Surf Watch 101

Surf Watch 101

Q & A
Surf Watch HISTORY
BEST Brands & Models
Surf Watch & Sport Watch COMPARISON
Surf Watch CARE


Surf watch = Surf wristwatch = Tide watch

The Surf Watch is a tool that helps to monitor surfing stats and surf conditions. The main difference between a specialized surf watch and any sports watch are the following key features:

  • Wave counter – How many waves you surfed
  • Tide information – Moon phases, current tide height, computes future tides
  • Pre-programmed tide locations on most popular surf spots
  • Sunrise/Sunset times
  • GPS & WiFi – Track your overall distance and exact locations
  • Wave height – How big were the waves you surfed
  • Water temperature
  • Wave period – Measures the swell period
  • Wind speed & direction
  • Max speed
  • Distance paddled
  • Backlight – Helps you see that screen on sunny days or dark evenings/mornings
  • Alarm – To set the alarm when you have to start moving back to the shore
  • Sturdy yet comfortable rubber band – A key feature any sports watch must have
  • 10 ATM waterproof -50-100M / 165 -330ft Designed to use on all water activities except for diving
  • Countdown timer – In case you are going somewhere in time
  • Stopwatch
  • A well-detailed display – For a quick and clear peek while doing sports
  • Smartphone compatible

Any other sports watch for swimming does not have the essential data many surfers are the most interested in – max speed, wave counter, wave period, etc.

What the Surf Watch & Sport Watch both share in common:

  • Backlight
  • Alarm
  • Strong and comfortable rubber band
  • Waterproof rating
  • Countdown timer
  • Stopwatch
  • A well-detailed display
  • Smartphone compatible

“Sports watch vs. Surf watch!” Read more about from down below

Sidenote: I find it confusing that ALL waterproof watches have the waterproof rating stamped on the watches background in metrical, while all the other distances on the water are measured in imperial? Miles and knots.

What is the max speed record in surfing?

Mick Fanning, an Australian professional surfer, is currently holding the record, a whopping 39.1 km/h (24,3 mp/h). An average surfer is probably  “cruising” around 15-20 km/h (around 10 miles per hour).

Is the surf watch comfortable?

As these watches are designed to be submerged and wrapped around your wrist when paddling for hours – then YES, a good surf watch must be comfortable while not straining your wrist.

Why do I need a surf watch?

1.) To analyze the DATA

Well, surfing is not about chasing the record speed or maximum distance, but mainly to plan your sessions and examine the data of your efforts. It has been said, that an average surfer earns above the average wage so, I’m sure most successful people like to know the stats and data of what they’ve put in.

  • Wave count – Know how many waves you have surfed
  • Water temperature – Why not check it out when this cool gadget is there?
  • Maximum speed when surfing – Hey, aren’t we all interested the most about it?
  • Maximum Wave Height – Another great surf watch gadget that would help to measure the height of the waves
  • GPS tracking – Know exactly where did you surf the most

2.) To plan your sessions by knowing the TIDE & CONDITIONS

Most point breaks work on certain tides. Surfing on a low tide, in general, can be dangerous due to the shallow reef, or less water depth over the reef. On the other hand, surfing on high tides, the waves might not be breaking at all since the bathymetry characteristics and too high water level don’t make the waves break at all. So, by knowing the tides times at certain breaks, you can plan your sessions.

3.) To see what’s the TIME

It is easy to get carried away when surfing the waves, but sometimes we have to get somewhere in time. Whether to work, to an appointment, or go to the supermarket before it closes.

4.) Use it on OTHER WORKOUTS and activities

It is specially designed for surfers but can be used on any other sports as well that tracks your distance, max speed, etc. Swimming, cycling, jogging, hiking, and why not for fishing and yachting as well.


The history of surf watches

first surf watch
Rip Curl: Ocean Technology – One of the oldest surf watches from the ’90s

The first surfing tide watch was introduced to surfers about 25 years ago by Rip Curl. The primary “tool” that could be set were the tides and moon phase. The watch had around 200 pre-programmed surf locations with sunrise/sunset times integrated. At the beginning of the 90s, computers were rare in households so can you imagine what reputation that mini-computer could have had back then? Rip Curl has still been one of the most advanced surf-watch brands, and by today, their best model is called “The Search GPS 2.”



