivers, usually focus in areas of the least resistance, like areas with slightly deeper water or lesser wave activity than the adjacent area. These currents may proceed along the shore before finding a slightly deeper area to escape back out to sea. These currents may also dig a channel between sandbars, which actually improve the shape of the surf and provide an easy access back out to the lineup. Swimmers should never try to swim directly against a current, but swim sideways out of the current before attempting to swim back to the beach.

Rocker
The curve of the surfboard bottom from nose to tail viewed from the side. Probably the single most important factor in surfboard design, because it controls the general flow of water from its entry (where water first contacts the bottom) to its release (where water leaves the board). Generally, a surfboard with more tail rocker will turn easier but might be a little slower, while a surfboard with less tail rocker will turn harder but might be a little faster. The difficulty of hand shaping an evenly balanced rocker is legendary among shapers, but has largely been relieved by improved blank technology and the use of computer shaping machines. and

Roundhouse cutback
A complete 180-degree directional change in which the surfer turns from the shoulder all the way back into the curl or whitewater of the breaking wave, before completing the ride. A very advanced maneuver, which is difficult to complete if enough speed isn’t carried throughout the entire 180-degree turn. A roundhouse cutback is usually complemented by a foam bounce recovery off the approaching whitewater.

Round tail
A tail shape in which the two sides of the board come together in smooth curves to form a semicircle. The round tail is a neutral tail shape, not resisting or adding to any turn.

Rubber arms
The feeling of very weak arms after a lot of paddling. Beginners will often feel « rubber arms » until they build up paddling muscles in their shoulder and arms. Advanced surfers may feel rubber arms after multiple hours of intense paddling. Also called « noodled ».

Runoff
Often referred to as urban runoff, storm water runoff and non-point source pollution, this type of pollution is rain and river water that collects land-based contaminants and flushes them down to the beach.

S

Sand through
An error in manufacturing, in which the sander cuts through all the resin/glass layers and exposes the foam core.

Sanding Resin
(see hotcoat)

Sandpaper
Coarse paper mounted with a variety of grit types, used in most stages of surfboard making. For instance, a type of sandpaper known as sanding gauze is often used by the shaper to do a final smoothing and tuning of the shaped blank. Thick-grit paper is used with a disc-sanding machine to cut away excess resin following the hotcoat, and thinner paper grades are used to restore the original shape of the board. Finally, very fine grades of paper are used to cut back the final glosscoat ready for polishing.

Santa Ana Wind
The hot, dry, and gusty offshore winds in Southern California that are actually born near the Rocky Mountains. Typically seen between September and February, the offshore breezes begin when a ridge of circling high pressure builds over the Great Basin, forcing air down slope from that plateau. That air is then pushed westward out through the deserts where it warms at a rate of 5 degrees per 1,000 feet before kissing incoming swells (and fanning autumn fires) on the coast at anywhere from 25 to 50 knots. Homeowner’s fright, surfer’s delight.

Scattered peaks
A surf condition in which waves break apart into different peaks/lines with a clear separation between the ridable shoulders. This is usually caused by two swells from different directions and or periods overlapping the same break. Also called « Broken up ».

S-Core
Trade name for the hollow surfboard blank designed by sports equipment company Salomon and made from styrene foams and carbon fiber; still in r-and-d in early 2003, and not yet commercially available.

Sea state
A term used to describe the combination of various waves in the ocean in a specific area. The combination of these waves may include ripples, chop, wind waves, and swell, and all from a multitude of different directions. In surf forecasting terms, a « pre-existing sea state » left in an area by a previous storm, can greatly enhance the swell in a following storm passing over the same area within a 48-hour period if the sea state is going in the same direction as the fetch of the new storm.

Seams
Seams-The connecting area between panels on a suit; one of the most important zones and the focus for much of new developments in wetsuit technology. (See: flatstitched, blindstitched, double blindstitched, taped, stress point taping.)

Secondary swell
The second dominant swell at a specific location like a buoy.

