How to Talk About Water Activities in English

On a hot, summer day, knowing how to talk water activities could save you from baking in the sun!

Sometimes, the best way to enjoy the summer is to cool off while taking part in a fun, exciting sport.

Here are some popular water activities and ways you can talk about them.


Surfing is a water sport in which the participant, a surfer, rides a surfboard on waves of water that carry the surfer toward the shore. The best surfing waves are usually found in the ocean, though some places have man-made wave pools.

It has become a culture of its own, with a long list of slang terms and specific clothing and equipment brands.

Some surfing vocabulary:

surfboard - a long, narrow, streamlined board that floats

swell - a series of waves that have not yet broken
breaking waves - waves that reach a point in which they turn in on themselves

to wipe out - to fall off, or get knocked off your surfboard when riding a wave

boardshorts - a style of swimwear that resemble shorts but are longer than traditional swim shorts and are ideal for surfing

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is form of underwater diving, in which a diver uses an air tank and tube to breathe underwater. The equipment is called a scuba (or SCUBA) set.

When you're on vacation and learning to scuba dive, you would call it recreational diving or sport diving. 

Some of the equipment you'll need:

diving mask: a piece of equipment that covers your eyes and nose, allowing you to see underwater.

swim fins (or flippers): rubber or plastic shoes, shaped like fish fins, to help you move in the water.

wetsuit: a garment worn to provide insulation and protection in water

scuba tank (or diving tank): a metal cylinder that holds high-pressure breathing gas. It attaches to the diving mask for breathing underwater.


Snorkeling (or snorkelling in British English) is the act of swimming through a body of water, close to the surface, while wearing a tube that sits above the water.

You can snorkel in many tropical ocean locations. It's popular  because you can observe underwater life without learning to scuba dive and with less equipment

While you still need fins and a diving mask, the additional equipment you need is a snorkel.

snorkel - a short, curved tube that allows you to breathe while keeping your face underwater

White Water Rafting

White water rafting is an outdoor group activity using an inflatable raft and paddles to navigate a river. White water refers to the rough water that you normally want to raft in.

You can go rafting in different grades of white water, and the difficulty you choose depends on how experienced - or brave - you are. (Grade 1 is the easiest and Grade 6 is considered too dangerous to raft in.)

Some rafting vocabulary:

raft - a very durable, inflatable boat

paddles or oars- a long pole with a flat blade on one end, used to row or steer a boat through water

capsize - when a boat overturns in the water

to "dump truck" - when a raft drops some or all of its passengers, but remains upright

What's your favorite water activity or sport? Would you ever travel to go surfing or scuba diving?

If you're interested in learning English and scuba diving, read about an English + Diving course in Cairns, Australia!

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