Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Episode 200: Hang Ten and Other Surfing Slang


What is a Hang Ten? How does one Hang Loose? Is it bad to Drop In? This week Shauna and Dan talk about their recent first time surfing and all the slang that goes with it. Bonus: Surfing Etiquette, the word 'brah', and traveling the world. #BunnyTrails

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast
Episode 200: Hang Ten and Other Surfing Slang
Record Date: July 15, 2023
Air Date: July 19, 2023


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase.

I’m Shauna Harrison

And I’m Dan Pugh

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook
Well, that’s what we normally do. But recently, Shauna and I had the opportunity to try surfing. This may not have been the best idea to wait until we were both in our 40s to give this a go, but despite breaking my nose on Day 1, I loved every minute of it. And you can see pics of us surfing and my broken nose in the behind the scenes video, available to patrons at any level at

Surfing was amazing! Now, I'm not exactly known for my coordination or balance, but I've been doing all this core and balance work as a part of my physical therapy for the last several years. I think that contributed greatly to my ability to get up on the board. And once I was up… man, if I lived near the ocean, I don't think I would even have other hobbies. It's an adrenaline rush and incredibly calming all at the same time. Absolutely my all-time favorite activity!

We want to give a big shout out to DavĂ­d, our surf instructor from All’sWell Costa Rica based out of Tamarindo, Costa Rica for helping us get up on those boards and ride the waves. We’ll link to their Facebook page on the show notes on and on our Patreon in case you want to visit the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica and give surfing, or other cool adventures, a try.

Surf Breaks

Let’s start our surfing conversation with a few different kinds of beaches where surfing happens. For that we’ll turn to an article written by Marie-Christine Amyot, CoFounder of Salty Souls. The article is dated 21 August 2018.

What we call the “surf break” is the zone where waves start to break. There’s 3 main types of surf spots: Beach break, Point break & Reef break. Each surf break will produce a different style of wave depending on the sea bottom and the local topography.

beach break: Waves breaking over a sand bottom.

point break: Surf break where waves hits (sic) a rocky headland.

reef break: Waves breaking over a coral reef bottom.
End Quote

1991 Movie

I remember watching the 1990s film Point Break with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. It was the movie that the Fast and Furious franchise ripped off, but I guess they didn’t get sued cause Point Break was about surfer criminals and a cop who infiltrates them but gets too close while Fast and Furious is about street racing criminals and a cop who infiltrates them but gets too close. Anyway, Point Break - at least at the time - was a phenomenal movie. But I was a teenager, so if it doesn’t hold up I apologize.

This movie may also be part of the popularization for the phrase “brah” to refer to your male friends as Reeves and Swayze say it numerous times throughout this film. Though the phrase has been in use since the 1960s, more on that in a few. But about the movie Point Break, we’ll link to the trailer. The 1991 trailer. We are ignoring the 2015 reimagining.

Hang Ten

Let’s talk about one of the most recognizable surfing phrases, Hang Ten. For a little background, we’ll turn to and Wonder of the Day #930, “What does it mean to hang ten, dude?”

If you've ever been around surfers for very long, you've probably heard the phrase “hang ten" thrown about. Hanging ten is one of the most difficult surfing stunts you can ever learn to do. If you can hang ten on a longboard, your friends will be impressed and you could be well on your way to becoming a surfing icon!

To hang ten, you have to perfectly balance your surfboard — usually a heavy longboard — so that the back of the board is covered by the wave. Doing so allows the rider to walk all the way to the front of the board and hang all ten toes over the front of the board. That's where the “hang ten" comes from!
End Quote

1960 Clothing Brand

Hang Ten is also one of the most recognizable surf clothing brands in the world. Here is a little about them from their website,

When it comes to authentic surf wear, there aren’t many brands with more history than Hang Ten. Founded in 1960 by Doris Moore and Duke Boyd in Seal Beach, CA, the iconic line of board shorts, shirts, and other accessories has come to represent the surfcentric lifestyle of the West Coast all around the world.

Boyd, who was born in Kansas City in 1934 and began surfing at age 12 in Hawaii, knew firsthand what surfers needed in the water. He approached Doris Moore with a design for a surf jacket to help surfers stay warm. Moore took a look at the designs and noticed the swim trunks underneath the jacket: that was what they needed to make. And so, the first pair of Hang Ten boardshorts were born, designed specifically to withstand the wear and tear of the ocean.

Soon after, Boyd and Moore decided on a name: Hang Ten. A term synonymous with mastering the art of nose riding, it was the perfect name for their new brand. They then developed the golden, embroidered bare feet tag that would become the brand’s trademark. Those two bare feet would go on to become recognized around the world, as would the companies cheeky advertisements, which graced the inside cover of Surfer Magazine.
End Quote

So Hang Ten was founded in 1960, based on what was already a popular term in surfing. So we know the phrase was around before that.


