Best Watch for Surfing

Best watch for surfing - TOP 10 list

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Gone are the days when the only metric a surfer was looking for in a watch was its water resistance. During the last 15 years or so, many brands have been developing timepieces that come with much more than that. In this article, I will try to help you pick the best watch for surfing without necessary breaking the bank.

As things stand, we can divide surf watches into two main groups: tide watches and more complex, but also more expensive, surf smartwatches. Because I wanted to avoid the risk of the budget standing in your way of finding the right watch, the list you are about to explore is price-flexible.

If it happens that none of the watches I selected matches your style, don’t worry. At the bottom of the article you will find a detailed guide on how to find the right product on your own.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Best Watch for Surfing (TOP 10 Reviewed)

Nixon Base Tide Pro

Over the last few years, Nixon watches been building its reputation as one of the top surf watches on the market. The Base Tide Pro might not be the most feature-packed surf tracker the company has produced to date but in my opinion, it’s the one providing the best quality-price ratio. It’s my top pick overall.

This Nixon model is a smartwatch and comes with pre-programmed tide graphs for as many as 550 beaches worldwide. The data includes both the future and past tides. Customer reviews suggest the tracker is extremely on point, allowing you to plan in advance for your trip no matter where you are. No more guesswork, no more disappointments.

Other cool functions worth mentioning here are the wave counter and sunrise/sunset data. The watch also comes with basic features such as chronograph timers, day/date display, and 3 types of alarms. With water-resistance at a depth of up to 100m, you should feel more than safe.

Both the case and strap of the watch are made of silicone. Here it’s worth mentioning that for maximum comfort possible, the band is ventilated. To avoid losing the watch during your paddling, the model uses the Locking Looper which is a Nixon-patented closure known for its safety.  Furthermore, this Nixon surf watch comes with a negative LCD dial that is protected from damage by a hardened mineral crystal.

When it comes to the design, I have selected the most classic black version but there are as many as 11 color variations available.

When it comes to Nixon watches for surfing, this one, along with Nixon Ultratide, are my favorite picks. I put the Base Tide Pro on my list because it’s a lot more affordable.

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Casio GLX5600-VH1

This G-Shock model belongs to one of very few Casio collections dedicated to surfers, the G-LIDE. Surfing and other sports enthusiasts go for Casio GLX5600 because of its ruggedness, useful features and moderate pricing. It’s my top budget pick.

The body of the watch is fully made of resin, something you as a surfer will embrace. Thanks to the rugged material, the watch should withstand even the hardest wave hits. Resin watches are also extremely easy to clean which is another piece of good news after a full day in the water. The window is made of mineral glass which should be enough to protect the dial from cracks and scratches. Since it’s a Casio G-Shock, naturally the watch is shock-resistant.

Most essentially, GLX5600-VH1 comes with a tide graph, allowing you to check the tide level for specific date and time. Thanks to the impressive water-resistance level, you can go as deep as 200m under without worrying about any damage. 

Other features worth mentioning here are the 1/100 stopwatch, countdown timer, multi-function alarms, and a luminescent backlight. 

All things considered, this Casio tide watch presents a really solid value for money. If you are not looking for something overly complex, you are unlikely to be disappointed with it.

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Apple Watch 5

If stretching your dollar a bit is not much of an issue, then there’s no reason not to consider Apple Watch Series 5 as your surfing companion. 

First of all, it needs mentioning that you will need to be an iPhone user to be able to use this product. Secondly, the watch wasn’t primarily designed as a surf watch. But thanks to a rich selection of apps, you can make it one – and a great one at that.

The two apps you will need to turn your device into a proper surfing watch are Down Patrol and Surf Watch Once set up, they will allow you to use the majority of functions a regular surfing smartwatch would. Those include tide tracking for hundreds of spots around the world, water temperature and more.

The Series 5 model is water-resistant up to 50m, making it a safe choice for your surfing endeavors. As for durability, the display is made from a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal or gorilla glass (depending on the version you select). When it comes to the case, you can decide whether to opt for aluminum, stainless steel or even titanium. There’s also a wide range of band options to choose from.

