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Glossary of Surfing and Surfboard Terms

by Alan Colk from Tubetime Surfboards





Solvent used in surfboard manufacture to clean resins from tools, flammable and toxic

A FrameSurfing Glossary - A Frame

An A frame is a break which breaks equally left as well as right, peeling off away from each other forming a letter A. This setup can form over a sand bank or reef.




Artists spray painting gun for painting graphics or murals and colors on surfboards. The paint is propelled through the gun by compressed air from a compressor or aerosol can.


A wooden surfboard used by the Hawaiian commoners in the late 19th century


ASP stands for Association of Surfing Professionals - The ASP is the governing body in professional surfing. The ASP controls six surfing circuts: the ASP World Tour, the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS), the ASP World Longboard Tour (WLT), the ASP Pro Junior Series, the World Masters Championship, and Specialty Events.



Backdoor tube ride entering the tube from behind and riding through.


Very light wood was used during the 1940’s and 50’s as the core material for surfboards. Balsa is imported from Ecuador the only place where it is grown. By the early 1960’s it had been replaced by polyurethane foam. Today it is used in collector’s pieces.


Used as a thin timber laminate replacing fiber glass but still must be sealed.


Surfing Glossary BarrelAlso discribed as a tube or the greenroom. A Barrel is the name given to a breaking wave which is hollow under the breaking lip. The rounder the hollow section the more desirable it is to surfers.




Rough molded Foam core for a surfboard before shaping. Usually purchased from the foam manufacturer.


Type of bottom contour consisting of a combination of concaves and fin design. Invented by  Duncan and Malcolm Cambell in 1971. The theory behind the Bonzer Bottom is based on the Venturi Principle which uses the flow of water between the outside fins to increase the boards speed and drive.


The underside of a surfboard

Bottom curve

The curve in the surfboard from nose to tail.


Carbon Fiber

Specialized fiber used in conjunction with resin for extra compressive and tensile strength.


Carve to make dynamic turns on a wave


The chemical component of the two parts mix that courses the resin to harden.


The channel is a bottom contour on a surfboard. Grooves cut lengthwise into the tail half of the board. Channels can vary in the design to give different drive and turning characteristics. One design  is the 6 channel clinker.

Close Out

A wave which does not break diagonally allowing a surfer to continue surfing the unbroken section of a wave.


The combination of a computer and cutting machine for machining has allowed the foam blank to pre shaped. After which the shaper can finish to fine specifications.


Concaves are formed by dishing out  the desired section of the bottom to give lift and speed.

Corduroy Sets

When a perfect ground swell is stacked to the horizon like corduroy material.


When a surfboard is almost broken in half  by a heavy impact such a wave breaking in it and the fiberglass buckles. Can be repaired by sanding and refiberglassing a patch over the fracture.



The upper side of a surfboard which the rider stands on.

Deck gripClick Her For Advertising Enquiries

Thin polyethylene sheets glued to top of board to give traction. Available from a surf shop in a variety of designs.


An expert surf board shaper or surfer who innovates new designs.


Damage to surfboard requiring repair.

Down rail

Where the deck of the board rolls down to the bottom edge and the bottom of the rail is a tighter radius.


The slowing effect to a surfboard as water flows across the bottom and fins. Drag can be negative if in the wrong places with poor. However controlled drag is an essential requirement of surfboard design.

Duck Dive

Glossary of surfing termsThe method of pushing a surfboard under an approaching wave, and ducking underneath the water, to miss the full force of the wave. Duck diving is an essential part of paddling through the surf. It’s all about timing!



As a board is paddle into a wave the entry of the front half of the board allows it to drop into the wave.


Epoxy resin used in conjunction with polystyrene foam. Polyester is not compatible with styrene foam.



Falling face first into the water.


Cutting back to allow the wave to catch-up or to time an upcoming section.


Where the wave has peaked and is about to break.


Ultra fine extruded glass strands woven together to provide a cloth matting which is used in conjunction with resin to form the skin of as surfboard.


Ultra fine extruded glass strands woven together to provide a cloth matting which is used in conjunction with resin to form the skin of as surfboard.


