Smartfin: making science while you surf | Photo: Smartfin

A group of scientists created a surfboard fin that measures multiple ocean parameters like wave characteristics, location, and water temperature.

The Smartfin project kicked off in San Diego, California, in May 2017, and gathers researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Surfrider Foundation, and Futures Fins.

The small piece of surf gear collects valuable data about the oceans of the world, as the surfboard glides across the waves. The goal is to understand how seawater is changing, and how we can reverse climate change.

The Smartfin is a surf fin like many others. However, it features a built-in accelerometer, GPS device, and temperature sensor. After each surf session, data is transferred to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Surfers equipped with this high-tech will be contributing to global ocean research and sharing precious information with the worldwide scientific community.

Although there are already many scientific instruments collecting data offshore and in the open ocean, it is still difficult to gather data in the nearshore environment.

The surf zone is a very dynamic ecosystem, with lots of wave energy, and it is often a complicated area to place buoys, sensors, and floats.

"By putting sensors directly onto surfboards, we can collect data and begin to learn about changes in temperature, salinity, and pH, which are properties that have huge implications for the species that live in nearshore ecosystems," the Smartfin developers note.

In the end, surfers are literally making science while having fun, providing essential data on issues like coral bleaching and ocean acidification and, ultimately, lobbying for relevant climate policies.

All participants have been chosen, and Smartfin is now in closed beta phase. Hopefully, the results and conclusions will help us protect a planetary treasure - the oceans of the world.

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