As surfers, swimmers, and ocean lovers, we are captivated by the constantly changing tides at our local beach and the impact that the moon, sun, and ocean floor have on sea conditions.
There are several reasons why it is important for us to understand tides:
- Timing: Tide influences the conditions for things like surfing and swimming. By knowing the tides, we can plan our sessions during the optimal times.
- Wave Height: The height of the waves can change with the tides, so understanding tides can help surfers predict wave height and choose the best surf spot. For example, it is important to be cautious of steep beaches during high tide as they may become close-outs or shore-dumps.
- Tidal Movements: Tides can result in changes in water currents, affecting the direction and speed of the water. This needs to be considered when deciding where and when to enter the water as some beaches may have dangerous rips or undertows.
- Slack Water: Slack water is the period of calm water between tidal extremes and occurs twice in a tidal cycle when the incoming and outgoing tidal currents temporarily cease. During this time, the water level remains relatively stable and is an important consideration for anyone using the sea, especially in areas with strong tidal currents.
Why do we have tides?
The moon’s gravitational pull is the main cause of tides, causing the ocean water to bulge towards it and create high and low areas of water. Also, the moon’s distance from Earth changes as it orbits, causing the strength of its gravitational pull to vary and affecting the size of the tides.
As the Earth rotates, it creates two high tides and two low tides per day. The shape of the coastline and ocean floor also impacts the size and height of tides, with bays and inlets amplifying tidal ranges and creating larger tides. The sun also influences tides, but its effect is weaker than the moon’s. The combined gravitational pull of the moon and sun creates spring tides, which are higher than average tides.
What are neap and spring tides?
A neap tide occurs when the gravitational pull of the moon and sun are at a right angle to each other (half moon), resulting in weaker tides and a smaller tidal range. On the other hand, a spring tide happens when the gravitational pull of the moon and sun are aligned (AKA full moon or new moon), producing the largest tidal range and the highest high tides and the lowest low tides.
Tides are a stunning example of the power of gravity and with a deeper understanding of their formation, we can better appreciate the oceans around us. For us sea-goers, knowing the tides is a double-win – improved safety and increased enjoyment, especially when the tides give us optimal conditions for getting on our boards, or getting our swim on.
If you want to learn more about tides, this next-level explanation of tides is sure to help!
At Tidey, we have developed a digital tide clock that accurately displays the tides’ position and direction, as well as the moon phase, allowing us to determine if the tide is neap, spring, or in-between.