Which Tide is Best for Surfing

man surfing on the best tide to surf

For most young people, the excitement comes out when they are engaged in fun sporting activities. It can be relatively easy to find the right equipment from a wide range of activities. For basketball, all you need is a ball and a basket. For swimming, all you need is a swimsuit or trunks. However, there are some sports out there that require countless hours of practice and training. Surfing is one of those sports. Now let’s talk about surfing, you can’t just pick up a board to surf.  For starters, you need reasonable access to water in order to start surfing. Surfing isn’t like most other common sports, and it can be a bit stressful finding the best tide to surf.

Many of these surfing conditions cannot be controlled or made available at a whim. It takes a special kind of environment to surf. In this article, we’ll be discussing one of those conditions – the tides.

What is a Tide?

Generally, whenever we talk about tides, we usually mean the rise and fall of the sea levels. It’s caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon on the earth and the rotation of the earth.

Although some often mistake tide for waves, they are quite different. Waves are mostly the result of tides and wind; they are moving bodies of water that move back and forth across the sea level in an undulating manner.

Studying the tides and understanding the influence on the sea is paramount to getting the best experience out of surfing. There are so many factors that can affect the tides. Some of those factors could be the water break, swell size, tide directions, and preferences to certain conditions.

Best Tides For Surfing

Firstly, it’s important to note that there is no best tide for surfing; it all depends on the surfer. An individual who’s starting to learn the art of surfing may favor a low tide, and an experienced surfer may prefer high tide.

Now that we understand the many variables on surfing conditions, let’s discuss some of these variables.

Surf Waves

man surfing the barrel of a wave at sunset

Waves are essentially the major ingredient for surfing. However, it doesn’t mean that the tides and other factors don’t play any role. Below are some types of waves;

  • Beach breaks: These waves fizzle out.  The size of the wave is unpredictable, and it’s caused by the shifting shape of the seabed.
  • Point breaks: A point break happens when the swell of a wave crashes into a stretch of land.
  • Reform waves: As the name implies, reform waves die when they hit deep waters then reform again due to the different depths of the bottom. Beginners are advised to surf this type of wave since they are usually low and take a longer time to fizzle out.
  • Reef breaks: The wave breaks over a hard line for reef breaks. While some believe it’s one of the best types of waves for surfing because of the altitude, the sizes differ according to the shape of the seabed. Beginners are not advised to start their surfing training with reef breaks.
  • Rivermouth waves: The rivermouth waves are similar to point breaks since they occur where the river deposits sand onto sandbars.
  • Double up wave: Two waves colliding in a wonderful display of force, producing a massive powerful wave. As magnificent as the double up waves are, they also as dangerous. They are hollow and become very dangerous for surfing when they are about to break. Amateurs and Pros alike are will have a very difficult time riding this wave.
  • Crumble waves: These types of waves break gently and are not overly hollow. Unlike the double up wave, they are neither too fast nor steep. For beginners, these waves are perfect conditions to start learning to surf.

Surf Tides

Shot of a young man paddling on a surfboard and riding the surf tide

Tides are classified into two categories; the low tides and the high tides. At low tides, the level of the sea is lower, and often one can see the reefs, and rock that is usually hidden by the high tides. Because of the low level of water, the beaches are seemingly larger, and there are lower shore breaks compared to the high tides.

High tides are characterized by a higher water level and as a result of the water increase, the beach gets smaller and there will be higher shore breaks. Tide shifts are the period just before a high or low tide, water is either flowing towards the beach or out which results in more waves and higher breaks.


The wind is also an important factor in the formation of waves, wind occurs as a result of differences in atmospheric pressure. There are two main types of wind that affect the formation of waves;

  • Onshore wind: This type of wind is one that blows from the sea towards the land and they are not exactly what you wish for as a surfer.

A major disadvantage of the onshore wind is its tendency to reduce the steepness of the wave by toppling it way earlier than would be enjoyable for surfers. They also cause the swell to last for a short time, destabilizing the wave and resulting in intermittent breaks throughout the duration of the wave.

  • Offshore wind: This type of wind is one that blows from the coast to the seas, it is the most desirable type of wind for surfers as it delays breaking, and surfers can ride waves for long as compared to waves affected by onshore winds.

Surfing Experience and Surfing Tides

Surfing is a very enjoyable activity. The conditions required for a good surfing experience might be tedious to find, but the sheer joy and pleasure that comes with riding the waves is something you wouldn’t find in most other sporting activities.

As we have discussed above, finding a good tide and choosing one are two different things. As a beginner in surfing, you may find that what suits your surfing taste differs from that of another, that doesn’t mean you have the wrong surfing idea.

For starters, you want to start with reform waves, crumble waves, beach breaks and point breaks. As you develop your surfing skills, you’ll want to try out reef breaks and double up waves. Most importantly, you want to be safe when you go out surfing. Have fun and enjoy the tide!

Choose a Surfboard

Surfing can be overwhelming for beginners. For many starting out, the right equipment and surfboard is the right way to get started. You want to review and compare the best value you can get out of your surfboard and equipment. Check out our large collection of surfboards right here.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top