apple watch surf surfing dawn patrol surf watch ripcurl gps

There are three things I really love in life – travelling, surfing and technology.

And when I can combine some or all of them it really gets me stoked!

I’m also a huge Apple geek but was on the fence about getting an Apple Watch. 

But after learning the new series is waterproof I began thinking – if it can track swim sessions could it track my surfing?

I’ve always been intrigued about the length of my waves, my wave count and also how much exercise surfing really so I decided to do some research, and after A LOT of digging around the internet (seriously this info was hard to find, so you can thank me later!) I discovered that there was a way to not just track my surfing, but also turn it into a fully functioning surf watch.

Yup your can customise your Apple Watch into a surf watch – displaying tide times and even surf reports with just a quick glance.

So how do you turn your Apple Watch into a surf watch?

…also as a quick update due to some comments I’d like to clarify that you only need the GPS Apple Watch to get this all to work properly, so don’t feel you need to spend the extra on the cellular option to track your surf!

Click here for more info on the Apple Watch and to buy yours!


Did Apple Create The Best Ever Surf Watch?


Customise It Into The Ultimate Surf Watch

I’ve utilised two apps to customise my Apple Watch for surfing; Dawn Patrol and Surface.

Apple Watch surf watch dawn patrol appAnd best of all they’re totally FREE.

Surface provides the complications (Apples fancy name for the customisation of your Apple Watch face – they should should be called widgets really!) whilst Dawn Partol going to be where you head to track your surf sessions.

Now you can use Surface for both but personally I find their interface and layout rather buggy and not as appealing.

Dawn Patrol on the other hand is slick and has everything you need in a smooth, elegant app.

…and I’ve spoken to the team behind it and there are some epic updates in the pipeline too!

Once you have those two installed on both your phone and watch, get your current surf spots selected in Surface (via the Magicseaweed or Willy Weather database) and then you’ll need to update your watch face to get all the surf info you need at a glance.

I opted for the modular face – choosing the central area to display the current surf conditions, whilst the lower left shows their minimal tide icon which sits quite nicely in there.

It’s as easy as that!


Dawn Patrol – Tracking Your Surf Session

Apple Watch surf watch dawn patrol appNow the real fun comes when you hit the water and this is where Dawn Patrol comes into play.

At the beginning of your session you simply load the app on your watch and hit start session.

The display will then show your heart rate, session time as well as stats on total ride length, time and also wave count.

Throughout your session Dawn Patrol will be recording your stats and after each wave you’ll be able to see the ride time, length and top speed – which definitely fuels the stoke!

At the end of your session simply hit “Stop” and you’ll be given a quick overview of your session including calories burnt alongside your wave data.

But it’s when you boot up the app on your iPhone that you’ll really get to geek out!

Apple Watch surf watch dawn patrol appAfter clicking on your session you’ll be shown a satellite shot of the surf break with all your waves mapped out on it! Clicking on each wave line will bring up the full stats of the ride.

You can even get it to display the waves you missed (rather depressing!hahaha!)

I’ve been using it all over the globe (including the surfing in the Maldives, Mentawais, Australia and South Africa) and it’s great for pushing your sessions to the next level. 

I’m hunting for a higher wave count, a longer ride and a faster speed! Here are some of my stats so far;

  • Longest ride = 352m @ Medewi, Indonesia
  • Top speed = 26.8mph @ Coffee Bay, South Africa
  • Longest ride time = 49secs @ Medewi, Indonesia
  • Best session (wave count) = 23 waves, 1.4km ridden in 1:45 @ Coffee Bay, South Africa
  • Best session (distance) = 14 waves, 2.1km ridden in 2 hours 11 minutes @ Medewi, Indonesia

If you’re based at a spot for a while it’s also super helpful for seeing where you need to sit in the lineup for the best waves and seeing how you progress.

Pretty cool hey?!


June 2019 Dawn Patrol Update

Thought I’d add this into the guide as it provides some pretty epic extras! In late May Dawn Patrol released a new version of the app, which now allows you to access even more info form your surf session.

So things like waves speed and wave length for your whole session can now be viewed as a chart just by swiping up on the main session home screen.

The biggest update though has been adding tidal data to the app as well.

You can now add Dawn Patrol as a widget to your iPhone (when you swipe right on the home screen) which will give you the data for your local spot. This widget can also now be added to the Apple Watch too as a complication.

