Most surfers agree that high tide provides the best surf. However low tide might be the best time to surf if you’re a beginner surfer or have never surfed before. Let me explain why low tide sandbars in North Florida are perfect for learning.
The manner in which waves crash at low tide verses high tide can be drastically different, especially here in North Florida. The waves on a typical day in North Florida break on the inside sandbar close to shore at high tide and farther out on the “outside sandbar” at low tide. The outside sandbar slopes gently causing the waves to break with less force known as a “spilling wave”. More commonly referred to as a “mushy wave”. Often at high tide the waves max out and break close to shore on the “inside sandbar”. The inside sandbar has a steep slope and this sudden change of depth causes the waves to plunge. Plunging waves are steep and curl over releasing most of its energy at once in a more violent impact.
“If you learn how to surf on the inside sandbar, chances are you will end up catching a few nose dives.”
Obviously there are pros and cons to both plunging and spilling waves. Plunging waves have more power which provides speed making the ride more exciting and the oppurtunity for stronger maneuvers. Spilling waves give you more time to pop up on the take off and an easier entry into the wave. Spilling waves break slower down the line which gives you more time on the face of wave.
Long story short, if you’re learning how to surf you may want to time your session around low tide so you have the advantage of catching spilling waves on the outside sandbar. Yes this will require more paddling than at high tide but the waves are more forgiving. You can mistime your take off and still have a chance to ride out and you’re much less likely to nose dive.
If you learn how to surf on the inside sandbar, chances are you will end up catching a few nose dives. One last thing to keep in mind is the wave height. Surfing at low tide may require waves at least in the 2’-3’ range. Any smaller and the waves can be too weak to break on the outside bar consistently. On the flip side when the surf is in 1’-3’ range the inside break may offer more spilling waves than plunging wave. Structures such as Piers and Poles can also drastically change how the waves break. We like Surfline.com for forecasts and tide information, as well as live surf cams. Hope you found this helpful, now go surf!