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*.

AS WELL (az-well)

Also, me too. If you say, ‘Jees, I’m kussed* bru,’ you might get this reply, ‘Ja, as well.’


AWEH (ah-wear)

Incredible, very nice, top quality. Used when describing the quality and size of a wave. ‘That wave at Muizenberg was awesome, bru!’

1. Crushed, wiped out, whacked. Also, see ‘carrots’. ‘The lip of that big wave axed me.’
2. Dropped, excluded. ‘She was axed from the team.’


BABALAS (bub-ba-lus)
Hangover from hell. The Babalas is no mythical beast, especially when you look at yourself in the mirror and see that furry tongue slithering in a mumbling, parched mouth; those puffy eyelids scraping bloodshot eyeballs. From the Zulu word ibhabhalazi.

Surfing with your back to the wave. Has nothing to do with your posterior. If you are facing the wave, you’re surfing frontside. A goofy-foot* surfer rides a left-breaking wave frontside. A natural surfer (left foot forward) rides a left-hander backside.

Layer of tobacco and pitjies* at the bottom of a bottleneck* to stop it from burning down to the gerrick*.

We don’t call them board shorts or Bermudas or other naffy names. They are baggies. You wear them when the water is lekker* warm.

To jump off your surfboard, usually when the wave is about to close out, or you have taken off too late and are about to wipe out.

BAKKIE (buck-kee)
Pickup truck in the United States, ‘ute’ in Australia. Many people own bakkies in SA, particularly in the rural areas. ‘My boet* and my ballie* parked* on the back of the bakkie.’

BALLIE (Bul-lee, with the u as in up)
Parents, old people. ‘A weird old ballie lives in that cave.’ ‘My ballies won’t let me go to the jorl*.’

Excellent waves. With the use of ‘firing’, ‘going off’ and ‘smoking’ it is a natural progression to ballistic terminology. ‘I tune* you bru*, the surf was ballistic!’ Also cooking, cranking, going off, off its face, pumping, smoking.

Bank packet. The plastic bag issued by banks for coins is a common receptacle for dagga*. Bankies and stoppe* are standard packaging. ‘Me and my boet* went with the bergies* in the bakkie* to score*a bankie.’

To vomit, puke. In South Africa, you also kotch, park a tiger, blow chunks or make a technicoloured yawn.

Tube. When you get tubed, you ride the barrel. You do this by pulling in* and getting slotted*.

A surf spot where waves break on sand.

BERGIE (bare-ghee)
Homeless person in Cape Town. The word comes from the ‘Berg’ (Mountain) of Table Mountain, where bergies lived under bushes or in caves. Many stay in the city now. You might see them wrapped in a blanket wrapped around a bottle of booze in a doorway. They are a colourful people, with their own mores and subculture. Bergies are infamous for their use of bastardised Afrikaans obscenities.

BERG WIND (burg)
Wind from the mountain – usually hot and dry – but can be cold in winter.

Good. Another synonym for lekker*, as if that word didn’t have enough uses. ‘We scored a betters section*.’

Dried raw meat. Originally it was ‘bul tong’ (bull’s tongue). Specially prepared dried raw meat made from beef, venison or ostrich. Specialities are springbok or kudu. Ostrich is tasty. Good biltong is manna to your average full-bodied Surfrikan.

1. Cookie. In America, a biscuit is a scone. In South Africa, a biscuit is a cookie. Favourites are Marie, Romany Creams, Nuttikrust and Eet Sum Mor.
2. Twit, idiot. Only in South Africa can a word mean a small crunchy cake, or an idiot. ‘John, you biscuit!’

Disappointed or sad. ‘Since Lorraine axed Rick, the oke’s* been lank* bleak.’

Bummer, nasty. If you pull a blind action on your bru*, you have done something nasty. ‘Bru, that’s blind – you scaled* my Britney Spears poster.’

BLOW CHUNKS, see bark the dog

Paddleskier, also eggbeater, windmill, goatboat.

BOBOTIE (buh-boor-tea)
Traditional Malay dish made with spicy mince, baked in the oven with an egg custard topping, and served with yellow rice and raisins. Delicious.

Surfer who surfs prone on a sponge-like board. Also called booger, doormat, gutslider, shark biscuit, speed-bump and sponge. To their credit, bodyboarders usually rise above these insults.

BOERE (boer-rre)
Farmers, Afrikaners. English-speaking people used to refer to the police as boere. Still in use, but fading away in the new South Africa.

BOEREWORS (boer-re-vors)
Farmers’ sausage. Sometimes just wors, or boerie. Spicy sausage made from many secret recipes, and consumed in quantity around South Africa.

BOET, see bru

Powerful big wave. ‘I scored*a bomb.’

BOOGER, see bodyboarder, doormat

A dagga* pipe made from the broken neck of a bottle.

The initial turn off the bottom of the wave after you take off.

BRAAI (rhymes with high)
Barbecue. Perhaps the biggest semantic gift given to the world by South Africa? You braai with wood in a metal drum or between bricks. You cook your boerewors*, steak, lamb chops and sosaties* on a grid over the flames. You eat mielie pap*, salads, rolls and other stuff. You drink Castle beer, or maybe a spook and diesel*. Sometimes, if you catch kreef*, you have a crayfish braai.

BRAH, brahdeen, see bru

BRASSE (brah-se)
Posse, group of friends. ‘Where’s my brasse?’

Beer. ‘Buy me a brew bru*.’ (Buy me a beer bro.)

Rocks, reef. First I got klapped* by the lip*, then I moered* into the bricks at Brighton (hard-breaking KwaZulu-Natal surf spot).

BRO, see bru

Mooning, exposing your buttocks.

BRU (broo) My bru (may broo)
Brother, friend, mate, china, buddy. Another all-purpose South African word. Variations include brah, brahdeen, boet and bro. From Afrikaans for brother (broer), pronounced broor with a roll of each ‘r’. Lazy English speakers say it without the roll. Variations emanate from all over South Africa. Spelt ‘bru’ by most South Africa surfers. In the Eastern Cape, a semantic hotbed of slang, often pronounced ‘brorr’, ‘bree’, ‘bra’ (same as underwear), ‘brah’ and ‘braaah’, with a drawn-out vowel.