Fins are positioned on the underside of a surfboard to assist in control and turning. Many fin shapes are possible. Groups such as single fin, thruster 3 fins. Twin fins , quads. Are normal set ups.

Fin system

A system device installed in the surfboard to allow detachable fins.Click Her For Advertising Enquiries


A wide nose board with a swallow tail and twin fins.


The changing thickness and  curve in the board from nose to tail. Also in the shape of the fin. Resembling an airplane wing.

Forward vee

( see reverse vee).



Expression by surfer meaning it was great.

Gel coat

The first coat of resin in a mould. Also can be the sanding coat or filler coat on a surfboard.

Glory Section

Best part of the wave.

Glass off

When the wind drops and the water goes as smooth as glass.


A person who laminates  surfboards using resin and fiberglass.


See Glass off.

Gloss coat

A finishing resin applied as a last coat which is later brought to a high polish.

Goofy or Goofy foot

Surfing with the right foot forward. Regular foot is left foot forward. (Thanks Stuart Gray for suggestion)


See Grommet


A young beginner or up and coming junior surfer.


See Grommet


Wave action generated from a storm far off and traveling a long way. During this long distance travelled the swell cleans up and forms even lines with longer periods between each wave.


Big wave board.



When the surf is big and scary.



Dangerous surf conditions. When the lip of the wave is solid normally breaking in shallow water. One of the heaviest waves in the world would be Teahupoo in Tahiti.

Hollow board

A type of surfboard usually made from thin timber sheets to create a long narrow board much lighter than solid timber.

Hot curl

A 1950’s Dale Velzy shape from California

Hot coat

The coating of resin that is brushed onto the glass laminated board . This coat is then sanded smooth when it has hardened..


A bottom shape reminiscent of a boat hull. A convex shape on the bottom of the board from rail to rail. Common on long boards in 1967.


Impact zone

Place in the line up where waves break with force. Good place not to get caught.



When the wave builds up and the lip throws out to tube.



A type of glass-plastic cloth which is ultra impact resistant with great compressive strength in surfboard construction. Also used in bullet proof vests.



Laminating resin is used to apply the first coat of fiber glass and resin to seal the board and give it strength. The laminating coat remains sticky and requires the hot coat to be applied so the board can be sanded smooth.

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The leash or Leg rope is a synthetic urethane cord which attaches the board to the surfers leg. The leash was invented by Pat O'neill in 1971

Leash plug

A plug with fixing means for the Leash (leg rope) to attach to.

Leg rope

see Leash

Long board

The long board can be divided into old and modern. Both requiring a style of surfing more old school. The dimensions are 9’ and over and the shapes are broader and fuller with wider rounded nose.



Surfboards that were made during the 1950’s around the Los Angeles area. But becoming more of a catch fraise in modern long boards. (Mals)


See Malibu


Big waves


Big waves


Methy ethyl ketone peroxide, a toxic chemical commonly called catalyst used to harden resin.


The point halfway between nose and tail.

Mini Gun

(see semi gun)

Mini Mal

Mini Mal is a hybrid between a long board and a short board. They are typically 8 foot long which makes them easier to turn on a wave than a long board.


see Molded Boards

Molded Boards

A new age in surfboard manufacture using molds to form a hard plastic or fiberglass shell. Enabling a mass produced generic design.


When the wave breaks weakly or crumbly.



The  first 12” of a surfboard.

Nose guard

A rubberizes plastic tip that fit over the tip of the surfboard for protection to riders and board.


Off the top - Off the lip

Cutback. Carving turn off the top of the wave.

Offshore winds

Wind blowing off the land. Usually making good surfing conditions.


The Olo  board was used by ancient Hawaiian royalty. The sixteen to eighteen foot surfboard was made from Koa or wiliwili wood.  The Basis for the design of Tom Blakes hollow board.

Onshore winds

Wind blowing from the ocean. Usually making bad surfing conditions.


The shaper first draws an outline around a template and measurements which gives the basic shape of the perimeter of the board from nose to tail.



A wooden board used as a hand or body board by the ancient Hawaiians.


Where waves form up to break.


lots of random waves along the beach.


Is where the outline of the board draws from behind centre into a point at the tail.Click Her For Advertising Enquiries
Ideal for large hollow waves and smooth drawn out turns.


