What Is The Best Time Of Day To Surf? (What You Should Know)

I like to say that the best day to surf is today, and the best time to surf is now. So if you can only spare one or two hours to surf, knowing when to go to the beach will make those one or two hours more enjoyable! However, there are a few rules and tricks to double-check when you can expect the best conditions for surfing.

The best time to surf depends on the spot, the tide, and the wind. Some spots work better with low tide, but others with high tide. Besides the tide and the waves, the wind also plays a significant role. Offshore wind is favorable, so surfers often prefer to surf at dusk or dawn.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll never miss a good session because you left too early or came too late. However, I’ll explain how to lower the chance of that happening in this article.

What is The Best Time of Day to Surf?

The best time to go surfing is when the waves are clean and powerful, the lineup empty, the tide just perfect for that spot, and a little bit of offshore wind. But when exactly that is varied by day and location.

There are a few different aspects that affect the quality of the waves.

It might require a little bit of research to find out at which point of the day the waves are at their best.

To do so, you’ll need to understand the following few things.

Tide:

While some spots work better at low tide, others might work better at high- or mid-tide. The tides shift 50 minutes per day (at most places in the world).

That means that it won’t be low tide every morning.

When figuring out when you should go surfing, you should first know what tide the spot needs and then what the tide-timetable of that day looks like.

Swell:

Simply put, swell results from wind energy being transferred into the ocean. It’s a whole bunch of ‘waves’ moving away from a storm. They can move big distances without the wind to fuel them.

Once the ocean gets shallow, the swell turns into (surfable)waves due to reefs, rocks, or the beach. Swell can arrive at any given time and from any direction.

Most spots have a preferred swell direction, so knowing where the swell comes from can help you choose the right spot.

And since swells come whenever they do, no waves in the morning doesn’t mean there won’t be waves in the afternoon.

Watch online to see when and where the swell is at its best.

Swell period:

When you look at the swell map, you’ll see the number of feet and the number of seconds.

The amount of seconds tells us something about the space between the waves. This then influences the amount of power that the wave has.

Anything above 10 seconds becomes interesting for surfers (in most cases). But the higher the number, the bigger and stronger the waves!

Wind:

A little bit of wind from the right angle (offshore) can improve the quality of a wave. But a little bit of wind from the wrong angle can make the surf a lot less enjoyable.

A lot of wind is never desired.

Wind can push you away from where you can catch the wave, resulting in lots of tiresome paddling.

It can also make the water ‘choppy,’ which means that the wind creates many little waves, and therefore the surface of the wave is less smooth and not as pleasant to surf.

Wind direction:

The difference in air temperatures creates the wind. These differences make different pressure areas.

When the air above the land is warm, it’ll rise upwards. The cool air from the ground then rushes in to fill the space. This is the flow between high and low-pressure areas.

When checking the forecast online, it helps to keep an eye on this.

First, however, I further explain a few general rules regarding the wind direction.

Now that you know what to look for (light offshore wind, good swell direction/period, and the right tide), you can start looking at different online surf forecasts to find the best time of any day to go surfing.

Working with a surf forecast and figuring out what your surf spot needs can give you an advantage over the other surfers.

This means that you are more likely to find that perfect one or two-hour gap where the swell picks up, the wind stops blowing, and there might only be a few other surfers out there catching waves.

That is the best time of the day to be surfing!

Now that you know that the best time to surf can basically be any time of the day, depending on all those different aspects, you might be wondering why surfers always talk about dusk and dawn as the holy grail of surfing.

​​Why do Surfers Surf in The Morning?

In the morning, the air above the ocean is often warmer than above the land. This results in favorable offshore wind. Besides the wind, surfing early mornings requires you to get out of bed early. However, not everyone is willing to do that, which means that the mornings are often less crowded.

Surfer surfing at sunset

Why do Surfers Surf in The Evening?

In the evening, the air above the sea is often warmer than above the land. This results in favorable offshore wind. Besides the wind, lots of people like to surf after work. Surfing is a great way to end the day! Since many people work a 9-5 job, the evenings are for leisure and pleasure.

What Time Should You Not go Surfing?

The short answer:

You should not go for a surf when there is low to no visibility. This means not at night (except for a few locations) and not during extreme sea fog. Surfing during extreme weather and ocean conditions is not recommended unless you’re a trained big wave surfer.

The extended answer:

There are a few times when it’s not recommended to go surfing.

This can be due to weather, visibility, or even physical reasons. Here are a few important ones.

Nighttime:

At nighttime, the visibility is low to zero. This makes it very dangerous to surf. It’s also the time when sharks hunt.

A few places allow surfing at night during a full moon and with the use of big lights.

However, even then, it’s still dangerous for many reasons, drowning (it’s hard to know what’s up when you’re underwater at night), getting lost, injuries, and predators.

Ocean fog:

Thick ocean fog can lower the visibility so much that you won’t be able to see where you are.

This can result in you being taken further onto the ocean due to currents without noticing.

It’s important to know where you are when you surf so that you can paddle around or avoid hazards.

Thunderstorms:

Surfing during a thunderstorm is not recommended due to many obvious reasons.

When you hear a thunderstorm coming closer, it’s best to get back to the beach and stay at a safe place until the storm is gone.

Heavy rain:

Although surfing in the rain is not necessarily dangerous, it does tend to lower visibility.

During heavy rain, it’s hard to keep your eyes open while surfing a wave. This can result in dangerous situations.

Heavy rain also tends to become a thick curtain which might obstruct your ability to see the beach. This can result in you drifting into the ocean without noticing it.

Ocean conditions that exceed your abilities:

Surf waves and conditions suited for your abilities. You should never surf when the conditions are too difficult for your abilities.

Surfing at these times makes you a danger to yourself and others.

If you keep doing this, your abilities will eventually allow you to surf the big and dangerous waves.

After eating:

It’s recommended to wait 45 minutes after eating before entering the water.

This has to do with the possibility of getting a cramp when swimming right after you eat.

While drunk:

Drunk people have a hard time assessing the risks and dangers right in front of them. While you might feel like you can do anything, this is not the case.

Surfing while being drunk makes you a danger to yourself and others.

As a beginner, when there is nobody else:

There must be someone there with you when you go surfing (unless it’s a guarded beach). Then, when something happens, an extra person might be able to save you.

This is the case for any surfer, but especially for beginning surfers.

Conclusion

Surfing during dusk and dawn is very popular due to the offshore winds and fewer people in the water.

There can be better times to surf, though. Finding those perfect moments requires some knowledge about how to read surf forecasts or for you to be lucky! 

Marcus Campbell

Surfing is the biggest passion in my life. Transferring my knowledge about surfing to others is what I love doing most! I do this through my own surf school and through my articles on this website. This is how I hope to get everyone excited about this amazing sport!
Published: 
January 18, 2022

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Published: January 18, 2022