Best Surf Watch Reviews

Updated November 29, 2020

A surf watch is another name given to a type of timepiece called a tide watch. These are watches which, as well as timekeeping, also indicate high and low tides.

As the name suggests, surfing watches are an ideal choice of watch for surfers but they can also be useful for people who enjoy activities such as fishing or sailing. For surfers, a tide watch can keep you informed on the tides at your local beach, so you hit the water at the optimum time to catch the best waves.

If you’re shopping for the best tide watches for surfers there are a number of extra features you may want to look out for, such as a countdown timer. The functions and options can be confusing, so we’ve picked a selection and also given you some tricks and tips to help you choose the best tide watch.

Top Tide Watches For Surfing

#PREVIEWProduct
1 Timex - Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Timex Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Surf Watch
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2 Garmin - vívoactive HR GPS Smart Watch Garmin vívoactive HR GPS Surf Watch
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3
Best For Low Budgets
3Rip Curl Digital Tide Surf Watch
Rip Curl - Men's Rifles Digital Tide Surf Watch
Best For Low Budgets
Rip Curl Digital Tide Surf Watch
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4 Apple - Watch Series 5
Best Overall
Apple Watch Series 5 Surf Watch
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5
Best For Higher Budgets
5Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch
Garmin - Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch
Best For Higher Budgets
Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch
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6 Casio - G-shock G-lide Watch GLX-5600-1J Casio G-shock G-lide Surf Watch
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1. Timex Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Surf Watch

Highlights
  • Distinctive 4th hand functionality with a tide tracker that counts down to the next high or low tide.
  • The temperature sensor provides readings in Celsius or Fahrenheit 
  • The electronic compass has an adjustable angle for increased accuracy regardless of your location.
  • Sporty look with a black watch face and red and white markings.

This black analog watch has white and red markings on the face. It features a stainless steel case, mineral glass crystal and adjustable black silicone strap. 

The features are ideal for a regular watch as well as for the outdoor adventurer. There are the standard hour, minute and second hands and a date window at 6 o’clock. Then, the distinctive 4th hand functionality with a tide tracker counts down to the next high or low tide. 

High tide is indicated at 12 o’clock and low tide at 6 o’clock. Once you set the tide to the current location, the indicators will count down the number of hours to high tide or low tide. 

There is also a temperature reading that can measure air or water temperature, in Celsius or Fahrenheit. Finally, the compass directional ring helps with navigation. Timex knows how to make watches, and this one has the standard Indiglo backlight that’s a big part of the Timex reputation.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
1.77 inches in Diameter X .51 of an inch Thick
Battery Life:
Comes With The Necessary Battery

Pros

  • Water-resistant to 330 feet (100 meters), making it suitable for swimming or snorkeling, but not diving.
  • Adjustable silicone band ideal for outdoor conditions.
  • Features the Timex Indiglo light-up watch dial and luminous hands.
  • Thermometer measures air and water temperature.

Cons

  • Very busy watch face.
  • You should remove the watch from your wrist to get a more accurate temperature reading.

2. Garmin vívoactive HR GPS Surf Watch

Highlights
  • Compatible with Garmin SurfTracker App
  • Long battery life of up to 8 days in watch/activity tracking mode
  • Can be paired with compatible smartphone to display notifications 
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring

This Garmin vivoactive model isn’t a surf watch straight out of the box, but access to Garmin’s apps – their SurfTracker app in particular – means it can quickly be used as one.

This smartwatch with GPS technology caters to a wide range of activities so if you have an active lifestyle you’ll find many uses for it.

Whether you’re a hiker, runner, golfer or cyclist, the relevant data for that activity can be tracked. The 24/7 heart rate monitoring also allows you to keep an eye on the effort you’re exerting.

The colour touchscreen is easy to read even in sunlight and if you pair the watch to a compatible smartphone you’ll be able to see notifications on your wrist.

The battery life is good for a watch with this many features, lasting up to 8 days between charges.

