What Time of Day are the Waves the Smallest?

Surfing is an exciting and compelling sport to get into and it gets more thrilling the more that you do it and the better you get. Seasoned surfers know how the waves vary from seasons of the year, to weeks in the day to times of the day. Catching the right waves can be everything to your progress as you train.

The best time of day to catch good small waves is in the hours of the early morning to late evening or sunset and sunrise. Many surfers get up at 4 or 5 am to begin training on the ideal waves. There are many surfing forecasting sites that predict wave shape, size, speed, and surface conditions.

As you become better and better at surfing and interpreting the surfing forecasts, this will become second nature for you, but for the time being, you’ll want to make sure that you look for the best times of days and make your schedule around those hours.

Why Surf At Dawn or Sunset?

For most surfers, getting up before the sunrise for those perfect waves is essential, not because it’s easy, but because it’s necessary. The smallest waves and best waves for surfing tend to always happen in the early morning or late evening.

When surfing in a particularly popular area, it can be difficult to get a clear spot to surf as most all other surfers will be up in the morning looking for those prime morning waves as well. The key to getting a clear spot is getting up even earlier before sunrise to get there before the crowds. You’ll want a wetsuit for those hours, but diligence and hard work pays off.

The kinds of winds that occur in the morning are light winds that are far from the shore. The winds that drive waves later in the day are hard, fast, and will make your wave shape choppy. The morning winds make for smaller, well-formed waves which are perfect for surfing.

It’s a little less predictable for the evening waves, but the wind usually tampers down and makes for nicely formed light offshore waves. The times that are best to surf are when there is swell in the water morning, evening, or the occasional day time.

While the best waves are normally found during sunset and sunrise, you can still occasionally catch some good offshore waves in the middle of the day when the winds are light enough. If you want to find light waves in the middle of the day, you’ll have to persistently watch the surf.

Watch to find where the light winds are stirring up the right waves for a really exciting surf. You can also just happen upon a good time of day to surf when you’re passing by the beach and notice that there is swell in the water. That can be a very fun unexpected surf.

How To Tell What Kinds of Waves Are the Best?

Wave Height

Wave height should be 1-2 feet high when you’re just starting out surfing. As you perfect your skill, 3-9 feet is the range that most experienced surfers prefer. Keep in mind that wave height is not the same thing as swell height.

When you see or hear swell height, just know that it’s not talking about the waves produced by local winds, but rather the swell, which is caused by large storm systems that are miles away from your location. These are measured as a body from peak to trough and the timing of the peaks of the swells. The wave’s height is measured as the average wave size.

All of this information can be found for free on any forecasting site. They pull their information from the NOAA. The NOAA or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracks and predicts waves with buoys that are placed off shore.


On a surfing forecast you’ll see something like an arrow that shows which direction the wind is blowing, which as you can imagine is key to getting a good wave. Wave strength coupled with wind direction is crucial to know before you risk a long drive out to a location that doesn’t have very favorable waves.

There’s nothing more disappointing than to hear something like, “Oh man, you just missed it. The wind was perfect just an hour ago, but you don’t really want to be surfing on these waves now.” Again, a forecasting site will give you a good idea of when you should show up to catch a good session.

Most surfers prefer to not have to deal with wind, but you can get better at it as you progress. Although little wind is ideal for surfing, and you may see that the conditions look perfect for surfing online, you’ll want to keep in mind that there is a risk that the forecast could be wrong. They are not entirely perfect on their predictions. So, keep your eyes open as you’re traveling to your surfing destination. (SourceOpens in a new tab.)

Night Surfing

There are a handful of people who love to surf at night, although it can be dangerous. There are not very many beaches that permit surfers to surf at night, but the ones that do, should be well-lit, and surfers usually look for nights with full-moons and starry skies to help them see the ocean and oncoming waves.

Surfing during the night can be extremely fun, and give you more experience in varied conditions, but it can also be intimidating to think of the marine life that is more active at night. Surfers are already exposed to possible encounters with sharks in daylight, but night time surfing can be even more intimidating than normal.

A precaution that one diver took with his black diving suit was painting it with white stripes to make it appear like the extremely deadly yellow-lipped sea krait which produces a neurotoxic venom. Sharks know that pattern and try to stay away from it, so, it has come in handy for some divers and could be used in surfing as well. (SourceOpens in a new tab.)

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