Blue bottles. Floating, stinging jellyfish-like organisms similar to a Portuguese man o’ war.

Curry in a hollowed out half-loaf of white bread. Surfers from Durban grew up on bunnies. You get the curry in the bread with the removed square chunk, used to dunk back in the curry. Best when the bread is fresh. Some bunnies are served with slap chips*.

When two surfers are riding a wave, and the one in front ‘fades’* the other into the impact zone by cutting him off, the second guy gets burned.

Strong wind. The southwesterly buster accompanies a cold front as it sweeps up the coast.


Southeast wind or southeaster. This howls across the Cape Peninsula in summer, forming a creamy white cloud over Table Mountain like a table-cloth. Because the wind blows for up to a week or more at a time, often gale-force, pollution is blown away. The air is clean and crisp afterwards, hence ‘Cape Doctor’.

Screwed, broken, done over, beaten up. ‘Greg wiped out in 15-foot Dungeons. It was carrots for him.’
‘If you hit my dog again, I will give you carrots.’

When a hottie* uses his surfboard as a carving knife. Another term for high-performance surfing, but with more style than other synonyms, such as rip, tear, shred or lacerate.

Trapped in the white water where the waves are breaking. ‘I was caught inside when a 25-wave set* broke.’

1. Flirt, court, seduce.
2. Pretend, lie.

Look, do you see? ‘Check this’ (Look at this), ‘You check?’ (See what I mean? Do you follow? Are you with me?)

1. A friend, colleague or acquaintance. ‘Mike is my china.’
2. Also a term of address for same, or even a total stranger ‘Are you tuning* me china?’

CHOON, see tune

Idiot, twit, dolt. ‘Yissus* bru*, you pulled a blind* move klapping* Clayton with the Tassies* bottle. You are such a chop!’


Depart, leave, go, split, waai*. ‘Let’s chuck.’

Excellent, perfect, incredible. ‘The waves are classic.’ ‘That person is classic.’ ‘I had a classic time.’ ‘My car is classic.’ (Not a vintage car, but it gets me to the surf, and the rust hasn’t eaten the floor away yet.)

When a wave stops being rideable because a long section* breaks all at once. ‘That wave closed out on my head.’

Get taken out, get into trouble, die, fail. ‘Bru*, if you drop in* on me again, you’re going to come short.’

Friend, buddy. ‘Jimmy’s my big connection bru*. We surf together every day.’

Good surf. When the surf cooks, it is going off its face, firing, pumping, cranking, going off its pip, sick, rad, ballistic. Consistent, big, clean, beautifully shaped waves. Someone who cooks is not a chef. He or she is a good surfer.

Like kiff and lekker, a universal word that refers to things hip, okay, good and nice. ‘He is cool because he wears funky shades.’ ‘That’s cool.’ ‘We had a cool time at J-Bay.’

A brief tube ride when the lip, or curl, of the wave momentarily passes over your head.

CRANKING, see ballistic

Sleep. ‘Do you want to crash at my porsie*?’


A turn on the wave face where you cut back towards the curl of the wave.

Cousin, mate, friend. Durban slang for bru.


DAGGA (Dugh-ghah)
Marijuana, dope, ganga, cannabis. Originates from the Khoikhoi word dachab.

Early-morning surf as the sun is coming up, otherwise called a dawnie.

Durban slang for dagga*.

Get me interested. ‘My china* dialled me into your website.’

DIK (duhk)
Thick, beefy, big, full (Afrikaans). A person can be dik or you can get dik after a big meal. ‘That rugby player is lank* dik.’

Suspicious. ‘That oke is lank* dodgy.’ ‘His claim that he beat Kelly Slater is a bit dodge’.

A mutated English variant on the Afrikaans word ‘doen’ which means ‘do’. Another example of our mal* hybrid culture. ‘The surf was doening it.’

DOF (dôf)
Dull, stupid (Afrikaans). It can also describe a temporary loss of brain cells. ‘Don’t be dof.’ (Don’t be a moron). It can also be used as a noun. ‘You doffie.’

DOLOS (dôlôss)
This large H-shaped concrete block – with a mass of up to 20 tons – was invented in East London in the early 1960s and is used in breakwaters and piers around South Africa. Plural dolosses.

Joint. Originates from the Doobie Brothers.

Derogatory, but vaguely descriptive term for a bodyboarder. Doormats prefer this word to ‘boogie boarder’. Also booger, gutslider, shark biscuit, speed-bump, sponge. In Oz, there are variations, like esky lid (cool box lid) and toilet lid.

DOP (dôp)
1. Booze, drink (Afrikaans). ‘Let’s go for a dop.’ Wine farmers once used the dop system. Labourers were paid in cheap wine. This created a generation of winos. Partly responsible for the sad existence of the bergie*. ‘Dop’ may have come from ‘doppie’ – the cap of a screw-top bottle (one tot).
2. Fail, flunk (Afrikaans). ‘I dopped high school because I surfed Glen Beach all the time.’

Small town (Afrikaans). Don’t be confused when you hear, ‘Let’s go for a dop in that dorp.’

DOSS (dôs)
Sleep. ‘In the 70s, I dossed in my Kombi at the Point in J-Bay.*’

DRILLED, see axed, carrots

DROOGIES, DROËBEK (Droe-ghies, droo-er-beck)
Dry mouth (Afrikaans). Normally associated with a cracked, parched mouth and thwollen tongue when you have thmoked too muth doobie*, or drunk too much tassies*.

When you take off on a wave, you take the drop.

When someone takes off and drops in front of you on a wave and breaks surfing etiquette. At J-Bay, this has led to many fights.

While riding a wave, you kneel on the bodyboard with one knee up. Otherwise known as a DK.

Leave, depart. ‘As soon as I checked the boere* pull in*, I ducked.’

Technique to duck under oncoming waves. Push your surfboard under the wave, then lever it with your knee or foot as the wave passes overhead. The desired result is to pop out behind the wave, where you can smirk at the guy next to you who has been washed 15 metres back.

1. Wipeout. A close out* wave dumps you.
2. Defecate. You go to the toilet to take a dump.

Choice marijuana vintage. Grown in KwaZulu-Natal, minty, almost peppery, and makes you on*.