Among surfers you may have seen a hand signal used that is often called a ‘shaka’ which appears to have originated in Hawai’i. I’m going to read an article by Sarah Durn from 14 December 2021 called, “The Dark History of Hawai‘i’s Iconic Hand Gesture”. The article begins:

Go to any surfing beach today and you’d be hard-pressed not to find someone throwing a “shaka” hand—thumb and pinkie extended, three middle fingers curled against the palm. The iconic gesture, sometimes referred to as a “hang ten” or “hang loose,” has traveled far from its Hawai‘i origins. Today, American presidents, London nightclub goers, and even the emoji keyboard all sport the shaka hand.

Saa Tamba, owner of Tamba Surf Company on Kaua‘i, has been throwing shakas his whole life. “It’s just, from my perspective, a way of saying hi, a way of saying goodbye, and spreading some good spirit, you know, the eternal spirit of aloha,” he says. Tamba is quick to clarify that the shaka isn’t a wave. “You’re kind of like throwing it out there, you know, to your friend or someone away in the distance. So they’re kind of like catching the shaka,” he says. Tamba throws different shakas for different reasons. There’s the casual, one-handed shaka and there’s the “strong,” double-handed shaka for flagging someone down at a crowded concert, or saying hello to a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

The shaka hand grew in popularity across Hawai‘i in the mid-20th century thanks in part to used car salesman David “Lippy” Espinda, who was the first to link the gesture to the word—which is not actually Hawaiian in origin, but more likely Japanese. As a sign-off for his 1960s television ads, Espinda would throw a shaka and then say his catchphrase: “shaka, brah!” In the 1970s and 1980s, the gesture also featured prominently in reelection campaign ads for Frank Fasi, Honolulu’s longest-serving mayor. While Fasi and Espinda helped make the shaka hand more recognizable in Hawai‘i, surfing’s surge in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s helped export the gesture abroad. As Tamba puts it, “surfing spread it more than anything else.”
End Quote

Later in the article,

However, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the prevailing origin story goes back about a century to Hawaiian plantation worker Hamana Kalili. His job was to feed sugar cane stalks into the rollers of a machine that would squeeze out the cane’s sweet juice. One day, Kalili’s hand got caught in the rollers and he ended up losing his three middle fingers. The company, the Kahuku Sugar Mill, gave him a new job as a security guard; every time he waved, he’d make what’s now known as the shaka hand. From there, local children mimicked and spread the gesture.

Accidents like Kalili’s certainly happened on Hawaiian plantations, perhaps even fairly often. “You know, there must be dozens of people with three fingers missing in the middle of the hand,” says historian Mike Mauricio of the Hawai‘i Plantation Village. While we know Kalili actually existed, Mauricio is unconvinced there’s enough evidence that he specifically originated the gesture.

University of Lisbon’s Cristiana Bastos, principal investigator of the Colour of Labour: the Racialized Lives of Migrants, agrees that Kalili’s role in originating the gesture is uncertain—but says the story is about more than one individual. While the story is “mythic,” she says, Kalili’s tragic tale serves as a reminder of a time “where plantations were very important” in Hawai‘i. The role of Indigenous Hawaiians in plantation history is often overlooked, Bastos adds. Ironically, the modern, feel-good shaka gesture is, in some ways, one of the echoes of that little-known, often brutal chapter of Hawaiian history.
End Quote

So from that we see two experts calling the origin story into question, so buyer beware, I suppose. You’ll also notice they mention hang loose in the first paragraph, another name for the shaka sign. Hang loose is basically surfer for hello, goodbye, awesome, and all things hakuna matata, to quote a musical meerkat. But we were surfing in Costa Rica, which already has a phrase that means all those things, Pura Vida. You can get more on that phrase in episode 162: Pura Vida.

Goofy Foot

When I’m on the surfboard, I ride with my right foot on the back of the board. That is the normal way of riding, owing to the fact that it doesn’t have any odd terms associated with it. Shauna on the other hand, just can’t be normal in anything she does. She rides with her left foot on the back, which is known in the surfing world as “Goofy”.

Where this came from is not very clear. I’ll turn to to hear one theory debunked and one citation from an early attestation.

One of the most popular theories on the origin of the expression "goofy" is related to "Hawaiian Holiday," a 1937 animated surf movie by Walt Disney.

The film features Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Donald Duck, one crab, and a starfish.

In his first surfing lessons, Goofy adopts a right-foot-forward stance before suffering a horrendous wipeout.

However, the problem with this hypothesis is that Goofy also rides regular - with his left foot forward - in the movie.

