Is Apple Watch the Ultimate Surf Watch?

| Words by Neil Villadolid

Apple Watch has become synonymous with fitness. There’s not a better watch on the market at gathering metrics and data - it's become an important tool for measuring progress and increasing performance. With its water-resistant design, depth meter, and on-board GPS, it didn’t take long for a third party to come along and transform Apple Watch into the best surf watch. Dawn Patrol launched in 2016 and has since made Apple Watch into one of the premium surf watches out there. Here’s everything you need to know about Dawn Patrol and surfing with Apple Watch.

Is Apple Watch Durable?

A big question we frequently get asked is “can you bring Apple Watch to the beach?” or “can you surf with Apple Watch?” First off, Apple Watch is completely waterproof and tightly sealed so no water or sand can get in. Secondly, when combined with the watch band, Apple Watch is way tougher than we’d thought.

Our confidence in Apple Watch came after big wave surfer Matt Bromley paddled out to 50 foot Jaws while wearing his Apple Watch and a Nomad Rugged Strap. Both he and his Apple Watch survived in the massive waves. Just to make sure Apple Watch really held its own, Matt Bromley then flew over to California that same week to test it out at 40 foot Mavericks. Check out our interview with Matt Bromley here.


So far the Apple Watch has been super resilient to wipeouts and being pushed deep under the water, which is quite unique for such a high tech watch. I had two of my worst wipeouts at Jaws and at Mavericks on the days of the year.

- Matt Bromley

Matt Bromley surfing in Hawaii
Matt Bromley putting Apple Watch to the test at Pe'ahi, Hawai'i. Photo by Marc Arellano. Shot while filming for Matt's new film "Over the Edge."

Surf-Specific Apple Watch Faces

Once you download the app, Dawn Patrol has custom watch faces that feature swell height, direction, period, tide, and water temperature. Thanks to Apple Watch’s on-board GPS, Dawn Patrol will automatically sync with your location to update the swell forecast for the closest break. If you’re on a mission in search of the perfect spot, Dawn Patrol will get you the info you need right on your wrist.

Dawn Patrol Apple Watch Face. Get the tide and swell height.

Track Your Session

As you would expect, Apple Watch and Dawn Patrol allow you to track your surf sessions. Before you get into the water to surf, all you have to do is load up the app on your Apple Watch and hit ‘Start Surfing.’ That’s it. Dawn Patrol does the rest. Throughout your session Dawn Patrol will track:

  • How many waves you've caught
  • How fast you were going on each wave
  • Distance you've paddled
  • Time spent riding waves
  • How long your session was

You can also peek at your watch in the middle of your session to see how you’re doing. This is a great feature if you want to set goals for yourself in the water.

Track your surf session with Dawn Patrol

Once you’ve finished surfing and end your session, the fun begins. Dawn Patrol syncs with your iPhone and you can see how many waves you caught, total wave distance, total wave time, and how long your session was. You can also see how fast and how far you surfed on each wave, as well as the route of the wave from a satellite view. If you’re into challenging yourself and beating personal records, Dawn Patrol keeps a record of your longest wave and fastest speed. You can use this information to set personal goals and try to beat them. Pro surfer Ridge Lenny uses this data to track his surf sessions.


Dawn Patrol became my go-to app and I was amped to see what kind of data I could get in big waves. My fastest speed so far was 40.6mph out at Nazare.

- Ridge Lenny

Apple Watch tracks your top speed while surfing.
Ridge Lenny clocking an easy 40.6 mph at Nazare, Portugal.

Measure Your Heart Rate and Calories Burned

Dawn Patrol integrates with Apple's Health and Activity apps to measure your heart rate and calories burned for each session. This is a convenient way of keeping all your data in one place and not having to jump from app to app in search for the statistics you need. Most other surf watches don’t track heart rate or calories.

Apple Watch Series 6 in the ocean
Surfing with an Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Is More Than Just a Watch

One of the biggest perks about Apple Watch is that it’s not just a watch. Apple Watch can act as a phone — not something any of its competitors can do. In this day and age, surfing is one of the only activities where you don’t bring an iPhone with you. In the case of emergencies, Apple Watch can be your communication. Apple's Emergency SOS system will automatically call local emergency services or your emergency contacts and share your location with them.

It can also be used in less intense situations, such as if you have family at home and need to stay in contact with them. You can even use Apple Watch to let friends know where you are at a certain break or whether or not it’s worth paddling out.

Keep in mind that for you to connect your Apple Watch to your cell service there is a monthly fee. For most cell-phone carriers, it’s $10.00 a month.

Interested in learning how Apple Watch stacks up against its competitors? Check out this article for a comparison of Apple Watch and Rip Curl GPS.

Best Apple Watch Bands for Surfing

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