What Tide Is Best For Swimming

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Swimming in a large body of water like a lake or ocean is different from swimming in a pool – you have to seriously consider the tides and your ability to swim so that you can be safe.

The best tide to swim in is known as a slack tide, when the water moves very little compared to other tides. 

This is when the water will be safest and most enjoyable for most swimmers. Continue reading to learn when is the best time to swim in an area that experiences tides, how to identify these times and more.


What Kind of Tide is Best for Swimming?

While it is possible to swim in most tides, some are safer and, therefore, more fun to be in the water for. It depends on what water activity you are hoping to do, but for swimmers, a slack tide is what you should be looking for.

Slack tides are periods when the water moves very little, waves are calmer, and occur in shorter intervals which can be fun for the family to try and jump over together. These slack tides appear in the hour before and after a high or low tide.

Because there are two high tides and two low tides roughly every 24 hours in coastal areas, this means there are about 8 hours of slack tide to enjoy each day.


How Can You Tell if the Tide is Good for Swimming?

The surf is the most obvious sign of a good tide to swim in when you’re at a beach. This is when waves crest and crash against the shoreline.

If the waves are strong and tall, you can enjoy bobbing up and down with them close to the shore before they crash, but going much further out can be dangerous.

Instead, aim to go swimming when the waves are small and gently froth upon reaching the shore. This is the safest time to enjoy the water, especially if you plan on going out pretty far for the deep water.

You can also look up tide tables before you visit a beach to get an idea of when the high and low tides for the day are. Then, use these times to calculate when the slack tides should occur for a great beach trip.


When Should You Wait for the Best Tide for Swimming?

There are many examples of when you should wait for a better tide before swimming. Even though tide tables can provide an estimate of when tides come and go and how high the waves will reach, they aren’t perfect.

Unexpected weather conditions, seismic activity, along with sun and moon cycles can all affect a tide’s behavior and when it occurs. Avoid swimming before, during, and a day or two after storms to be as safe as possible.

If there aren’t any adverse conditions, but the water is at low tide, you should wait until the water comes inland again to avoid kicking or scraping against rocks and other debris while you swim.

While snorkelers and divers benefit most from a high slack tide, regular swimmers will also enjoy these times.


Where Should You Search for the Best Tide for Swimming?

Most large, natural bodies of water will experience tides to some degree, so you can search all over for those sweet slack tides. However, even if you know that a body of water has slack tides, there are some other factors you should consider when planning a swim:


  • Current – separate from tides, currents can sweep you out to sea or far from the shore if you aren’t careful.


  • Water temperature – even if you have a warm wetsuit, sometimes the water is simply too cold to swim in for any extended period


  • Water quality – although you could swim anywhere with deep enough water, doing so might make you sick, and it might even be illegal if there are posted signs.


  • Other people – not everyone goes to the water to swim. Watch out for boats and fishing hooks while you search for slack tides.


Things You Shouldn’t Do When You’re Looking for the Best Tide for Swimming?

Even if you are a good swimmer and take some safety precautions, swimming still has inherent risks that you need to be aware of with these tips:


  • Don’t swim alone – this is good advice normally, but if you’re exploring new places for the best tides, make sure you bring someone with you.


  • Don’t be a hero – if while your group is searching for a great slack tide, someone gets into trouble, do not try to rescue them because it is likely one or both of you will drown as a result.


  • Don’t go too far – a new or remote location can be risky if you don’t know the tides and currents well. Staying close to the shore will minimize unexpected dangers.


  • Don’t rush – don’t force yourself to swim, trying to find the best tide possible. There will be other chances to find a great swimming spot.


Final Thoughts on What Tide Is Best For Swimming

There are many different kinds of tides, all on separate cycles and with unique properties but the best tide for swimming will be a slack tide, especially a high slack tide. 

These tides occur before and after high or low tides, which give you ample opportunities to swim in relative safety.

A slack tide can be identified by small waves that gently crash on the shore at frequent intervals or by looking up a tide table. Always plan and act accordingly if adverse weather is forecasted or the tide doesn’t seem to follow what is predicted.