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Surf Lingo: Explained

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A typical Cox bay parking lot conversation:

Surfer, just pulling up: 

“How was it? 

Fellow Surfer, coming back up to the parking lot: 

“Couple of fun ones out there! We were out for the dawnie before the tide dropped, and it started closing-out a bit. The wind hasn’t come up yet so it’s still glassy!”


We’re delving into Surf lingo, an international language that helps us describe the ocean and wave riding. Like any language, there is variation from region to region, so we will look at a few key phrases that you will hear in Tofino and the wider surfing world. 

(Photo: AJ Roulstone) 

“Couple of fun ones!?”

Behold, a Tofino classic. A relentless Canadian positivity is contained in this optimistic saying, in that there’s always “a couple fun ones” out there. It is born out of the often windy and unruly conditions that make the exposed beaches of Tofino ever so consistent, yet often challenging to navigate. There is a deep sense of camaraderie as you give your fellow surf the nod, smile, and a cheeky, “Couple of fun ones!”

(Photo: AJ Roulstone) 


This is an adjective that you will hear across the surfing world and indeed amongst many of the outdoor sports more generally. It literally comes from “stoking the fire”, where one adds fuel to a burning fire. It captures the excitement and joy of surfing, whether it be the anticipation of an upcoming session, or the big smile on your face after riding a wave. 

(Photo: Cristina Gareau)

“Offshore / glass / onshore”

It’s the wind! These three terms are used to describe the main ways in which wind affects the waves. Check out our more detailed explanation in our blog on reading the surf forecast.

(Photo: AJ Roulstone) 

Barrel, Tube

Also known as the pit, shack, or inter-dimensional portal, this is the hollow part of the wave, big enough to fit a surfer inside. Barrelling waves occur at certain surf spots with the right combination of swell, wind, and tide. A surfer aims to “thread the barrel” by taking off and riding across the wave, through the barreling section. We often call this “getting barrelled, shacked, or pitted. Note: if you cannot fit your whole body inside the hollow part of the wave, this is often called a “head dip."

(Photo: Keenan Bush) 

Dawn Patrol

Coined the “dawnie” by the Aussies in their love of abbreviations, the dawn patrol is the dedicated surfers fearly morning session, which requires one tto wake up in the dark, so as to be checking the surf by first light, hence dawn patrol. This is often a great time to dodge the crowd and score glassy waves before the onshore winds come up with the heat of the day. If you want to know more about the joys of the dawn patrol, check out our blog The Art of the Dawn Patrol 

Thanks for reading! Now, go for a dawnie, score some glassy conditions and get a couple of fun ones out there. Maybe you’ll even get tubed. Whatever happens, you’ll be stoked!

Blog Written by Adam Tory

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