Surf watches are becoming more popular among surfers. While some people may surf without surf watches, there are many benefits associated with using them.
These accessories can accurately predict tides, wave height, wind direction and feature many advanced features needed to enjoy your surfing. Interestingly, they are waterproof so you need not worry about damage.
Just like when you chose your surfboard, surfboard bag, and surf wax, you will come across many surf watches. Choosing the best surf watches and not just anyone is important if one doesn’t want to come back disappointed.
To help choose the best, I’ve reviewed the best 15 surf watches you should consider on your next shopping trip. My comprehensive buying should also be able to help you settle for the best choice.
Table of Contents
- What Do Surf Watches Do?
- What Is the Best Surf Watch?
- Comparison of Top 15 Best Surf Watches 2020
- Reviews of the Best Surf Watches
- Garmin Fenix 3 HR Surf Watch
- Nixon Siren A1210 Women's Surf Watch
- Casio Men's G-Shock Frogman Surf Watch
- Casio MDV106-1AV Duro Analog Surf Watch
- Rip Curl Search GPS 2 Surf Watch
- Nixon Mission Surf Watch
- Apple Watch Series 5 Sport Surf Watch
- Rip Curl Rifles Tide Surf Watch
- Apple Watch Series 4 Surf Watch
- Casio G-Shock Gax-100B-7AJF Surf Watch
- Men's Freestyle Shark Classic Tide Surf Watch
- Nixon Base Tide Pro Surf Watch
- Nixon Base Tide A1104 Surf Watch
- Rip Curl Women's Surf Watch
- Vestal Men's Brig Tide Surf Watch
- How to Find the Best Surf Watch?
- How Do Surf Watches Work?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- WindSurfingMag Overview
What Do Surf Watches Do?
Watches have actually revolutionized from mere time-tellers with the introduction of newer functions. There are watches designed specifically for sports which include surfing.
Apart from telling time, they can even forecast tides of various locations so you can catch the best waves spots. Some advanced watches can indicate ambient temperature, wind speed and direction, moon data, pressure, and altitude.
More advanced functions are being incorporated into surf watches, allowing more versatility and scope. Wave counters, compass, GPS, and wireless connectivity are now available in more advanced surf watches.
Health and fitness trackers like mini ECG, fall detection also come with these newer devices. But, more importantly, they are made water resistance, although, their intensity may vary.
What Is the Best Surf Watch?
Being time-conscious is another thing, you need the best surf watches if you are really keen on improving your surfing. Below are some of the best options you can settle for.
- Best Overall: Garmin Fenix 3 HR Surf Watch
"Great material quality, attractive, decent battery life, easy to use, good for working out."
- Best Affordable: Men's Freestyle Shark Classic Tide Surf Watch
"Low profile, easy to read, backlight, comes with compass, altimeter, alarm, and timer."
- Best for Women: Nixon Siren A1210 Women's Surf Watch
"Decent aesthetics, multiple color options, small-sized, fits comfortably."
- Best for Men: Casio Men's G-Shock Frogman Surf Watch
"High water resistance, comfy, good value for money, simple display, tough construction."
- Best Analog Surf Watch: Casio MDV106-1AV
"Easy to read, easy to use, scratch-resistance, high water resistance, great for divers."
- Best With GPS: Rip Curl Search GPS 2 Surf Watch
"Nice appearance, clear display, multiple color choices, 1400 pre-programmed beaches/tide locations."
- Best Smart Surf Watch: Nixon Mission
"Features heart rate monitor, android compatible, user-friendly, excellent design and construction."
- Best Apple Watch for Surfing: Apple Watch Series 5
"Nice aesthetics, comfy straps, always-on display, comes with GPS and compass, large and clear display."
- Best Inexpensive Surf Watches: Rip Curl Rifles Tide
"Affordable, simple design, lightweight, two-way tide data display."
- Best With Hear Rate Monitor: Apple Watch Series 4 Surf Watch
"Comes with health features, many color options, swift performance, moderate battery life."
- Best Value for the Money: Casio G-Shock Gax-100B-7AJF Surf Watch
"200m water depth resistance, backlight, robust design, simple and easy to use."
Comparison of Top 15 Best Surf Watches 2020
Trying to understand the features of a product when shopping can be really frustrating and time-consuming. You don’t want to undergo such stress when looking for the best surf watches for you. Below is a quick review of the 15 best surf watches you should go for.
Reviews of the Best Surf Watches
Below are the detailed reviews of the top 15 best surf watches you should consider.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Surf Watch
(Best Overall - Editor's Choice)
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is one of the most purchased premium surf watches. Although it’s bulky, it has excellent battery life and remains waterproof at 100 meters underwater.