Alongside this the tidal data will also be part of the stats on your session as well – so you can see what part of the tide results in your best wave count or longest rides.

…I’m hoping they’ll add the surf forecast info soon!


What About The Ripcurl GPS Watch?

So the instant comparison you’ll be making is against the Ripcurl GPS watch.

By all accounts its a fully functional surf watch (as you’d expect from a surf company like RipCurl), but when you take into account it’s the same price as an entry level Apple Watch (series 3) what would you rather have?

A surf watch or a surf watch that’s also a fully functional smart watch – and arguably the best smart watch on the planet as well!

I’ve spoken to a few people who mentioned they were thinking about buying the new RipCurl GPS watch, however once I explained how I’ve customised my Apple Watch and the fact it’s on par price wise and they opted to go that route instead!

Your call, but I weighed up the options and the cost and I’m stoked with my decision!

Check out this guide to the best surf watches in the world…but I’m pretty sure you’ll still end up with an Apple Watch!hahaha!


Apple Watch Series 5

As well as working on Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch Series 4 all the above apps and info will also work on the new Apple Watch Series 5 released in late 2019 too.

And with the release of the Series 5 the Apple Watch Series 3 is now cheaper than ever, making an Apple Surf Watch even more affordable and certainly even better value than the Ripcurl GPS!



Have you used the Apple Watch as a surf watch?

What are your top sessions?



  • Richard

    March 9, 2019

    Awesome blog! I use Dawn Patrol all the time ??

  • Patrick

    June 4, 2019

    Tried the dawn patrol app also for some weeks and must say it doesn’t feel easy to use and is buggy as hell. No experience with the Rip Curl GPS watch yet, but my expectations were not met with Dawn Patrol.

  • Kevin

    June 5, 2019

    Hey dude thanks for the article. Which strap would you recommend? I bought it for the same reason but super sketch that it will just pop off… Did you buy any other cases for it?

  • Kevin

    June 7, 2019

    Noice one. Thanks man

  • donald w lilly

    June 23, 2019

    Outstanding post! Glad I found your blog! I had a Nixon Mission watch and loved the connectivity with Surfline but it was very spotty and the watch battery was horrible. It basically died after 7 months and NIxon doesn’t make it anymore….sooooo I guess its going to be an Apple watch for me after seeing your killer video…thanks for all of the work that went into it!

  • Erik

    June 26, 2019

    Great review! One question, does the apple watch need to be both GPS + Cellular or will it work with just GPS? Sorry for the novice question.

  • Lee

    July 15, 2019

    I’m wondering if your watch is still alive. My smart watch which is supposedly 10 ATM waterproof died gradually within 3 months after a week of surfing.

  • sam

    July 27, 2019

    Outstanding post! I am going to buy apple watch s4 to go surfing, I hope he will not be bad. I from Taiwan

      • Simon

        August 31, 2019

        The watch isn’t water proof, I wore mine surfing last week, it’s now broken due to water ingress and not covered by warranty. As such how can this watch be called a Surf watch.?

  • Sarah

    July 30, 2019

    I cannot find Surface – is this an app?

      • Kieron

        September 2, 2019

        Hey Chris, this seems a great use-case for us paddlers too. Surface, again I can’t find this and the link above is not there? Am I missing something?
        Might get in contact with the Windy team and see if complications can be added to their backlog ;).
        Cheers mate. K

  • Matthew

    August 13, 2019

    Do you have a protective case on your watch, or do you ride with just the watch by itself? I’m a little sketched about dropping the money for it and surfing with it EVERY DAY with no case on.

  • Emanuele

    September 10, 2019

    I can’t customize watch face with surface infos, I don’t get the option to do so.. anybody can help? Thanks!’

      • Emanuele

        September 10, 2019

        Yes! I managed to have it work 🙂 everything worked fine but I have too many spots saved. DELETED the App.. when I went to reinstall it.. surprise.. it is no available on App Store anymore :((( what to do?

        • Emanuele

          September 10, 2019

          …it worked 2 hours for me the completely disappeared 🙁

          • Emanuele

            September 10, 2019

            if you are in Bali am in Uluwatu until end October 🙂

  • Tyler

    September 16, 2019

    Surface app isn’t available in Australia? Looking into how to get around a geolock but I don’t know what countries it is available in?

      • Kevin

        September 18, 2019

        I’m in the US and the Surface App isn’t available. Any suggestions on a work around?


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