Durban. Affectionate name for the surf capital of South Africa.

Dazed and confused (Afrikaans).
This word describes a vacuous, blank, dreamlike state. ‘I am in a dwaal after surfing for 12 hours yesterday.’


EGG BEATER, see boatman

EINA (ay-nah)
Ouch (Afrikaans). Widely used. You can shout ‘Eina!’ in sympathy when a shark chows your buddy’s buttocks while surfing in the Kei.

EISH (aysh, or eesh)
Surprise, bewilderment, shock (Khoi). ‘Eish. I forgot my leash and it’s 10 feet.’

EK SÊ (Eck-sair)
I say (Afrikaans). Used for affirmation or impact. ‘Let’s hit the jorl, ek sê.’


1. Lose strength. A wave fades when the water gets deeper.
2. Back out. If you back out of something, you fade.
3. Cut off. When two surfers are riding a wave, and the one in front fades the other
into the impact zone by cutting him off. The second guy gets burned*.

FIRING, see ballistic
‘Hey bru*, Nahoon is firing on all cylinders, ek sê*.’

Think, decide, work out. ‘I flash that it’s cooking* there bru*.’

Surfing manoeuvre that entails gaining speed along the wall of the wave and ramping laterally over the top of the wave as it folds over. Good surfers can cover 10 metres before free-falling over the foam – a move that scores highly in competitive surfing.

Broken surf. White water washing sedately towards shore. Ideal for toddlers, little children and Vaalies*.

Parents. ‘My folks won’t let me go to the jorl*.’

When your pubes get stuck in your wetsuit and painfully pull at your skin but you can’t reach in to untangle them.

FRONTSIDE, see backside

Absolutely, right on, to the limit. Affirmation or agreement, but also refers to an act or person that is extreme in some way. It could be used in this context: ‘That was a full-on drop-in*.’ ‘That oke* is full on.’

Affirmation. ‘Did you check Occy pull off that insane move at Boneyards?’ ‘Fully bru*.’


Stoned. ‘That number* made me so-o-o gaffed.’

GATVOL (ghut-fôl)
Fed up. Literally, ‘hole-full’ (filled to the brim). ‘He was gatvol of the crowds at J-Bay.’

GAUTIES (ghow-teas), see Vaalies.

GERBE (ghair-bear)
Eastern Cape term for a shark.

GERRICK (gher-rick)
Rolled up paper bent into circle to prevent the skitsels* from falling out of a bottleneck*.

When the texture of the ocean is like glass because there is no wind.

To look at intently. ‘Don’t globe me out, bru*, or I’ll moer* you’.

Paddle ski. Kind of like a wave canoe that resembles a half-sucked lozenge. Stand-up surfers don’t like them because boatmen* paddle faster and catch more waves. In the wrong hands, they wreak havoc in the water.

GOING OFF, see ballistic, cooking, cranking, firing, off its face, pumping, smoking
When the surf is really good, it’s ‘going off its face!’

Dopehead. ‘Pete is such a goofball. He’s always pulling goofed* actions*.’

GOOFED (goefed)
Stoned. ‘That number* made me so goofed.’

Stance on a surfboard with right foot forward. The ‘natural’ stance is with the left foot forward. Similar to being left- or right-handed.

Get lucky with the opposite sex. ‘John got off with Barbara at the jorl* last night.’

Work, or place of work. ‘Where do you graft?’ ‘At my graft, I sit next to a sumo wrestler who sings in the choir.’

Eat. There is a strong agricultural tradition in South Africa. This might explain graze, which means ‘to eat’ as in ‘What are you grazing?’ ‘What’s for graze dad?’ Be warned, don’t mention sheep. That joke refers to another southern hemisphere country.

Trouble, strife, backchat. ‘Are you tuning* me grief china*?’

Usually affectionate term for a young surfer of school-going age. Shortened to Grom.

1. Fruit. ‘He slipped on a guava…’
2. Bum. ‘…and fell on his guava.’

A longer board with more volume that lets you surf bigger waves.

Gaining speed on a wave to make it through the section*. You have to gun it to keep up with fast-breaking waves like Supertubes in J-Bay.

If you are undergunned, your board is too short for the size and power of the waves. If you are overgunned, your board is too long.

GUTSLIDER, see doormat


HAK (huk)
To pester, irritate. ‘Stop hakking me’.

Half-bottle of spirits. ‘Me and my china* klapped* a half-jack of Klippies*.’

Defecate in a white enamel toilet

Radical, extreme, over the top. ‘Footage of that oke* on the electric chair was hectic bru*.’

HOESIT, see howzit.

When a wave breaks powerfully on a shallow reef or sandbar, the lip* throws further and the barrel* is deemed to be hollow.

Stink. ‘Your feet hone bru’! ‘That ou has serious lung hone.’ (That guy has serious halitosis.)

Laugh. ‘He was hosing himself when he fell in the pool.’

1. Good surfer
2. Attractive member of the opposite sex.

Are you mad?! This question refers to the mental stability of the subject after performing a stupid, idiotic or irritating act.

Greeting. Short for ‘How is it?’ Refrain from saying, ‘It’s fine, thanks’. You will get a funny look. You can say: ‘No, fine.’ This means ‘Yes, I am fine’. ‘No’ often means ‘yes’ in South Africa. An Afrikaner might reply: ‘Ja, well, no fine’, a more emphatic, long-winded version of ‘No, fine’.

1. Busy. ‘Surfers’ Disco was humming last night.’
2. Stink. ‘He hums like a skunk.’

Good, excellent, enjoyable. ‘Hey bru*, I skeem* the jorl* was kiff*. What do you skeem?’ ‘Ja, bru, it was hundreds.’


Area where the waves break. When it’s a 12-foot day at Crayfish Factory you don’t really want to spend time there.

Exposed, sticking out like sore thumb, vulnerable. People who smoke too much dope get paranoid. They start worrying about ‘being in the eyes’. You would be too if your hair stood up like a fizzed furball and your eyes blazed like blinking red beacons.

Absolute, excellent, superlative. Surf doesn’t get better than ‘insane’.

