Surf watches have become an increasingly important gear item for surfers and wave riders.
In the last ten years, the surf industry has developed action sports watches that measure and forecast tides for thousands of surf spots worldwide.
The so-called tide watches indicate the low and high tide times for any particular surf break on the planet, allowing you to know when to go in America, Europe, Australia, Africa, and Oceania.
After decades of oceanographic studies, the planet's tidal movements became somehow predictable, and therefore, data was stored in modern surf wristwatches.
But surf watch manufacturers went the extra mile.
They added a few additional and useful features like wave counters, dawn/sunset times, and moon phases, transforming watches into smart surf computers.
More recently, men's and women's surf watches have introduced GPS and WiFi systems that allow users to update and check the ocean conditions in any spot and in real time.
You get all the information you need to score big time - wave height, wave period, water temperature, wind speed, direction, etc.
On top of that, several fitness apps and widgets help you get ready for all types of ocean conditions.
Here are the technical features you will find in a high-end surf watch:
- Tide times;
- Tide graph;
- Wave height;
- Wind speed and direction;
- Moon cycles;
- Sunrise/sunset times;
- Weather forecast;
- Training and workout programs;
- Multi-sports tracking and measuring;
- Heart rate measurement;
- Sleep tracking;
- GPS, navigation, and activity tracking;
- VO2 max measurement;
- Solar charging;
- WiFi/Bluetooth connection;
Garmin, Apple, Casio, Rip Curl, Nixon, Timex, Vestal, and Freestyle are the most reliable tide watch manufacturers.
Take a look at the top surf watches for the 2023 season:
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Surf Edition
Meet the world's best surf watch.
Garmin has truly perfected the art of smartwatches, producing some top-tier and critically acclaimed models for both Android and iOS users.
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Surf Edition is a powerful smartwatch that allows you to check tide and weather data anywhere in the world, track and record your surf session, check sunrise/sunset times, and monitor your sleep, and heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels.
The brand teamed up with Surfline to deliver a swell forecast for your favorite surf spots and creates videos of every wave you ride in front of your local Surfline camera so you can watch them later and see how you performed.
The Instinct 2 Solar Surf also has special features for windsurfers and kiteboarders.
Garmin stands out in terms of battery longevity, especially with the solar version. Users won't find themselves charging it frequently - it can run for 24 days in smartwatch mode and extends up to 50 days with exposure to sunlight.
This solar-powered wrist computer comes with dozens of additional innovative and handy features to help you stay fit and healthy.
In terms of aesthetics, Garmin watches possess a unique and robust look that the Apple Watch doesn't offer.
While the Apple Watch might seem mundane and repetitive, the Garmin Instinct (including versions compatible with Surfline Sessions) exudes a crisp, sporty vibe.
The Surf model is available in two models - a pristine "Cloudbreak" white and a bold black enhanced with blue touches, named the "Pipeline" variant.
- Exceptional battery duration;
- Impressive range of additional features;
- Sleek design;
- Syncs with Surfline Sessions;
- Appeals to users not typically fond of smartwatches;
- Restricted access to third-party apps (specifically apps for iPhones);
- Black and white display (though some may see this as a benefit);
- Its larger size may deter some women with more delicate wrists;
Apple Watch Series 8
If you own an iPhone, iPad, or any Apple computer, the Apple Watch Series 8 could be the right pick.
At first glance, choosing an Apple Watch as a surf companion might raise eyebrows. However, this versatile device is making waves as a leading choice among surf watches.
Its impressive functionality, paired with a water-resistant build and a suite of dedicated surfing apps, makes it a prime accessory for recording your surf adventures.
What sets the Apple Watch apart is its versatility. Beyond being a surf aid, it seamlessly integrates into other aspects of one's active life.
Whether it's snowboarding, SUPing, or other activities, there are features dozens of everyday apps.
But it also allows you to install surf forecast and GPS tracking apps like Dawn Patrol and Surfline Sessions.
Dawn Patrol allows you to see how far and fast you surfed on each wave, how many waves you caught, and the total wave time and distance.
It is swim-proof and has a water resistance rating of 50 meters.
