Surfboard? Check. Leash? Check. Wax? Check. Surf watch? … Eh?
Yes, not many surfers have – or think about having – a watch on their wrists when going out for a surf. After all, if you don’t have to work, study, or meet anyone afterwards, why bother to know the time? Still, the ones who do own one, usually cherish it to the point of considering it as fundamental as surf wax.
Indeed, the majority of surfers who own a surf watch have bought it to keep track of time; yet, being constantly reminded of the time isn’t the reason why many fall in love with this piece of technology. Gone are the days when watches did nothing but tell the time. Nowadays, they are more like mini-computers that can tell you both the time and the tide whilst giving your exact coordinates on the planet, keeping track of your heart rate, and providing statistics for your surf session.
But with so many models out there, choosing the right one for your wrist can prove a befuddling task. So, in this guide to the Best Surf Watches of 2022, we have outlined the Top 5 based on functions such as water resistance, tide measurement, activity tracking, and surf session statistics. Although they are ordered from 1 to 5, it doesn’t necessarily mean the first will be the best for you. After all, besides handy settings, we also want a watch that looks good on our wrist and fits our budget.
pssst! If you can’t read the whole article and want to buy a watch now, click here…
A BRIEF NOTE ON BUYING A SURF WATCH
Unlike regular watches, surf watches benefit from having a handful of characteristics that not only make them good for surfing but can distinguish a good surf watch from a bad surf watch.
- WATER RESISTANCE: It goes without saying that water resistance is of the essence for every surf watch. However, there is something to be said about the ratings, as things tend to get a bit confusing here. In a nutshell, a rating of 150 metres refers to how well that particular watch withstands pressure as the depth changes – not how deep you can submerge it. For surfing, the threshold is 100 metres of water resistance. Anything below that and you will probably need a case.
- DESIGN: The design of a surf watch can be put into two categories – slim and bulky. The first type tends to be good for people who dislike feeling restricted or weighed down by something wrapping their wrists, and they can easily be slipped underneath your wetsuit sleeve. The downside is that they generally come with fewer features, and might not be as durable as their counterparts. Bulkier designs, on the other hand, are often packed with more features, generally have a more robust structure, and tend to be built with stronger materials. The major con of these chunkier designs is the very fact they can feel chunky and heavy on the wrist.
- GPS: Some surfers may consider this function secondary, but having a watch with GPS will definitely help more than hinder. Not only will this feature allow you to find, save, and share your location, but sometimes it also monitors things like speed, distance, and other performance information throughout the surf session.
- TIDE INFORMATION: Making sure your surf watch has a tide forecast function is one of the wisest things you can do. Anyone who has surfed for long enough to understand how tides influence a break will know the importance of having tide information handy. To make a long story short, a watch that comes with tide charts will be able to tell you when is the best time for you to paddle out at a given surf spot – provided you know what tide works best for that spot, of course. This, in turn, will help you avoid the disappointment of rocking up to the beach to find the tide is too high or low for the waves to roll in. One important thing to note here is that, since tides vary according to location, and since no watch can store charts for every surf spot in the world, more watches with this function come with pre-programmed information for a number of locations – which varies depending on the watch. As such, the more locations a surf watch has tidal information for, the better. And if your budget allows, get a watch with customizable tidal data, so you can be sure you will get reliable information on what the tides are doing regardless of where you are.
- WAVE COUNTING: In essence, a wave counting feature on your watch gives you as good of an overview of your progress as a performance tracking feature. Sure, it will be less detailed – but the watch will also cost a lot less. So, if you are on a tight budget but like to have some kind of parameter to measure your performance, getting a surf watch with a wave counter is the best and cheapest option.
- BLUETOOTH / WI-FI: This feature comes in handy when transferring data between your watch and other devices, thus making it super easy to check performance statistics in apps or get real-time forecasts, for instance.
1. GARMIN INSTINCT SOLAR SURF
The Garmin Instinct Solar Surf is the most versatile watch on this list – and you couldn’t expect less from this world-renowned brand. Boasting compatibility with three of the best satellite systems (GLONASS, Galileo, and GPS), this surf watch allows surfers to track their movements anywhere in the world – from the deserted beaches of Morocco to the secluded islands of Polynesia and the frigid western coast of Canada. So if you’re the kind of surfer who likes to get off the beaten track, there is your first reason to consider this piece of gear.
