How Tides Affect Surfing Conditions


Here are a few tips on how to catch the best waves. Tides develop and retreat in a wave-like motion. Tide knowledge can be crucial when trying to time a great surf session. It is also important to review tide reports which are in fact fairly simple to do. The row of numbers along the bottom stands for the time of day, while the numbers along the left indicate the height of the tide. All you have to do is match the hour with the corresponding tide measurement.

Tides can affect surf spots in different ways. However, the basic rule of thumb is that most coral reef breaks will certainly turn on when the tide is low-pushing high, which beach breaks generally work better with a medium tide. Remember though that this is simply a guideline and not the rule. Surf spots can vary on how they deal with tides, and there is no replacement for surf break experience.

So next time you go surfing at a certain surf break, take a mental note to exactly what the tide is doing and how it is affecting the waves. Are they breaking slow and mushy on the higher tide and also quickly and steep on the lower tide? It’s all about experience as well as understanding the tides which is an important skill for timing the best time to go surfing. The more knowledge and experience you gain will clearly benefit you for as long as you’re a surfer.

Keep in mind: Tides can differ significantly by location so it is essential to find a tide that presents the tides for your local area. The majority of surf shops will carry local tide charts or you can try searching online. For an example of exactly what a tide chart looks like go to the Great Shelf Beginner’s Guide to Surfing.