Is it generally easier or more difficult to land/launch through surf during high vs low tide

Or maybe it varies from location to location or is almost always overwhelmed by other variables. I mostly paddle inland or protected waters and don’t know but infrequently (like this week) venture out to the ocean. The nice thing about landing at high tide of course, if you are camping, is that you know, more-or-less, where your boat needs to be to prevent it from being taken by rising waters in the night, and you don’t need to carry it there. On the other hand, if high tide generally means difficult dumpy surf or a more difficult landing for other reasons, maybe a bit of a boat drag is worth it. Thanks.

I kayaked for three years in Alaska, which has a big tide. The bad news is, you are going have to carry your boat all the way up or all the way down, because you ALWAYS arrive and leave just when the tide is greatest/least! That being said, no real difference either way.

It totally depends on the surface under the water near shore.

If there are rocky ledges, like off the south ends of islands in Maine, low tide can be a challenge to paddle thru let alone launch. You are ducking rocks as well as waves between them. High tide much easier IF it means the rocks are covered by a few feet of water.

If it is a smooth sandy bottom, like off the Narrows in RI, a given strong tide can still produce major breakers but the wind can have the effect of increasing things by quite a bit.

If it is a river mouth going into the ocean, much of what matters is whether tide, river current and wind are in opposition to each other. If there is a question mark at a location like that try to time doing anything new around the slack of the tide. That reduces the impact of one out of the three factors.


@Monkeyhead said:
Or maybe it varies from location to location

What you said, what Celia said and day to day. Today, here, it will be interesting, 8ft waves. “Homberto”(sp), the confused storm, is sending us wind, scattered showers and waves. Next week it will likely be calm seas. .

As said, totally depends.

Some beaches near me (NorCal) the waves change shapes with tide height. A generality (which doesn’t hold everywhere) is that beaches known to be “dumpy” are more forgiving at lower tides. At higher tides, the waves are smacking down into steeper stretches of sand, which makes for a dumpy surf and no soup zone to prepare in. But at lower tides, the shore is less steep, so you can get some sort of soup zones and less aggressive breaks (and sometimes even surfable waves).

There are also beaches that at higher tides have break waters or rocky bluffs, so the waves at high tides are breaking right into rocks, but low tides have a beach.

There are also area where offshore reefs protect an area from waves, so at lower tides there are less/no waves but at higher tides the waves can go over these reefs.

Seems all of my examples are where high tides are worse, but trust me there are times when low tides are worse than high. One example is at bars at mouths of bays/rivers. Higher tide could mean enough water over the bar that waves don’t break, where lower tides could cause breaking waves.

Depends on the winds too… Dorian brushed the coast just off shore Maine… We went to Pemaquid to see the waves… They were astounding in the morning with an East wind. By noon you could have launched from that rocky uptilted sedimentary rock with no problem with an outgoing nearing low tide. … Wind was from the north.

From my experience on the south east coastal areas from NC southward, the waves break closer to the shore during high tides and break way out away from shore during low tides.

Peter’s comments above are spot on when you have a steep beach, on more gradual beaches or where there is a reef, the waves tend to get swamped out right around very high tides, so there is less breaking wave action ( waves break when the bottom is about 1.5 wave heights below the surface of the wave.) But all in all it really depends a lot on the steepness of the beach, how high the waves are, winds, current, and the shape of the bottom. So one pretty much learns what to expect at a beach by experience at that beach and knowing what the tide and wave heights will be. The spots that I surf most often I know where channels through the waves form because of the shape of ocean bottom. I can usually paddle out or in at those beaches without much challenge as along as the surf is not enormous, or very large windswell with short period.

Low or high tides and the surf are about the same, with one possible exception being low tide breeze.
Without fail, the wind picks up at low tide every day so not that it’s enough usually to effect the waves (unless theirs some weather coming in), but there is defiantly more wind to deal with on an incoming tide, at least along the Washington coast.
Like RussSees said, one factor is the distance from where you park to the water before or after the paddling, unless you find a nice slough to launch and pick up in, then you’re just talking about the breakers you have to cross in and out.