Section
A self-contained part of a breaking wave that breaks prematurely ahead of the original curl of the wave. The curl of a perfect wave will peel off without any sections. Obviously, most waves aren’t perfect, but sections can create great opportunities for maneuvers like floaters or re-entries.

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

Shallows
Generally, water depth less than one-half the wavelength (distance between wave crests) of the waves is considered shallow water.

Shape
The term used to rate the quality of waves as they break down the line. Perfect shape is if the waves peel off down the line without any sections. Average shape might be if the waves peel off but has various sections the surfer must navigate around. Poor shape is if the waves are closed out or if a surfer can’t make it through the sections down the line. Also the outline and specifications of a surfboard, and/or the action of shaping a surfboard.

Shaper
The surfboard worker who planes and sands a blank to the desired shape prior to glassing. Not necessarily a designer (see designer)

Shoaling
When waves approach shallower water near shore, their lower reaches begin to drag across the ocean floor, and the friction slows them down. The wave energy below the surface of the ocean is pushed upward, causing the waves to increase in wave height. The longer the swell period, the more energy that is under the water. This means that long-period waves will grow much more than short-period waves. A 3-foot wave with a 10-second swell period may only grow to be a 4-foot breaking wave, while a 3-foot wave with a 20-second swell period can grow to be a 15-foot breaking wave (more than five times its deep-water height depending on the ocean floor bathymetry). As the waves pass into shallower water, they become steeper and unstable as more and more energy is pushed upward, finally to a point where the waves break in water depth at about 1.3 times the wave height.

Shooting the curl
A term from the 60’s used when a surfer trims right along the breaking part of the wave, almost in the tube. Now fairly outdated.

Shorepound,shorebreak
Waves that break right on the beach. Usually not surfable, and more powerful and steeper than a normal beachbreak, because the waves shoal and break quickly due to the fast transition from deep to shallow water.

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

Short-period swells
A term used by Surfline surf forecasters to identify swells with swell periods under 15 seconds between successive waves. These swells are not able to wrap into many protected areas because the swell energy does not extend deep enough for the swell to interact with the ocean floor. Short period swells wrap and grow very during the transition from deep to shallow water.

Shoulder
The unbroken portion of a breaking wave. A surfer will ride from the breaking part of the wave toward the shoulder or unbroken part of the wave. « Ridable shoulders » usually means that the waves are makeable after you take off on the peak. Sometimes called corners.

Shredding
Advanced, high-energy surfing with powerful snapping maneuvers.

Sideshore
Winds that approach the waves from the side, parallel to the coastline, rather than directly from the land or ocean. Side offshore is when the winds approach from the side and slightly from the land blowing into the wave faces, which create cleaner conditions. Side onshore is when the waves approach from the side and slightly from the ocean, which create bumpier, sloppy conditions.

Significant Wave Height
The average height of the highest 1/3 of all the waves at a given location like a buoy. Practically all wave model charts show significant wave heights. The intent is to provide an accurate simulation of an experienced observer who reports on the wave climate, which would approximately fit the definition of the significant wave height.

Significant Wave Period
The dominant swell period of the highest 1/3 of all the waves at a specific location.

Single fin
One-fin surfboard design dating back to the first use of the fin on a surfboard (by Tom Blake of the USA in the 1930s); combines a high degree of control with little drive. Some longboards or big wave surfboards are single fins today.

Sinus Drain
Post-surf nose drip. When we wipeout, water is bound to find its way into the nasal cavity-that opening behind our noses that processes air as it is inhaled. The nasal cavity boasts a roomy space of several cubic inches. When water settles within the cavity below nostril level during a session, it puddles so long as we’re sitting upright. If, later in the day, we bend down or somehow force the water upwards, the floodgates are opened.

Skeg
An older name for a fin on a surfboard. (see fin)

Sloppy
Disorganized bumpy or choppy waves from the wind, currents, or tides.

Slotted
Positioned perfectly in the tube or under the curl of a wave. Can also be the same as getting barreled or tubed.

Snake-
Snake-A person who regularly sneaks around behind other surfers in order to take more waves; the act of doing so. This is done in breach of etiquette according the Surfline Bill of Rights and Lefts.

