The response of rigid piles in sand to an inclined tensile load is poorly documented and understood, particularly when the load is cyclic. This is becoming relevant for floating marine renewable energy devices such as wave energy converters and floating wind turbines. This paper considers centrifuge data for rigid piles in dense sand subjected to drained monotonic and cyclic loading at various inclinations. The data strongly advocate (in dense sand) the avoidance of load inclinations higher than about 60° (to the horizontal) as cyclic loading significantly deteriorates pile capacity, whereas at lower (flatter) load inclinations, there are potential benefits from cyclic densification that improve pile capacity. © 2019 ICE Publishing: all rights reserved.