It is readily compatible with Android and Apple devices delivering all forms of notifications from your device. Its GPS is one of the most accurate in the market while its heart rate monitor and activity trackers are top-notch.
With a 218-by-218 colored digital display, five buttons, and impressive UI, it sums up as a user-friendly device. Apart from a durable construction, its aesthetic is remarkable and its silicone band is quite comfy.
When you purchase the Garmin Fenix 3 HR surf watch, you get a one-year warranty and an instructional manual.
- Impressive battery life.
- Features activity tracker and high precision GPS.
- Remarkable display, versatile and user-friendly.
- One-year warranty.
- Resilient with high water depth resistance.
- Might be bulky.
- The barometer/altimeter may be inaccurate.
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Nixon Siren A1210 Women's Surf Watch
(Best for Women)
Female surfers will definitely love the feel and performance of the NIXON Siren A1210 surf watch. It is available in five attractive, feminine colors and, in fact, budget-friendly.
It has a small 38mm watch faces and flaunts a low profile which will appeal to females. 550 beach/tide locations are pre-programmed into it, making it a universal surfer’s watch.
Built with polycarbonate, the stainless back cover keeps it watertight even at a water depth of 100m. Also, the NIXON Siren A1210 has a negative digital display that is visible underwater and backlight for visibility at night.
- Five attractive color options are available.
- 550 pre-loaded beach/tide locations.
- Screw-down stainless steel back cover.
- Small-sized, low profile construction.
- Negative digital display.
- The band is susceptible to breakage.
Casio Men's G-Shock Frogman Surf Watch
(Best for Men)
One major feature of the Casio Men’s G-Shock Frogman surf watch is its massive 200-meter water depth resistance. It is absolutely waterproof, thanks to its tough, not-too-attractive construction.
It has a long-lasting power source (solar batteries) which are recharged by a tiny solar panel. It features backlighting, compass, thermometer, moon data, stopwatch, alarms, and battery indicator.
It also features accurate times of 48 cities across 31 time zones and full auto-calendar. The time is constantly kept accurate by the calibration radio signals from the manufacturer.
It is easy to use and you should be able to program your location to keep up with the tides. The G-Shock Frogman also features depth gauge.
- Tough construction.
- 200m water depth resistance.
- Long-lasting power source.
- Features auto-calendar, alarms, stopwatch, and timer.
- Accurate timer and tide indicators.
- Doesn’t have a low profile.
Casio MDV106-1AV Duro Analog Surf Watch
(Best Analog Surf Watch)
Here is another impressive surf watch from Casio but it’s an analog type this time. The Casio MDV106-1AV Duro Analog Surf Watch is a very popular product, having many positive reviews under its name.
It is a classic, comfy piece with a resilient, polished casing. It is highly waterproof, having a water depth resistance of 200 meters.
There are several colorful straps available for the watch and they all ensure that it fits snugly on your wrist. Impressively, the analog hands of the Casio MDV106-1AV glow, making it easy to read at all times.
- 200-meter water depth resistance.
- Resilient and polished casing.
- Fits comfortably.
- Glowing analog hands.
- Multiple strap options.
- Crown may get stuck sometimes.
Rip Curl Search GPS 2 Surf Watch
(Best With GPS)
From moon data to sunrise/sunset times, the Rip Curl Search GPS 2 poses as one best digital surf watches available. Coupled with the 1400 pre-programmed beach/tide locations, you can surf almost anywhere on the planet.
It parades a low profile design, great display, comfy polyurethane band plus excellent aesthetics. It is rigid enough to remain water-resistant at a depth of 100m.
For more functionalities, it comes with wireless connectivity and GPS to connect the Rip Curl app on the phone or pc. With this, you can comfortably track your sessions as you surf with the Rip Curl Search GPS 2 surf watch.
- Comfy polyurethane band.
- Available in multiple colors.
- 1400 pre-programmed beaches/tide locations.
- Great display.
- Connectivity and tracking issues.
- Battery life.
- Incompatible with Android.
Nixon Mission Surf Watch
(Best Smart Surf Watch)
Understanding surfing conditions, the Nixon Mission Surf Watch is specifically made for surfers in mind. An attractive masterpiece with a rugged polycarbonate construction and has a water depth resistance of 100m.
Compatible with Android and Apple devices, it is powered by a Snapdragon processor and runs on Android. It comes with preloaded apps which include the Trace Surf app designed to improve the surfing experience.
You also get to use the GPS and the e-compass, thermometer, altimeter, and barometer functionalities with its 48mm display.
