Surfer Owen Wright sporting the new Rip Curl Search GPS watch
Rip Curl
By Tim Newcomb
September 08, 2014

Paddling in the Pacific Ocean’s surf, resting between wave sets, you may wonder which of the waves you just rode was the largest, sent you the farthest and got you going the fastest. Rip Curl has wondered the same thing and decided to turn all of that wondering into usable data with the fall 2014 release of the Rip Curl Search GPS watch.

View your wave data from your board by scrolling through the info on the watch or get plenty of graphic displays when you hit the shore and sync the watch with your smartphone.

“Surf and then watch the numbers accumulate,” Justin Bernier, Rip Curl’s watch product manager, tells Edge. “It is a first for us, a world’s first for surfing. The programming of the watch was designed to track your movements and analyze data.”

To get started, the watch—with a press and hold of the main button—can set the tide and time to the nearest tide location, no matter the location throughout the world. From your home beach to the tarmac of a new country, the watch will re-calibrate to provide the nearest tide info.

Surfer Owen Wright sporting the new Rip Curl Search GPS watch
Rip Curl

“Traditionally you would have to scroll through lists of all the beaches and select one,” Bernier says. “We went for the one-push auto set.” With 1,360 tide locations programmed in, more than double any other watch on the market, you can plan your surfing session based on real-time data."

But it is the surfing data you’re really after. Using accelerometers and GPS technology, the watch’s programming assumes you’ve hit a wave once you’ve hit a certain speed. When you slow down it stops recording the data. All along your “session,” which you start by manually pressing a button on the watch, the Rip Curl Search GPS tracks the number of waves, max speed on a wave, distance covered, total distance drifted, time spent paddling and time spent surfing. Built specifically for the world of surfing, all movements on the water get translated to surfing movements, whether riding waves or paddling.

“I sit out in the water and toggle through (the data) while I’m waiting for waves,” Bernier says. “As I paddle into a wave and kick out, the zero waves ridden turns into one.”

After a session, wave data scrolls across the watch’s screen. Using Bluetooth, the watch syncs to a Rip Curl app on iPhones to grab the data and give visualizations in graphic detail, all stored in an online logbook.

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Using Google Earth maps, the app—or a desktop app for the non-iPhone users—offers an aerial view of each surf session, allowing surfers to view all movement with each wave ridden shown in blue and the fastest in red. Map views, satellite views and more show a surfer’s entire session, both successes and failures.

“It shows wave by wave on a graph,” Bernier says. “That is the most fun aspect, playing with the views and viewing the waves.”

The watch itself saves 20 hours of actual surf time, has serious water resistance that makes it usable for snorkeling and normal scuba depths, an acrylic crystal display, 10 hours of GPS use before needing a charge via USB and six months of normal watch wearing before a charge

For the serious surfers, the app allows them to study positions, where they were in a lineup, what the surf conditions were like at the time and more. Rip Curl ties the data into its larger surfing community, allowing users to create profiles and build a “clubhouse” to follow other surfers—including pros, such as Alana Blanchard and Owen Wright.

“We get competitive,” Bernier says. “Who caught the fastest wave, who had the most surfs. It makes you want to go surfing, beef up the logbook and have bragger’s rights on the fastest wave. It is a fun new twist on the sport.”

A twist that tracks your bragging and gives you something to do while paddling the Pacific.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.