The best surf watches are no longer rubbery little waterproof things that happen to have digital time displays and, maybe, a stopwatch. We now have new devices from the likes of Rip Curl, Nixon, Apple and Casio that offer serious style, functionality and even insights into your health.
The right surf watch for you will be based on your individual needs and how technical you wish to get. Some will want detailed surf tracking, so that your every wave is recorded in intricate detail. Others need only a tide clock and a stylish case. Others still might want heart rate tracking to measure calories burnt both in and out of the water.
We’ve updated our roundup of the best surf watches and have included a quick key feature list to make it easier to choose the right watch for you.
Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below and we’ll see if we can help out.
Best Surf Watch
The Nixon Mission almost has it all: a rugged build, smartwatch capabilities and stylish design. This is the watch you take with you on any vacation, be it snow, surf or luxury, with no hassles and plenty of functionality at your disposal.
In typical Nixon-style they’ve ensured this watch is properly water resistant – certified to 10 ATM – making it one of the best smartwatches for surfers.
For those who like the idea of a smartwatch, opening the power of the internet on your wrist, then this is going to change the way you work, live, play (and tell the time).
The Nixon Mission is built upon Google’s excellent Android Wear operating system, which means it integrates beautifully with your Google services like Maps, Gmail, Calendar and so on. With a built-in microphone you can even perform web searches directly on your wrist (just say “Ok Google” to launch search), providing you have an internet connection.
Nixon have taken integration further by including a Surfline feature, which streams your favourite surf conditions directly to your wrist. It doesn’t however track your surf sessions like the Rip Curl GPS watch, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking in that department, other than Google Fit, which means you can track sports sessions, albeit somewhat generically.
Being a smartwatch, you’ll also need to keep the Nixon Mission regularly charged, as you would any smart device, like your phone.
The best features: Super durable 48mm polycarbonate case, Surfline integration, Ultra-tough Corning® Gorilla® Glass, Beautifully bright screen, packed full of sensors
The Rip Curl Search is not the most stylish device, but what it lacks in beauty it more than makes up for by being downright the best watch for surfers who want to track their surfing performance. The GPS tracking is second-to-none and all that raw data gets seamlessly processed by the Rip Curl app and rendered as beautifully detailed maps of your surfing prowess.
Some people have asked why you’d want to track your surf sessions anyway, but I think that in an age of biofeedback and performance monitoring why wouldn’t you want to gain insights into your own sporting performance. Most obviously created by surfers this watch provides exactly the kind of detail hardcore (and obsessive compulsive) surfers are going to love. It’s the Fitbit of surfing and looks to stay that way. The only thing missing is a heart rate monitor.
The Rip Curl Search GPS has a good battery life for a GPS device, with around 10 GPS-enabled surf hours possible on a single charge. This is largely thanks to the simple black and white display which uses minimal energy.
What can we say – it’s not pretty but it is damn well brilliant at what it does and makes an indispensable travel companion for surfers who don’t want to be sporting a flashy Nixon or anything that looks expensive.
The best features: The Rip Curl app, long battery life, rugged form, silicon band, 100m waterproof
It feels a little reckless paddling out with what is essentially a tiny iPhone strapped to your wrist, but in all of their advertising for the Series 2 smartwatch Apple show images of surfers, so my advice is: go for it!
The Apple Watch is awesome in that it has a super-stylish, minimalist design and the best sensors of any watches in this round-up. Most importantly it has pretty good heart rate tracking, so if you are interested in biofeedback then this is the choice for you.
The downside is the lack of a good surfing app for the Apple Watch. There are a couple out there that are super buggy and massively disappointing, but it can’t be long before some developer takes the plunge and makes something to rival the Rip Curl Search GPS watch.
The Apple Watch packs a punch when it comes to software, screen and sensors. It is the mac daddy of all smartwatches and would be my number one choice as a non-surfer. You can initialise Siri easily by saying “Hey Siri” and she’s just there, ready for your command. She is pretty amazingly accurate now, by the way, a far cry from the frustrating Siri on old iPhones.
The Apple Watch does have a surfing option within the fitness tracking settings, so while you won’t get waves ridden you will get a pretty accurate record of your energy expenditure, so you can stay on track with your fitness goals. Be warned, you may become obsessive about achieving your rings (and I think this is a good thing)!
The best features: Built-in GPS, super strong aluminium case with Sport Band, wi-fi, 50m water resistant, the outstanding Retina display with Force Touch, Apple ecosystem of apps and software
Doesn’t have: A great surf tracking app (yet)
Our verdict: Beautiful, functional and the best smartwatch around.