Snapback
A quick, short cutback into the power of the wave. Often used in a steep part of the wave when the quick maneuver will keep the surfer in the « power pocket » of the wave. Also used when the wave is too fast to offer a chance to do a full cutback because the wave would pass the surfer by.

Sneaker set / Sleeper set
A rogue set of waves that usually catches all the surfers in the lineup « sleeping » or not paying attention.

Soft board
Soft board-Surfboard for beginners with a soft-top or deck constructed of a firm foam-like material. Some older soft boards also have soft but slick bottoms. Much safer for beginners to use when learning as they are less likely to get hurt if the surfboard hits them.

Soul Arch
A classic maneuver when a surfer arches his back through a critical section of the wave to demonstrate casual control. Most people equate the soul arch with one man: Peter Townend.

Soup
An older term used for the white water from a broken wave. Also called whitewater.

SPAC
Abbreviated term for South Pacific.

Spat out
When a surfer completes a deep barrel or tube ride in a hollow wave, and exits the tube at the same time air compressed within the tube, is also forced out of the tube as spray with the surfer.

Spilling Waves
Generally a scientific term used to describe a soft wave when the crest breaks gradually as the wave travels to the shore.

Spin out
Spin out-A wipeout caused by the fins of the surfboard releasing their leverage in the water so the surfboard will slide out from underneath the surfer. Usually caused by a surfer turning too hard in a steep part of the wave, or if the surfer turned too hard when going over a bump in the water.

Spit
The spray that exits a hollow tube or barrel, which is caused by compression of the air inside the tube, so the air is forced out through the front of the tube.

Springsuit
Short armed, short legged wetsuit, often 2mm. Used in cool water. (Some companies make long-armed springsuits.)

Squaretail
A surfboard tail shape in which the rails end suddenly, forming a box shape; the squaretail floats well and is usually part of a small-wave surfboard design.

Squashtail
A modified squaretail in which the square tips are softened; the squashtail combines squaretail flotation with some of the pintail’s sensitivity.

Stall
A maneuver designed to slow down a surfboard so the surfer can let the power portion of the wave catch up.

Standout Break/Standout Spot
A surf forecasting term for a standout break is the best surf spot for the incoming swell direction and swell period. A standout spot is usually at one of the best-exposed beaches for the swell and has a combination of good focusing properties that allows the swell to capitalize on as much available swell energy as possible.

Steep
A) A very vertical wave face where the crest or lip of the wave throws forward to create a tube or barrel. B) Also used to describe a swell which is approaching a forecast location at a very sharp angle compared to the direction the coastline faces. The incoming swell energy may be just on the edge of the swell window, which usually means only the very best exposed breaks to the incoming swell, will be able to pick it up. C) A term used by the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) to describe the dominant sea state at a buoy. For a given wave height, steep waves represent a more serious threat to capsizing vessels or damaging marine structures than broad swell.

Stick
Slang for a surfboard.

Stinger
A surfboard design featuring a dramatic cutaway section just tailward of the wide point and terminating in a singlefin swallowtail; credited to Ben Aipa of Hawaii and ridden with tremendous creative success by Dane Kealoha, Button Kaluhiokalani and Mark Liddell in 1975/76; also ridden by Mark Richards in that period.

Stoked
Extremely happy or elated. An original surfing term.

Storm Surge
The abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, caused primarily by wind stress on the water. Storm surges are greatly enhanced when the storm winds blow the water into partially land-locked areas like bays where the excess water can’t escape. The measurement of the storm surge height is the difference between the actual observed sea level associated with the storm and the normal sea level that would have occurred without the storm. Increased storm surge may also occur from the reduction of atmospheric pressure associated with the lower pressure in a storm or cyclone.

Storm Warning
A warning issued by the National Weather Service when current or forecasted ocean surface wind speeds are sustained at 48 knots (55 mph) or greater in a specific area. Generally not associated with tropical systems.

