There is no one best tide to surf in Newquay. In fact, because this surf city is blessed with 7 great surfing beaches, you can find rideable waves at all stages of tide (low, mid & high tide), and in a variety of different swell sizes, wind directions, and over sandbars that are ever changing on its long sandy beaches that boast a large 7.7 metre tidal range.
Instead, the key is to understand the conditions of any given day and know exactly which of the seven beaches and on what tide the waves are best. This is no easy feat, and if new to surfing we suggest taking a lesson with a reputable and experienced surf school like the Newquay Activity Centre who can point you in the right direction and have you surfing the best waves at the right beach, and on the right tide.
However, that’s not to say there aren’t useful rules of thumb about the tides, at least when learning to surf. At low tide waves are often steeper, more powerful and tend to close out, culminating in a situation where it is difficult to stand up on the board, and where rides are short in length. Similarly, right on high tide the waves tend to ‘dump’ on the shoreline, meaning short, steep dangerous rides, and where you’ll find yourself with sand in parts you didn’t know sand could get.
So a competent surfing school will aim to take you surfing on a pushing tide, from just after low tide until mid tide or from mid tide until just before high tide. And vice-versa, if the tide is on its way out, then the school will have you surf just after high tide until mid tide or from mid tide until just before low tide. In both instants the school is avoiding the dead low and dead high tide times when the waves are not fit for learning to surf. And instead surfing in the tidal time slots that offer waves that are slower, less steep and that break left and right; allowing you more time to jump to your feet and offering longer more enjoyable rides.
At the Newquay Activity Centre we often take our clients to Fistral beach on a pushing tide just after low and surf until the mid tide. When the tide is coming in, the set waves (a cyclical group of bigger waves) tend to be more consistent and more powerful. The more powerful the waves are, the more push there is behind each wave and ultimately longer rides for the surfer. We avoid surfing Fistral at high tide for the reasons mentioned above – its steep shorebreaking waves don’t make for learner friendly waves.
So, what are tides and how are they created?
Tides are the daily cyclical rising and falling levels of the sea (low tide, mid tide and high tide). Tidal cycles can occur once or twice a day depending on a beach’s position in relation to the Moon. Tides that happen just once a day are called diurnal, while tides that, like Newquay, are twice daily are called semidiurnal (two high tides and two low tides each day). In a semidiurnal cycle the high and low tides happen approximately every 6hrs12mins.
The tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon and the Earth’s rotation, but it’s the Moon that has the greatest impact on the tides. Spring tides occur when the Sun and the Moon are aligned, culminating in a combined gravitational pull that gives rise to the largest tidal range (the highest high tide and the lowest low tide). In contrast, a Neap tide occurs when the Sun is positioned at 90 degrees to the Moon, and so the gravitational force on the tides is solely from the Moon, resulting in a much smaller tidal range. This occurs during the first and third quarters of the Moon (every two weeks), while the Spring tides take place during the second and fourth quarters.
So regardless or low, mid or high tide, or whether it’s a Spring or Neap tides, get yourself down to the Newquay Activity Centre and we’ll have you riding the best waves in town