Getting Dialled In: Ocean Tides and Surfing

Ocean tides and Surfing – How does it effect our waves?

The ebb and flow of the ocean tides—who doesn’t feel a wave of calm wash over them as they watch the waves roll in!

Brace yourself as we embark on a captivating journey into understanding the secrets behind ocean tides. Tides, my friends, are not merely ordinary waves washing upon our shores.

They are a symphony composed by celestial forces—both graceful and powerful. At their essence, tides are fluctuations in coastal water levels caused by gravitational interactions between Earth, the moon, and even our mighty sun.

The Gravity Beneath Our Feet: The Force Behind Tidal Magic

ocean tides and surfing - moon over the ocean

To really get the lowdown on tides, let’s break it down with a cosmic dance of gravitational forces that’ll blow your mind. Imagine this: Earth has its own gravitational groove that pulls everything toward its center, keeping us rooted on terra firma.

Now, let’s welcome the star of our show, the moon. This celestial ballerina does an otherworldly ballet around Earth and wields some serious gravitational magic over our mighty oceans.

As the moon pirouettes through space, it creates these tidal bulges—spots where the ocean does a little “rise and shine” routine. One bulge says “hello” to the moon up close and personal, while the other plays it cool on the far side of Earth.

And bam! We’ve got ourselves a high tide party in those spots.

But hold up! There’s another player in this celestial ensemble—the sun, our very own cosmic campfire. While not stealing the spotlight like the moon, the sun still adds its own flair to this hydrological extravaganza. Its gravity joins the gravitational shindig, stirring up even more tidal vibes along our planet’s coastlines.

So, there you have it, a sneak peek into the gravitational groove that sets the stage for ocean tides. But don’t drift off just yet!

We’re just warming up to unravel the captivating mysteries of tides. In our next act, we’re diving deep into what really makes these rhythms tick—the moon’s gravitational pull and the sun’s cosmic influence. Stay tuned for more tidal tales! 🌊🌕☀️🌏

The Role of the Moon’s Gravitational Pull

The moon plays a crucial role in the formation of ocean tides. The gravitational pull exerted by our celestial neighbor is responsible for creating these fascinating natural phenomena. As the moon orbits around the Earth, its gravity causes a slight bulge in the ocean on the side closest to it, resulting in a high tide.

Simultaneously, there is another high tide on the opposite side due to centrifugal force counteracting gravitational pull. These two high tides are separated by two low tides occurring at 90-degree angles from them.

Lunar Day and Its Impact on Tidal Patterns

How do tides affect waves?

Understanding lunar days is essential when exploring tidal cycles. Contrary to our familiar 24-hour day, a lunar day lasts approximately 24 hours and 50 minutes.

This additional time means that each day, high and low tides occur about 50 minutes later than they did on the previous day. As a result, tidal patterns shift daily based on this lunar cycle.

Lunar Phases and Their Effect on Tide Heights

The phases of the moon also influence tide heights throughout each month. During full or new moons, when the Earth, sun, and moon align in a straight line (known as syzygy), we experience what are called spring tides. Despite their name, spring tides have nothing to do with the season but rather describe an increased tidal range where high tides are higher than usual while low tides are lower than usual.

Conversely, during quarter moons when we observe right angles between celestial bodies (known as quadrature), neap tides occur. Neap tides have minimal tidal range since gravitational forces from both the sun and moon tend to partially cancel each other out.

By understanding how the moon’s gravitational pull and its position relative to the sun affect ocean tides, we can appreciate the intricate dance of celestial bodies that shapes our coastal water levels. So next time you find yourself gazing out at the ebb and flow of the tides, take a moment to reflect on the moon’s influence and how it contributes to this fascinating natural phenomenon.

How Do Tides Affect Waves and the Best Tides for Epic Surfing?

Dude, if you’re chasing those perfect waves, understanding tides is like having your secret weapon in the ocean. Best tides for surfing really depends on the surf spot.