Stormy
Trashed surfing conditions with strong winds, large chop in the water, and generally accompanied by with rain, hail, snow, and/or lightning. Overall a great time to find something else to do.

Straightening off
Describes a move in which a surfer turns toward the beach when the wave has closed out or is too fast to make down the line. Used if/when there isn’t an opportunity to pull out over the top of the wave. In larger waves the surfer may opt to lay down on the board to hang on.

Stress point taping
Gluing tape is cut into small pieces and placed on seams in various pressure points throughout the suit, such as at the elbows, knees, and under the arms. The goal is to provide durability where necessary while keeping as much flexibility as possible.

Stringer
The wood or glue lamination point, usually in the center of a surfboard. Wood stringers add weight but give the board much more strength. Most stringers are single laminations down the center of the surfboard. Some classic or older surfboards have three stringers for additional strength and weight. Also used by shapers as a central point for shaping measurements.

Subtropical Cyclone
A low-pressure system generally located between 15 and 35 degrees Latitude that has characteristics of both tropical and extratropical cyclones. These generally short-lived systems may be either cold core or warm core.

Subtropical Depression
A subtropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speeds are less than 33 knots (38 mph).

Subtropical Storm
A subtropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speeds are greater than 34 knots (39 mph).

Superstretch
(ultrastretch, highstretch etc) Trade name referring to a particular brand’s most flexible rubber. Often only used in high-motion areas (i.e., the shoulders) as it’s generally considered less warm and durable than other kinds of neoprene. (This changes dramatically from year to year; what was last year’s superultrahigh stretch is this year’s boring old neoprene.)

Surf beat
The rhythm of periodic rise and fall in coastal water levels caused by sets of waves as they arrive and create a surge and pileup of water along the surf zone. During and immediately after the sets of waves, the water level along the shore rises from all of the wave energy pushing water to the shore. Once the sets of waves cease or lull, the water will escape back out to deep water-sometimes in the form of rip currents or rip tides �� before another set of waves arrive to complete the cycle called the surf beat.

Surf height
The measurement of breaking waves along the coast. Surfline measures wave heights by the face of the wave for consistency in communication. When communicating we also compare wave heights to a surfer’s body height. Figuring a surfer averages 5 feet tall when semi crouching and surfing a wave: 1 foot = ankle high; 2 feet = knee high; 3 feet = waist high; 4 feet = chest high; 5 feet = head high; 1 foot overhead = 6 feet; 2 feet overhead = 7 feet, etc.; 10 feet = double overhead; 15 feet = triple overhead, etc. NOTE: Hawaiians and a few other areas throughout the world measure waves by the back of the wave and they estimate the waves backs to be one half of the wave face height. The Hawaiian’s intent is probably to stay consistent with the deep-water swell height of the waves before they began to shoal, as compared to the wave heights on Buoy 51001 located NW of Kauai. However, this procedure is inherently flawed because numerous variables like swell period, refraction, and shoaling can greatly alter the transition of deep-water swell to breaking waves by 1.5 times to 5 times the original deep-water swell height

Surf Leash
The urethane cord used to attach a surfer to a surfboard or bodyboard. Also called a leg rope.

Surf zone
The area along the coast where there are breaking waves and lines of whitewater moving shoreward toward shallower water and the shore. May also include an offshore deepwater reef where there are breaking waves and whitewater.

Surfari
An older surfing term for a surf trip, from African safari.

Surfer’s Ear
Long-term exposure to cold water and wind leads to a build-up of bone within the ear canal called diffuse exostosis, or surfer’s ear. The auditory-afflicting condition worsens with repeated exposure to the elements until surgery becomes the only respite from total hearing loss. Surfer’s ear takes years of cold-water sessions to develop, so the affliction is endemic to older surfers. For more see

Surfology
The science of surfing, surf forecasting, and the surfing lifestyle.

Surform
A tool similar to a file, used by some shapers to make minor cuts and corrections to a shape before final finishing.

SurfTech
Trade name, which may become generic, describing a type of epoxy molded surfboard-manufacturing process (« Tuflite »).