Other than reliable geo navigation, the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf has a bunch of extra features such as heart rate tracking, sleep and stress monitoring, and training apps. The Surf Edition also comes with tide data, which, as any seasoned surfer would confirm, is a piece of handy information to have whether you are travelling or timing a session at your local break. But perhaps more significantly – or at least to surfers who are into training – is that this watch records your speeds and the number of waves you caught whilst in the water.
Another neat bonus is that with this Garmin you can actually record a video of yourself surfing. How? Just make sure the spot you’re going to has a Surfline camera. Then, all you have to do is select the options on your watch and press start at the beginning of the session. And if all these add-ons weren’t enough, the Instinct Solar Surf comes with a long-lasting, solar rechargeable battery. This means that, on average and under normal use, you’ll get 30 hours of battery life – which can be brought up to 38 hours if the sun is shining. And if you want to save battery, switch to saver mode to use the watch for up to 56 days without charging!
It would have been a pity if, after all this, Garmin made a watch that wasn’t built to last. Fortunately, they have also invested in a robust, scratch-heat-and-shock-resistant, fibreglass polymer case not only protects the watch itself but also grants it 100-metre water resistance, making the Instinct Solar Surf one of the most durable surf watches in the market.
+ Amazing battery life backed with solar recharging
+ Rugged built and lots of water-resistance
+ Sleek design
+ Great satellite tracking
+ Unique and useful surf-specific features
+ Good variety of handy add-ons
– Might be somewhat large for some wrists
– Monochrome-only screen
– Access to third-party apps (such as some iPhone apps) is rather limited
If you think the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf is the one for you, click below to buy on Amazon
2. RIP CURL SEARCH GPS SERIES 2
Rip Curl is well-known in the world of surfing for its high-quality watches – and the Search GPS Series 2 lives up to the brand’s popularity. This model was designed specifically for surfers, so there are no redundant features and all it offers was tailored with the practice in mind.
First of all, as the name implies, Rip Curl has included a GPS function on this model. But besides guiding themselves in remote surf spots, surfers can also use the GPS data to plot their movements on a map, as well as check how many waves were caught, how fast they rode each wave, and where they paddled. And if you want to share the location of the session with friends, it is possible to do so via the Search Series 2 app.
This latest Rip Curl surf watch model also boasts tide charts for more than 1400 spots, thus helping you plan your paddle-outs to the right time. But perhaps more impressive is the Live feature, where it displays swell and wind reports for the location of choice in real-time. And when you cross-reference the weather and wave conditions with the performance statistics provided by the GPS function, it becomes much easier to understand where to go and when.
Unlike the aforementioned Garmin, even though it does provide you with info on your paddling distance, the Rip Curl Search Series 2 has no heart-rate sensor. Also unlike the Garmin, the Rip Curl’s battery doesn’t last too long (roughly a full day with the GPS on) and can’t be solar charged – you will have to plug it in when you get home.
+ Plenty of surf performance data
+ Ability to share data via the app
+ Real-time weather and surf forecast
+ Reliable and wide-ranging tide information
– Lack of heart-rate sensor
– Relatively weak battery
If you think the Rip Curl Search GPS Series 2 is the one for you, click below to buy on Amazon
3. APPLE WATCH SERIES 7
If you are a tech enthusiast surfer, then the Apple Watch Series 7 might be the right pick for you. The first thing to catch the eye, especially when compared to other watches that are more commonly associated with surfing, is the Series 7 minimalistic and functional design. Indeed, very Apple. For a surfer who is not so concerned about how a watch may look on his/her wrist, this will still have implications on how it feels on the wrist. That is, a slimmer design makes the watch less of a hindrance when surfing and fits underneath the sleeve of wetsuits easily.