Tides are like the rhythm of the sea, orchestrated by the moon and the sun, and they can totally make or break your surf session. So, let’s talk tides and how they can help you score more and better waves.

Incoming Tides = Stoke Time:

When the tide is coming in, also known as the “incoming” tide or “push,” it’s like Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Surf’s up, bro!” This is when waves start picking up, and the stoke meter rises. It brings more water over shallow sandbars or reefs, creating larger, more rideable waves. Perfect for ripping it up! Get in and master you’re pop up technique before the next full moon.

Outgoing Tides = The Great Escape:

Conversely, when the tide is on the way out, aka the “outgoing” tide or “ebb,” it’s like the ocean taking a breather. The waves tend to lose their shape and can get a bit wonky. But it’s not all bad news! Some breaks prefer the low tide, creating unique opportunities for advanced surfers to shred on fast, hollow waves. Still a great time to get some noseriding in. Have a look here if you want to brush up on hanging 10!

The Goldilocks Zone: Mid-Tide Sweet Spot

Now, here’s the juicy secret: the best tides for most surfers usually fall in the middle. Yep, that’s the “mid-tide” range. Waves tend to be just right during this Goldilocks moment. They’re neither too fat nor too hollow, offering a sweet spot for some epic rides.

With all the epic waves you’re going to be getting – why not start on some surf apnea training to make sure you survive those two wave hold downs!

Planning Your Surf Sessions: Best Tides for Surfing – Tides Matter

So, whether you’re checking the tide charts or just gazing up at the moon, remember, tides are your ally. Use this knowledge to your advantage when planning your surf sessions. Catch that incoming tide for bigger waves, explore the outgoing tide for something different, or hit that mid-tide sweet spot for the ultimate stoke.

Types of Tidal Patterns

Semi-Diurnal Tides: Two High and Two Low Tides per Day

Semi-diurnal tides, an intriguing tidal pattern observed in various coastal regions worldwide, involve two high tides and two low tides occurring approximately every 24 hours and 50 minutes. What makes semi-diurnal tides unique is that the high tide heights during each tidal cycle are equal. This means that if you measure the water level during high tide for both cycles, you’ll find them to be at the same height.

The consistency of these tidal heights contributes to the predictability of semi-diurnal tides, making them easier to understand and anticipate. Regions experiencing semi-diurnal tides include significant portions of the eastern coast of North America, such as Nova Scotia in Canada and parts of New England in the United States.

Additionally, certain areas along the western coastlines of Europe, particularly in Ireland and France, also experience this type of tidal pattern. Understanding the occurrence of semi-diurnal tides is essential for coastal communities as it helps them plan activities dependent on coastal water levels.

Diurnal Tides: One High Tide and One Low Tide per Day

In contrast to semi-diurnal tides, diurnal tides exhibit a simpler pattern with only one high tide followed by one low tide occurring each day. However, what distinguishes diurnal tides from other types is that their high tide heights are not equal during each tidal cycle. The difference between consecutive high tide heights can vary significantly based on factors such as geographic location or local topography.

Several regions across the globe experience diurnal tides regularly. For instance, areas such as Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory observe diurnal tidal patterns where there is a single pronounced rise and fall in water levels every day.

Similarly, certain parts of Southeast Asia, including the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, also experience diurnal tides. Coastal communities in these regions rely on understanding diurnal tides for activities like fishing, navigation, and recreational water sports.

Mixed Semi-Diurnal Tides: Varying High and Low Tide Heights Throughout the Day

Mixed semi-diurnal tides present a fascinating tidal pattern with varying high and low tide heights throughout the day. Unlike other types of tidal cycles where there is consistency in tide heights within each cycle, mixed semi-diurnal tides exhibit fluctuations that can be influenced by local geography. Factors such as coastal features or irregular ocean floor topography can impact the amplitude of high and low tides during each cycle.

Regions experiencing mixed semi-diurnal tides include parts of North America’s Pacific Northwest, such as Vancouver Island in Canada and Washington State in the United States. These areas witness fluctuating tide heights due to complex coastal morphology composed of narrow straits, fjords, and diverse shoreline configurations.