Of course, the Apple smart watch comes with a plethora of other amazing features. At the time of writing, it’s considered the most sophisticated and complete smartwatch on the market. That’s also the prime reason why it’s the best Apple Watch for surfing. If you would like to read a detailed review of the Series 5, click here.

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Rip Curl Search GPS 2

A list of best watches for surfing wouldn’t feel complete without a Ripcurl surf watch. The Australian company is one of the global leaders when it comes to surfing gear. Let’s have a quick peek what their most popular model, Search GPS 2, has in its locker.

If we look at the features alone, it might sound like the best smartwatch for surfing out there. The product is compatible with both Android and iOS and comes with a detailed tide tracker and many other features surfing enthusiasts will embrace.

Amongst others, the watch allows you to count waves during your paddling as well as record and re-live your top speeds, distance traveled and time in the ocean. While running all of the mentioned apps, you can expect the watch to run for around 7 hours without charging. Some other features that I should mention here include an alarm, stopwatch and timer. 

The body of the watch is made of a durable form of plastic but I have my reservations about the acrylic dial window. It’s not as rugged and secure as mineral or sapphire glass and for the price quoted, we should expect more.

The watch is water-resistant up to 100m but while browsing for user reviews, I’ve noticed a worrying pattern. To be precise, many customers report that after a few months of use, water can get under the dial window. Since the watch is definitely not the cheapest, I find it quite disappointing.

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Casio Frogman GWF1000

The Frogman series by Casio is one of the most high-end collections available. As quality often goes in pair with price, the GWF1000 model is actually the most expensive watch on our list.

As you would expect from a G-Shock model, it’s extremely rugged. The band is made from resin for maximum durability possible and the stainless steel case adds to its tough look. The digital dial of the shock-resistant watch is protected by mineral glass. To be fair, it’s noticeably larger than other Casio watches here so you might struggle to fit it under your wetsuit.

With water-resistance of up to 200m, the watch is suitable not only for surfing but diving as well. Naturally, it also comes with a tide tracker. Other cool features worth mentioning here include a moon data reader and atomic timekeeping. From the basic ones, it comes with a stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, calendar and EL backlight.

What makes the Frogman GWF1000 stand out from most of the watches on the list is the fact that it’s solar-powered. Considering the fact that it will run for up to 8 months without any exposure to light, it pretty much means you will never spend a single dollar on battery replacement.

Looking at all the features of the product, it’s probably the best Casio watch for surfing out there. At the same time, it’s by far the most expensive. Even though it’s really packed with great features, personally I wouldn’t spend that much on a sports watch.

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Nixon Base Tide

The Frogman series by Casio is one of the most high-end collections available. As quality often goes in pair with price, the GWF1000 model is actually the most expensive watch on our list.

As you would expect from a G-Shock model, it’s extremely rugged. The band is made from resin for maximum durability possible and the stainless steel case adds to its tough look. The digital dial of the shock-resistant watch is protected by mineral glass. To be fair, it’s noticeably larger than other Casio watches here so you might struggle to fit it under your wetsuit.

With water-resistance of up to 200m, the watch is suitable not only for surfing but diving as well. Naturally, it also comes with a tide tracker. Other cool features worth mentioning here include a moon data reader and atomic timekeeping. From the basic ones, it comes with a stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, calendar and EL backlight.

What makes the Frogman GWF1000 stand out from most of the watches on the list is the fact that it’s solar-powered. Considering the fact that it will run for up to 8 months without any exposure to light, it pretty much means you will never spend a single dollar on battery replacement.

Looking at all the features of the product, it’s probably the best Casio watch for surfing out there. At the same time, it’s by far the most expensive. Even though it’s really packed with great features, personally I wouldn’t spend that much on a sports watch.

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Casio G-Shock G7900-1

This is another great example of a solid Casio surf watch that comes at a price that won’t give you a heart attack.

