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?

We're always getting questions like “Can I bring my Apple Watch to the beach?” or “Can I surf big waves 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.

Additionally, Apple claims their Apple Watch Series 7 is the most durable Apple Watch ever built. The front crystal is twice as thick as previous models, adding additional strength to the face.

Apple Watch Ultra

If you still have doubts that Apple Watch can hold up in heavy surf, Apple Watch Ultra should cease those doubts. Apple released their beefed up Apple Watch Ultra in September 2022. It was designed to be dragged through the mud and held deep underwater, to survive in extreme hot and cold climates, and to withstand pounding surf. Apple Watch Ultra is built with a titanium case, dual-frequency GPS, and can last up to 36 hours with one charge. While normal Apple Watches are able to hold their own in nearly all surf conditions, Apple Watch Ultra takes it to the next level for those hardcore days.

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 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 display 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 in search of the perfect spot, Dawn Patrol will get you the info you need right on your wrist.

Track Your Session

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 open the app on your Apple Watch and hit ‘Start Surfing.’ From there, Dawn Patrol handles 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.

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

Ridge Lenny clocking an easy 40.6 mph at the main break in 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.

Surfing with an Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Is More Than Just a Watch

One of the biggest perks of Apple Watch is that it’s not just a watch. Apple Watch can act as a phone, something many of its competitors cannot do.

In this day and age, surfing is one of the only activities where you can't bring an iPhone with you. In case of emergencies, Apple Watch can be your life line. Apple's Emergency SOS system will automatically call local emergency services or your emergency contacts and share your location with them. In fact, Surfer's Hype voted Apple Watch the best surf watch in terms of technology.

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.