Understanding mixed semi-diurnal tides is vital for coastal communities in these regions to navigate shallow waters effectively while accounting for changing water levels throughout the day. The variety of tidal patterns occurring worldwide showcases the complexity and beauty of oceanic phenomena.

By comprehending the characteristics of each tidal pattern—whether it be semi-diurnal, diurnal, or mixed semi-diurnal-coastal communities can make informed decisions regarding activities reliant on coastal water levels. Whether planning a fishing expedition or charting a course through intricate shoreline formations, understanding these tidal patterns proves invaluable for those who dwell near or depend upon our ever-shifting oceans.

Effects of Topography on Tidal Range

October 2023 Supermoon setting Sunshine coast Australia

Narrow Inlets Amplifying Tidal Range

When it comes to the tidal range, the topography of coastal areas plays a crucial role. In particular, narrow inlets or channels can have a significant impact on amplifying the tidal range. As tidal waters are funneled through these narrow passages, they experience a constriction that causes them to rise higher during high tides and fall lower during low tides.

This phenomenon is known as “tidal amplification.” Imagine a scenario where you have a coastline with two adjacent areas: one with wide-open expanses and another with a narrow inlet nearby.

During high tide, as water rushes towards the coast, it encounters less resistance in the open area and spreads out over a larger surface. However, in the narrow inlet, water is constrained by its surroundings, resulting in a narrower space for it to occupy.

Consequently, this causes an increase in water levels within the inlet compared to the surrounding areas. This amplification effect can have various implications for coastal regions.

It can enhance flooding risks in low-lying areas adjacent to narrow inlets during high tide events. Additionally, it may lead to stronger currents and greater turbulence within these constricted waterways.

Shallow Coastal Areas Reducing Tidal Range

Conversely, shallow coastal areas tend to reduce the tidal range due to their unique topographical characteristics. When tides approach shallow regions with gently sloping seabeds or sandbars near shorelines, they encounter increased friction and resistance from the seafloor. As a result of this interaction between tides and shallower depths, their energy dissipates more rapidly than it would over deeper waters.

As tidal energy diminishes while passing through shallow coastal regions during both incoming and outgoing tides, there is less potential for significant fluctuations between high and low tides. Consequently, the tidal range in these areas tends to be smaller compared to locations with deeper offshore waters.

It’s important to note that the effect of shallow coastal areas on tidal range can vary depending on local geography and other factors. Some areas with extensive shallow regions may even experience semi-diurnal tides, where high and low tides have similar heights throughout the day due to complex interactions between the coastline’s shape and tidal forces.

If you’re interested in finding out information about climate change and its effects on surfing have a look here.

Other Factors Affecting Tidal Range

satellite map showing large storm activity

Atmospheric Pressure Variations

While topography plays a crucial role in determining tidal ranges, other factors such as atmospheric pressure variations also contribute to fluctuations in coastal water levels. Changes in atmospheric pressure exert an influence on water bodies, including oceans, by causing them to either rise or fall.

During periods of high atmospheric pressure (also known as anticyclones), air gets compressed and becomes denser. This increased pressure pushes down on the ocean’s surface, causing water levels near coastlines to lower slightly.

Conversely, when there is low atmospheric pressure (cyclones), air expands and becomes less dense, leading to a slight rise in sea level near shorelines. Though the impact of atmospheric pressure variations is relatively small compared to gravitational forces from celestial bodies like the moon, it can still influence tidal ranges when combined with other factors affecting coastal water levels.

Wind Patterns Influencing Wave Action

The action of wind on ocean waves is another factor that affects coastal water levels and consequently influences tidal range variations. When strong winds blow across open waters for an extended period, they generate large waves that propagate towards shorelines.

These wind-generated waves can cause temporary changes in sea level known as “storm surges.” During high tide events coinciding with storm surges, water is pushed further inland than during normal conditions, resulting in an increased tidal range along affected coastlines. Conversely, during low tide events, storm surges can cause water levels to drop even lower than usual.

