Surfing is heavily dependent upon the tides. The waves created by the changing tide are the main attraction to surfers, and knowing when the gnarliest waves are breaking is imperative for surfers. However, the tides aren’t the only factor in catching tasty waves. So what is the best time to surf?
The best times to surf are early morning and sunset. These times are best because of the shifting of the tides. When the tides change, the waves surge, giving surfers the impeccable waves they constantly search for.
Knowing when to hit the beach for the best waves can be tricky if you are new to surfing. Some breaks will produce decent waves all day, while others could have sporadic sets that leave you regretting your beach decisions. Of course, there is nothing worse than wasting a day searching for waves that never come. So read on and learn all the best times to surf!
The Best Times to Surf and Why
Every surfer should know the best times to surf, from beginner to veteran. The waves are cyclical, but conditions in the weather report could make times during the day attractive, but you can always count on the mornings and sunset to rip some waves. There are even a few secret times during the day that works best for those seeking a more spiritual surf.
The best times to surf are:
- Sunrise – You should be on your board in the ocean when the tide comes in just before the sun comes up. As the tidal motions batter the shore with fresh seawater, the waves are some of the largest and most perfectly formed.
- Sunset – The other time of the day that is usually firing is sunset. Not only is sunset another beautiful backdrop to surf to, but it is a great time to catch waves when they are perfect.
The two best parts of the day for surf are also some of the prettiest. Sunrises and sunsets also offer more advantages that other people might not recognize. Another cool thing about surfers is that they pay attention to many other factors besides the waves.
A few advantages of surfing at sunrise and sunset are:
- Surf Day – Starting the day with a morning surf and ending it with a beautiful sunset sitting atop your board is the perfect surf day. The backdrop plus the influx of tasty waves will mean that no matter how long your day has been, every second was worth it to enjoy the surf.
- Crowds – Mornings and evenings are good for surfing because there aren’t as many people. However, crowds in the water make it harder for surfers to catch waves, and a crowded area increases the likelihood of injury.
- Light Winds – Wind is vital for surfers, and sunrise and sunset are at a time of the day when the wind is light and doesn’t have a disastrous effect on the tides. When winds are light and are blowing off-shore, the waves are undisturbed, and when the wind is blowing in, you can expect choppy waves that are hard to surf.
The best times of the day to surf aren’t just reserved for the locals and veterans. If you are a new surfer, you should pay attention to any local unwritten rules about surf times, and if there are crowds of vets or professionals, it is best to stay away.
Is it Best to Surf at High or Low Tide?
The best time to surf is an hour after low tide until an hour before high tide. This creates a large window where the waves are favorable to surf during the day. The tides don’t consider the wind or other weather factors, and the time of the tide is just another factor to consider.
Surfing at high tide means lots of water swell the beach. As a result, the waves are higher and moving towards the coast. During low tide, the water is down, and more sand is exposed. During low tide, the water is moving out, and the chances of a rip current are very high.
A few reasons that surfers should know about the tides are:
- Safety – Surfers should know which tide they are surfing in for their safety and the safety of their compatriots. Understanding how the tides can tow the surfer in and out is critical. It means they know when the waves are safe for surfing and which ones are best for admiring from the beach.
- Clock – If surfers pay attention to the tides, they won’t need a watch. Knowing how the tied should look and where the water will be at certain times of the day is important. It shows them how much time they have left to surf and how long before the waves could become dangerous.
The tides are another huge factor in a successful day of surfing. Knowing what the tides are doing will give you all the information you need if you lose track of time or are unsure if the waves are safe. Pay attention to the tides, and you can also save a friend or yourself.
Onshore vs. Offshore Wind
Another critical factor for a fine day of surfing is good wind. In contrast, most people think that the changing of the tides is the most important factor affecting waves, but they would be wrong. A huge reason that surfers choose morning and evening sessions is that the wind is blowing offshore.
Onshore winds occur during the middle of the day. They are called onshore winds because the direction has shifted from the water in the morning to the shore in the day. The waves become choppy and lose their perfect form as the wind shifts.
A few reasons that onshore winds are destructive for surfing are:
- Bad Waves – The most prominent reason surfers don’t like onshore winds is that they create a much harder wave to surf. When a wave isn’t solid, it makes the board shimmy and shakes on the wave instead of gliding.