Surging Waves
A scientific term to describe waves that don’t have time to break because the transition from deep-water to shallow water is too fast. Very little white water is evident before surging waves reach the shore. Typically happens in many areas during high tide.

Swallowtail
A tail shape in which the rails end suddenly and a vee is cut back in toward the stringer; the swallowtail combines the rail drive of the squaretail with the sensitivity of the pintail.

Swell
A) Wind-generated waves that have traveled beyond their generating area, usually from a storm far out to sea. Strong winds in a storm will transfer wind energy into the water, which will create waves. As the waves grow larger with continued wind, the energy will transfer deeper below the ocean surface. As the waves move out of the storm area, the stronger waves with more energy below the ocean surface will maintain their strength over distance and will be characterized as deep water waves or swell. B) Termed as the significant wave event arriving at a surfing location created by a storm out to sea, as all of the waves from the storm arrive over a period of time consisting of hours or extending over days. C) Wave energy in deeper water before the waves begin to shoal over shallow water and break.

Swell direction
Where the swell is coming from. In the marine community, swell direction is always identified from the swell source, not its destination. See direction.

Swell Height
The average height of the highest one-third of the swells with swell period energies over 11 seconds. Shorter period wind wave energy with periods under 11 seconds is excluded.

Swell Period
The peak period of the swell energy in seconds. If there are multiple swells at a specific location, then the peak period of the dominant swell is used. This is the time between successive wave crests as they pass a stationary point on the ocean surface, such as a buoy.

Swell shadow
The area behind islands, points of land, or other obstacles where the swell and waves have been blocked by those obstacles. The swell shadow will change with different swell directions.

Swell window
The opening through which swell and waves may pass between islands or around points of land. The swell window will change with different swell directions.

Synoptic Chart
A chart showing various meteorological observations and conditions over a given area at a specific time.

T

Tail
The rear 12 inches of a surfboard.

Tail patch/Traction pad
see deck grip.

Tailslide
A maneuver in which a surfer breaks the fins free from the water so the tail slides around quickly. A very difficult maneuver and somewhat counter-intuitive, since it’s based on taking weight off the board, not pressurizing it. The surfer must stay above the surfboard, staying in physical contact to maintain control. Popularized in the early ’90s by Kelly Slater and friends.

Tandem Surfing
The act of two people surfing together on a single board. Tandem riding was born at Waikiki. Over the years, it has evolved from a man and a woman standing together on a single board to a series of technical lifts and international competitions.

Take-off
The beginning of a ride when the surfer paddles for a wave, and then pushes his/her body up to a standing position before he drops into the wave. The take-off is crucial for a successful ride as it sets the rhythm for the entire ride.

Taped seams
Nylon tape is glued along the seams, covering up whatever stitching exists. Long considered a necessary evil to keep water out and add strength to the seams; often now only used at specific pressure points (see stress point taping) or replaced by liquid seam tape, a more flexible and perhaps equally durable option.

Template
A wooden sheet cut into an imaginary surfboard curve, used by a shaper or designer to draw outlines onto a blank prior to shaping. A template is made of thin plywood, plastic, or Masonite. The outline curve of one side of the template may be an outline for the nose of a surfboard, while the outline curve of the other side of the same template may be an outline for the tail section of the surfboard. Surfboard shapers typically create their own templates and come in all sizes and shapes depending on the type of surfboard to be shaped. See also outline.

Tertiary swell
The third dominant swell at a specific location. The primary swell is the dominant swell, followed by the secondary swell, followed by the tertiary swell.

Thickness
A surfboard’s dimension as measured from the deck to the bottom of the board.

Thruster
Three-fin surfboard design created by Simon Anderson of Australia in 1980; now the most common fin setup used by surfers, the Thruster combines drive and control in most surfing situations.

Tint
Chemical used to color the resin used to seal fiberglass onto a conventional surfboard; largely replaced by airbrush paints through the 1980s, but still used in some quarters for its unique retro look.

Titanium
A soft metal occasionally weaved into neoprene as early as ’91, supposedly to reflect heat back to the wearer.

