Skateboarding Terms Incorporate Common Slang

Shared lingo helps define the skater culture

Teenage boy (16-17) performing jump on skateboard, low angle view
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If you are a new skater yourself or just trying to communicate with your skater kid, understanding the common slang at the park provides a foundation for understanding skateboarding culture.

Skateboard slang might seem hard to grasp at first, and many of the terms do refer to techniques and tricks specific to skateboarding, such as the "ollie." But other terms appear in the lexicon of many different sports and probably sound familiar to your ears. Take, for instance, "rad," an all-purpose term of approval for someone's performance or the terrain.

Slang for the Skateboard Itself

Skaters generally refer to their skateboards simply as their boards. No point in getting fancy. Sometimes you hear the word "deck," but that refers specifically to the wood plank part of the skateboard. Calling a skateboard "wood" or "ride" pegs someone as a novice trying too hard to sound like a skater.

What Skateboarders Call Themselves

Skateboarders and ice skaters both go by the generic term "skater," which can lead you astray if you're searching the internet. But since you almost never find them in the same place at the same time, there's generally no confusion in the real world. Skaters can sometimes be called "boarders," but usually only when someone wants to sound clever, such as the organization "Boarders for Christ" or a store called "Boarders Skate Shop."

Slang as Part of Skate Culture

While many skaters develop a signature jargon, most rely on a set of commonly acknowledged terms to express themselves to other skaters. Visit any skate park in the United States, and you can count on hearing certain words.

  • Sick. This means the same as "cool" or, for you older folks, "rad." Pretty much anything can be sick. You can pull off a sick trick, buy a sick board, or drop into a sick bowl at a sick skatepark. As a slang word, it means the opposite of the dictionary definition. Along with "sick," something really cool might get called "ill," "insane," "gnar" (short for "gnarly"), or even "rad" or "righteous."
  • Stoked. This means to enthusiastically like something or feel really excited. Typically deployed as a verb, the word comes from making a fire bigger; when you add fuel or fan the flames, you stoke the fire. Skaters also toss around ​"stoke" as a noun, as in, "Did you catch that stoke this morning?"
  • Sketchy. This means not done well or not trustworthy. A sketchy trick looked poorly executed ("clean" is the opposite—a clean trick looked flawless). You don't want to bring a sketchy person home for dinner. A sketchy skateboard might break when you land some air.
  • Bail. This means to either fall or jump off your board right before a fall. It doesn't get used all the time, though; some people just say "fall" or "crash." The word "bail" is more traditional in skateboarding, but if the people around you don't use it much, you might sound like you're trying too hard if you say "bail" all the time.
  • Poseur. This means someone who looks like a skater or claims to be a skater but doesn't know anything about skating. This term can be hurtful, so don't use it lightly. And it's tough to determine if someone truly is a poseur.

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