20 Best Surf Watches for Riding the Tides
As watch technology advanced, the industry has developed a wider diversity of specialised tool watches, each meant for different, specific purposes. These include pilot timepieces, military pieces, and of course, the one we will be going through today: surf watches. In this article, we have curated a list of the 20 best surf watches in the market, along with the most important elements you should look out for in a surf watch. Read on to find out more about that special watch that will make your next surf session easier.
What are Surf Watches?
Right off the bat, you might be a little confused about what surf watches are. One of the first things you should know is that surf watches are not the same as dive watches. This is because each type of watch has distinct features for different needs. Since surf watches are created for surfers, they come with dedicated functions meant to make surfing easier and safer.
For instance, while many surf watches have strong water resistance capacities like dive watches, they also come with tide graph data or wave counters, which you can use to keep yourself updated on tide conditions. Ultimately, the surf watch is the quintessential timepiece for surfers looking for a challenge.
Best Surf Watches In 2021
1. Garmin Instinct® Solar – Surf Edition
One of the best-selling surf watches today is the famous Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Edition. Hailing from Garmin, a brand known for developing all sorts of powerful, hardy sports watches, the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Edition is made for professional surfers who want to have all the essential surf watch features in one timepiece. This timepiece is a little costlier compared to other mid-range surf watches, but its array of functions are definitely well worth the price.
This watch comes in a 45mm fibre-reinforced polymer case in black, with a matching black silicone strap and a black digital dial. If you love discovering new surfing spots, this watch’s Global Positioning System (GPS), Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), and Galileo satellite systems will certainly come in handy. It also comes with a Surfline camera, which creates videos of every wave you ride on, creating instant memories of your triumphs over the ocean waves. The watch’s Surf Data app also keeps you updated on the condition of the ocean, while the Surf Activity profile helps you keep track of your speed, distance, and the number of tides surfed.
With a depth rating of 100m, this Garmin Instinct watch retails at approximately $449 USD.
2. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar
Another great surf watch from Garmin is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition. Unlike the previous model, this is not actually a dedicated surf watch. Instead, it serves as a multisport watch for men and women, with capabilities that you will find useful during surfing too, such as a 100-metre water resistance rating.
This Garmin Fenix 6 piece comes in an oversized 47mm fibre-reinforced polymer case and a sleek black titanium strap. Despite its large size, this watch’s titanium and polymer build is quite lightweight, weighing just 72 grams, so it is not too hefty on your wrist. Like the Instinct Solar Surf Edition, this watch comes with a Surfline camera to help you record your surfs. Aside from that, it also has performance metrics, a sports app, and animated workout modes for a variety of sports including skiing, biking, running, swimming, and more.
This Garmin timepiece sells at an estimated price of $970 USD. If you are a triathlete or sports enthusiast, you are sure to enjoy this multifunctional timepiece.
3. Apple Watch Series 6
This high-tech smartwatch from Apple is not just for daily use and smart notifications. The Apple Watch Series 6 models actually make for great surf watches, since they are compatible with the Dawn Patrol app, which gives you information on the ocean’s condition and forecast. This watch can also track your surfing performance and speed to help you improve your skills. Aside from being used in surfing adventures, the Apple Watch Series 6 is also popularly used for windsurfing and sailing.
This Apple watch comes in a 40mm scratch-resistant aluminium case, paired with a silicone sport band in a colour of your choice. Weighing just 30.5 grams, this timepiece is very lightweight and easy to carry around. However, it only has a depth rating of 50 metres, so you cannot bring this watch along with you when you are swimming or diving in deep waters.
Selling at approximately $400 USD, this is a great surf watch for all the tech-savvy surfers.
4. Nixon Rival Digital Surf
Nixon is not just a watch brand for casual everyday watches, as they also produce rugged sports watches too. In particular, the brand has developed a series of surf watches for men and women that are far more affordable than most other brands. In this entry, we are looking at the Nixon Rival Digital Surf. It shows off functions such as pre-programmed tide details from 550 beaches around the world, including famous surfing spots like the Gold Coast and Malibu. It also has sunrise and sunset data, which you can use to help you schedule your surf sessions.
The Nixon Rival Digital Surf comes with a custom TR90 case, which is made from #Tide recycled ocean plastics, making this watch sustainable and ocean-friendly. Measuring 38mm in diameter, this is quite a slim surf watch. It also has a solid water resistance capacity of 100 metres.
You can get your hands on this watch for just $125 USD.
5. Nixon Base Tide Pro
Another affordable surf watch from Nixon is the Base Tide Pro. Like the Nixon Rival Digital Surf, this watch comes with pre-programmed tide details for 550 beaches. It also has other essential functions for daily use. These include a chronograph, three types of alarms, a dual time zone, a countdown timer, and a wave counter for surfing. All of these can be controlled using the blue push buttons on the side of the watch’s case.