Tombstoning
A post-wipeout phenomenon, when a surfer is deep underwater with the surf leash stretched out to a point where the tail of the surfboard is being pulled down, so the nose of the surfboard sticks up in the air like a tombstone. Usually happens in larger surf.
The act of towing into waves behind a personal watercraft instead of paddling into waves. A major pull for big-wave surfing.

Towboard
surfboard designed specifically to be used during tow-in surfing, usually in very big surf; usually marked by drastic reductions in length, width and thickness, and by equally drastic additions to overall weight through ultra-heavy blanks and glass jobs. Towboards often feature footstrap setups, not unlike sailboards and/or kiteboards.

Trim
A state in which the surfer and board travel across a wave face at precisely the speed needed to maintain position on the wave, without turning. Trim speed is a fundamental « go-to » for beginner surfers and super-skilled pros alike.

Tropical Cyclone
A warm-core cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, with a closed surface wind circulation around a well-defined center. The associated maximum sustained surface wind speed will range from 34 knots to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph). Ocean water temperatures need to be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the development of the cyclone, which is the extraction of heat energy from the ocean and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere.

Tropical Depression or Disturbance
A warm-core cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed is 33 knots (38 mph) or less.

Tropical Storm Warning
A warning issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) that winds within the range of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph) associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in a specified coastal area within 24 hours or less.

Tropical Storm Watch
An announcement for specific coastal areas that tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Tropical Wave
A trough, disturbance, or cyclonic curvature in the trade-wind easterlies originating over tropical or subtropical waters. Tropical waves are the first sign of possible future tropical cyclone development.

Trough
The lowest part of a wave as it begins to break. Or in deep water, the middle or lowest area between two wave crests.

Tsunami
Commonly (and incorrectly) known as a tidal wave, a Tsunami involves long period ocean waves generated by earthquakes and other geological or tectonic disturbances below sea level. Tsunamis can travel at speeds of up to 500 knots through the open ocean. While they may be of low height in deep water, the shoaling process as they approach land can increase the tsunami to heights of over 35 feet or more in bays or other restricted areas.

Tube
See barrel.

Tucked edge
A rail design popularized in the late 1970s in which a « soft » or rounded rail is finished at the bottom with a slightly angled edge, providing bite and release.

Turtle
A paddling maneuver to help reduce resistance when paddling through whitewater, by rolling the surfboard upside down (with the fins up), and then holding on to the rails of the surfboard while underwater as the whitewater passes overhead. Used especially with longboards because the board’s increased flotation makes duckdiving (the preferred method) difficult.

Two-wave hold down
During a radical wipeout, to be held under water for two successive waves. Usually only happens in large surf with very foamy conditions which make it difficult to swim to the surface. The actual time underwater may only be about 30-40 seconds long but seems like an eternity if you’re the actual surfer being held down and fighting to rise to the surface.

Twinfin
Two-fin surfboard design with a long and fascinating history; identified most strongly with four-time world surfing champion Mark Richards, who rode a twin in most of his contest successes outside Hawaii. The twinfin combines drive with release to create a very free design, which can be hard to control.

Twinzer
Four-fin surfboard design created by Will Jobson of California in 1990; adds control to the instability of the twinfin design.

V

Vee
A bottom shape in which the stringer is lower than the rails when viewed from the side. Originated in the tail area during the late 1960s by Australian designer Bob McTavish and several contemporaries, it allows a board to roll positively from rail to rail in turns. Tail vee was a design standard until the early 1990s, when experiments with concaves and reverse vee (see reverse vee) virtually eliminated it from small wave equipment. Still the preferred bottom contour in many medium to large wave designs.

Velcro
Patented hook and loop fastener, used mainly in zipperless suits to connect overlapping panels and in zippered suits to tighten neck gasket.

Victory at Sea
A surf condition in which the waves are very choppy and windblown. Derived from the old classic « Victory At Sea » TV shows in the 60’s, in which the intro showed US Navy destroyers plowing through huge stormy seas in the open ocean.