- Boasts multiple surf-centric apps, like Dawn Patrol and Surfline Sessions;
- Beyond surfing, it caters to a plethora of other sports and activities;
- Ability to get texts and calls while in the water - a plus for those who need to stay reachable but want to enjoy their surf;
- It might not win points in the fashion department;
- Some of the latest models come with a hefty price tag;
The G-Shock GBX-100NS is the first surf watch from Casio featuring a Bluetooth connection to an app.
The user's smartphone can retrieve tide information, moon data, and sunrise and sunset times for 3,000 surf breaks worldwide.
The watch has a high-resolution MIP LCD that displays a graph with tide levels and a sturdy guard structure that protects the core against outside impacts.
Casio entered the market with a surf watch with tide and moon graphs and a moon age data chart that anchors the face of the timepiece, allowing for the most precise tide and surf swell recordings.
Casio G-Shock Frogman GF1000
The best surf watch in the G-Shock series is the Frogman GF1000, an incredible solar-powered portable computer with direction, altitude/barometric pressure, temperature, tide graphs, and moon phases.
Casio G-Shock G7900A
Casio G-Shock G7900A is a shock-resistant sports watch featuring tide and moon graphs, world time, a chronograph, and an auto electro-luminescent backlight.
It is water-resistant to 200 meters.
Rip Curl Search GPS 2
A watch that tracks your surf. It's Rip Curl's jewel of the crown.
It allows you to monitor your rides, register your top speed and distance, and rack up your wave count in each session.
Later, you can share location maps, images, and graphic charts with your friends with the mobile app. This allows you to pinpoint where you caught waves and the distance covered.
Besides keeping time, its tide tracking is incredibly precise. Upon syncing with GPS, it automatically updates the local tide and time based on your location.
A standout feature is undoubtedly its capability to map your session anywhere - not restricted to recognized locations. It makes an attempt to label your surfing location but ensures it's accurate.
So, for those secret surf spots, it precisely depicts your activity on the satellite map. Apart from surfing, it can track stand-up paddleboarding, kitesurfing, and even bodyboarding.
It also features sunrise-sunset times and moon phases.
- Offers a comprehensive statistical breakdown of your surf adventures;
- Exceptionally precise tide data for an extensive range of locations;
- Proved its accuracy over a testing period of over a week;
- User-friendly setup and operation;
- May overlook very small and slow waves;
- The tide visualization isn't to my liking;
- Needs charging prior to every use to last the entire session;
Rip Curl Next Tide
Rip Curl Next Tide is a new-generation surf timepiece featuring 500 pre-programmed global tide locations.
The watch showcases a precise tide height graph, the next tide time, and a future tide function.
Rip Curl Rifles Tide
It comes with 500 pre-programmed tide locations in a graph or detailed display.
It is light and easy to use, and it was tested for 100-meter water resistance.
Nixon High Tide
The Nixon High Tide is a sustainable surf watch made with recycled ocean plastic.
It features a bold, high-resolution screen that can be customized with your favorite surf break.
The watch has pre-programmed tide, sun, and moon data for 550 locations, as well as a chronograph with an action time stamp and a countdown timer.
Nixon Base Tide Pro
A simplified tide watch with pre-programmed tide information for 550 beaches worldwide and sunrise/sunset times.
Nixon Rival is a surf watch pre-programmed tide information for 550 beaches around the world.
Check current, future, and past tide time with height coefficient, as well as sunrise/sunset data.
Features a large graph showing current tide and 48 hours of past/future tides and 48 hours of past and future tide info for 270 beaches worldwide.
Vestal Brig Tide & Train
It features a digital tide graph with current tide height and tracks the tide at over 200 beaches worldwide for the next 20 years.
Freestyle Shark Classic Tide
It includes sunrise and sunset times to complement its 150 beaches of pre-programmed tide data. The brand calls it "the perfect surf watch."
Timex Allied Tide Temp Compass
Timex Allied is a strap watch featuring a tide tracker, a digital air and water temperature sensor, an electronic compass, and a night-light function.
It is water-resistant to 100 meters.
The surf watch review has been updated on January 3, 2024.