The Nixon Base Tide Pro is presented in a 42mm black fibre-reinforced polycarbonate case with a matching black silicone strap. Its dial shows off a negative LCD display with a printed tide graph for your reference. In addition, it also has an EL backlight, which allows you to illuminate the watch face in low-light conditions.
This watch has a retail price of $150 USD.
6. Nixon Women’s The Siren
Looking for surf watches that specially cater to women? Take a look at the Nixon Women’s The Siren. It utilises a small 38mm case made from recycled ocean plastics in a soft pink hue. This case has been reinforced by a custom injection mold, giving it greater resistance to scratches and impacts. It is also coupled with a soft silicone pink strap, enhancing the feminine look of this watch.
Using its custom negative LCD display, you can access this Nixon watch’s many features, including its chronograph, countdown timer, and high/low tide details. You can navigate them using the small black push buttons on either side of the pink case. This is a simple and functional timepiece that meets all your basic needs for your next surf session.
You can purchase the Nixon Women’s The Siren for just $125 USD.
7. Rip Curl Next Tide
For vintage surf watches, take a look at the Rip Curl Next Tide. First introduced in the ’90s for surfers, Rip Curl has upgraded this watch, giving it modern, high-tech advancements and a more contemporary style catering to the new generation. This watch is best used for leisure surfing and snorkelling.
It uses a digital display that showcases 500 pre-programmed tide locations with real-time tide graphs in different countries, so you can track the conditions of the waves before you start your surf session. In addition, it comes with an electro-luminescent backlight which will support the watch during a peaceful nighttime stroll on the beach.
Fork out $169 USD to get this old-school, nostalgic surf watch.
8. Rip Curl Search GPS 2
The Rip Curl Search GPS 2 is another modern multisport watch meant for all sorts of athletic activities. Other than keeping track of your wave count, you can also use this watch to monitor your distance, speed, and duration spent during sports activities such as skiing, swimming, and surfing. And just like the Garmin surf watches, this timepiece also has the Surfline Session app so you can record yourself surfing. You can even use this watch to replay your surf sessions, so you can inspect and improve upon your performance.
This sporty Rip Curl watch comes in a 43mm case made from ABS hardened plastic, along with a matching rubber strap. On top of its 100-metre water resistance rating, this watch also has GPS tracking capabilities. You can access this by syncing your watch to your smartphone using the Rip Curl Search App.
The Rip Curl Search GPS 2 sells at around $299 USD.
9. Rip Curl Rifles
If you want an easy-to-use surf watch that will make your everyday life easier, get the Rip Curl Rifles, which comes with everything you need to meet your surfing and daily needs. It has information on 500 pre-programmed surfing locations, along with other practical functions like a timer, a stopwatch, an alarm, and a date and time display.
This watch actually looks quite similar to the aforementioned Rip Curl Search GPS 2. Aside from coming in a smaller 41mm size, it has the same ABS hardened plastic case and rubber strap. You can also freely customise the watch’s colourway and the length of the strap, so it perfectly fits your preferences.
This Rip Curl timepiece retails at $124 USD. It lacks the same extensive GPS and surf capabilities as the Rip Curl Search GPS 2, hence its more accessible pricing.
10. Rolex Submariner Ref. 126610LN-0001
Are you planning to go big wave surfing? Go for the luxurious Rolex Submariner. Although this best-selling watch is officially known as a diver piece, it still has functions that can come in handy during diving, such as its incredible 300-metre depth rating. One model in particular that we recommend is the Rolex Submariner Ref. 126610LN-0001, with its robust, quintessential aesthetics.
This Rolex watch comes in a 41mm case made of Rolex’s patented Oystersteel material, which is extremely resistant to scratches, impacts, and corrosion. Fitted on top of the case is an Oystersteel bezel with a black elapsed time scale bezel, crafted using scratch-resistant Cerachrom. You can use this elapsed time scale bezel to keep track of the amount of time you spend underwater. The black dial of this watch also has a very clean and legible layout, with geometric hour indices, large Mercedes hands, and a magnified date window at 3 o’clock.
As one of the most durable watches on this list, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 126610LN-0001 is a top pick for many divers and surfers. With its unparalleled quality and prestigious Rolex name, this watch has a more exorbitant price tag of $15,699 USD.
11. Casio G-Shock G-Lide Tide
The Casio watch brand has always had a reputation for producing rugged pieces that are perfect for outdoor adventures. The Casio G-Shock collection, in particular, consists of exceptionally robust, sturdy timepieces that are made to withstand any challenge. Of course, given the brand’s familiarity with different types of outdoor watches, it is no surprise that Casio has also released specialised surf watches, such as the G-Shock G-Lide Tide.
