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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa


Introduction to Surfrikan

South African surfers talk funny – mostly because they’re surfers, but also because they’re South African. Our local slang is a strange mixture of words and phrases from the languages of settlers from Europe and Asia, as well as indigenous peoples, notably Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Khoi-San. This glossary includes words used by surfers, but also more general words. Some might be vaguely offensive, so sorry for that.

Sat, 29 March 2008

Most of the pronunciation is obvious, but where it isn’t we’ve spelled it out for you in brackets. We haven’t used formal phonetic symbols, but what will be easiest. Also – sometimes we’ve used Surfrikan words to explain other Surfrikan words, in which case they’re marked with *, so you can look them up. Language is dynamic and slang changes particularly fast. Check out ballie* slang here if you are an old toppie*.

gh    guttural sound in the back of the throat like the ‘ch’ in the Scottish ‘loch’, or the German ‘ach’.
ô    like the vowel sound in fork or walk, but shorter and sharper, not common in English.
oe    the short vowel sound in book, cook and bull.
u    the short sound in cup or mud, which is not as obvious as it looks.
r-r    rolling the ‘r’.
uh    that peculiarly English sound, as in the second syllable of ‘batter’.

Surfrikan Slang


Alone, solitary. ‘I was out there on my ace when someone on the beach shouted “Shark!” ’

Stupid or mean act. You pull an action when you do something dof* or mean. A goofed action is when you do something stupid because you’re goofed*.

This multi-purpose interjection precedes any sentence for an emotive effect, such as ‘Ag, no man’ (sign of irritation), or the more neutral, ‘Ag, I don’t know.’ It can also be a stand-alone expletive.

Aggressive. If you are aggro, you bring bad karma into the water.

Greeting. Lank* younger surfers use this old mariner’s greeting. Also aweh, hoesit, howzit, hooit.

AIKONA (eye-kor-na, sometimes hi-kor-na, and eye-kor-na if very emphatic)
Means ‘No way’, ‘Absolutely not’ (Xhosa or Zulu).

AITA! (eye-tah)
Greeting that originated amidst the township youth. ‘Aita bra*!’ Common among politically correct people. Rabid racists in the past have miraculously become PC.

Full of energy. Usually induced by adrenalin, feeling wired or high on fear, either before paddling into a huge ocean, or the sheer stoke of being alive afterwards.

Afternoon. The Australian equivalent is arvo. Not to be confused with avo*.

Read more: Surfrikan Slang

Letter from the edge

The following is from an email sent by a Wavescape reader in about 1999 or 2000. It still represents one of the richest pieces of South African surf writing you will find, densely packed with pure slang straight from the beach. Decipher this and your blood is truly Surf African. Can you do better? Click here and tune us!

Read more: Letter from the edge

Old Surfing Slang

In the old days of surfing in South Africa, you did it for the enjoyment. As legendary figure Harry Bold says, they would prop up their massive boards against a wall on the beach, and leave them there, safely. Surfing was for fun. The language they used was a more quaint version of the mutant surfspeak we use today.

Read more: Old Surfing Slang

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