Surfing is partly about losing track of time and being in the present moment. In the not-so-distant past, it would be rare to see a surfer with a watch and if they were wearing a watch it might have been a simple waterproof digital just to tell time. However, the rise of smartwatches has changed that.
The development of wearable technology, GPS, and integrated surf-specific apps (such as Dawn Patrol or Surfline) has revolutionized surf watches.
You now have the ability to track your surf sessions including wave and water time, top speed, and total distance surfed. The most advanced GPS watches that integrate with these apps also let you save your favorite beaches and view your waves on a satellite map.
The apps also give you a way to challenge yourself and track your personal surfing performance. A few of the high-end watches can even connect to beach webcams so you can record your rides to share with friends, post to social or for your own detailed surfing data once you’re back on the beach.
Whether you’re into kitesurfing, windsurfing, or traditional longboards, these are the best surf watches currently available on the market.
Best Watches For Surfing
Best Overall – Garmin Instinct Solar – Surf Edition
If you are looking for the best sport outdoor smartwatches around, you cannot go wrong with Garmin. Specifically, the Instinct Solar Surf Edition, an upgraded special edition version, offers excellent functionalities specifically designed to improve surfers’ experience.
Dedicated surfing functionalities nicely accentuate the rugged no-frills aesthetic. This smartwatch meets the U.S. military standard 810 ratings which means it has impeccable shock, thermal, and water resistance.
As we have noted, the Garmin Instinct Solar is chock-full of features such as a GPS utilizing GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo navigational satellites. The Instinct Solar is also compatible with the health monitoring Pulse Ox app.
As for its surf-centric capabilities, the Instinct Solar Surf Edition comes with a Surf Activity Profile which features that track the number of waves surfed, tide data, maximum speed/distance traveled, and other crucial ocean and weather condition data.
Add its solar-powered technology, and you have yourself a highly reliable smartwatch companion. This smartwatch will undoubtedly enhance your experience whether you are passionate about surfing or outdoor activities in general.
Integrating the Garmin Instinct with the premium Surfline Sessions™ app takes the watch to the next level. Surfing in front of any of Surfline’s network of hundreds of beach cams allows you to record every ride and track your GPS data. You can share your ride data and videos with friends or social media and review your ride data including waves caught, distance paddled, swell details and calories burned. This app is also compatible with the Rip Curl Search GPS 2 and Apple Watch mentioned below.
G-Shock G-LIDE (GBX100)
G-Shock has several watches in its lineup that feature tide graphs and mood data, but the G-Shock GBX100 was specifically designed as a watch for surfing.
The design of this tide watch is intuitive and user-friendly buttons and functions that you’d expect from G-shock. This is a well-rounded and reasonably priced tide watch with features that surfers will appreciate.
The GBX100 model is also compatible with the G-Shock Move app to use other key features such as tide graphs and storage that holds up to 3,300 locations.
Standard G-Shock functions – stopwatch, countdown timer, and auto-calendar but this watch also includes World Time feature (38 time zones), moon data, high and low tide times, sunrise and sunset times, and a power-saving mode. The watch also comes with G-Shock’s signature durability and also comes in a variety of color variants including white, teal, and black/white pictured above.
It’s unfortunate that G-Shock did not include their Tough Solar technology on this watch as it does feel like a missed opportunity. If solar is a top priority for you, we’d suggest the Garmin mentioned above or one of the other G-Shocks below.
Apple Watch Series 6
Besides the apparent hardware upgrades from its predecessor, the Apple Watch Series 6 also adds a slew of features that surfers will unquestionably welcome with open arms. This praise is due to the Series 6 being compatible with the Dawn Patrol and Surf Watch apps.
The Apple Watch Series 6 comes with a 50-meter water resistance rating which means it can handle shallow-water activities like swimming and, you guessed, surfing. The great built-in GPS also makes the Series 6 an excellent outdoor accessory.
We also love the always-on display, which is quite helpful when surfing, not too good on battery life, though, so we suggest you only turn on this feature when necessary.