The interaction between wind patterns and tidal forces can also lead to complex wave actions known as “seiches.” Seiches are oscillations within enclosed or partially enclosed bodies of water caused by wind-induced waves that reflect back and forth. They can produce localized variations in coastal water levels and affect the overall tidal range experienced in those areas.

While topography plays a significant role in determining tidal ranges by either amplifying or reducing them, other factors such as atmospheric pressure variations and wind patterns also contribute to the overall variation in coastal water levels. Understanding these influences helps us comprehend the dynamic nature of ocean tides and their impact on coastal regions worldwide.

Tidal Phenomena Around the World

Notable examples of extreme ocean tides and surfing

tides are like Mother Nature’s showstoppers, and they’re totally rad all around the globe. Let’s ride the wave and check out some epic tidal tales.

  1. Mudjimba Island, Queensland, Australia: Mudjimba Island, also known as Old Woman Island, experiences extreme tidal changes, creating powerful surf conditions. Surfers flock to this location to catch massive waves during tidal shifts.
  2. Mont Saint-Michel, France: This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its extreme tidal variations, with some of the highest tides in Europe. Surfers often gather here to ride the powerful tidal bore known as the “mascaret.” The water here can rise up to 14 meters (46 feet) in just hours, surrounding this site completely. It’s like a real-life “island mode” for this place.
  3. Bay of Fundy, Canada: The Bay of Fundy, located between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is renowned for having the highest tides in the world. These tidal ranges create dynamic surf conditions, especially in spots like the Shubenacadie River. This place goes big with tidal ranges that can reach over 16 meters (52 feet).
  4. Teahupo’o, Tahiti: While not necessarily known for extreme tides, Teahupo’o is famous for its notorious and massive waves, thanks to a shallow reef. Surfers here experience some of the heaviest and most challenging waves on the planet.
  1. Bristol Channel, United Kingdom: The Bristol Channel, between England and Wales, has some of the largest tidal ranges globally. This leads to fast tidal currents and the formation of tidal races, making it a unique challenge for experienced surfers.
  2. Nova Scotia, Canada: Several spots along the Nova Scotia coastline experience significant tidal variations, creating ideal conditions for tidal bore surfing. Rivers like the Shubenacadie offer thrilling rides when the tidal bore arrives.
  3. Amazon River, Brazil: The Amazon River is home to one of the world’s longest tidal bores, known as the “pororoca.” This natural phenomenon can create waves up to 12 feet high, attracting adventurous surfers looking for an adrenaline rush.
  4. Gulf of Kutch, India: Surf’s up in India, but it’s not your usual tide gig here. In the Gulf of Kutch, it’s all about the solo tidal act. Instead of the usual two high and low tides each day (semi-diurnal), this place rocks a single high tide every 24 hours (diurnal). These tides mean business, often surging over six meters (20 feet). It’s like the ocean’s funky dance move. For local fishermen, it’s a total game-changer. They navigate through exposed mudflats during low tide, and when high tide rolls in, it’s like a big, refreshing splash. A tidal rhythm that’s essential for both livelihoods and stoke-worthy adventures. 🌊🤙


Understanding the diverse tidal phenomena around the world is a gateway to appreciating nature’s grandeur at its finest. From the incredible tidal range of the Bay of Fundy in Canada to the mesmerizing Mont Saint-Michel in France, and the diurnal tides shaping life in India’s Gulf of Kutch – these extreme tides remind us of Earth’s dynamic nature. As we grasp the complexities of tidal forces and their influence on coastal water levels, our admiration for our interconnected world grows.

Let this newfound knowledge spark curiosity and encourage further exploration into the depths of oceanic wonders. With each ebb and flow, let us embrace the beauty that emerges from understanding tides’ basics, as it deepens our relationship with nature and reminds us how magnificent this planet truly is.

Ive got a great article on Australian Surfing Facts up next.

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