Surfing, and Costa Rica tides explained

Posted by Jul11, 2010 Comments (0)

Well, as head surf instructor for Shaka beach retreat talking about and explaining the tides has  become an everyday task for me. Many people come to the beach and they don’t understand why certain times of the day are good for surfing and other times are considered bad.  The beach is the beach, so what difference does it make when i go surfing? So anyway the purpose of this blog is to explain how the tides affect our beaches here in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

1. High tide & low tide. About every 6 hours the tide switches from low to high and vice-versa. The tide goes out for 6 hours then the tide comes in for 6 hours. So if low tide is 6am and rising, then mid tide is around 9am, and high tide  is 12noon then it turns around and goes back out. An interesting thing to note is when the tide switches directions the waves can go completely flat for 15-20 minutes. This can give a false impression of wave size and conditions to someone who arrives to surf right at that moment. I always advise beginners to watch the waves for 10-15 to get an accurate assesment before jumping in.

2. Here in Costa Rica the tide swing is pretty big around 8-9 feet difference between low and high tide. An interesting thing is every coastal area around the globe has different levels or measurements of tide swings, some ranging to less then a foot to over 20 feet. Variables such as the the moon phase, time of year, and geographical location greatly affect day to day tide levels. On any given day here the low or high tide can vary 2-3 feet so its important to check the local tide chart as well as a visual check.

3. Every day the tides move up about 1 hour. If high tide comming in Monday is 8am, then Tuesday high tide will be 9am then wednesday 10am and so on. So the 2 things to think about are that tides switches aproximately every 6 hours from either low or to high and roughly every 6 days the time of a high or low tide will completely switch.

Here is a tide chart for July 2010 to show the changes

Day High Low High Low High Phase
Fri 01 02:36 AM 9.60 ft 08:52 AM −0.47 ft 03:11 PM 9.25 ft 09:10 PM 0.02 ft
Sat 02 03:27 AM 9.91 ft 09:40 AM −0.85 ft 03:59 PM 9.73 ft 10:02 PM −0.32 ft
Sun 03 04:17 AM 10.03 ft 10:28 AM −1.04 ft 04:48 PM 10.04 ft 10:53 PM −0.47 ft
Mon 04 05:06 AM 9.95 ft 11:16 AM −1.00 ft 05:38 PM 10.12 ft 11:44 PM −0.42 ft
Tue 05 05:57 AM 9.64 ft 12:04 PM −0.75 ft 06:27 PM 9.98 ft
Wed 06 12:36 AM −0.16 ft 06:49 AM 9.16 ft 12:54 PM −0.29 ft 07:19 PM 9.65 ft
Thu 07 01:31 AM 0.25 ft 07:43 AM 8.57 ft 01:46 PM 0.29 ft 08:14 PM 9.20 ft Last Quarter
Fri 08 02:29 AM 0.71 ft 08:42 AM 7.96 ft 02:42 PM 0.92 ft 09:13 PM 8.73 ft
Sat 09 03:32 AM 1.12 ft 09:46 AM 7.47 ft 03:44 PM 1.48 ft 10:15 PM 8.34 ft
Sun 10 04:38 AM 1.38 ft 10:55 AM 7.18 ft 04:50 PM 1.86 ft 11:19 PM 8.10 ft
Mon 11 05:45 AM 1.43 ft 12:02 PM 7.14 ft 05:57 PM 2.01 ft
Tue 12 12:20 AM 8.04 ft 06:46 AM 1.30 ft 01:02 PM 7.32 ft 06:58 PM 1.95 ft
Wed 13 01:14 AM 8.11 ft 07:38 AM 1.07 ft 01:54 PM 7.60 ft 07:51 PM 1.76 ft
Thu 14 02:03 AM 8.26 ft 08:23 AM 0.80 ft 02:39 PM 7.93 ft 08:36 PM 1.51 ft
Fri 15 02:46 AM 8.42 ft 09:02 AM 0.55 ft 03:19 PM 8.24 ft 09:16 PM 1.25 ft New Moon
Sat 16 03:26 AM 8.56 ft 09:38 AM 0.36 ft 03:56 PM 8.49 ft 09:54 PM 1.04 ft
Sun 17 04:04 AM 8.62 ft 10:12 AM 0.26 ft 04:32 PM 8.66 ft 10:31 PM 0.89 ft
Mon 18 04:40 AM 8.58 ft 10:46 AM 0.26 ft 05:06 PM 8.73 ft 11:06 PM 0.83 ft
Tue 19 05:16 AM 8.43 ft 11:19 AM 0.37 ft 05:41 PM 8.70 ft 11:43 PM 0.87 ft
Wed 20 05:52 AM 8.18 ft 11:53 AM 0.58 ft 06:15 PM 8.58 ft
Thu 21 12:20 AM 1.00 ft 06:29 AM 7.84 ft 12:27 PM 0.86 ft 06:51 PM 8.40 ft
Fri 22 12:59 AM 1.19 ft 07:08 AM 7.46 ft 01:04 PM 1.18 ft 07:30 PM 8.18 ft
Sat 23 01:42 AM 1.41 ft 07:51 AM 7.09 ft 01:46 PM 1.50 ft 08:15 PM 7.97 ft First Quarter
Sun 24 02:31 AM 1.60 ft 08:43 AM 6.80 ft 02:36 PM 1.77 ft 09:09 PM 7.80 ft
Mon 25 03:29 AM 1.70 ft 09:46 AM 6.66 ft 03:37 PM 1.94 ft 10:12 PM 7.77 ft
Tue 26 04:35 AM 1.60 ft 10:56 AM 6.79 ft 04:47 PM 1.88 ft 11:20 PM 7.94 ft
Wed 27 05:42 AM 1.27 ft 12:05 PM 7.23 ft 05:58 PM 1.53 ft
Thu 28 12:26 AM 8.34 ft 06:45 AM 0.71 ft 01:06 PM 7.92 ft 07:04 PM 0.95 ft
Fri 29 01:26 AM 8.88 ft 07:41 AM 0.06 ft 02:02 PM 8.71 ft 08:03 PM 0.27 ft
Sat 30 02:21 AM 9.42 ft 08:33 AM −0.58 ft 02:53 PM 9.46 ft 08:57 PM −0.37 ft Full Moon
Sun 31 03:12 AM 9.85 ft 09:22 AM −1.08 ft 03:42 PM 10.06 ft 09:47 PM −0.83 ft

Many beaches here are categorized as tide optimal breaks; for example Playa Carmen is a mid/high to high tide break, Santa teresa, La lora is mid to mid/low break.

Depending on what time a particular tide is, what the current wind direction is, as well as the swell direction and size  will completely dictate the schedule for an entire day or even week in the eyes of a surf instructor or experienced surfer.

Pura Vida!
Mo’e

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