How to Speak Surfer Dude

Bard of the Beach Offers Definitive Dictionary of Beach Blanket Lingo

By Buck Wolf

Aug. 24, 2001 — Hey Dude! If you think you can throw around a couple of "totally tubulars" and pass yourself off as a surfer, you're a real hodad with the IQ of a Malibu Barbie.

The misguided multitudes might think surfspeak is nothing more than 10 or 12 buzzwords. Trevor "Coconut" Cralle, the Shakespeare of Surf, is championing a new dialect that's totally rad.

If you need a textbook definition of "cowabunga," Cralle's Surfin'ary (Ten Speed Press) explains that it's an exultant shout appropriated from The Howdy Doody Show of the 1950s that means "Surf's up."

You'll also get these valuable lessons:

A "valley sheep," is some loser who says "d-u-u-u-d-e" a little too slowly and way to often. "Way," incidentally, is the preferred word for "very." Isn't that way cool?

When a dog plays in the water and then goes "sognar" (shakes off on you), you may get nauseous and "aqua boot" (no explanation needed).

Then there are those times when you're totally "stoked" by the sand, sun and surf. But how stoked are you? "Super-stocked," "mega-stoked" "stoked to the max," or downright "stockaboka." The Surfin'ary helps you to decide.

From Captain Cook to Gidget

The Eskimos might have a 100 different words for snow. Surfers have at least as many terms for a wave — which can be "macking," "double overhead," or just "buggery." Indeed, there are many nuances that escape the landlubber who's never ridden a big one.

"Surfing is a sensation that demands a special language to describe how it feels," Cralle says. "Like any language, it's always evolving."

Folks have been climbing waves for well over 200 years. Captain James Cook observed surfing off the coast of Tahiti in 1777. Irish-Hawaiian surfer George Freeth gets credit for introducing the sport to California in 1907.

In popular culture, the myth of the tanned, blonde surfer goes back to the first Gidget movie in 1959. Folks really began to catch the wave when the Beach Boys put on their baggies (swimsuits that sufficiently cover a man's bottom, the opposite of teeny-weenie Speedos) and everybody went Surfin' U.S.A.