Tide knowledge can be invaluable for timing a great surf session. Wanna know if you should surf dawn patrol or leave your surfboard in its rack for another hour or two while you catch up on some zzz? Check the tide report.
Reading a tide report is actually quite easy. Tides advance and retreat in wave-like motion as indicated in the image below.
The row of numbers along the bottom represents the time of day, while the numbers along the left indicate the height of the tide. Therefore its easy to determine tide height at any given point in the day by matching the hour with the corresponding tide measurement.
So how do tides affect surfing conditions? Well, this is where it can get tricky. The general rule of thumb is most reef breaks will turn on when the tide is low-pushing-high, while beach breaks usually work better with a medium tide. However, keep in mind this is just a guideline and not the rule. Each surf spot handles tide changes differently, and there is no substitute for surf break familiarity.
So next time you surf a specific break, take a mental note to what the tide is doing and how it is affecting the way the waves are breaking. Are the waves breaking slow and mushy on the higher tide, or fast and steep on the lower tide? Surfing is all about experience, and understanding tides is an important skill that will help you for as long as you’re a surfer.