An area closer to shore where the waves are breaking. At some breaks, there are a number of reefs or sandbars, some further out than others. In small swell, the waves will break on the inside. In bigger swell, they might break on the outside, but you can get caught on the inside.

State of nirvana for Rastafarians. Goofball South Africans in dreads think this is their word. Indicates good vibes, agreement, and positive associations. ‘Good surf, bru*. Irie.’

IS IT? (iz-zit?)
Conversational word used widely in response to anything. Derived from the English ‘Is it really?’ If you don’t feel like talking to a dik* ou* at a braai*, but don’t wish to appear rude, just say ‘is it’ at appropriate gaps in his description of how he decapitated a kudu with his bare hands.


1. Rising swell. ‘The surf is jacking*.’ ‘Supers jacked to six foot in an hour.’
2. Organised. ‘That oke* is jacked.’

JAGS (yughs)
Horny. ‘Checking Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee on video made me jags.’

Does this need explanation? Jeffreys Bay, the Mecca of surfing in South Africa. The town is similar to Torquay in Australia, home to big-name surf brands near a world-class wave. J-Bay ranks as perhaps the best right-hand point on earth.

Slightly outdated term for the surfers’ nemesis: the shark.

Party, have fun. The word jorl, like the word kiff* can be used in any context. ‘I am going to a jorl (party).’ ‘I am having a jorl (good time).’ ‘That spectacular wipeout at Supertubes was a jorl (rush).’

In a while. It will be done eventually, but maybe never. If someone says ‘I will do it just now’, be warned. It could be 10 minutes, 10 hours or never. ‘I’ll clean my room just now, Ma.’ If someone says ‘now now*’, you’re making progress. It won’t be done immediately, or instantly, but probably in less than 10 minutes, barring distractions that relegate it to ‘just now’.


KAALGAT (kaal-ghut)
Butt-naked (Afrikaans).

KAK (kuck)
Shit (Afrikaans). This is used in weird and wonderful ways in the same way as ‘shit’. ‘Don’t talk kak.’ ‘Don’t tune* me kak.’ ‘You’re so full of kak.’ ‘I am having a kak day.’ ‘He is in the kak.’

KANALA (kuh-nah-la)
Friend, buddy. ‘Hey my kanala, haven’t checked* you for a while.’

KAP (cup)
Cut, strike, do it. ‘Let’s kap another dop*.’ ‘The southwest buster* is going to kap the coast.’ ‘Kap it bru*.’

KÊFFIE, KUIF (kef-fee, kayf)
Café. Many South Africans deliberately don’t pronounce words properly.

KEI (kye)
The Transkei. Usually called the Kei, this former apartheid bantustan is part of the Eastern Cape. It remains rural and beautiful, with rolling green hills that fall into the sea as jagged cliffs along the aptly-named Wild Coast – a famous dagga*-growing area and birthplace of our former president, Nelson Mandela. The Kei is known by surfers for great camping, excellent point breaks and sharks.

At the end of your ride, you kick out of the wave in a controlled way.

Nice. Like the all-encompassing word ‘nice’, used by semi-literate English speakers the world over, it can be used in any context, and is a convenient way to express a limited vocabulary. ‘This chow is kiff ek sê*.’ ‘I just had such a kiff wave.’ Can be pronounced keef (drawing out the syllable).

KITTES (kuh-tiss)
Clothes, gear, kit. ‘You have lank* marcha* for the larny* kittes ek sê*.’

KLAP (klup)
Hit, slap (Afrikaans). Slap, partake in, perform an act. ‘Ek sal jou a snotklap gee.’ (I will hit you hard enough to make the snot fly.) ‘Let’s klap another Klippies*.’

Brandy and Coke. Named after Klipdrift, a popular brandy.

Idiot, dolt. ‘Don’t be a knob by dropping in* on me bru*.’

KNYP (k-naip)
Pinch.Bite the bullet. When your bladder is full, and you can’t go to the toilet, you knyp.

Beginner who gets in everyone’s way. A kook is not necessarily a grommet*, although a grommet can be a kook. Kooks can be all ages. Grommets are kids.

KOTCH, see bark the dog

Fountain of puke resembling a blanket.

Port Alfred. From the name of the river that runs through it.

KREEF (kree-erf)
Cape spiny lobster. The nutrient-rich waters of the West Coast are home to millions of these delicious crustaceans. Make friends with a local and go kreef diving, or bait them with a lobster pot (the kreef, not the locals). The daily bag limit is four. Season starts in November for four months.

A large antelope that is often the subject of macho posturing in bars.

KUSSED, kus, kished
Exhausted, tired. ‘I am kussed out/kus after that six-hour session*.’


Hot surfers rip, shred, carve, tear, and lacerate. All slashing or cutting motions can be applied to a surfer who is going off in cooking* waves. Also shred, rip, tear, carve.

LAMMIE (lum-mee)
Welt. A lammie is a kind of welt caused by hitting someone with the middle knuckle of your middle finger. School kids give each other lammies, usually on the forearm. A proper lammie becomes a bump immediately. From the Afrikaans word ‘lam’, which means paralysed or lame.

All-encompassing adjective describing lots of something. ‘There are lank people in the water.’ ‘I dig him lank.’ ‘He’s lank thin.’

Fancy. ‘He’s such a larny.’ ‘You are wearing larny clothes.’ ‘Why are you dressed so larny?’ ‘We went to a larny party that had caviar for pudding.’ For coloured people in the Cape, it means ‘Friend’. ‘Hoesit* my larny!’

LAS (Luss)
1. Cancel, leave it. ‘They stopped the fight when he was told to las it.’
2. Too much like hard work. ‘Getting ready for the fancy dress is such a las.’

Hero, good guy, classy oke*. Down in the Eastern Cape, when the party is ripping, and everyone starts getting all soppy and sentimental, they might start calling each other ‘legends’. Also heard when someone pulls off a lank* clever move. ‘Jono, you legend!’ his friends might say. Can be shortened to ‘lej’. ‘That session* was lej, bru*!’

Nice, pleasant, fun, lovely, good, pretty (Afrikaans). People can be lekker. Cars can be lekker. You can have a lekker time. You can feel lekker. Holidays are lekker. When the Springboks occasionally win a rugby match, it’s lekker. Of course, a lamb chop on the braai* is also lekker.