An electric hand tool used by shapers to cut the bulk of the foam away on the blank. The blank is then finished with hand tools and sanding blocks.
The hand planed bought remains an art.


A board that is made for scanning for the shaping machine.
Also used by a blank supplier to glue up the stringer to the correct curve.


A point of land or headland with waves breaking in one direction along it. Point breaks break either right or left. eg of right point break is the Superbank in Australia. eg of left point break is Pavones in Costa Rica.


Is where the outline of the board draws from behind centre into a point at the tail.
Ideal for large hollow waves and smooth drawn out turns.


An electric hand tool used by shapers to cut the bulk of the foam away on the blank. The blank is then finished with hand tools and sanding blocks.
The hand planed bought remains an art.


A board that is made for scanning for the shaping machine.
Also used by a blank supplier to glue up the stringer to the correct curve.


A resin, the type used in surfboard manufacturing.


A very light foam used with epoxy resin in surfboard manufacture.


Is the most commonly foam core used  in the the manufacture of surfboards and is usually used with polyester resin.


Quad Fin

In 1990 Will Jobson of CA. claimed rights to the invention of the four fin. However It was already public knowledge as I rode one of Nev Hymans in the early 80’s. The extra fins where supposed to give more stability to the twin fin. Quad fins today are having a resurgence in popularity as most retro designs are.



The edges of a surfboard where the deck and bottom meet around the outline.


The distance and angle that the leading edge of the fin slopes backwards.

Reef break

Rocks or coral under the water with waves breaking on it.

Reef point

Combination of a point break with a reef bottom

Regular foot

Surfing with the left foot forward. Goofy foot is right foot forward.


The is how fast and easy the water flows off the board allowing faster freer turning and speed. Controlled release and controlled drag are essential for the right design combination.


A plastic liquid derived from petroleum. It is used in a two part mix with catalyst to form a hard material.


Classics and radical designs from the 60’s and 70’s

Reverse Vee

In 1991 Maurice Cole from Australia took credit for placing a vee in the first half of the board flattening out through the tail However I saw many designs using forward vee before this date. David Newieva from Hawaii  was one of these much earlier  designers. And I also had a vee nose running through flat to a concave tail 1969 and 1970.


Wave that breaks right when looking from the sea towards the land.


High performance maneuvers or a current which travels in a direction away from the land.


High quality wave with a nice workable face and plenty of power.

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Big wave board  or Gun.

Rock dance or Rock hopping

The careful walk across sharp rocks to the surf.


Is the measurement of the curve from nose to tail viewed from the side. Bottom rocker and deck rocker together form the foil of the board. A flatter rocker usually having more speed.  The  heavier curved rocker having more maneuverability.
Rockers must be in correct combination with the overall design of the board.

Round tail

Is a very good all-round design for the tail template of the board. Giving a loose  less drivey feel as apposed to the square tail.


Sanding resin

See filler coat or hot coat


After the surfboard is filler coated it is sanded, starting with a hand sanding machine . A circular pad and  discs of sandpaper are attached to the machine . The person sanding the board moves the sander back and forth to smooth out the resin and bring the board back to it’s original shape. Finer grades of paper bring the board to it’s desired finish.


A paper with grit applied to one side and of many different grades. Used to sand the resin smooth on a surfboard. Also used as a sanding gauze during shaping the foam blank

Sand through

An error made by the sander when he sands to much and goes through the layers of fiberglass and exposes the foam.


A time of the year when the surf is good.


A group of waves which are bigger than the average size of waves usually come in groups of 3.

Shore break

Waves that break close to the shore.


The name of the foam core in the Solomon™ sports equipment designed surfboard. It featured styrene foams and carbon fiber.


The shaper is the guy or girl who plans and sand the surfboard blank to it’s desired shape.


The unbroken wave face which is adgacent to the breaking wave.

Shut down

See Closeout

Single Fin

A surfboard with only one fin . single fins were the first finned boards dating back to 1930’s with designs by Tom Blake of the USA. Good control but lacking the drive and squirt of the modern thruster or twin fin


See fin


Scary or suspect. Often when it is dark and cloudy or lots of bait fish or seaweed in water.