Furthermore, the expression "goofy" - originally from the word "goff" - was already a derogatory term meaning "fool," "weird," and "silly."
End Quote

The next one is about Desmond Muirhead, the famous golf course designer, who took up surfing in the mid-1950s and in 1962 wrote a book on surfing called “Surfing in Hawaii: A Personal Memoir” which used the phrase and is one of the first attestations we can find. This is still from the same article.

In his first visit to Hawaii in 1956, he fell in love with surfing, took lessons, and became a well-rounded surfer.

Six years after his first contact with Waikiki's perfect and smooth-rolling waves, he wrote a book about "Surfing in Hawaii."

And it is precisely in this book that the first ever written reference to goofy-footed surfers can be read.

"People who put their right foot forward are called 'goofy foots.' Personally, I find this position the most comfortable," Muirhead wrote.
End Quote

It sounds like the phrase was probably in use before this book. And maybe it was just called goofy because normal people were right handed and right footed. I know my kindergarten teacher made me write with my right hand because that is the correct way to do it. But we may never truly know the origin of goofy foot.

I still want to talk to you about types of surfboards and surfing etiquette, but first we need to say thank you to our Patrons who have been supporting us for 200 episodes.

A Quick Thank You

This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

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Surf Boards

To talk about surf boards, we go to an article by Everyday California, who says:

There are many different types of materials used to make surfboards. The most common are soft-top foam, wood, polyurethane, and epoxy.

If you’re getting comfortable on your soft-top and looking to move up to a more advanced style of board, it mostly comes down to personal preference.

If you prefer something highly durable, buoyant, and environmentally-friendly, look for epoxy boards. If you prefer a board that gives you more control, is easier to repair, and costs less, look for poly.

But the most important thing is how it feels on a wave. Some people really like the “traditional” feel of a poly board, and others are more comfortable with epoxy. If you can, borrow or rent a few different types of boards and see which construction works best for you.
End Quote

And they also note there are a variety of surfboard shapes as well:

Surfboards usually fall into five basic categories: shortboards, fish boards, funboards, longboards, and guns.  

Shortboard (5'-7')
If you want to pull off some seriously cool, acrobatic stunts on the face of a wave, you’ll need a shortboard. These low-volume boards have pointed noses and thin rails, which gives you the best turning ability. A shortboard allows you to maneuver about the wave with more control than any other board type.

The shortboard has one huge downside: it’s hard to learn to surf one, and is generally only recommended for intermediate and advanced surfers. The low volume, thin rails, and pointed nose make it a lot harder to paddle and balance, so new surfers should always learn the fundamentals on a longboard before switching to a shortboard.

Fish (5'-6'6")
Shortboards are great for fast, powerful waves, but don’t do so well when the surf conditions aren’t that good. When the surf is slow and small, a fish board will allow you to catch a lot more waves.

Fish surfboards get their name from the fish-like notched tail. They’re usually about the same length as a shortboard, but wider and thicker for extra volume. Fish boards are more stable and easier to paddle than a shortboard, so you don’t need to be as advanced to ride one, but we still recommend them for intermediate and advanced surfers.

A lot of people use fish boards exclusively for small, slow waves, but they’re just as much fun to take into larger sets. If you’re looking for a more relaxed ride on large waves without doing a lot of carving, a fish is perfect.

Longboard (9'+)
Every surfer should own a longboard. They’re perfect for every age and skill level, and have some serious advantages over shorter boards.

Longboards are the easiest to paddle, most stable, and catch the most waves. The higher volume and surface area means that you’ll be able to catch waves earlier and ride them longer than anyone on a surfboard. Even when the waves are barely above your ankles, you can surf with a longboard.

Funboard (6.5'-9')
If you’ve ever thought, “Longboarding would be more fun if I could carve more,” or “Shortboarding would be more fun if I wasn't falling down every few seconds” then you need a funboard.

These surfboards are between the length of a shortboard and longboard to combine the best attributes of both designs. Funboards come in a variety of widths, thicknesses, and nose shapes, but most are designed with stability and ease of use in mind.

Funboards are the perfect board to help a beginner transition from longboard to shortboard surfing. A lot of people will go straight from a longboard to a shortboard, but the learning curve can be steep and frustrating because it’s such a huge and abrupt change.

If you’re having trouble switching to a shortboard, try riding a funboard for a while. They have plenty of maneuverability to do bottom turns, and enough stability that you won’t wipe out every time you try.

Gun (7'-11.5')
If this is your first time hearing about a gun, you’re probably not ready for one. Guns are for advanced and expert surfers only. Not because they’re harder to use, but because they’re designed exclusively for surfing on huge, powerful waves that you would be crazy to try to surf as a beginner.
End Quote

Surfing Etiquette

For some lessons on surfing etiquette, along with several new terms to learn, I turned to, a company based on Lan za row tay Lanzarote which is a Spanish island in the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of West Africa.  Let’s explore their tips to avoid frustrating the local surfers who call a beach home.