Youngster. ‘That lightey is a good surfer, for a grommet*.’ (Also laaitie.)

An area just off the reef or sandbar where the waves are breaking. ‘He was sitting in the line-up.’ So named because at some breaks it is necessary to align yourself to a landmark to keep your spot in the line up. When the swell, rip currents or winds are strong, you often need to triangulate yourself with two landmarks, lest you drift from the take-off zone.

Top of the wave when it curls. You can get hit on the head by the lip, or you can hit the lip with your surfboard, a surfing manoeuvre that involves turning up the face and connecting the lip. Can be done by aggressively pushing your board into the lip, or by allowing the lip to push your board over as you reach the top.

LOMP (lômp)
Lethargic or clumsy (Afrikaans). Descriptive word denoting a lack of energy. ‘He felt lomp after that 12-hour surf session.’

LOSKOP (lôs-kôp)
Absent-minded, forgetful (Afrikaans).


MACK, Macker
Max, huge wave. ‘The waves are macking, bru*.

MADIBA (mah-dee-ba)
The clan name for Nelson Mandela universally used as a term of respect and affection. His full name is Nelson Rolihlahla (Roli-shla-shla) Mandela.

MAJAT (muh-jut)
Low-grade dagga*. ‘This kak* is majat.’

Makes you stoned. ‘Schwee bru*, I am so on’. Also ‘This stuff puts on’.

MAL (mull)
Mad (Afrikaans). ‘That ou* is mal’.

Shark. Surfers never use the word ‘shark’ in the water.


Not to be confused with its poor Australian cousin vegemite, Marmite is a salty yeast and vegetable extract resembling burnt engine oil mixed with treacle. It’s a protein-rich paste with a meaty flavour – a by-product of the fermentation of brewer’s yeast discovered by a German chemist named Liebig. The Brits made it commercially viable.

Drug merchant. ‘He went to score a bankie* from his mert.’

MIELIE PAP, see pap
MIF, same as sif*

Hassle, schlep. ‘School is a mission.’

MOER (Moer-r)
Hit, punch (Afrikaans). ‘I will moer you if you drop in* on my wave.’

Prepare dagga* for smoking.

This goes beyond short hair on top; long at the back. Neither does it refer to bait-fish. A mullet is a person who is weird, eccentric or insane. ‘That ou* is a mullet.’


Wimp, wimpish. A naff is somebody lacking backbone. ‘Cecil is such a naff name.’

NAUGHT, naughtus (naw-tiss)
No, Oh no! Used like ‘nooit’. ‘Naught bru*! Don’t drop in* on me again or I’ll moer* you with a picket fence.’

NECK, see bottleneck

NOOIT (noy-t)
Never (Afrikaans). No way, oh no! Also used as an expletive. If you have just heard that a South African won the world surfing champs, you would say, ‘Nooit! Are you serious?’

Asshole, ringpiece. Pronounced the same as naught. ‘I fell on my nought.’ ‘I saw my nought.’ ‘It’s as cold as a polar bear’s nought.’

In a little while. ‘We’re going surfing now now.’ (We’re about to go surfing, depending on when the video ends and how long it takes to put on the roof racks, get petrol, and stop at the shop). Now now happens much quicker than just now*. Really.

Extremely out of it. ‘I got so numb after making a fat number* at Numbers disco.’

Joint. ‘Let’s make a number.’ May have originated in California from the lyric ‘One is the loneliest number you will ever do’ by Three Dog Night (1969)


OBS (o-bees)
Old Brown Sherry. Many a nostalgic surfer will remember the days they lay on the beach with friends around a fire wrapped around a bottle of OBs.

OFF ITS FACE, see ballistic

OKE, OU, (oak, oh)
Guy, chap, bloke. Despite being low on letters, oke or ou are huge words. This word, or its variant, is South Africa’s most common word for a man. Probably from Afrikaans ‘ou pel’ (old mate), but the adjective became the noun after the ‘pel’ was dropped. ‘That ou says he can paddle around Seal Island with one arm.’

Stoned. ‘I am so on.’

On a quest to complete a task. When you’re determined to complete a task, you are on a mission. If you try and persuade your bru* to pull in* to the jorl*, he might say, ‘Nooit* bru, I’m on a mission to pass exams.’

Nice one. You are lank* cool if you say ‘One time’.

Utility adjective. It does not mean unique as in ‘There can be only one’, but a utility word meaning lank*, kiff* or very much. ‘He was only tuning* him,’ does not mean ‘He was tuning only him,’ or even ‘He was just tuning him.’ It means ‘He was tuning him with great gusto.’

An area further out from the shore where the waves are breaking. In small swell, the waves break on the inside. In bigger swell, they might break on the outside.

The classic surf wipeout, when the lip* of the wave sucks you over, drops you onto the seemingly cement-hard water, and then falls on your head followed by several cycles in a salty washing machine.


PADKOS (put-kôss)
Food for the journey, literally road food (Afrikaans). Padkos is usually a few sarmies*, cooldrinks, chips, fruit and maybe a lekker* stukkie* biltong*.

PAP (Pup)
1. Porridge (Afrikaans). Boiled maize meal (mielie pap) is the staple diet of many South Africans. Pap is versatile. It can be eaten as a sweet, soft porridge, or cooked up stiff to be eaten as a starch with a main meal, in which case it’s usually referred to as ‘pap en sous’, meaning pap and sauce (or gravy).
2. Weak, soft (Afrikaans). ‘The waves are pap today.’

PARK OFF, park.
1. Chill out. When you park off, you sit down and relax. ‘Shall we park off and watch Riding Giants for the 40th time?’
2. Sit down. ‘Donovan, why don’t you park here?’

PARK A TIGER, see bark the dog

What Americans call a sidewalk, we call a pavement.

Port Elizabeth, a town near J-Bay*.

PERLEMOEN (perr-luh-moen)
Abalone. A delicious shellfish.

Head. If you ding your pip, you hurt your head. If you get shacked* off your pip, you get barrelled* off your nut.

This is where you don’t want to be when a huge set is breaking. It refers to the impact zone*, the area where the waves break.

