What is SURF in Spanish? – A useful survival guide for surfers in El Salvador

Jan 18, 2020 | Spanish Vocabulary, El Salvador

from Henning

Henning lived for several years in El Salvador, working as a teacher. He is Co-Founder of the SAY ZONTE! project. Writing for this blog is his way to give s.th. back to “el pulgarcito.”

What is to surf  in Spanish?

Do you plan a surf-trip to a Spanish-speaking country, and you want to prepare yourself with the essential Spanish surf vocabulary?

Then this article might be interesting for you!

Click on the audios to learn how to pronounce the most important phrases and become a “local” 😉

In general, I think it’s very important that you at least speak a few phrases if you surf in a Spanish speaking country. It’s a question of respect and a door opener to find friends.

If you’re interested in more general Salvadoran Slang, you should read our post Salvadoran slang – The 10 most important phrases you should know.

Surfing in El Salvador

Spanish surf vocabulary with Mónica

Mónica is our virtual Spanish teacher. Why don’t you watch her video first to get started?

Surf in Spanish speaking countries – Some words about El Salvador

El Salvador has become more and more popular among surfers in the last few years. Still, the surf spots in El Salvador are not as crowded as in other popular surf destinations like Australia, the USA, and Indonesia, for example.

But the new government under Nayib Bukele strongly supports the development of international surf tourism in El Salvador since 2019. 

In general, it’s a good idea, giving more opportunities for people to find jobs and find a way to make their living. But it also means that there will be more people in the water waiting for waves.

surf in el salvador

I have never experienced intense “localism” here in the water. People in El Salvador, in general, are amiable and welcoming to foreign tourists and surfers. 

But it’s always good to know some Spanish surf phrases. It shows some respect for the locals, and you will find way more acceptance from them if you can have a  small talk in Spanish in the water.

Yes, I know, you paid for your surf trip to El Salvador, but you are always a guest. And there are still many local surfers who don’t make a profit from the rising surf tourism here in El Salvador. They only share “their” daily hobby (and waves) with you.

In general, I believe it doesn’t matter if you surf in Spanish-speaking countries like El Salvador or elsewhere: relax and enjoy being in the water!

Easy start: to surf in Spanish is “surfear”

The first one is easy: the Spanish verb for “to surf” is “surfear”. It’s just pronounced a little differently. So if you want to ask someone if he or she wants a surf-session with you, you could ask: ¿Quieres surfear?

If you want to ask a local surf guide for a surf-guiding you can tell him:
“¡Hola, quiero surfear! ¿Me puedes mostrar los mejores lugares para surfear? (Hi, I want to surf. Could you please show me the best places where to surf!)

¿Me puedes mostrar los mejores lugares para surfear?

Can you show me the best surf spots?

If you decide to surf in Spanish speaking countries (in Latin America), you will quickly realize that you might get along pretty well with your English surf expressions.  More and more local people who work with foreign tourists speak English.

But again: It’s a matter of respect to at least try to express some Spanish surf phrases. And you will quickly realize that it’s a door opener to make some new local surf buddies.

Surf Spot "Las Flores" in El Cuco

La tabla de surf (the surfboard)

“La tabla (de surf) ” means surfboard. So a way to start some small talk is to ask for the size of the surfboard: “¿De qué tamaño es tu tabla?” (What size is your board). You will hear something like “¡Cinco Diez!” (Five Ten).

¿De qué tamaño es tu tabla?

What size is your surf board?

Also, you might save a dollar or two if you know how to ask for a surfboard reparation in Spanish: “¡Necesito reparar mi tabla! ¿Cuánto cuesta?” (I need my surfboard repaired. How much is it?).

¡Necesito reparar mi tabla! ¿Cuánto cuesta?

I need to repair my surfboard! How much is it?

Surf in El Salvador

Wave conditions: ¿Qué tal las olas?

Another critical point is if you want to ask for the wave conditions. Surfing in Spanish speaking countries you have never been before always means that you can’t be sure about the surf conditions unless you asked a local. So if you want to ask for the wave conditions, you can ask: “¿Qué tal las olas?” (the wave is “la ola”)

You might get an answer like “¡Están buenas / están buenísimas!” (“They’re good/excellent!”).

¡Están buenas / buenísimas!

They're good /excelent!

If there is too much wind and the conditions are getting choppy, you will hear something like “¡Está algo picado!” (It’s a little choppy!)

Surf in Spanish

You can also say: “Hay mucho viento!” (There’s a lot of wind).

 A right breaking wave is “ola derecha” or just “una derecha”. A left breaking wave is “ola izquierda” or “una izquierda”:

una ola derecha / izquierda

a right / left breaking wave

Another critical point is asking for the tide. “¿Cuándo hay marea alta?” (When is high tide?) or “¿Cuándo hay marea baja?” (When is low tide?).

¿Cuándo hay marea alta /baja?

When is low tide / high tide?

You will get an answer like “Como a las cinco de la mañana!” (Like five o clock in the morning!).

Como a las cinco de la mañana.

Like five o'clock in the morning.

surf in spanish

“¡Sos bien boya!” – “You’re such a buoy!”

If you hear someone calling you a “boya”(buoy) or “¡Qué boya!” surfing in El Salvador, that can mean both: It’s a good friend of you, and he or she is just joking around. Or some local people didn’t like your surf style (level), and you dropped into someone’s wave.

If you drop into someone’s wave unintentionally, you could tell him or her: “¡Lo siento!” (“I am sorry!”)

By the way: If someone is whistling in the water to you in the following way:

Whistle-sound: "La vieja"

(Don't do this unless you're really sure...!

It is called “la vieja” and it means “¡Tu madre!” (your mum). Yep, the “mum-insult” works pretty fine in El Salvador, too. We don’t need to explain that this is not very nice (or it’s just a friend of yours making some jokes). And we don’t recommend trying it with someone that you don’t know very well.

Surfing El Salvador

The essential vocabulary

Last but not least, we would like to give you the most important surf vocabulary in Spanish. Can you find out which word is pronounced from the list below?


Surf in Spanish

The essential surf vocabulary in Spanish


Last but not least, we would like to give you the essential surf vocabulary in Spanish. Can you find out which word is pronounced from the list below?

By the way, *shameless self-plug * We provide custom-made Spanish lessons in El Zonte, El Salvador. So if you want to learn more: contact us! 😉 If you want to read more about surfing in El Salvador, you should read our post about Surf in El Salvador: Useful Tips & Hints.

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