W

Wahine
Hawaiian word for a female; used to describe a female surfer.

Warranty (for Wetsuits)
Depends on manufacturer; often one year on materials and lifetime on seams, but as suits get more flexible, many only last one season before they start falling apart.

Waterman
A person boasting total mastery of all oceanic endeavors, the revered waterman can fish, dive, surf, windsurf, kayak, bodysurf, interpret complex weather data, save the odd drowning man, etc. Generally built like a tank and typically soft-spoken (choosing to let his actions do the talking), loner watermen fear neither tempest nor shark and rarely head for higher ground. If need be, he can survive entirely on self-harvested ocean bounty, spearing his food from the nearby reefs he’ll surf over when the swell is up.

Wave decay
As waves move out of the storm area where they were created, they decrease greatly in size within the first thousand miles (more than 60 percent) and slowly thereafter. This is caused by three factors: short-period waves and chop dissipating rapidly once outside of the wind-generation area; directional spreading of waves as they move away from the storm at different angles and the separation of waves as they travel forward at different speeds after leaving the storm area.

Wave Height
The vertical distance between a wave crest and the trough.

Wave Length
The distance between successive wave crests.

Wave Period
The time in seconds between successive wave crests as they pass a stationary point on the ocean surface, such as a buoy.

Wave Spectrum
The mathematical equation showing the distribution of wave energy in the different wave frequencies or wave periods. By analyzing the wave spectrum with LOLA, Surfline forecasters are able to separate the wave trains at a specific location like a buoy or a point on a swell model. This allows us to filter out unimportant wave and swell energy, so we can isolate the important wave and swell energy, which will greatly affect the accuracy of the surf forecast for a specific location.

Wave Steepness
The ratio of the wave height to the wavelength. A term used by the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) to describe the dominant sea state at a buoy. For a given wave height, steep waves represent a more serious threat to capsizing vessels or damaging marine structures than broad swell.

Wave Train
The independent swell or waves in the wave spectrum, which have originated from the same storm or fetch of wind, and are moving in the same direction. At a single location like a buoy, there may be a combination of different wave trains present, which have each originated from separate areas of generation. As an example, there may be a swell from the South, a swell from the West, and a local wind wave out of the Northeast. Each of these wave events are separate wave trains, which combine to constitute the wave spectrum at that location.

Wave
A ridge of energy on the surface of the water, caused by a disturbance, which then progresses from one point to another. Wind waves are generated by friction between the wind and the water that transfers energy to the water in the form of waves. As the waves grow larger with continued wind, the energy will also transfer deeper below the ocean surface. As the waves move out of the storm area, the stronger waves with more energy below the ocean surface (longer period waves with greater wavelengths) will maintain their strength over distance and will be characterized as deep water waves or swell. Smaller, shorter period waves generally limited to the ocean surface will tend to decay more rapidly after leaving the wave generating area. As the waves eventually arrive along the coast they will shoal over shallower water and break, becoming surf.

Wax
A substance rubbed on the top or deck of a surfboard for traction. Needed due to the slippery nature of a board’s original fiberglass surface. Surf wax comes in many different varieties: softer wax for colder water temperatures, and harder wax for warmer water temperatures. Different textures like stickier wax or wax that creates a bumpier surface. NOTE: It’s thought that the use of wax on surfboard decks stems from a Palos Verdes surfer of the 1940s who took his Mom’s floor wax and used it for the purpose.

Wedge
A wave condition in which two waves converge together and merge in from the sides to create a more powerful A-frame type of wave. A wedge can be created by a reflected wave bouncing off an obstacle like a jetty, rock, or wall and then merging with the original part of the wave that came straight in. A wedge can also be created by a portion of the wave refracting or wrapping in from deeper water like a channel or underwater canyon to merge with the original part of the wave coming straight in. Wedges create good shaped waves with rights and lefts, along with more powerful waves than normal, which naturally attract good surfers.