The Casio G-Shock G-Lide Tide comes in a sleekly-brushed 46mm stainless steel case, which is reinforced with a layer of black polyurethane that enhances the watch’s resistance against impacts. It also comes with a multitude of handy utilities for surfing, including sunrise and sunset time data, high tide/low tide time data, tide graphs, and moon phase data. In addition, it possesses 38 time zones, a customizable training display, and an accelerometer, so you can easily use this watch for more than just surfing.
With its excellent 200-metre water resistance rating, the Casio G-Shock G-Lide Tide sells at a budget-friendly price of $160 USD.
12. Casio G-Shock Gulfmaster
One of the best surf watches for men is the Casio G-Shock Gulfmaster. This watch is quite bulky compared to the other surf watches on this list, measuring 56mm in diameter. However, it is actually quite lightweight, with its carbon fibre-reinforced resin case and matching resin strap. It weighs just 100 grams in total, so it does not feel too heavy on the wrist. Equipped with a good 200-metre depth rating, this watch has a gleaming blue stainless steel bezel fitted on top of its case, enhancing its handsome and masculine look.
As a hybrid watch, this G-Shock timepiece has an analogue-digital dial that comprises luminous blue and white hands and geometric hour markers. On the upper left side of the dial, you can find a barometer that measures changes in air pressure and weather, while a black LCD display takes up the bottom half of the dial. This watch also comes with digital tide graphs, a compass, and time zone indicators for 30 different cities. It also has a backlight that illuminates the watch face, so you can easily read it even in the dark.
The Casio G-Shock Gulfmaster has a price tag of $659 USD. It is well worth the price, considering its hardy, robust build and multifunctionality.
13. Casio F91W-1
If you are looking for surf watches that cater to women without having overly feminine aesthetics, check out the Casio F91W-1. Casio released this sleek digital model to cater to basic surfing needs. It comes in a slender yet durable 30mm black resin case, with a matching black plastic dial and a simple grey LCD screen. Weighing just 20 grams, this is an incredibly light watch that is very easy to tote around. It also has a water-resistance capacity of 30 metres.
The Casio F91W-1 also has a solar movement, so you will never have to replace the batteries in this watch. Instead, you can simply use natural or artificial light to charge it. Adding to this are the watch’s daily alarm, automatic calendar, 12/24 digital hour displays, and other such capabilities. If you want a useful digital surf watch that you do not have to spend too much on, this is an excellent find.
The Casio Casio F91W-1 retails at just $16 USD, making it the most affordable watch on this list.
14. Casio G-Shock Frogman
For another robust surf watch from Casio, check out the G-Shock Frogman. This timepiece is one of the favourite picks for watersports enthusiasts because it is highly resistant to shocks, impacts, and water. On top of its 200-metre depth rating, this watch’s 52mm resin case is also reinforced with carbon fibre. This makes it durable enough to withstand extreme adventures such as big wave surfing. Coupled with the oversized resin case is a black strap made from plastic and stainless steel, with thick ridges that enhance the watch’s rugged look.
The Casio G-Shock Frogman also comes with a solar-powered battery, world time, moon phase data, tide graphs, full auto-calendar, power-saving modes, and the ability to measure dive time and surface intervals. These features make the G-Shock Frogman both an excellent dive piece and a great surf watch.
You can purchase this Casio watch for $578 USD.
15. Freestyle Shark Classic Tide
One of the go-to affordable surf watches for surfers is the Freestyle Shark Classic Tide. This is a sleek all-black digital timepiece with a solid and reliable 100-metre depth rating. It is housed in a 48mm black plastic case, paired with a matching black nylon strap and a dial with a black LCD display.
As a dedicated surf watch, this timepiece comes with tide, date, sunrise, and sunset information for over 150 popular surf spots in different countries. It also has other functions that are very useful in everyday life, such as a stopwatch, a customizable countdown timer, dual time zones, and more. In addition, this watch possesses standard watch pins, which makes it very easy for you to swap the band out for something that fits more to your tastes.
This Freestyle watch has a price tag of $100 USD.
16. Breitling Superocean Heritage Outerknown
If you are into surfing, you might already know that the Breitling Superocean Heritage collection has a new series of watches for surfers: the Superocean Heritage Outerknown. This sub-collection was created in partnership with Kelly Slater, an iconic American surfer. In particular, this watch stands out for being the only analogue timepiece on this list, compared to the other digital or hybrid surf watches.
The Superocean Heritage Outerknown uses a 44mm ion-plated stainless steel case in black. Its blue strap is made from sustainable materials, as it is crafted from rubber and Econyl yarn. This watch also comes with a 200-metre depth rating, three chronograph sub-dials, and a handy day-date display. This timepiece does not have the usual dedicated surf capabilities, but it is a great choice if you want to have the same watch that surf legends themselves use.