Best Surf Tide Watch brands and models

If you want the best that’s available out there, look no further! Down here I’ve reviewed one of the most favored and advanced surf watches available today!

Best Surf Tide Watch makers today:

1. Rip Curl
2. Nixon, Quiksilver
3. Apple




“The ultimate surfer’s watch”

As mentioned above, Rip Curl was the first to introduce the surf watch to surfers. Well known boardsports brand offering premium surfwear and technical gear to men, women, and kids at all ages.

Rip Curl Search GPS 2


  • Case Diameter: 43 mm
  • Case thickness: 15.5 mm
  • Band Width: 31 mm
  • Weight: 2.24 ounce
  • Band length: Men’s Standard
  • Available colors: Black, Blue, Mint, Yellow
  • Mobile application: SEARCH GPS
  • Price range: Around USD 300
  • Battery life: 2 – 3 months without GPS


The Search GPS 2 is top of the line surf watch that has all the essential features you could expect from a premium tide watch. It’s fully equipped, including:

  • GPS Activity Tracking
  • Real-time surf conditions
  • Analog-quartz Movement
  • Case Diameter: 45mm
  • Water-resistant to 100m (330ft): in general, suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not diving
  • Surf Conditions – Swell Height & Direction, Wind Speed & Direction – Provided by SURFLINE
  • Rip Curl Tide Info (1,400 Global Locations)
  • One-Touch Auto-Set (Indoor Compatible)
  • Day, Date, Calendar, Alarm, Stopwatch, Moon Phase, Sunrise/Set Times, Stopwatch, Countdown Timer, Backlight
  • Permanent Pairing, Bluetooth Compatible
  • Rechargeable Battery

Read more from the owner’s manual.


Search GPS2 is smaller, lighter, and more durable than its predecessor. The motto of Rip Curl is also “The Search.” One of the most iconic Australian surf brands Rip Curl has been a definite favorite to many surfers worldwide from the very beginning. Today, Rip Curl surf watch software updates the wind and swell data through GPS signals from Surfline database. Before that, the MagicSeaWeed used to produce the data. Rip Curl’s watch style is both sporty and professional. Basic color-schemes available that you are seeing when surfing – black, dark blue, mint blue and yellow!

Sync your activities to the Search GPS iPhone app to log, review, relive, and share your session.


  • You might need to charge the watch first
  • It takes 1-5 minutes to get the GPS signal
  • Turn on the watch outdoors, where the GPS signals are stronger
  • On cloudy days it might take more time to reach the GPS reception.


Its got everything you could ask from a Surf Watch in 2019. You can use the watch on all sorts of other activities as well, including Swimming, cycling, jogging, sailing, fishing, etc.


It takes time to update the data and get used to using the watch. It’s pricey, but with the OK price compared to other similar sports watches. Not many colors to choose from.

Purchase from AMAZON



“Best tide watch out there.”

Nixon is an American surf wear brand that focuses on making boardsports surf watches, and they are pretty damn good at it! All around the world where any board-sports related equipment is for sale, Nixon watches can be found behind the glass doors for sure.

nixon surf watch review
Nixon Base Tide Pro selection


  • Case Diameter: 42 mm
  • Case thickness: 14 mm
  • Band Width: 24 mm
  • Mobile application: ULTRATIDE
  • Price range: Around USD 120


  • Real-time tide
  • 550 pre-programmed tides for 15 years
  • Time, day, date, future tide times
  • Chronograph
  • Countdown timer
  • Wave counter
  • Time of day 12/24h
  • Day/Date calendar
  • Sunrise/Sunset times
  • EL backlight
  • TR90 case with hardened mineral crystal
  • Custom water resistant PC pushers case
  • Stainless steel screw-down case back
  • Three different alarms
  • Double locking looper
  • Three types of alarms
  • Whale Belly Pattern on the backside of the band helps channel the water off your wrist
  • Crisp screen
  • Negative LCD with printed tide graph dial
  • The Ultra Tide model features way more color-schemes with a smaller case available for women as well!


The Base Tide Pro by Nixon is probably one of the best surf watches with the best feedback and reviews!

