It may be winter but one group of people who will not be put off by the chilly sea temperatures are Britain’s intrepid surfers. Forget the sun kissed beauties surfing the waves in Hawaii and along the Californian coast – Britain’s surfers are hard core, battling with our country’s notoriously unsettled and unpredictable weather.
Many factors contribute to the quality of surf, ranging from wind speed and duration, local wind direction and the geography of each individual beach. The wind speed and duration and the wind’s ‘fetch’, i.e the area the wind affects, create the swell in the open sea which forms the waves coming ashore. The local wind direction and geography will dictate how the waves form on the beach. All of these factors are important, but any experienced surfer will tell you that the key information they always have to hand is the tide table.
Some parts of Britain have huge tidal ranges – in fact, the Severn Estuary between England and Wales has the second largest tidal range in the world, after the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Tide times become crucial to the keen surfer in this situation.
Many of Britain’s surfing beaches are at the mercy of the tide – even with perfect weather conditions the waves there may only be good for surfing for a few hours in a day. Waves will break at a specific depth depending on the height of the wave. The water depth changes as the tide moves in or out so the waves will break at different points. To get the best out of the waves on these beaches it is crucial for the surfers to be aware of the tide times for that particular coastal area.
Let’s not forget safety. Experienced surfers will know instinctively when a tide is turning. Less experienced wave riders will need to know that information beforehand to ensure they stay safe as conditions change.