- Balance – A critical component of surfing is being able to balance atop the board. When the wind blows or gusts in your face, it is much harder to get a steady balance on the surfboard.
Offshore winds are a surfers friend. They bring in warm winds and create a wave that is shaped well and perfect for surfing. It is also good to have a warm wind with you than a cold wind that decreases the water’s temperature. In comparison, onshore winds generate a wave that can be uneven and will make it much harder to ride.
Best Surfing Conditions for a Beginner
Let’s face it; beginning surfers need every advantage they can get. Learning to balance and the ocean’s constant movement can be a killer to someone who hasn’t surfed much. Knowing the best times to surf for beginners is a combination of factors that create a firm learning foundation and surfing.
The best conditions for a beginner to surf are:
- Crowds – Choose a time when there are no crowds to surf. When there are fewer people in the water, there is less chance that you will crash into someone. Another reason to avoid crowds is that surfers can be defensive of their territory and are especially wary of new surfers.
- Shallow Water – You don’t want to start surfing in water so deep that it is a hassle to get back to your board. Surfing is physical enough without having to add extra hours of treading water into the mix. Choose an area with water about waist-deep, and you will have a leg-up on the basics.
- Mid Tide – A time between low and high tide is best for beginners. While the high tide has giant swells and the most water, choosing something in the middle of the tidal shift will work best.
- Low Wind – Wind conditions should be low and blow offshore. The wind is significant because it can have a considerable effect on the waves and an even more substantial impact on the person surfing them.
Conditions don’t have to be perfect for beginners to learn how to surf, but it wouldn’t hurt. To make it easier to get up on the board and stay up for more than just a couple of seconds, they need a wave that isn’t choppy and wind that isn’t pushing them off balance.
Why do Surfers Surf at Night?
One of the most cathartic times to surf is at night. Surfing at night is a huge hit for people looking for the soulful side of surfing. It gives them the platform to experience the surf without crowds and the constant pounding of the sun.
A few ways that surfing at night is better than during the day are:
- Vision – One of the most attractive things about surfing at night is the lack of vision. At night the waves are much harder to see, making them look and appear much faster than during the day. In addition, the lack of sunshine darkens your vision, and the waves take different shapes.
- Speed – Another thing that nighttime does for the surf makes it appear faster than usual. When you are paddling out at night, the lack of light creates a feeling that the waves are coming much more quickly, forcing you to paddle more to catch waves.
- Soul – The connection is the biggest thing that draws surfers to nighttime rides. When you are out in the surf at night, a special feeling connects the surfer to their board. Surfing is about connection. The surfer experiences a deeper connection to the water and board in the dark.
- No Crowds – Being out in the surf alone at night is priceless. At the most happening surf spots across the globe, people infest the shoreline from when the sun warms until it sinks below the horizon. Some surfers like to go at night because they can surf all alone.
Going surfing at night sounds like something done as a gag, but surfers love being alone in the waves. It provides a few advantages that going during the day does not and even makes them feel more connected to the surf and themselves.
Not everything is peachy keen out in the waves at night, however. There are some things you should know about getting out at night that could be dangerous for you and your friends. Safety is always essential, and when you are surfing at night, you should be very cautious.
A few safety when surfing at night are:
- Darkness – It might be a shocker, but it will be dark when you surf at night. Not being able to see out there is dangerous because you never know what is waiting out in the surf. When you don’t know what is out there, you can crash into driftwood or get too close to the shore.
- Sharks – Dark means that sharks are going to be feeding. The last thing you want to do is bail off your board and into a shark’s feeding frenzy. Surfing at night means that you don’t see fins or the wakes that sharks produce when they charge their prey.
- Your Alone – If you have an accident no one will see you so it is inherently more dangerous. Have a plan, share it with others, and go with a buddy. (Note: this is the required prudent advice…I never did any of the 3)
Surfing at night is a great way to reset your connection with the Earth and do some soul searching. However, it can be dangerous, and taking a few precautions before going out into the surf will protect you from everything but the sharks.
The best times to surf are when the sun is rising and setting. These times are great not only for the scenery and changing tides but also because there could be fewer crowds. However, some surfers need conditions to be almost perfect for catching a wave, and choosing one of the sun’s movement periods works best.
Besides sunrise and sunset, different times give surfers the chance to avoid crowds. For example, a popular time to go surfing is at night. Some surfers say that going out in the ocean at night connects them with the sea and is more exhilarating than going during the day.