Tag Archives: red tide

Wearing goggles to surf: Kook status or Florida Red Tide?

1 Aug


Summer Science explained: 

Summer Science explained is a new blog series on Layman’s Terms Media. Each week, phenomena that are unique to summer time will be broken down and explained. I am currently taking suggestions for topics, so if there is something you’ve always wondered about feel free to contact me and pitch an idea!


I took a deep breath in. Smelling the saltwater has always been my ritual before starting the process of unloading my surfboard.

But, this time I did not feel refreshed or enlightened by the beach breeze. My eyes started to water.

I walked closer to get a better look at the water to see what might be the culprit of what seemed to be an instant allergic reaction.

What I saw before me was not the crystal turquoise of the Emerald coast. The water was murky, brown and my instincts were telling me it was best to stay out.  But the glassy waves were too tempting and a rarity for Florida.

I decided to catch a couple waves on my longboard before working my night shift at the restaurant. I stopped at the coastline, put on my leash and took a more hesitant leap in than normal.

Dunking my head under, I forgot to close my eyes and the burning sensation was unbearable.

No surfing today.

That was a few years ago in Pensacola along the Gulf of Mexico. There was no chemical leak from the nearby power plant and BP oil had not yet tainted the waters.

What I experienced that day was a naturally occurring algal bloom.

Although algal blooms are normal, scientists classify this particular one as a harmful algal bloom, better known along the Gulf coast as Florida Red Tide.

Red Tide refers to the reddish-brown color caused by the abundance of algae and the word tide is sort of misleading since the bloom has nothing to do with tidal movements.

The harmful algal bloom that we experience in Florida is caused by the microscopic marine dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, a photosynthetic organism (algae) that propels through the water with its two whip-like flagella. Continue reading