Good for hitting the lip.


Really good waves going off.


Dropping in on someone taking there wave. Bad


Snap off the lip cutback or breaking board in two.

Spring suit

Short arm short leg wetsuit.

Square tailClick Her For Advertising Enquiries

The template shape of the tail of the surfboard. It is straight across between the rails forming a sharp corner each side. I find this tail give good forward projection and squirt out of a turn.

Squash tail

Squash tail is in between the rounded square and the square tail. Similar to the square accept the sharp corners are rounded off.


A surfboard.


A single fin swallow tail with large flyers cut away in the rail toward the centre.
Allowed the board to slide and drift through turns. Ridden by Hawaiians, Ben Aipa, Dane Kealoha, Button Kaluhiokalanai and Mark Liddel in 1975/76. Also Mark Richards from Australia. In that period.


Excited , pleased.


To strengthen the foam blank it is cut in half  long ways and a strip of timber is glued down the centre. It also helps the shaper with a central reference point.


A rasp like hand tool for making cuts and removing foam from the surfboard blank.


The company Surftech™  produce a molded epoxy board of the same name. (Tuflite™)

Swallow Tail

This tail template has the corners of the square tail with a vee going back to the stringer.
A pintail like feel with a square tail drive off the  corner points.



The rear 12” of a surfboard.

Tail sliding

A cut back where the tail of the board drifts and lets go similar to sliding the back wheels of car or bike out.

Take off

To catch a wave and stand up.


A thin sheet of timber or plastic cut into a curve and used as a pattern for drawing the outline of the surfboard.


The dimension of the  surfboard measured form the deck to the bottom in a straight line.


Tinting is a fine art in glassing a surfboard. Color is added to the resin and gives a transparent or translucent appearance. This technique has been largely replaced by airbrushing and spray painting.


The thruster or 3 fin configuration was invented by Simon Anderson from Australia in 1980. This has become the most common fin set up. The thruster  has good control, drive and maneuverability.

Tow board or Tow in board

The tow board is used specifically towed into a wave by a jet ski. Usually for big extreme surfing. Design features a reduction in length , width and thickness. The weight of the board is increased with heavy glassing and added weights. Also with foot straps similar to sailboards and kite boards.


Warm enough water to not need a wetsuit.


The hollow section of a wave that a surfer wants to ride inside. see barrel

Tucked edge

Where the rail rolls under to the bottom of the  board , a hard  edge gives the board bite and release. Making for faster responsive surfing. Click Her For Advertising Enquiries

Twin Fin

Is a wider fuller board  with the fins set approximately 1 ½’ in from the rail and 10” to 12” forward from the swallow tail This board has instant acceleration and is very fast and maneuverable . There has been many variations of this design. 4 times world champion Mark Richards was famous for his  surfing on twin fins.


see Quad fin



Is the contour in the bottom of the board where the bottom comes to and apex in the middle or at the stringer. The centre of the vee being lower than the rail when viewed from the side. In the 1960’s Bob Mctavish, Nat Young and Wayne Lynch originated the vee in the tail and running through in front of the fin. It allows a board to roll positively rail to rail in turns. Concaves and reverse vees replaced the vee bottom in short boards in the 90’s. However the preferred bottom contour for big waves is still the vee bottom.



The wave face you are going to surf along.

Walling up

The wave setting up fast to break as you ride along it.


Peaking up into a tube. usually over a reef or shallow water.

Wide point

The outline of the board starts from the tip and curves around to the tail. The curve travels through a widest dimension. ( see width)


The measurement across the board from rail to rail at it’s widest point.


A cutaway in the tail outline. Single wings , double and triple where experimented with through the 70’s. Terry Fitzgerald of Australia with his classic style used these designs.
The break in the rail outline loosened the tail at speed.


A term used by surfers when the surfer falls off the board or when the surfer gets hit by a wave and it all starts to go bad.



X.T.R.™ is the commercial name for a type of patented Extruded Polystyrene Core foam used for surfboard blanks. This type of foam is stronger and lighter than conventional Polyurethane foam blanks.



Fast long waves.

Zooed out

Crowded with lots of people as in a zoo.