Maiden Voyage to Nicaragua

Surfer Vernacular 101

Hilary Billings’ Dictionary of Resourceful Urban Lingo Presents…

Surfer Vernacular 101: Basic Terminology Necessary for Surf Savvy Interactions

Gnarly- Adjective. 1. Awesome or cool or extraordinary. “That party was so gnarly!” 2. Bad or unpleasant. “I took a couple of gnarly tumbles on those waves.”

Stoked- Adjective. 1. To be exhilarated, uplifted, unbelievably excited, or filled with a sense of accomplishment. “I am so stoked about that ride I took earlier!”

Ripping- Verb. 1. To kick some major ass, whether it be on water or land. Mostly applies to performance on waves, but can refer to rocking and owning any other type of activity.

Talei ripping on the waves.

Talei ripping on the waves.


Fired up- Phrase. 1. Similar to stoked, used to express unrequited excitement. Being pumped, ready to go, or in the zone.

Wave break- Noun. 1. The point where the wave starts to break over (creating that tunnel or whitewash effect). Waves tend to break in the middle so you can either take them right or left depending on your preference and who has the right of way.

Whitewash- Noun. 1. A wave that has already broken and will push a board across flat water. Ideal for beginner surfers to learning how to stand up on their boards.




Green Waves- Noun. 1. Waves that have not yet broken into whitewash, normally on the outside. These tend to be bigger and perfect for riding and carving.

Carving- Verb. 1. Turning on a wave.

Popping up- Phrase. 1. The act of standing up on your surfboard. You should ideally be centered along the median of the board. This is a swift motion, hence the ‘pop’ in the name.

Practicing Pop-Ups. Photo by Emily Reiman.

Practicing Pop-Ups. Photo by Emily Reiman.


Regular Foot- Noun. 1. A surfer who surfs with their left foot in front and their right foot on the back of the board as their steering foot. They tend to carve to the left with their backs to the wave.

Goofy Foot- Noun. 1. A surfer who surfs with their right foot in front and their left foot on the back of the board as their steering foot. They carve to the left of a break with their bodies facing the wave.

Holly is a goofy foot. Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of


Duck Diving- Verb. 1. Pushing your board under a wave and then back up again to avoid being hit by the swell. This is done by short boarders only.

Turtle Rolling- Verb. 1. Rolling under your board, holding the nose close to your chest so that the wave rolls over you. This is an alternative method for paddling over the waves for long boarders. It helps to save you energy.

Holly explains turtle rolling.

Holly explains turtle rolling.


Entonces- Transitional phrase. 1. Spanish word representing saying such as, “And so/And then/So/Alrighty then.” (Holly used this at almost every encounter throughout our stay as our “1, 2, 3 break!” or when there was an awkward pause. It fast became an ongoing joke and silence filler).

Alright, my newly educated readers! Go on brush your sandy shoulders off and approach fellow surfers with confidence!

Make me proud… Or at least not embarrassed… Right. Entonces!

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Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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