Surfing is a thrilling and exhilarating activity, but it can also be quite dangerous if not practiced correctly. Different tidal conditions have different characteristics that can affect your surfing experience.
There are several elements to consider when choosing the right tide, but the most crucial is selecting one that gives you the best surfing conditions.
Which tide is best for surfing?
Tide fluctuations are caused by the gravitational pull exerted by the moon during various phases. At their most pronounced, oceanic tides can soar to dizzying heights before receding again.
Depending on where you live and the kind of coastline, tidal levels may change beach surfing conditions by several feet or even 15 feet.
Tides may also change a surf session’s rideability, along with wind speed, undertow currents, and barometric pressure.
Surfing at low tide
During low tide, the ocean is at its farthest point. The tide is at its weakest; vast expanses of sand are exposed for surfers to explore. To collect waves during this time, they had to travel farther than usual!
Low tide brings hidden rocks to the surface, which renders a reef break potentially perilous for surfing. The proximity of breakable rocks during this phase is more apparent than ever before!
Low tide terrace (LLT) beaches are characterised by a moderately steep beach face and a flat shallow terrace influencing the local hydro-morphodynamics during low tide. The upper beachface slope and the terrace width are the main morphological parameters that define the shape of LTT cross-shore beach profiles.
The outcome is a hazardous surf and swim zone. This isn’t true for all reef breaks. At low tide, most are unsafe. At low tide, most beach breaks experience dumping waves that close off.
Wave activity may be markedly reduced during this period. If you venture into the water before the tide has receded, it’s essential to abstain from surfing for two hours afterward. Even if it’s not ideal conditions for catching waves, currents and swells will make them even less manageable than usual!
Depending on location, incoming tidal waves are better. They may change pace and height as the tide rises, offering hours of thrilling surf action. Mid-day peaks may provide three hours of excitement, and if you plan it right, you can even catch perfect waves before high tide!
Surfing at high tide
During high tide, the sea’s level reaches its greatest extent. This is when surfers have their most exciting rides, which can be different depending on where they are in the world.
At some of the more precipitous beaches, a shorebreak is present during high tide. This can be quite precarious for surfers, as it brings with it the possibility of board and body damage.
Some travelers might be put off by shorebreaks, but surfers love them and love being able to take advantage of the conditions. Bodyboarders especially like these places because they are easier to use with less rigid boards that don’t have fins.
Surfers avoid shorebreaks because they may become “fat” and move about. The sloping shore makes the waves break harder. A wave may backwash out to sea. This pushes the oncoming waves, making them harder to grab and ride.
How do tides affect surfing?
International surfing destinations are highly dependent on specific combinations of wind–wave formation, thermal conditions and local bathymetry. Surf quality depends on a vast number of geophysical variables, and analyses of surf quality require the consideration of the seasonal, interannual and long-term variability of surf conditions on a global scale.
Depth of the water
As the tides rise and fall, they alter the depth of water at their disposal, which can dramatically change the way waves break. Let’s consider a situation where there is a far-reaching tidal range in place—perhaps Hossegor in France with an 8M+ level (8 meters). On low tide, the line marking the shore may be 200 meters further out to sea than on high tide!
Do you think this development will alter the characteristics of the ocean’s waves? At low tide, it is just an exposed rock formation, completely devoid of any seawater.
When the tide arrives, all that transpires is a shift. As waves lap over reef formations, they begin to break, and once enough surfable water has covered them, the rides become accessible again.
In fact, the same things that shape this reef also shape sandbanks along every coast. Depending on how deep the water is, this has a very different effect on how waves break.
The movement of water
Not only does the depth of the ocean affect surf, but its movement can greatly impact waves as well.
On incoming tides, big waves are more likely to form because they can easily hit the shore without being stopped by the tide’s flow. On outgoing tides, big waves are more likely to be stopped by a curving current.
The fluctuating mass of the ocean’s tide movement likewise has an impact on rip currents, which can demolish a solid bank in mere minutes.
Indeed, but it is possible for the tide to do the inverse as well. Essentially, with large tides, there’s a whole lot of water in motion, and this has an impact on the quality of waves—both positively and negatively.
Every location possesses its own distinct traits that require a certain amount of time to comprehend.
The difference between incoming and outgoing tide
The incoming tide indicates that the tide is rising, which implies a beachfront stretching farther into the ocean and encroaching upon more of its shoreline.
The outgoing tide is a sign that the tide is ebbing, or receding. This results in greater exposure of the beach as it drops back into its natural state.
Most beaches are good for learning how to surf when the tide is coming in, but when the tide is going out, strong currents can pull surfers away from the shore.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any currents when the tide is coming in; rather, it’s a good time to learn how to surf because the water is calmer.
On the flipside, surfing when the tide is ebbing out can often result in lackluster waves with an undertow running through them. Therefore, one must be judicious with choosing ideal timing for their excursion, making sure to select a spot wisely!
Best surf tide for beginners
Beginner surfers can enjoy the best conditions for learning when waves are gentle, buoyant, and rolling. You’ll have ample time to prepare and thus gain footing on the board!
Every surf break is distinct, and its conditions are influenced by the ebbs and flows of the tides. As a result, it can be challenging to definitively declare which tide is ideal for beginners to take advantage of.
On flat beaches, you can expect to find the most imposing waves at high tide. This is because when the water goes over the sand banks, it often makes the surf calmer, which is great for people who are just starting to surf.
For beaches with precipitous slopes, it’s advisable to surf at either mid-point or low tide.
Why? When the tide is high, waves on steep beaches either don’t break at all or make heavy, dumping waves that are not good for beginners. In comparison, mid-to-low tides provide a gentler break from the sand bank and allow for more playful surf conditions.
Is surfing better at high or low tide?
Since every surf break is different, it’s impossible to say for sure whether it’s better to surf at high or low tide. It really does depend on where you are.
Not only that, but different surf spots have different best tides because the sandbanks that form are always changing.
So, instead of trying to find a clear answer to “Is it better to surf at high tide or low tide?” It’s better to learn about the beach’s features so you know what to look for when you’re checking out a new spot.
FAQs Which tide is best for surfing
Does high tide increase waves?
At low tide, water levels are shallower where the pounding surf is crashing. As a result, wave shapes may be more pronounced and break faster – giving you just enough time to get up on board before its all over!
Are the waves larger at low tide?
When the tide rises, successive waves will batter even further up the beach; when it recedes, each subsequent crest will be less potent. As low tide approaches and water levels decrease, its force in oceanic undertakings will become more subdued.
Should beginners surf at low tide?
Choose a shape based on how much you know about surfing: Low tides make waves that are bigger and move faster, while high tides are best for beginners.
If you’re new to surfing, it’s always a good idea to start with low tides to get used to the wave environment and learn how to surf. Low tide times vary from place to place, so be sure to check the local forecast before you go out. Guymac.co.nz hopes this post bring you many useful details, and thanks for reading!