As for its surfing features, the Dawn Patrol app has tidal data, wind speeds, moon phases, and weather information. You can also fully customize the Series 6 to suit all your surfing needs. In addition, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a fairly reasonable price tag.
Rip Curl Search GPS 2 Digital Surf Tracking Watch
If you are looking for a watch with features that primarily focus on improving your surfing experience, then the Rip Curl Search GPS 2should be right up your alley.
It comes with a slew of great functionalities such as real-time wind and swell reports along with the standard GPS surfing tracker.
There is also paddle tracking and tidal data that should further improve your surfing experience for the better. While designed for surfing, the Rip Curl Search GPS 2 is also an excellent option for other outdoor sports such as marathons, swimming, and snowboarding.
In addition to those outstanding surfing features, the Rip Curl Search 2 is also considerably more affordable than most of its competition in the market. You can also connect this surf smartwatch with your smartphone to gain access to several nifty applications.
As a surf smartwatch, the Rip Curl Search 2 is one of the best in the market. However, this focus on surfing activities does limit its overall functionality compared to, let’s say, the Apple Watch Series 6, which is more well-rounded.
That said, if you are incredibly passionate about surfing, there are few watches out there that can enhance your experience in your favorite water sport other than Rip Curl.
Rip Curl “Next Tide” Watch (A1137MID1SZ)
We have another entry from Rip Curl; this time around, the Next Tide model garnered a lot of praise for its excellent surfing activity features. This surf tech watch has a water resistance of up to 100-meters, the Rip Curl Next Tide making it suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
The Next Tide’s most prominent feature is the pre-programmed global tide locations to help you determine which spot has the best waves. But, as the name implies, this Rip Curl smartwatch can display real-time tide data and forecasts for tomorrow and beyond.
It comes with an EL backlight, an excellent addition, but we find that it lacks in the brightness department. However, unless you prefer surfing in very low light, we don’t see the somewhat lackluster backlight as much of an issue.
Overall, we have another fantastic surf-centric watch from Rip Curl. At the same time, the surf-focus features might seem to limit the watch’s application. This aspect also means that this is a specialist surf watch that excels in a particular field. Rather than a watch designed for an all-around application.
Nixon Rival Women’ Digital Surf Watch (A1236)
Next up, we have an excellent entry for the ladies in the Nixon Rival Digital Surf Watch.
The Nixon Rival features similar aesthetics to the Nixon Base Tide but with more features. The Nixon Rival also incorporates a silicone band, which is generally preferable to nylon fabric regarding comfort when taking part in marine activities.
Like the Rip Curl watches, the Nixon Rival also utilizes features focusing on providing convenience for surfing. Such features include pre-programmed tide information for up to 550 beaches around the world.
Along with 100-meter water resistance and a custom negative LCD screen, the Nixon Rival is an excellent surf watch. Besides its surfing features, this digital watch also features a second-time zone, countdown timer, chronograph, alarms, and sunrise/sunset time.
The 38mm case also makes it ideal for surfers with a smaller wrist. At the moment, the Nixon Rival comes in blue and white color variations. Hopefully, Nixon will start including more color variants to the list to enhance its appeal.
Garmin Fēnix® 6 – Pro Solar
If you want one of the best multi-sport watches from Garmin, then the Fenix 6 Pro Solar could be the one you’re looking for.
The Fenix line by Garmin is one of the most premium multi-sports watches on the market. The recent release of the Solar Pro model takes the impressive build quality and features of previous Fenix models to the next level, now with a solar-powered battery that gives you up to 36 hours of full GPS usage. Battery life has been one of the biggest barriers to using full-featured sports watches that require GPS (especially if you want to track all your ride data), so this is a major improvement over previous models.
The Fenix 6 is built to US military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance. Similar to the previous Garmin models presented, the Fenix 6 Pro and Sapphire Editions also have built-in activity profiles for almost any sport you can think of from adventure sports to even yoga and Pilates. Apart from the multi-sport functions, the Fenix gives you advanced health and fitness tracking such as Pulse OX monitor and some less common features including hydration reminders and stress and relaxation tracking (although most surfers already have those last two under control).