However, the Nixon Mission Surf Watch straps are small for big wrists plus the notification vibration can be weak. You may also have issues with the charging port and battery life.
- Compatible with Android and Apple devices.
- High performance.
- Nice aesthetics.
- Rugged construction.
- Features GPS and surfing app.
- Charging and battery issues.
- Straps may be small.
Apple Watch Series 5 Sport Surf Watch
(Best Apple Watch for Surfing)
With its numerous features, the Apple Watch Series 5 is able to deliver all you need to enjoy your time outdoors. The display is available in two sizes, 40 and 44 millimeters, and always stays on to you time conscious every time.
It comes in different colors and build-materials - aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic. The straps are made from fabric or rubber and are replaceable. Overall, the water depth resistance is about 50 meters.
It features common iOS apps plus a compass, GPS, heart rate monitor, and a tracking app. It features the new watchOS 6 and a 32GB storage to accommodate multimedia files.
However, the always-on display comes with a cost and that a low battery life, averaging about 18 hours. Also, you need to have an Apple phone to use the Apple Watch Series 5 Surf Watch.
- Removable straps.
- Features an always-on display.
- It comes with a compass, GPS, and heart rate monitor.
- It features many apps.
- Available in two display sizes.
- Battery life.
- It doesn’t support Android users.
Rip Curl Rifles Tide Surf Watch
(Best Inexpensive Surf Watches)
With no smart features, the digital Rip Curl Rifles Tide Surf Watch is a simple, lustrous, low-budget option for male surfers. Along with its low profile shape, it is comfy, lightweight, and has a water resistance depth close to 100 meters.
The elaborate display is easy to read in the day and at night with the aid of its reliable backlighting. About 500 beach/tide locations around the world are programmed into it and you can even add yours.
You can also choose to view the tide graph or see detailed tide information. The Rip Curl Rifles Tide Surf Watch has an impressive outlook which is available in multiple color choices.
- Easy to read and use.
- Multiple color choices.
- 500 pre-programmed beaches.
- Low profile.
- Lightweight and comfy.
- No smart features.
Apple Watch Series 4 Surf Watch
(Best With Hear Rate Monitor)
The Apple Watch Series 4 Surf Watch is one of the leading smartwatches available for surfers. The construction, aluminum or stainless steel, and the straps are reliable and available in various sizes and colors.
Noted for high performance, it offers a user-friendly interface, a loud audio output, and a large, high-resolution display.
It is preloaded with apps needed by surfers plus GPS, weather apps, and health features such as ECG and fall detection. It doesn’t come with an always-on display so you have to tap for time consciousness.
The battery life could be better, lasting up to two days on a single charge without cellular data and GPS. Furthermore, you cannot use the Apple Watch Series 4 watch without an Apple phone.
- It comes with health features, GPS, and weather apps.
- Multiple colors and sizes.
- Crisp, large display, and loudspeaker.
- Fast performance.
- Excellent aesthetics and user-friendly.
- Compatible with only Apple devices.
- Small water resistance depth.
Casio G-Shock Gax-100B-7AJF Surf Watch
(Best Value for the Money)
The Casio G-Shock Gax-100B-7AJF is one of those surf watches that offer high value for money. Although cheap, the watch can satisfy the basic needs of most surfers.
The display is a mix of analog and digital with a diameter of about 50 millimeters. Thanks to its comprehensive user guide, it is user-friendly, coming with basic features like alarm, tide, and moon data.
Although it lacks an altimeter/barometer, it comes with a near-accurate thermometer and world times (48 cities). It comes with a long battery life of about three years but this can be influenced by the backlight and other functions.
The Casio G-Shock Gax-100B-7AJF comes with a two-year warranty and its water depth resistance is 200m. Despite the backlight, it may be difficult to read in the dark.
- Comprehensive user guide and two-year warranty.
- It comes with a temperature sensor and world times.
- 200-meter water resistance.
- Easy to use.
- Great value for money.
- The battery isn’t rechargeable.
- It might be difficult to read in the dark.
Men's Freestyle Shark Classic Tide Surf Watch
Even with its low price tag, the Freestyle Shark Classic Tide Surf Watch is decent, low profile watch. With its anti-scratch screen, the casing is made from polycarbonate, its back case from stainless steel, and band from silicone.
The construction is very durable and it has a water depth resistance of about 100 meters. Up to 150 beach/tide locations are pre-programmed into the watch and it should be able to serve you for 10 years.
The Shark Classic Tide Surf Watch has a dual time function that allows you to have the time of your home and destination. Other likable features include alarm, timer, split stopwatch, and chronograph.