PITJIES (pit-chies)
Dagga* seeds. Occasionally refers to other fruit and vegetable pips.

PLAK (pluck)
Weird state of mind. The Afrikaans meaning is to stick (with glue), but it also denotes a certain mindset. You say to someone with obscure reasons for doing something, ‘What’s your plak?’ (Where are you coming from?) The variation is, ‘How’s your mind?’ This is a distracted, even deranged, state of mind. ‘He was on a plak when he dived off the roof.’ (He was on a weird trip when he dived off the roof.)

POEPOL (poep-all)
Idiot, twit. ‘Don’t be a poepol’.

Used in same way as c**t and it means the same thing. ‘Don’t be a poes’. (Don’t be nasty.)

A reef that juts out from the land around which waves bend and break.

POMP (pômp)
Bonk, have sex. From the Afrikaans word meaning ‘pump’. Literal connotations with farm water pumps and windmills.

After chilling out for any length of time on the Wild Coast, you risk contracting Pondoland Fever. Not a tropical disease, just a general ‘Hey like’ lethargy brought on by the mind-stewing quality of the local ‘herbs’.

PORSIE (paw-zee)
Home, spot, place. ‘Should we watch videos at your porsie?’

Take a drag. ‘Can I have a pull bru*.’

Enter. You pull into the barrel* or the jorl*. It can also mean scoring with a member of the opposite sex, as in ‘Brian only* pulled into Susan on Tuesday night.’


PUMPING, see ballistic

Makes you stoned.


Extreme, over-the-top, great. A hot surfer will perform a radical move. If you have just had a good wave, you will say it was rad.

Not a furry creature with a long tail, but youngsters who surf, many of them beginners. They do sometimes look similar to rats, and are viewed in the same way, if not worse.

A surf spot where the waves break on a reef – rock or coral.

Surfing manoeuvre that entails turning vertically up the face, hitting the lip and dropping down the wave either on the face, or over the broken foam.

Not a person who runs after large terrestrial mammals, but a big-wave board, something long enough and strong enough to handle a macking* bomb*.

Human sphincter. ‘I dropped my rods* and flashed* my ring.’ Also used as a more general term for the human bottom. A more descriptive way of saying ‘I slipped and fell on my bottom’ is ‘I slipped and saw my ring.’ This has a better ring to it.

RIP, see shred, tear, carve, lacerate
Also refers to rip currents. ‘He got caught in the rip.’

Traffic light. Peculiarly South African way of describing a traffic light. But then, we only got TV in the mid 1970s.

To arrive. The more old-fashioned way of saying pull in*. You don’t tell anyone you’re on the way, you just rock up.

Trousers. ‘I dropped my rods and flashed a brown eye*.’

ROFF (r-rôf)
Rough. Often pertains to an uncouth person or dodgy neighbourhood. ‘The perlemoen* poachers in Hawston are quite roff.’

ROOIBAARD (roy-baard)
Superior-grade dagga* cultivar with sticky red hairs on the heads.

ROOIBOS (roy-bôs)
This tannin-free and caffeine-free herbal tea originates from the Clanwilliam area of the Western Cape. Made from the Aspalathus linearis bush. Homesick South Africans buy it from gourmet stores around the world even if they don’t like it.

The real thing. ‘It’s gonna be roots!’ It’s going to be the real deal. Possibly borrowed from the album Sepultra Roots. See cool Port Elizabeth author Hagen Engler’s book Life’s a Beach.

ROP (r-rôp)
Nice, radical. ‘That was such a rop wave.’

Spurt of adrenalin, thrill. ‘I got such a rush riding that 15-foot barrel* at the Crayfish Factory.’


SAMO0SA (suh-moor-suh)
Deep-fried triangular curried pie. Originally from northern India, samoosas can be found in cafés around the country.

An African food made from whole dried maize, usually eaten with haricot or red beans in a rich gravy stew. Lekker*.

Sandwich. Kids sometimes take a sarmie to school in the morning.

Steal. A person who is ‘scaly’ is a scumbag or a sleazy type, such as a skollie, skelm or skebenga*.

SCHNAAI (sh-nigh)
Rip off, betray, stab in the back. ‘He was schnaaied by his brus* when they tipped off the boere* that he had five kilos of rooibaard* in the back of his bakkie*.’

1. Purchase. ‘Hey bru*, check this bankie* I scored from my mert*!’
2. Acquire, give. ‘I scored a luck last night.’ ‘Bru, score me some wax’.

Paddle fast. When a big wave looms on the outside*, you scratch to get over it.

Part of something, usually a wave, or a joint. When you hit a section called Impossibles at J-Bay*, you get pitted* in an awesome barrel from which you will be lucky to emerge. When you hit the gooey rooibaard* section of a six-blade slowboat* in the Kei, you will be lucky to emerge with wits intact.

A period of time spent surfing. ‘It was my second session of the day.’

A group of waves that break one after the other. Swells travel in intermittent sets, with a lull between them.

Tubed. ‘Bru*, I got shacked off my pip* during that cyclone swell.’

1. Expression of sympathy. ‘These piles are lank* sore.’ ‘Ag* shame bru!’
2. How cute. ‘Ag* shame, what a sweeeet puppy.’

SHARK BISCUIT, see doormat
From Australian slang for body-boarder.

Affirmation, cool. A popular and trendy word originating from urban black culture that is now widely in use. You also say sharpshoot, or sharp-sharp, pronounced shupshup.

Waves that break almost at the shoreline. Many surf spots end with a close-out* shore break.

1 Thanks. You will say ‘Shot’ when your bru* buys you a brew*. ‘Shot bru.’ ‘Shot a lot Dot.’
2 Goodbye. You will also say ‘Shot bru*’ when saying goodbye.
3 Yours sincerely. You will end your letter, ‘Shot, Peter.’

SHRED, see carve, lacerate

Excellent, cool. ‘Shweet my bru*!’

Excellent, radical, good. A sick wave is a really juicy, clean, hard-breaking wave, not a wave that resembles vomit.

Disgusting. A shortened version of syphilis, sif doesn’t necessarily refer to disease, but could refer to a gangrenous coral wound, an overused long drop toilet, a car accident or a chorb*.