It integrates with the Garmin Surf Tracker2 app as well as other 3rd party surf apps.
Casio Frogman G-Shock Tough Solar GF-1000-1DR
G-Shock Frogman (Model: GWF-1000-1CR) comes with a moon phase indicator and a high-speed tide graph. It also uses the multi-band six radio signal calibration for accurate timekeeping. Also similar to the other Casio G-Shock timepieces mentioned below, this one comes with a solar rechargeable battery, with 10 months power reserve.
It also has all the other basic features of a Casio G-Shock such as the auto calendar, world time, alarms, hourly time signal, stopwatch, and countdown timer. It also has a backlight that may be set in a hands-free mode so the backlight automatically activates when you flick the watch vertically.
If you’re looking for a great surfing watch that is also a high-end tactical watch with superior water resistance, rugged build quality, and solar power, the Frogman is definitely worth a close look.
Casio GW-7900-1ER G-Shock Tide Graph Solar
The Casio G-Shock GW-7900-1ER, as part of the 7900 G-Shock series, comes with various features that are particularly useful for marine leisure enthusiasts like the tide graph tracking and moon phase. It also has a multi-band radio-controlled functionality for more accurate timekeeping, alarm, and stopwatch functions. And, don’t worry about all these functions draining your watch’s battery because it is solar-powered with a battery reserve of eight months.
The timepiece is also water-resistant for 200 meters and built with the G-Shock standard of durability. Despite being bulky (as most Casio G-Shock watches are), the Casio GW-7900-1ER weighs only 2.33 ounces so it won’t tire your wrist or be a hindrance while you are surfing.
Casio G-Shock G-Lide Radio Controlled Watch (GWX-5600-1JF)
Another tough timepiece from Casio that you may consider for your surfing sessions is the Casio G-Shock GWX-5600-1JF.
As with most other G-Shock models, this one is also shock-resistant, solar-powered, and uses multi-band radio-controlled timekeeping for accuracy. Its water resistance goes as deep as 200 meters.
For your surfing needs, the G-Shock GWX-5600-1JF has a tide graph and has 100 preset tide sites from around the world. It can also show the moon data, including a moon phase graph on its easy-to-read digital display.
It also comes with a solar rechargeable battery with 10 months of power reserve. This allows the timepiece to support all its other functions such as alarms, stopwatch, countdown timer, world time from 31 different time zones, and calendar.
Lastly, compared to the previous G-Shock timepiece presented, this one’s less bulky and quite light, weighing only 1.98 ounces.
Nixon Base Tide, 38 MM
Simplicity and durability; are what the Nixon Base Tide gives you. It comes it a notable retro design with an easy-to-read LCD digital display. Aside from the time and calendar, it can show you the basic and future tide information. It also features a chronograph, a countdown timer, and EL backlight. Along with the current time, its home screen may display either the tide or the date.
In terms of durability, the watch case is made of custom injection molded TR90, with custom-molded polycarbonate gasketed pushers. The band, on the other hand, is a custom injection molded ultra-soft silicone band with Nixon’s patented locking looper. The watch’s water resistance is rated 10 ATM and it is covered by a two-year limited warranty.
Nixon Base Tide Pro (A1212)
The Nixon Base Tide Pro is very much like the previous Nixon Base Tide but with some upgrades. Its interface is still pretty simple but it helps present only pertinent information. Among its special features are the tide information for 550 pre-programmed beaches from across the globe, the time and height for high and low tide, wave timer, and the sunrise/sunset. It also has a chronograph timer, dual time, alarms, and backlight features.
You may toggle its digital display to show either the tide graph or the date. In relation to this, it is noteworthy that even the buttons of the watch are water-resistant so you can easily access them even on water. The whole watch is also durable with the TR90 case with a hardened mineral crystal dial window and a silicone band with a double locking looper. It is rated 10 ATM so you can take it as deep as 100 meters.
Another timepiece that’s great for surfers is the Nixon Siren.
Aside from its functionality, Nixon boasts of its design that would make you look fashionable whether in or out of the surf.
If you’re looking to add some color to your wrist Nixon sells the Siren in a variety of colors including pink, aqua, burgundy and white.
In terms of functionality, of course, Nixon Siren also offers the features and functions you would look for in a surf watch. Its digital LCD display shows the time and date, basic tide, future tide, chronograph, and a customizable countdown timer. Similar to the Nixon Base Tide Pro, its home screen can be set to either date and time, or tide and time.
Nixon Siren is also rated 10 ATM, meaning it’s water-resistant for 100 meters. It is also covered by Nixon’s limited warranty for two years from the day it was purchased.
Rip Curl Men’s Rifles Digital Tide Surf Watch
The Rip Curl Rifles Tide Watch comes with 500 pre-programmed tide locations for you to choose from. You can also quickly access a tide graph as well as a detailed tide view. You can even see future tide to help you plan your surf sessions. It also has other functions that you might need such as an alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer, and light.
Aside from being truly functional, it was also designed with durability and comfort in mind. For one, the material used was polyurethane and the case was made of ABS hardened plastic with a stainless steel case. The band is made of rubber with a marine-grade stainless steel forged buckle. Of course, it’s also waterproof up to 100 meters deep so it may also be used for swimming and snorkeling, but not for diving.
Surf Watch Buying Guide
Before you finalize which surf watch you’d purchase, here are the aspects of the watch that you may want to double-check to ensure that you’ll have a great surf watch.
When taking a watch in any water activity, whether that may be leisure or sports, you must first take note of its water resistance to make sure that it will still be functional when you’re in the water and as you come out (especially if it’s a smartwatch!)
As such, for your surfing sessions, the recommended water resistance is 10 ATM. Meaning, it can go as deep as 100 meters.
It is also the recommended rating for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and water sports. A 5 ATM rating, on the other hand, may also be good enough as it is already suitable for everyday use, showering, bathing, shallow-water swimming, snorkeling, water-related work, fishing. You just have to be conscious enough and remember not to go deeper than necessary while wearing your watch.
As we mentioned above when talking about the Garmin Instinct Solar, pairing your watch with apps like Surfline Sessions can take the functionality to the next level. Surfing in front of any of Surfline’s network of hundreds of cameras on well-known beaches around the world with a compatible device allows you to record your entire ride, track data and share videos. Compatible devices on our list include the Garmin Instinct, Apple Watch 6, and the Rip Curl Search 2 GPS.
You would also want to check the tide functions that the watch presents. Does it only show high or low tide? Or does it also measure tides and show you a graph? Can it also show future tides of the beach you visited or just the present tide? These are only some of the questions that may guide you in checking the watch’s tide functions.
The best surf watches on the market come with pre-loaded beaches; when it comes to this aspect, the more, the better. With just a few pushes of the button, you can easily check out the surfing beaches nearest you. This is especially great if you are the type who prefers to visit beaches in other countries because the pre-loaded beaches are usually located around the globe. With this function, you don’t have to waste time visiting a beach only to realize that it’s not a good surfing spot.
The surf dial may seem a minor aspect of the watch. However, such is not the case. When you’re under the sun and waiting for your wave, you would want a watch with an easily readable surf dial. One wherein you will still be able to see the data you need even under direct sunlight.
For our Garmin smartwatches above, for example, once you install and access the Garmin Surf Tracker2 app, the dial instantly changes from being a smartwatch into a dedicated surf watch.
Some would also want to consider the brand and would prefer those that have already established a good reputation in surfing. If you’re particularly looking into this aspect, you’d be glad to know that Rip Curl and Nixon are listed among the best surf brands. In fact, Rip Curl is considered one of the big three in the surf industry along with Billabong and Quiksilver.
As this tech trend continues to develop in the surf industry we continually update this article. Surfers and wave riders have now included surf watches as part of their gear mainly because of the useful information that they can easily access even on water.
We’ve presented the best surf watches for you to choose from. While all of these are useful and durable for your surfing sessions we’ve tried to include enough options so you can pick one that best suits your requirements, style, and budget. Some are still stylish even for everyday wear, others are also useful for other sports activities while there are some that focus on tides and surfing alone.