Understanding tides


Knowing what tides are doing is very useful when visiting a beach and can keep you safe.

What is low tide and high tide
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Neap Tides and Spring tides


Twice a month we have small neap and twice we have larger spring tides. Here's why:


A spring tide happens each lunar month just after full moon when the moon's orbit means the sun, the earth and the moon are in a line - the gravitational pull of the moon combines with that of the sun to create a huge tidal bulge. This brings higher high tides and lower low tides.
Seven days later will be a neap tide as the tidal pull of the moon is near cancelled out by the pull of the sun. This means a smaller tidal bulge bringing lower high tides and higher low tides.
Seven days later is a new moon bringing another spring tide and lower low tides. Seven days after that, another neap tide.
And then we start again with another lunar month.
The very low tides of the spring tide can be great for rockpooling as new pools are exposed but dangerous muds can also be exposed. The higher high tides can cause people to get cut off as water rushes in covering sand and rocks normally left exposed. Add in factors such as onshore winds, and tidal changes can be even more extreme.

What is a rip current?
What is a rip tide?


A rip tide is a strong current that goes away from the shore. They can be strong enough to pulla swimmer or surfer away from shallow water and into deeper water. Once in a rip, it can be difficult to get out and swim against the strong current.


How to spot a rip


The best way is to check the beach beforehand. Do some research? Are rip tides common on the beach? Talk to the lifeguards and ask them if there is a rip current present in any part of the beach or bay.


Alternatively, a rip may be given away by:


- A patch or channel of water which is different from the water artound - smoother, or choppier or darker.


- A patch or channel carrying more debris than the water around


- A break in the waveline


The higher up you are, the clearer these types of patterns indicating a rip may be. Standing on higher ground looking down on the beach can help.


Swim between the swimming flags
on a lifeguarded beach


If you find yourself caught in a rip


If you feel you are being pulled away from the shore in a rip - 


- if you are not out of your depth, try to wade rather than swim


- if you are in deep water, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the rip, then swim and wade to the shore


- if you have a board, keep hold of it and phone 999 and ask for the coastguard


- if you are a swimmer in difficulty, float on your back and raise a hand and shout for help.


If you see someone in difficulty in a rip,
dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.



Always check the tide times before you go beach - to make sure you are not going to get trapped by high tides.


You can check the tides online - it will tell you both the times of high tides and the expected height of the tides: