The water depth affects the ride-ability of the waves considerably. For example, If the tide is too high the bottom of the ocean floor may be too far below the sea surface to allow for a breaking wave. At some places the low tide will reveal shelves of rock which makes it impossible to surf. Tides are an important factor to take into account and you should know which tides work best for your favorite surf spot.
Understanding the tides and the effect they have is an essential thing for a surfer so here is a short guide:
1 GRAVITATIONAL PULL
The tide is a general term used to refer to the daily rise and fall of the oceans surface. These are caused by the gravitational pulls from the sun and moon. Generally speaking every 24 hours, 1 full rotation of the earth, there will be 2 high tides and 2 low tides at your surf spot. Not every high or low tide is the same. During full and new moons you will see the highest change in water level. This occurs when the moon and sun’s gravities are aligned as they pull the earth. This is called spring tide and you will see really high high tides and really low low tides.
2 WAVE SHAPE
Your experience and type of board you are using should also be taken into account when deciding which tide is the best for you. For example, if you ride a longboard you want a cleaner, slower breaking wave during high tide. If you are an experienced shortboarder you might like fast, hollow waves during low tide. Beginners usually want a more forgiven wave during high tide. Remember that every spot is different, so ask other surfers about the best tide for that particular spot. This way you will always surf the best waves for your ability, equipment and style.
3 TIDE TABLES
You can find tide tables listing the high and low tides for your surf spot anywhere online or in a surf shop. Together with the information on wave height, period, swell direction and wind angle and speed you can accurately predict how the waves will be in the next 2-3 days. When examining the tide tables it is also important to check what the water levels will be. Because of the fluctuation in tides high tide on one day can mean the same water depth as low tide on another day. This could mean that the waves will not break over the reef or sand and there will be no waves to surf.
It is extremely valuable to know exactly what tides your favourite surf spots prefer. With this information you can make better decisions when it comes to choosing the best tide window. It takes time to learn about the tides but you will score much more great waves eventually.
Besides our articles how does the moon affect the tides for surfing be sure to read our guide to wind generated waves. See you in the water !
Featured image by P.Gillard