Photo of Tree and sky reflected in water

How To Read Water

Clues and Signs in Water

A New York Times Bestseller

A Sunday Times ‘Must Read’ book

Includes hundreds of clues, signs and patterns


From Chapter 15:

Rip currents are feared and much misunderstood. They get called ‘rip tides’ frequently, but they are not a tidal phenomenon, and this is just the start of the confusion that they seem to create. The physics is actually very straightforward, rip currents form when a wide area of water on the beach is pulled back to the sea by gravity, but finds a narrow channel to flow through. Water will accelerate whenever it passes through a narrower gap – like when you put your thumb over a tap or the end of a hose – and so a fast current that flows out towards the sea is formed. They can flow at two metres per second, faster than any swimmer.”


From Chapter 12, on Reading Waves

“Any waves passing through a narrow gap in a barrier will fan out.”


From Chapter 6 on Rivers and Streams:

You can imagine that one of these holes on a big scale is something to be very wary of in a small craft and getting caught, sandwiched between the two flows, is every kayaker’s nightmare – they have killed many people over the years. But once we know what to look for, we can revel in seeing them on a much smaller scale. Some of the most mesmerizing ones I’ve seen were smaller than my hand. Holes are such important features of white water that they have many other nicknames, including ‘hydraulics’ and ‘stoppers’, but I prefer ‘holes’ as it reminds us what is going on beneath the surface.”


From Chapter 10 on Light and Water

This long line of shimmering reflections is known as a ‘glitter path’ and is caused when our eye picks up thousands of tiny sun reflections of the sides of waves stretching into the distance. The shape of the glitter path is a measure of how high the sun is and the roughness of the waves. The glitter path will get narrower as the sun gets lower and broader as the waves get steeper.”


A glitter path on Lake Zurich. ⓒ Vaughan James.

must-have book for walkers, sailors, swimmers, anglers and everyone interested in the natural world, in How To Read Water, Natural Navigator Tristan Gooley shares knowledge, skills, tips and useful observations to help you enjoy the landscape around you.

‘Anyone who spends time in, on, or by, water – whether at the helm of a narrowboat or merely playing Poohsticks with grandkids – will benefit from some of the extraordinary insights in this book.’ – Waterways World

‘Jam-packed with information, this book will fascinate sailors, fishers, birders, naturalists, hikers, and anyone interested in the natural world.’ – Forbes

‘This study of rivers, lakes, puddles and seas brims over with astonishing facts…His observational skills can be breathtaking’ The Sunday Times

‘This inspired guide to water in all its forms will make a big splash…Gooley has done his subject proud – this is seriously fascinating stuff.’ The Times

In the book, you’ll learn how to:

  • Interpret ponds like a Polynesian
  • Spot dangerous water in the pitch black with the help of a clock face
  • Read the sea like a Viking
  • Forecast the weather from waves
  • Find your way with puddles
  • Decipher wave patterns on beaches
  • Decode the colour of water
  • Unravel a river like an expert

From wild swimming in Sussex to wayfinding off Oman, via the icy mysteries of the Arctic, Tristan Gooley draws on his own pioneering journeys to reveal the secrets of ponds, puddles, rivers, oceans and more to show us all the skills we need to read the water around us.

Instagram / Twitter see: #HowToReadWater

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For a complete guide to Natural Navigation read Tristan's books.

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Wild Signs and Star Paths

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