Casio G7900-1, just like any other G-Shock, boasts a tough to beat look that matches its durability. With resistance to shocks and water up to 200m, it’s highly unlikely to suffer any damage while you ride the waves. Both the case and the band are made of resin while a mineral crystal protects the digital dial.

Crucially, the model allows you to read tide graphs. Some of the other features you might like to know about are a moon phase graph, countdown timer and stopwatch. Not that you will need it while surfing (I hope!) but the watch is also resistant to low temperatures (up to -20). Finally, there’s the EL backlight with an afterglow effect for comfortable reading after dusk.

All in all, this watch provides all the essential features you need. The only drawback is it’s typical G-Shock size that might require some effort to fit under the wetsuit. Still, at the price quoted, it’s definitely one of the best inexpensive surf watches out there.

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Vestal Brig Tide

Vestal is another company known for a line dedicated exclusively to surfing enthusiasts. At the time of writing, Vestal Brig is the most frequently purchased tide watch they offer. The fact that it was designed by a popular South African surfer, Jordy Smith, might be the main reason behind that.

The pink color of the watch you on the image above isn’t the only available design option. There are more than 10 different color variations you can select from. No matter which theme you opt for, the cool features will stay the same. The coolest of them is definitely the tide tracker allowing you to track the data at more than 200 beaches worldwide. According to Vestal, the information provided by the tracker is valid for the next 20 years.

The Brig tide watch gives you access to Vestal’s training mode called “Suffer and Recover”, making sure you keep it safe while crushing all those waves. There’s also the Heat Mode allowing you to exercise the heat surfs. 

Moving on to durability, the watch case is made of plastic while the band is polyurethane. Both are OKAY when it comes to watches for surfers. Unfortunately, the watch dial is also plastic. Here I’d have opted for something more rugged such as mineral or sapphire crystal.

On the bright note, Vestal’s own OKTOLOCK closure system is considered extremely safe so the risk of losing the watch in the water is slim. With this particular model, you can get at a depth of up to 100m without the risk of any damage.

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Casio PRW2500T

The only watch on the list that doesn’t include resin or plastic elements. If you are a fan of a more stylish look, you might the stainless steel case and titanium bracelet of this one quite appealing. This particular model belongs to the Pro Trek collection which was created with sports enthusiasts in mind. 

Although this isn’t a typical surf watch, it comes with features that allow you to use it as one. Most crucially, it has a tide graph, enabling you to check the tide level for a specific period. This Pro Trek model is also one of the watches with the biggest water-resistance on this list (200m). 

If hiking is your another hobby, then it can also serve you well as your hiking timepiece. Why? It uses a triple sensor meaning that it can also serve as an altimeter, barometer and compass. Other cool features include resistance to low temperatures, moon data reader and EL backlight.

Just like the abovementioned Frogman model, it’s solar-powered. According to the manufacturer, it will work as long as 5 months on a full charge without any exposure to light. Another similarity between the two atomic watches is that they are both quite pricey.

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Rip Curl Rifles Review

The Rifles model is the second Rip Curl watch on my list and if the user reviews are anything to go by, it’s not any worse. Actually, it seems to provide the same if not a better quality-price ratio.

Rip Curl Rifles comes with a pre-programmed tide feature that allows you to check conditions for 500 beaches in the world. All the data is presented on the LCD screen either in a graph or a detailed view. Other functions you might find useful, such as alarm, countdown timer and stopwatch, are also available. 

You can go 100m deep with this waterproof watch without any damage risk. For maximum comfort and durability, the body of the watch is made of polycarbonate. Unfortunately, just like in the case of Rip Curl Search Gps 2, the plastic dial window is far from the most secure.

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Finding the Best Surfing Watch: Buying Guide + FAQ

Best surfer watch - buying guide + FAQ

Essential Surf Watch Features

Whereas I’m positive that at least one of the watches on the list caught your attention, I’m also aware that a “proper” design of a timepiece is a very subjective matter. Having that in mind, I have prepared a buying guide in case none of the models on my list caters to your taste – so you can find the best watch to surf with on your own.

