Tide Charts - Get the best waves by knowing how tides affect the surf

Tide charts! What do tides have to do with surf? An immense amount, actually. And the same tidal conditions on different beaches will yield different surf conditions.

Why? The reasons that waves break where they do and how big they break depends on the topography of the ocean floor and the depth of water where the waves break. This varies beach by beach and with each of the two daily high and low tides.

The strongest influence on tidal changes is the moon. As the moon waxes to full or wanes to new the high tides become higher because of the gravitational pull exerted. When the moon is in its first quarter and third quarter phases the high tides are at their lowest points and the surf will be at its lowest point, unless there is a distant storm affecting surf.

Tides do not occur at the same time every day but rather cycle through at roughly every 25 hours. So each of your two daily high tides will arrive roughly an hour later each day. Combine an incoming high tide with the correct slope of the beach and you find the peak surf hours.

Ok, so your daily lunar observations are a little lax. What do you do? You go online and look at your handy dandy tide charts. Once you get in the habit of checking them daily and observing the corresponding conditions on your local beach you will be able to tell at a glance when the best time for you to head out is.

Familiarizing yourself with the tidal conditions that yield the best surf at your beach is the work of maybe a month if you are vigilant, or two or three if you can’t get to the beach daily. As you are learning the conditions, do a printout of the local tidal chart, mark the time where the surf was optimal on your printout and in just a short amount of time you can take a quick glance at the tidal charts and make a 30 second decision on going out, instead of a frustrating 30 minutes of going to the beach for nothing.

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