This Breitling watch sells at $7,100 USD.
17. Vestal Brig Tide & Train
The Vestal Brig Tide and Train is a stylish surf watch designed by Jordy Smith, a South African professional surfer. If you are looking for truly dedicated surf watches made just to cater to the surfing crowd, this is a great option. It comes with important surfing functions such as a surfing training mode, 200 tidal locations, future tide mode, digital tide graphs, and more. Housed in a 44mm polyurethane case wrapped in ABS plastic, with a matching dark grey polyurethane strap, this timepiece has a 100-metre water resistance capacity.
You can get your hands on this Vestal watch for around $120 USD.
18. Quiksilver Addictiv Pro Tide
Another great, understated surf watch is the Quiksilver Addictiv Pro Tide. This watch shows off a quiet all-black exterior, with its 40mm Nylon TR90 case and a silicone strap. You can use this watch to keep updated on the surfing spots in various countries; it has data on up to 200 surf spots around the world. In addition, you can use it to monitor your own surfing sessions since it displays tide heights and wave counters using its tide graph. With the simple, labelled push buttons on the front of the case, you can access the watch’s stopwatch, alarm, and countdown timer. Anyone can enjoy this simple, easy-to-use timepiece for both surfing and daily wear.
With a solid depth rating of 100 metres, this watch is priced at just $103 USD.
19. Quiksilver Stringer Tide
The Quiksilver Stringer Tide distinguishes itself from the other surf watches in this article, as it is the only one that comes with a movement dedicated to surfing. This advanced movement enables the watch’s DEEP Tide System Technology. It gives wearers reliable details on a specific surfing location’s latitude, longitude, tide height, coast refraction, offshore islands, and coastline shape. It is also housed in a 46mm polycarbonate case, with a soft and UV-resistant silicone strap, so you can better weather those blistering days as you surf.
This high-tech surf Quiksilver surf watch has a price tag of $131 USD.
20. Timex Intelligent Tide Temp Compass
The last watch on this list is the Timex Intelligent Tide Temp Compass, an affordable surf watch that comes with almost all the essentials you need. It is one of the best surf watches available for tech-savvy professional surfers. This Timex timepiece comes with a tide tracker and wave counter, a compass, and a thermometer, all of which are showcased in an analogue display on the watch’s handy touchscreen dial. This watch is presented in a 45mm black stainless steel case, with a smooth and supple silicone strap in blue.
With its 100-metre water resistance capacity, the Timex Intelligent Tide Temp Compass sells at $139 USD.
Everything You Need In A Surf Watch
If you are a newcomer to surfing and do not know much about surf watches, here is a quick guide on the most important features your surf watch should have. This is not an exhaustive list, and it does not mean that all surf watches come with these capabilities. However, these are all important functions to consider, as they will make your next surfing adventure much easier.
Pre-Programmed Beaches or Surf Locations
Most professional surfers will always suggest having a watch that contains pre-programmed surf locations. This gives you information about the local weather conditions that can affect your surfing sessions. Not every beach has the same wave height and tide times. Thus, you need to have accurate, preset surf watches which give you these details at your fingertips.
Wave Counter and Tracker
A wave counter and tracker enables you to count the waves that you successfully rode on, while also tracking the time you spend on each wave. With this feature, you can keep closer track of your own performance metrics. You can even use this information to upgrade your skills as a surfer.
Durable and Waterproof Case Material
Most surf watches are made from reinforced resin, plastic, polycarbonate, or titanium. These types of case materials are proven to be extremely durable and highly resistant to water damage, corrosion, and shocks. In addition, these materials are all quite lightweight, so your watches will not weigh you down too much when you are surfing. Another extremely strong, hardy case material that is sometimes used is stainless steel, although it is not as ideal due to its heavier composition.
All surf watches should come with a certain degree of water resistance. More affordable timepieces tend to come with 30-metre depth ratings, which are great for shallow waters but are not the best idea when it comes to challenging huge waves. Most surf watches come with 100-metre water resistance capacity, which is perfectly adequate for surfing. Some timepieces also come with impressive depth ratings of 200 metres and above. These watches are great choices for those who enjoy big wave surfing, diving, and scuba diving.
With this article, we hope that you now have a better idea of what to look for in a surf watch. In addition, the surf watches listed above are all excellent and efficient timepieces, and you could not go wrong with any of them. Whether you opt for one of the all-rounder Garmin timepieces or a dedicated surf watch from Nixon, rest assured that you can definitely rely on them to achieve an exceptional performance riding the waves.
Featured image by Unsplash.
If you are interested in other watch buying guides, check out the 11 Best Ski Watches Perfect for Alpine Adventures