  • Water resistance 

Considering the nature of the sport, this is surely the most essential factor. Hence, before looking at any other metric, you need to make sure that this one is on point. As a rule of thumb, consider buying watches that are water resistant at a depth of at least 50m. Anything above that is a welcome bonus.

  • Body material

If you want your watch to survive thousands of wave rides, you need to make sure that the body of the watch is made of durable and cleanable material. All the watch straps included on my list are made of either silicone, resin or other forms of plastic and I suggest you pick the same. Those might not be the most stylish choices in the world but remember you are after a sports watch, not a business one.

Stainless steel cases and bracelets are an acceptable alternative. At the same time, avoid leather and velcro straps at all costs. They are a nightmare to clean and due to frequent contact with water, they will start producing an unpleasant scent after a while.

Equally important is the quality of the window glass. Since the watch is likely to take a regular pounding from the waves, you should go for something that will withstand the hits. In this aspect, mineral glass is a good choice and so is sapphire crystal. Try to avoid plastic lenses (ie. acrylic).

  • Body size

Whenever possible, try to consider watches that are not overly big. In the perfect world, you should be able to easily fit the watch under your wetsuit if needed. If you want to keep your surf watch on the outside all the time, that won’t an issue. Still, a proper surf watch should be as light as possible. When in the water, you should give your maximum focus to riding the waves and not thinking about the force pulling your wrist down all the time.

  • Functions

Whereas the list of functions and their complexity will vary depending on your budget, we can agree on one thing: a proper surf watch must come with a tide tracker. Luckily for you, all the models I included on the list do. Once the most essential function is ticked off, we can look for the extras.

If you are willing to spend more, you can look for additional perks such as weather forecast, air and water temperature data, and wave heights tracker. Some of the more complex surf smartwatches allow users to track their individual performance in the water such as the number of waves caught, their average length and more.

Although surf smartwatches do come with a lot of neat features, their biggest downfall is the battery life. Many surfing enthusiasts don’t mind the frequent charging and go for the most feature-packed models out there. Others settle for a watch that can tell a time and allows tide tracking but will run for months/years on the same battery. At the end of the day, it’s all about your own preferences.

  • Battery life

If you decide to go with a smartwatch instead of a regular watch, make sure the battery life is sound. The last thing you want while riding the giant waves is your watch to die out.

It’s not uncommon for the most feature-rich surf watches to have the shortest lifespan. And the more apps you enable to run while in the water, the quicker the battery will need a recharge. For this reason, consider only smartwatches that allow a full-day use even with most of the features running at the same time. As a rule of thumb, let’s say that 12 hours lifespan is an acceptable result.

Frequently Asked Questions

While preparing the above list of the best watches for surfing, I noticed some questions related to the topic showing up repeatedly. To make sure you leave my site with as much information on the matter as possible, I answered them all in a clear and short manner below. 

Can you surf with a water-resistant watch?

Absolutely yes, you can. Surfing is not diving – there’s little risk of you going super deep under the water while paddling. If your watch is at least 50m water-resistant (10ATM), you are good to go.

What is a tide watch?

To put it simply, a tide watch (also referred to as the surf watch) is a timepiece dedicated to surfers that helps predict the conditions in the water by forecasting the tide movement.

How do tide watches work?

Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible to predict the tidal movements of the earth and store the data in various devices.

Tide watches show us the times for low and high tides for different locations around the globe. This way surfers can plan in advance for their trips and avoid disappointment caused by poor conditions. Depending on the complexity of the watch, the number of pre-programmed charts will differ. The more advanced surf watches come with an additional tidal graph showing the frequency with which tides will be changing throughout the day.

For an in-depth look at how tide watches function, you can read this awesome guide prepared by one of the posters on a popular message board, Watchuseek.

Analog tide watch or digital tide watch – which one is better?

For some reason, many surfers believe that analog tide watches provide more accurate data than digital timepieces. This is completely not true. Whether you opt for an analog or digital mechanism of a surf watch won’t influence the quality of tide data you receive. In the end, it’s all about your style preference. Just make sure you stick to reliable brands (such as these presented above) and you should be fine.

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