Yuck. ‘Sis, man, you just kotched* on my wetsuit.’

SJOE (shoe), shew (shee-you), shewee (shee-you-wee), shwee
Expletive. ‘Sjoe bru*, that wave was awesome.’

Embarrassed (Afrikaans). ‘Gavin was lank* skaam after he wiped out right in front of his stukkie*.’

SKATE, see skebenga

Watch out. If a car is heading for you, and you haven’t noticed, you friend will shout ‘Skay!’ Also ‘Chips’.

SKEBENGA (skuh-beng-guh)
Gangster, crook, ruffian (Zulu). ‘Skay* Ray, that skebenga is checking* your skedonk*.’ (Watch it, Ray, that crook is looking at your car.’) Also skelm or skollie.

SKEDONK (skuh-dônk)
A really beaten up old jalopy.

SKEEF (skee-erf)
Skew, bent (Afrikaans). A classic saying heard in bars around South Africa is ‘Are you checking* me skeef, China*?’ (Are you looking at me funny, mate?) This often precedes a brawl. ‘Bru, do you skeem* this stringer is skeef?’ (Bro, do you think this surfboard stringer is crooked?)

Think, reckon. ‘You skeem?’ (You think so?) ‘What do you skeem?’ (What do you think?) ‘I’m skeeming we surf Seal Point.’

SKELM, see skebenga

SKINDER (skuh-ner)
Gossip (Afrikaans). Usually juicy gossip.

SKITSELS (skuht-sels)
The debris, or detritus, left at the bottom of the jar, or bankie*, after you’ve used up the best of your dagga* stash. Skitsels are the stalks, pips and bits of leaves.

SKOLLIE, see skebenga
Can be used almost affectionately when talking about a roguish friend. Choose carefully whom you call a skollie. Apparently, derived from ‘skoolverlater’, which is Afrikaans for ‘school leaver’.

Fright, frighteningly ugly (Afrikaans). After being held down for 30 seconds in the kelp at Crayfish Factory, you might get a bit of a skrik. An owl hoot in a cemetery might also give you a skrik. Alternatively, your lover might be a skrik, but that’s not so lekker*.

SKYF (skayf)
1. Spliff. ‘Let’s make a skyf, bru*’
2. A French fry.

SKYFIE (skay-fee)
A slice, or a piece of something, especially an orange.

SLAP CHIPS (slup chips)
Soft and stodgy French fries, ideal for mixing with tomato sauce or vinegar, or both.

Piss, leak. ‘I’m taking a slash.’

Beach thongs – the kind you wear on your feet. They’re made of rubber and have a strap between your big toe and its partner. Also flip flops.

SLOT IN, slot
Pull in* to a tube*. ‘Peter was perfectly slotted.’ (Peter rode the tube perfectly.)

Large joint made with three or more cigarette papers. A six-blade slowboat would be made with six papers.

SLUK (sluhk)
1. Drink. Have a sip of someone’s drink. ‘Give me a sluk, bru.’
2. To steal. ‘I was slukking my dop* when some oke* got klapped* for slukking another oke’s dop.’

Affectionate nickname for East London, which is near excellent surf.

Like, enjoy, have the hots for. ‘I smaak Sam stukkend*.’ (I have the total hots for Sam.)

SMOKING, see ballistic

Steal a wave. Some surfers are masters at this. They will paddle around you, heading further out, then suddenly paddle towards the inside* to claim right of way over the wave you were going for.

Piece of snot stuck to one’s face after a duck dive*.

Long narrow fish with sharp teeth found off Cape Town. It tastes great when fresh. Smoked snoek can be eaten as is, which is delicious, or served in a dish called ‘smoorsnoek, which tastes better than it sounds.

Stingy (Afrikaans). This is not a fish, but a noun or verb referring to extreme stinginess. ‘Solly is a snoep snoek.’

Excuse me. While also used for its global meaning, as an apology, South Africans have managed to mutate it further. ‘Sorry, can I just get past.’ Perhaps it has psychological roots in the apartheid days, when travelling white South Africans said sorry wherever they went.

SOSATIE (suh-saa-tea)
Kebab. Spicy marinated meat skewered with pieces of tomato, green pepper, onion and sometimes fruit, especially apricot, and braaied*.

SOUTHEASTER, see Cape Doctor.

SPADE, spadework
To court a member of the opposite sex. The verb is used in a number of ways, such as ‘Sheila was spading Bruce big time.’ ‘Bruce will have to put in lots of spadework if he’s going to pull in* to Sheila tonight.’ Also charf*.

A lot, many, much, more. This is mostly a Durban word that is used as an adjective that amplifies things. ‘You guys have left out a span of words in your slang dictionary Ek sê*!’

Shot out of the tube. Sometimes, when you get tubed, you get spat out with a burst of spray when compressed air caught in the swirling cylinder is suddenly released.

SPEED-BUMP, see booger, doormat.

SPEW, see bark the dog

SPONGE, see booger, doormat

Cane spirits and Coke.

Crooked. Similar to skeef*.


Dik*, big, strong. ‘That prop forward is a staunch ou*.

Totally amped*, revved up, happy. ‘The oke* was so stoked after making that wave.’

Surf trip that ends with no surf. The amped* excitement and stoke fades when a long drive reveals no surf.

STOP, Stoppe (stôp, stôp-pe)
A sausage-shaped parcel of dope wrapped in newspaper or brown paper.


STUKKEND (stuhk-uhnt)
Broken, ruined, finished, wrecked (Afrikaans). Variations include ‘I’m going to moer* you stukkend’ (I am going to beat you to a pulp), ‘My heart was stukkend’ (My heart was broken), ‘I was stukkend last night’ (wrecked) or ‘I smaak* you stukkend’ (I like you lank*).

STUKKIE (stuhk-key)
Little piece (Afrikaans). Sexist term for a person of the opposite sex. Also – of course – a little piece of something.

When you’re styling, everything clicks into place and you find yourself surfing like Kelly Slater, Tom Curren and ‘insert-favourite-surfer-here’ rolled into one.

SUKKEL (suhk-kel)
Afrikaans – Struggle, have difficulty with. ‘The grommets* are sukkelling in the strong current.’

