The Inertia Associate Editor


I thought I knew a thing or two about tides. To me, it seemed systematic, predictable even. There are charts you can check based on your location to determine what tides will do for the day after all, right? Maybe you own a watch that gives you that info.

The moon has something to do with it. Gravity and all that. But as it happens, tides around the world are incredibly complex. How do you know how high a high tide will be on any given day? What about how low a low will be? Thinking about tidal changes at your local break is one thing, but trying to grasp the concept that day in and day out waterways around the world swish around getting deeper in some places, and shallower in others is pretty amazing.

For surfers, like other ocean enthusiasts, tidal changes can make or break a surf experience. Too low could expose dry reef at some spots, too much water could “swamp out” another, and on and on.

Jonathan White, a surfer and sailor, recalls in the introduction to his book, Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, an instance where he and a group of students nearly lost his boat in Alaska when they ran aground. The tide was a major factor. This is what galvanized White to embark on a 15-year journey around the world learning about how and why tides function in every corner of the globe.

The book is a circumnavigation – tides are simultaneously the protagonist and antagonist. Wrecker of havoc and deus ex machina. And perhaps what’s most interesting is White’s narrative surrounding how each part of the world has adapted to their unique tidal variations.

Tides aspires to inspire a new appreciation for a global natural process that most ocean enthusiasts take for granted. Come hell or high water.

Tides: The Science and the Spirit of the Ocean is available on Amazon and most major booksellers.



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