It almost goes without saying, but one of the strong points of this Apple model is its compatibility with iPhones. From transferring heart-rate data and session statistics to making emergency calls – all this can be configured so that your Apple Watch and your iPhone work as one. And if you are not surfing, this model can come in handy when you want to listen to music, receive text messages, or pay with Apple Pay.
Probably having had to compromise on something on this smartwatch, Apple chose the structure. Although it looks nice, the Series 7 is not as rugged as most of its counterparts, and has a water resistance of 50 metres only, which means too much time in the water can damage it. To remedy that, there is a variety of cases to choose from if you want to improve its durability. But being an extra, they have to be bought separately. And knowing Apple, the prices can be salty.
So, pro’s and cons of the latest Apple watch are as follows.
+ Sleek, functional design
+ Plenty of features for day-to-day use
+ Option to set up emergency calls
+ Great for monitoring exercise
+ Dawn Patrol App is really good for surf tracking
– Best if used with a case (extra cost)
– Low water-resistance
If you think the Apple Watch Series 7 is the one for you, click below to buy on Amazon
4. NIXON BASE TIDE PRO
Like the Apple Watch, the Nixon Base Tide Pro also features a streamlined, functional design. Its slim structure allows you to slip it underneath the wetsuit sleeve with ease; its malleable silicone band wraps nicely around the wrist whilst the buckle mechanism keeps the watch firmly in place. Similarities aside, one thing this Nixon model surpasses the Apple one in is water resistance – it is rated 100 metres.
In some ways, the Nixon Base Tide Pro is also very similar to the Rip Curl Search GPS Series 2. Not only do they look alike at first glance, but both feature a wave counting function as well as preloaded tide forecasts for a wide range of locations (550, Nixon vs 1400, Rip Curl). Other than that, however, they are more complementary than similar – what one lacks, the other has. The Rip Curl has great GPS tracking and surf performance data; the Nixon has a more durable battery and a lower retail price.
Here’s our likes and dislikes for the Nixon Base Tide Pro
+ Great wave counting feature
+ Tide info on more than 500 locations
+ Reliable battery
+ Good-looking and functional design
– No GPS function
– No surf session statistic feature or heart-rate monitor
If you think the Nixon Base Tide Pro is the one for you, click below to buy on Amazon
5. CASIO G-SHOCK FROGMAN
Casio has been a name in the sports watch industry for decades, and the G-Shock Frogman certainly backs up the brand’s reputation. For surfers, two main features make this watch appealing. First, its impressive water-and-shock-resistance: 200-metre rating and a solid carbon-fibre resin reinforced construction. Second, the vast range of tide information accessible via the app or on the display, covering thousands of locations across the world.
A big downside of the Frogman – and indeed the factor that makes it not as appealing to surfers as it could be – is that it lacks GPS and other performance monitoring features such as a heart-rate sensor or wave counter. On the other hand, its battery is much better than most of its counterparts, and, like the Garmin, can be recharged with the energy of the sun. Even so, many surfers might not be able to justify paying so much for a device that doesn’t tick some of the fundamental surf watch boxes. So the G-Shock Frogman is probably best for surfers who are also into other watersports, particularly diving.
+ Best water-resistance of this list
+ Battery can be solar recharged
+ Amazing functions for diving as well
– No GPS or performance features
If you wanna buy the Casio G-Shock Frogman, click below to buy on Amazon
So, if you’re in the market for a surf watch or you are looking to buy one as a gift here’s our verdict.
OUR BEST BUY
If you use an iPhone or are an fan of Apple products, then the Apple Watch Series 7 comes out on top. As an all around watch it is super easy to use, has a tonne of functionality and the Dawn Patrol app is great!
If you really want to geek out on your surf stats it will make every surf sesh an adventure, and you’ll be able to dial in on how to take your surfing to the next level!
Ok, so we felt that as we were looking at Surf Watches, this one is pretty much bang on. It only got pipped to the post because of the extra stuff you can do with the Apple watch, but the Rip Curl Search GPS Series 2 is all you need in a surf watch.
The tracking is super accurate and the app is awesome. If you haven’t got an iPhone, this is a great choice, will probably stand up to a bit more abuse than the Apple watch too. As a result, it gets a double shaka from us!
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