Wetsuit
Typically made of a synthetic rubber called neoprene, wetsuits are worn by surfers for protection from the oft-chilly waters in which they plunge for pleasure. Contrary to what people in Nebraska think, the suits do not work by keeping the surfer dry, but are instead designed to let water in. The water is then trapped between surfer and suit and subsequently warmed by body heat and, when nature calls, pee-pee. For more see

White caps
Ocean chop created by winds over 12 knots. As the wind increases the chop height also increases to a point where the chop becomes so steep and unstable the crest crumbles and breaks creating white water. Choppy conditions with white caps are bad for surfing.

Wide point
The point on a surfboard where width is greatest (see width).

Width
A term referring to the surfboard’s dimension from rail to rail, measured at several key points by the designer.

Wind barbs
A graphical symbol of measurement used on weather charts to display wind direction and speeds. The barb points to the direction toward which the wind is blowing. On the tail of the barb are lines and flags to indicate the wind speed. A half line extending off the tail of the barb represents 5 knots; a full line is 10 knots; and each flag is 50 knots. The combinations of these lines and flags represent the sustained wind speed at the barb location.

Wind duration
In wave forecasting, the length of time the wind blows in the same direction over the swell generating area, or the fetch. Duration is one of the three key elements in the fundamental wave generation formula-along with wind velocity and fetch length-used to determine wave heights and wave periods in a storm or wave generating area.

Wind surge
The increase in mean sea level caused by the « piling up » of water on the coastline by wind.

Windswell
A type of swell with a swell period of less than 11 seconds between successive waves. As a rule, the harder the wind blows, and the longer it blows over a longer distance of ocean, the bigger the swell will be and the longer the swell period will be between successive waves. The longer the swell period, the deeper the swell energy extends below the ocean surface, which interacts more with the ocean floor, or the « ground » so to speak. Wind swells are typically « shallow water » swells because they are always generated by local winds with brief duration and over a limited distance of ocean. Wind swell energy doesn’t extend very deep below the ocean surface due to the shorter swell period. As such wind swells wrap (refract) very little into spots compared to ground swells which have longer swell periods and can wrap greatly into spots.

Wind velocity
In wave forecasting, the speed of the wind as it blows in the same direction over the swell generating area, or the fetch. Wind velocity is one of the three key elements in the fundamental wave generation formula – along with wind duration and fetch length used to determine wave heights and wave periods in a storm or wave generating area.

Wind Waves
The combination of short period waves initially developed by the wind blowing over the ocean surface. The combination of these wind waves is called sea state, which is the mix of wave heights, periods and wavelengths.

Wing
A cutaway in the tail outline, generally credited to Terry Fitzgerald of Australia in 1971, designed to break the rail line in turns at speed. Later reborn as the « Clayton wing », a bump in the outline of some modern shortboards around the front fins.

Wipeout
The classic term of falling off a surfboard while surfing a wave.

Z

Zipperless
Often considered the « holy grail » of wetsuits, as zippers-no matter how tightly made-will always let water through. Invented in ’89 by Body Glove, the first zipperless wetsuits were actually way too stiff for surfers to use; by ’93, the Japanese came out with another model that was still too stuff, but by ’95, most wetsuit companies offered a high end zipperless suit. Advantages include flexibility and warmth; disadvantages include short lifespan (due to super stretchy rubber) and difficult entry/exit.

Zonal
Weather pattern term which means that all of the storm activity in one particular region is moving in a consistent west-to-east pattern along the same latitude. While this can happen anywhere in the world it is usually associated with the Southern Ocean (around Antarctica) and is caused by large ridges of high-pressure in the mid-latitudes ‘pancaking’ the active storm track into the upper lattitudes. Since most of the swell energy in these storms will only travel the direction the fetch is pointed it means that all of the swell is also going west-to-east. For most of the eastern half of the Pacific (California, Baja, Mainland Mex, and Central America) zonal activity in the SPAC is bad for swell production — good for an area in its path like Chile — but bad for the rest of us.

Zulu
Same as GMT or Greenwich Mean Time. Zulu Time is used on weather charts which may display 12Z for 1200 GMT, or 00Z for 0000 GMT. See GMT.

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