First up Right of Way

The surfer closest to the peak has the right of way. Every other surfer should wait for their turn. This is a key rule of surfing etiquette. Once on the line-up, position yourself lower and wider than the crowd, wait for your turn. If you notice that the crowd doesn’t let you surf, don’t get frustrated, position yourself lower – they will always miss a couple of waves. Some surf spots are extremely popular among local surfers. Avoid these spots during its best time of the day.
End Quote

Next up, Don’t Drop In

This is another very important rule of surfing etiquette. By dropping in, you take off on a wave that is already being surfed, or on the inside of a surfer, which is closer to the peak than you. Dropping in on someone will ruin the wave of the other surfer, it’s like stealing the wave. Dropping in is not only annoying but also dangerous. Collisions can lead to serious injuries. If you drop in by accident, kick out immediately and do apologize.
End Quote

The next one is Don’t Snake

By Snaking, you paddle around another surfer to get closer to the peak and steal the right of way. Snaking will help you make enemies in the water quickly. Our recommendation to the inpatient ones is to take it slow. Respect other surfers and gain respect in return. Remember, there are waves for everyone.
End Quote

Next is Paddle Wide, which includes the term impact zone, which is where the waves break.

When paddling out to the line-up, remember to paddle wide around the impact zone. If you do not manage the take-off and fall, paddle wide – do not try to shortcut through the middle of the wave. This might take a few minutes longer, but you avoid the risk of ruining someone’s flow, or even a collision.
End Quote

This last one that I’m going to read to you is one we got to experience first hand, Help Other Surfers.

Always be ready to help other surfers in the water. When you escape a big clean-up set, look back if someone lost his board, or got stuck on the rocks. Offer help, letting the surfer take a few breaths, or even accompany him out.

Look after each other – use the buddy system. Especially in bigger waves setting up a rescue team is an essential part of the preparation. Stay safe out there!
End Quote

We found the surfers to be more than helpful. It helps that we were on a beginners beach so everyone knew many of the surfers there would be new to the sport. But even when we weren’t surfing and instead chilling on the beach or swimming outside of the surfers area, we saw many folks helping other surfers by offering advice, clearing a path, and just generally being good people. Good vibes is the way to go. And of course we were surfing in Costa Rica, where the national motto is Pura Vida, which is about as good vibes as you can get.

Wrap Up
I have to admit, surfing was both incredibly fun and a ton of hard work. I am a big guy and not in the best shape of my life. And surfing definitely let me know about it. I’m gonna need to work on my core muscles, my balance, and my stamina if I want to get more successful at surfing. Also, I may have a problem with finding a good place since I live in Kansas - the literal middle of the contiguous United States. We have a concerning lack of oceans and other surfable areas. Maybe I’ll need to move to a warm, ocean-side beach town sooner rather than later. But I can start prepping now with some yoga and maybe going for a walk. Those seem like doable measures.

That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us at, or comment on our website

It’s poll time!

Recently we asked our Patrons about the parts of the world they have visited. None of our Patrons have been to Antarctica, but they’ve been to almost every other continent. We also asked them to tell us something cool about where they went.

Mary said,

I have done some traveling throughout the world and have loved it all. London was so culturally rich. The Middle East enlightening. Germany was filled with beauty and difficult history. Italy was just wow with museums, art, history, and landscape. Pompeii will always be one of my faves along with the Sistine Chapel. Island living for a few weeks in the Turks and Caicos made me understand why people move there. The US has been mostly about the people. That’s the best reason for traveling for me. I love seeing people I love and learning about the people wherever I am.
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Jan shared:

Canada - Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Mexico - Chichen Itza, England/Ireland/Northern Ireland/Scotland - everything (food, history, architecture, parks, weather)
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The two most beautiful places I've ever been are the Pacific coast of Costa Rica near the far south end of the Nicoya Peninsula and the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Kotor is so beautiful that even my cell phone shot of the area is amazing and has been my laptop background for years. My cell phone background is on the beach of Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has the added benefit of being in my preferred temperature range all the time and having their national dishes being some of my favorite foods.

Some of the same places stand out for me... Costa Rica is a beautiful country. I could absolutely live there! The bay of Kotor is almost unbearably lovely. It's one of the few things I've experienced where the word stunning felt like it carried its true meaning. I also loved the waters around the Bahamas. When you hear people talk about the water being crystal clear or blue as the sky... this is one place that statement is factual. I remember sitting on a small tug heading to shore and looking down through the water to the clean ocean floor. There were shells scattered here and there, fish and sea creatures milling about... and I suddenly realized we were in at least 30 feet of water. And yet I could see every bit of it to the bottom. Incredible!

As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part. Head over to to take this week’s poll!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember,

Words belong to their users.

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