- Bold display and backlight.
- Low profile.
- Functions include dual time, alarm, timer, stopwatch, and chronograph.
- Anti-scratch screen.
- The strap might be too small.
- It doesn’t come with instructions.
Nixon Base Tide Pro Surf Watch
(Best for Beginners)
With a water depth resistance of 100 meters, the Nixon Base Tide Pro stays waterproof always while surfing. Crafted mainly for males, it has a 42mm casing made from tough plastic and a stainless steel back case.
Apart from telling the time, it features an alarm, timer, and chronograph. For your surfing function, it comes with a large database of pre-loaded tides and sunrise/sunset locations, about 550.
All this you can see on its reliable negative LCD screen that displays clearly underwater. The backlight, in the dark, helps you see your watch while its big buttons allow easy control. In addition, the Nixon Base Tide Pro, including its 24mm straps, is available in multiple colors.
- Features backlight, alarm, timer, and chronograph.
- Available in different colors.
- Sturdy build.
- 550 pre-loaded tides plus sunrise/sunset locations.
- Reliable and easy to use.
- May be less comfortable.
- Some locations may appear mistuned.
Nixon Base Tide A1104 Surf Watch
(Best for Big Wrists)
If you are looking for a simple, affordable surf watch to accommodate your big wrist, check out the Nixon Base Tide A1104. The straps and casing are available in multiple color schemes that you'll like.
Its casing is built from polycarbonate and back cover from stainless steel. Altogether, the watch is safe from water at any depth below 100 meters.
The display is a negative LCD that can be clearly read underwater. Nevertheless, there are variants that come with the normal display type.
It comes with a tide reading, a customizable face layout, and a dual-time format (12-hour or 24-hour format). On your wrist, you will certainly enjoy its low profile and lightweight.
- Multiple colorful bands.
- Dual time format.
- Reputable brand.
- The digital display is visible underwater.
- Lightweight, low-profile, and budget-friendly.
- May sometimes be inaccurate and require a reset.
Rip Curl Women's Surf Watch
(Best with Low Profile)
Another watch for female surfer's, this time, it is the Rip Curl Women’s Surf Watch. There are multiple color options available for you to pick from.
In terms of design, it has a low profile and sleek shape made from lightweight materials (polycarbonate and stainless steel). It is able to remain water-resistant at about 100-meter depth.
About 500 beaches/tide locations around the world are available in the watch and you get to see the tides in graphical or detailed view.
The display is easy to read anytime and the watch itself is easy to use. The Rip Curl Women’s Surf Watch is not too “smart” but it does come with some regular features like alarm and timer.
- Two-way tide information display.
- Multiple color options.
- Lightweight, sleek shape, and low profile.
- Made for females.
- 500 pre-programmed beaches.
- The band may be small for some people.
Vestal Men's Brig Tide Surf Watch
(Best for Small Wrists)
The Vestal Men’s Brig is another accurate tide surf watch to help you get more out of your surfing session. With a significantly low profile and small size, it makes a good watch for kids and small riders.
It has a pretty simple interface that can be easily controlled by the big four buttons on its sides. At the bottom of the screen is the accurate tide graph which can show data from about 200 locations worldwide.
It comes with timers to help you brush up your skills and alarm to keeps you time-conscious. The design of the Vestal Men’s Brig is pretty attractive with a simple look and comes in different bright colors.
- Ideal for kids and teens.
- Accurate tide data.
- Easy to use.
- Comfy and lightweight.
- The band may break easily.
- Battery drains faster.
How to Find the Best Surf Watch?
There are many surf watches available in the market. You don’t want to buy a bad replacement. If this is your first time, you need to be extra careful when making your decision.
Of course, you know that not every watch in the market can satisfy your needs. Your budget plays an important role in choice-making.
Watches with many robust features or from popular brands are more likely to be expensive. Apart from your budget size, a number of features and criteria need to be taken into consideration. Let’s get started!
Size and Comfort
Surf watches come in different sizes and whatever you go for is dependent on your personal preference. It must be very comfy for you and this is directly related to the design and size of the watch.
The size of the strap/band and that of the watch face are two different things. You should go for straps that are easy to adjust and would stay comfortably. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable all day.
Loose straps will cause it to wriggle around and tight ones will cause marks and discomfort. The watch face can also influence the display of the watch.
Bigger watch faces often come with a bolder display that is easy to read unlike smaller ones. In a nutshell, make sure the watch face is not too bulky for you and the strap fits comfortably.
Surf watches are made from different materials, aluminum, polycarbonate (plastic), stainless steel, titanium to mention a few. This can contribute to the weight of the watch. Plastic watches are generally the lightest.