PROS: It’s a Nixon watch. It does not cost a fortune considering it’s one of the toughest surf tide watches available. Nixon watches are always with a maximum minimalistic look as possible – very low profile. It’s got everything and a little bit more on some quirks and features while not being a severe, smart/GPS surf watch. Plenty of customization and all the essentials are there! Great color options as well – there are more models for women! The double-lock strap is a cool feature. Many people also use it for other activities as well, thanks to the full range of features; Whether it will be sailing, fishing, hiking, swimming, etc.

Some of the best reviews:

  • “Watch is even more eye candy in person; Functionality is on point, and so is the feel of it.”
  • “Rugged enough for wearing every day.”
  • “Greatest. Watch. Ever. Stop reading this review and buy one now. Never surf again at the wrong tide. Know before you ever lead the house. No other tide watch is closer to the truth.”
  • “Radical”

CONS: One reviewer stated it should be more significant. Some locations had mistuned Tide information. Some unhappy customers (probably rival brand fanboys) claiming the watch to only last a year, and some occasional squealing customers who are never happy. Some reviewers voted 4/5 because Nixon discontinued the UltraTide GPS version.


Purchase from AMAZON



Apple iWatch

The most universal sports smartwatch – available with a sport band

apple watch sport versions


  • Case Diameter: 40/44 mm
  • Case thickness (aluminum): 10.7 mm
  • Band Width: 24 mm
  • Mobile application: ULTRATIDE
  • Price range: Around USD 400-800


  • GPS
  • Over 30% larger display and 50% louder speaker
  • Electrical and optical heart sensors
  • Digital Crown with haptic feedback
  • 50% louder speaker
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Automatic workout detection
  • S4 SiP with a faster 64-bit dual-core processor
  • Improved accelerometer and gyroscope for fall detection
  • Tracking Data
    UV index, activity, calories burned, distance, heart rate, steps taken, time
  • Integrated Components
    heart rate sensor, navigation
  • Battery life: up to 18 hours
  • Waterproof: 50M/164 ft
  • Sensors
    accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometric altimeter, gyro sensor
  • LTPO OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
  • Resolution 448 x 368 pixels
  • Internal: 16 GB
  • Loudspeaker


Without any further ado, everyone knows the functionality and the quality of the Apple Smartwatches and their newest 4th series model, which is on the top of the range smartwatch. The specs of the Apple iWatch 4th series are one of the best out there, which means that it is also a great wristwatch for surfing.

PROS: The Apple smartwatch is a way to go when you are after one of the best smartwatches out there. It’s a watch for everything – surfing, everyday activities thanks to the smart notifications, even a loudspeaker.


Difference between one of the most advanced sports watch and a surf watch

Here you’ll find the difference between one of the most advanced surf tide watch and one of the most advanced sports-watch. Whether you are considering getting a specific surf watch or thinking of a sports watch that has nearly similar features, I’ve listed one of the most popular and advanced models to get a rough idea why choosing one over another is a great choice.

The Garmin Forerunner 945 vs. Rip Curl Search GPS


Bluetooth/Wifi sync
Day/Time calendar
Sunrise/sunset times


Pace, stroke count/rate
Stroke distance
Calories burnt
Find my watch app
Heart rate zones
Smart notifications – Text response/reject
Display resolution 240 x 240 pixels
Battery life: Smartwatch mode up to 2 weeks, GPS only up to 36 hours, GPS + Music up to 10 hours
Sunlight-visible, transflective MIP (memory-in-pixel) screen


1400 pre-programmed surf locations live data
10 ATM waterproof rating
Swell, wind, tide track
Real-time surf conditions
Water temperature


Surf Tide Watch CARE

Frequent temperature changes, salt water, and big wipeouts can diminish the longevity of the watches rubber seals. To keep the watch in peak condition for surfing we recommend you have your watch seals replaced and thoroughly tested every two years of use. After the watch is exposed to saltwater, rinse thoroughly in freshwater, and wipe dry with a soft cloth.

  • Update your watch firmware when possible
  • Do not clean watch with spray cleaners, thinners or other such volatile agents
  • Never try to open the watch
  • Avoid exposing your watch to extreme temperatures
  • Should moisture appear inside the watch, have it checked by your local dealer or sent it to warranty inspection
  • Avoid dropping the watch and rough treatment
  • Avoid exposing the watch to gasoline, cleaning solvents, aerosol sprays, paint, etc., as chemical reactions with such agents will destroy seals, case and finish
  • Do not operate buttons underwater (Can do it on Nixon though)

Thank you, and have a great one!