Have you wandered what makes tides, or how tides influence the waves we surf?  Tides play a crucial role on when we give lessons at Sunset Surf Camp and is a major factor on when the waves break better or safer at different surf locations.  For example beginners should surf at high tide because the waves roll in and have a gentle slope to the face of the wave which crumbles.  These waves are also breaking in deeper water.  Now if you were to surf at low tide the waves tend to stand straight up and pitch out and breaking sometimes in only a foot of water, which makes it more difficult for non experienced surfers to be in the water.  Here is a brief summary about tides that you will learn at our Costa Rica Surf Camp!

What is a tide and a current?  A tide is the vertical movement of water that goes up and down.  A current is the horizontal or sideways flow of water.  The current floods in which makes the tide rise and ebbs our which makes the tide fall.

The tide rises and falls due to the gravitational forces of the moon and sun on the oceans of the earth. Tidal cycles contain two high tides and two low tides each day. The time between high and low tides is a little over 6 hours and the entire tidal cycle repeats itself approximately fifty minutes later each day. So if you know that low tide is at 0800 today you can estimate that it will be at 0850 tomorrow.


The difference between the high tide and low tide is called the range of tide. For instance, if the water depth at high tide is 10 feet and at low tide is 8 feet, the range of tide is two feet.

There are two types of currents that you can expect in regard to tides.

  • Flooding current is experienced when the tide is rising.
  • Ebbing current is experienced when the tide is falling.

When the tide has reached it highest and lowest points there is a brief period where there is no current ebbing or flooding, this is referred to as slack water.


There are 24 hours and 50 minutes or a tidal day. That is why the tidal cycle starts approximately 50 minutes later each day.

Two other areas that need to be covered are “spring tides” and “neap tides.”  When the sun and the moon are in alignment and pulling in the same direction they cause higher high tides and lower low tides called spring tides.

On the other hand when the sun and moon are at right angles to one another with the moon pulling one direction and the sun pulling another there is somewhat of a cancelling affect and you get lower high tides and higher low tides called neap tides.


To find out all about Costa Rica tides check out our Costa Rica Tide Chart and stay safe in the ocean and enjoy your surf!