Surf trip. ‘I went on a surfari to Indo.’

Savvy. ‘Having a bit of suss’ is to be quite sharp, knowledgeable or street-wise. ‘I have sussed it out’ (I have worked it out).

Exhausted, kussed*.

SWAK (swuck)
Bad, nasty, downer. A disappointed surfer will choon*, ‘Swak bru*, the surf is pap*.’

Potent cannabis vintage from Swaziland. Dark red, with sticky furry hairs on the heads. A prime choice for connoisseurs.


Catch a wave. The take-off zone is the area where you catch the waves.

TAKKIES (tackies)
Sneakers, trainers, running shoes. Often refers to the cheap, hip kind bought in a mass clothing chain called Pep Stores. This word is also used to describe car tyres. If someone has fat takkies they have a souped-up car with wide-brim tyres.

TASSIES (tuss-ees)
A cheap red wine called Tassenberg. You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a bottle. It could be a good wine, or it could be plonk. Only the label is constant. For many, Tassies evokes memories of beach parties and a sand-caked babalas*.

TEAR, see carve, lacerate.

TECHNICOLOURED YAWN, see bark the dog

Nostalgic glimpse into the past. We haven’t chooned* each other since that time!

THE MOER IN (moer-r)
Very angry. ‘You make me the moer in!’

Throw at. From how some Afrikaners will translate directly from Afrikaans when speaking English. ‘He threw me with a stone,’ means ‘He threw a stone at me.’

TIGER See ‘What kind?’

Thing, joint, zol*. ‘Let’s make a ting,’ you say to your china* on a grassy hill in the Kei*.

When surfers are towed into large waves by a jetski you call them tow surfers or tow-in surfers.

TRAP (trup)
Walk, step (Afrikaans). ‘My china* and me went for a trap to choon* about the kiff* words we found in this glossary.

TUNE (choon)
To tell, to talk, to provoke. For instance, ‘Are you tuning me kak*? ‘Tune me the ages.’ (Tell me the time.)

To irritate someone. Whatever you do, if a big oke* in a bar pesters you with macho stories of how he tore off a kudu’s head with his bare hands, don’t show your irritation by saying ‘Are you tuning me grief?’ Your relatives will be in grief, indeed. And you won’t be around to tune them anything.


VAALIES (vaah-lees)
Originally these were holidaymakers from the former province of Transvaal. Now also called Gauties, from Gauteng. People who live at the coast (and surfers especially) consider them to be a lesser breed of person – more interested in making a living than parking off* on the beach and checking* out the waves.

VLOEK (floek)
Swear, swear at (Afrikaans). ‘I vloeked Harry and he vloeked me back.’ Not to be confused with fluke, also sometimes pronounced ‘floek’ by South Africans (something happening by accident).

VROT (frôt)
Rotten, putrid (Afrikaans). Something undesirable, smelly, or rotten. It can also mean a paralytic drunken state. ‘I was vrot last night.’


WAAI (v-eye)
To go or to leave. ‘Come, let’s waai back to my porsie*.’

Paralytic drunk or totally high. ‘I was completely wasted at the party.’

A break near a wall, pier or jetty. The waves come in, rebound off the wall and travel sideways into the oncoming swell. This pushes up the wave in the middle, forming an A-framed wedge. If you take off on the wedge, you get loads of speed and can hit the lip with lots of force.

Stoned, out of it, far gone. Perhaps a pun on the word ‘wasted’. ‘Bru*, we ended up way west.’

A drink, refreshment. ‘Hey bru*, I’m lank* thirsty, lets grab a wettie.’

Aggressive act. ‘I gave him what for.’ This could be by punching him, or vloeking* him, or chastising him vigorously.

Don’t be a jerk. If your friend has just parked a tiger* over the side of your car, you would call indignantly ‘What kind?’

Blah blah, yada yada. ‘That oke* tuned* me “what what”.’

Exposed coast, usually facing the predominant swell direction.

WINDMILL, see boatman, egg beater

Panic attack, fit of rage, nervous breakdown. ‘Phillip threw a wobbly after someone drove a Nissan Sani over his new seven-eight custom surfboard.’

WOES (voess)
Vicious, wild, pissed off (Afrikaans). ‘Skay* bru*, that baboon looks woes.’

Very stoned or drunk. ‘I am s-o-o-o-o worse!’

WUSS, WUSSY (woess, woes-see)
Wimp, pansie, naff, weakling. ‘Don’t be a wuss, it’s only a six-foot puff adder that’s chewing on your leg.’


YISLAAIK (yuhss-like)
A variation of yissus.

YISSUS, YUSSUS (yuh-siss)
Expression of surprise. From the Afrikaans pronunciation of ‘Jesus’. The same as ‘My God!’ ‘Oh Lord’. An expression of surprise, fear or shock.

YO, see yooit.

YOOIT (yoyt)
When a bru* checks another bru across the street, he tunes*: ‘Yooit!’ If you use this form of greeting, bru*, you are la-a-a-ank* cool. Also ahoy, aweh, howzit, hoesit, yo.

YURRUH (yuh-r-ruh)
Similar to yissus, from the Afrikaans pronunciation of ‘Here’ (hear-er), meaning Lord, or God.


ZOL (zôl)
A joint commonly rolled out of a piece of newspaper and stuck together with saliva. Many township residents smoke tobacco this way.

Completely stoned.

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Mon Oct 26 13:14:48 +0000 2020

This is a breaking story about the beach at Seal Point, and how some locals are fiercely fighting to stop Seal Poin… https://t.co/ntLt5AReKN
Thu Oct 22 14:22:53 +0000 2020

From age two to 82, more than 220 South African surfers and others took to the water in last week’s Little Optimist… https://t.co/QvcVxTSI8B
Mon Oct 19 14:28:48 +0000 2020

Southern Cape -- Small surf Monday with a whiff of light to moderate W offshore, so nice conditions, but 2-4' surf… https://t.co/MsNgo8aDJM
Mon Oct 19 14:28:46 +0000 2020

Eastern Cape West -- A mild morning sick start Monday with a whiff of light to moderate NE puffing, and a 2-4' open… https://t.co/TWOj5c8qRd
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