The straps, on the other hand, can be made from fabric, rubber, polyurethane, and silicone. Some materials may irritate or cause friction while some have a shorter life span.
Fabric straps are not water-resistant and will require drying after surfing to prevent mold and foul smell. Whatever material you want to go for, it should be comfortable for you even after wearing for long.
The lens may also be made from plastic or glass. Some lenses are scratch-resistant while some are shatter-resistant.
Type of Watch
There are basically two types of surf watches, analog and digital. The analog watches are often less expensive, easy to use, long-lasting, and less difficult to maintain.
On the other hand, digital watches offer more versatility and even a broader range of functionalities than you can find in analog watches. Some watches can, however, be a mixture of both, as in analog-digital.
More and more digital surf watches are now available, coming with interesting features that can never be available in analog watches.
Health and fitness features, GPS, and many other smart features are becoming more rampant. The decision is for you to make, analog or digital?
Water-resistance is an important characteristic of a good surf watch. Electronics will cease to function if water seeps into it therefore if your surf watch is not water-resistant, it is useless.
Surf watches come with varying degrees of water resistance. The water resistance is measured in ATM, bar, or depth resistance (meters).
The higher the value, the higher its water resistance. Ten ATM or bar is equivalent to a water depth resistance of 100 meters.
Features of the Watch
Sometimes, you might want some specific features on your watch. If it is an analog watch, you might want the hand to glow in the dark or a product that shows the date. Features are limited on analog surf watches.
As for digital surf watches, there are many features available. Simple digital surf watches will have the time, dual time, world time, tide date, alarm, timer, stopwatch, and moon data. Some sensors may also be incorporated such as thermometer, altimeter, wind speed, and direction, etc.
Advanced digital surf watches often have a colorful touch display, wireless connectivity, GPS, health, and fitness features. They also come with many features you can do on your phone.
Most surf watches come with a source of power (battery). However, some batteries may be rechargeable whilst some will need replacement when they are down.
Digital surf watches have shorter battery lives compared to their analog counterparts. The more the functions of a surf watch, the shorter the battery life.
Most analog surf watches have batteries that can last up to a year and some may come with solar panels. On average, the digital ones will last a day or two.
You should check the battery life of whatever watch you are going for. You don’t want to get disappointed when you arrive at the beach.
After checking the above features, you might have specific things you want to have on your watch. Aesthetics vary from watch to watch so you might want to get something stylish. You may also be concerned about the colors. You may love to buy a watch with a warranty.
How Do Surf Watches Work?
Basically, the surf watch is meant to help you catch the best waves by displaying tide data. If it cannot correctly forecast tides, its basic function, then it is absolutely useless.
Thanks to several research works, tide data can now be accurately forecasted. In simple terms, the tide is the rising and falling of the sea at a particular location on each lunar day. A lunar day is 24 hours 50 minutes and that’s a full tide cycle.
This is caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. As the moon moves around the earth, it pulls the area of water near it and forms a high tide.
The other part of the earth facing the sun is also pulled by the sun. Hence, two pairs of opposite high and low tides are formed.
Tides are expected to alternate every 6 hours on a lunar day but may be affected by factors such as topography, weather, and land orientation.
For analog surf watches, the tides are indicated by a hand that finishes a full rotation in just 12 hours 24 minutes. That is just the average duration that a half-tide cycle is completed. The highest tides are experienced when the indicator points at 12 o’clock.
When it comes to the digital surf watches, it allows more readability. They often come with more tide details which may also be displayed on a graph.
Interestingly, one can set the tide location to many places around the world. Some digital surf watches come with pre-programmed tide data and some are customizable to your location.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This is in case you came here to find answers to your questions or skipped some cogent points in the article. To help you clear your mind, I’ve compiled some frequently asked questions in this section to help out.
If you have not been using a surf watch, you have been missing a lot. Surf watches are not just for fashion, they can make a difference in your surfing sessions.
Apart from catching the best waves, you can also improve your skills by tracking and timing your sessions. Some even come with much more functions, allowing more fun on the waves.
If you are keen on getting the best surf watches, you should see my buying guide. A list of the reviewed 15 best surf watches should be helpful.
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR Surf Watch is best overall with many impressive features and decent battery life. The best analog surf watch is the Casio MDV106-1AV Duro Analog Surf Watch. The Men's Freestyle Shark Classic Tide Surf Watch is a simple option for low-budget buyers.
Have you purchased any of the surf watches on my list and you have remarks or comments to make? Kindly drop them in the comments section below.
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