Specifications

Material:
Polymer
Case Diameter:
30.2 x 57.0 x 13.5 mm
Watch Strap:
Silicone
Battery Life:
Up to 8 days (rechargeable)

Pros

  • Sunlight-readable, high-resolution colour touchscreen
  • GPS-enabled activity tracking for multiple activities (running, swimming, skiing etc.)
  • Can be customised with apps and designs from Garmin’s store
  • Water rating of 5ATM (equivalent to water resistance of 50m)

Cons

  • Tracking data is not always completely accurate
  • Some users report difficulties syncing to other devices

3. Rip Curl Digital Tide Surf Watch

Highlights
  • 500 pre-programmed tide locations in graph or detailed display
  • Alarm, stopwatch and timer
  • Available in a variety of colourways
  • 12-hour or 24-hour time display
Best For Low Budgets
Rip Curl - Men's Rifles Digital Tide Surf Watch

Rip Curl is a brand which is synonymous with surf wear so it’s probably no surprise that they produce a surf watch.

This sleek design has a square face with a plastic bezel set on a polyurethane band. There’s an impressive 500 pre-programmed tide locations which can be viewed in either graph or detailed display.

The graph view is an easy at a glance display, whilst the detailed view gives you information on the current tide height and direction, with the time and height of the next tide.

Handy extra features include an alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer and a light to illuminate the display.

This watch states that it’s waterproof to 100m and water resistant to 330ft, but we did note that some wearers report water damage.

Specifications

Material:
Plastic
Size:
Case thickness: 14 mm
Movement:
Quartz
Case Diameter:
41 mm
Watch Strap:
27 mm, Polyurethane

Pros

  • Suits a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing and climbing
  • Water resistant to 330ft
  • Lightweight
  • Durable polyurethane band

Cons

  • Some wearers report issues with water damage
  • Illumination is not very strong

4. Apple Watch Series 5 Surf Watch

Highlights
  • Access to the app store means you can download surf apps
  • GPS technology
  • Electrical and optical heart sensor 
  • Activity tracker measures movement and exercise
Best Overall
Apple - Watch Series 5

Apple may not be the brand that springs to mind when you think of a surf watch, however the Apple Watch 5 was their first which could be used for swimming, opening up new uses.

Although the watch isn’t designed as a surf watch, the fact that it has access to the huge variety of apps in the App Store means you can easily tailor it to your surfing needs.

The design of this watch offers everything you’d expect from Apple – a sleek face with always-on retina display set on a comfortable band.

This is far more than a timepiece, with the capability to monitor your heart rate, track your movement and exercise, listen to music, call, text and even make payments.

The battery life is up to 18 hours so you will need to charge it daily, but as an all-round performer, this watch is hard to beat.

Specifications

Material:
Aluminium, Strengthened Glass, Composite Back
Case Diameter:
40 mm x 44 mm x 10.7 mm
Watch Strap:
24 mm, Fluroelastomer
Battery Life:
Up to 18 hours (rechargeable)

Pros

  • Ability to call, text, listen to music and even make payments
  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in rechargeable battery

Cons

  • Battery life of up to 18 hours means it needs a daily recharge
  • You’ll need to pair with other Apple products

5. Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch

Highlights
  • Can record number of waves surfed, speed reached and distance travelled 
  • Displays message notifications (if paired with compatible smartphone) 
  • Power manager allows you to make changes to extend battery life
  • Shows estimated heart rate data
Best For Higher Budgets
Garmin - Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch

This highly-rated watch from Garmin has an impressive range of features.

It can not only give you information on ocean conditions at a quick glance, it can also record the number of waves surfed, maximum speed reached and the distance travelled, when you do hit the water.

The sporty design is rugged and made to last, built to the US military standard for thermal, shock and water resistance to 100metres.

We liked the solar chargeable battery which can help extend battery life (you can also charge using the supplied cable).

There’s even a handy power management feature that lets you see how different settings impact the battery life and make changes to extend it.

When you’re not in the water, there are activity profiles for a whole variety of sports and the heart rate data lets you track how hard your heart is working.

Specifications

Material:
Fibre-reinforced Polymer
Case Diameter:
45 mm x 45 mm x 15.3 mm
Watch Strap:
22 mm, Silicone
Battery Life:
Up to 24 days, or 54 days with solar

Pros

  • Battery can be solar charged
  • Constructed to US military standard
  • Preloaded activity profiles for a variety of sports
  • Built-in compass and barometric altimeter

Cons

  • Some users query the accuracy of data such as elevation gain
  • Needs recharging relatively frequently (charging cable supplied)

6. Casio G-shock G-lide Surf Watch

Highlights
  • Tide graph and moon phase data tracking
  • Countdown timer (24 hour range)
  • Stylish and distinctive G-Shock design
  • World time feature

This is a well-priced option if you like the rugged style of Casio’s G-Shock range, but want the addition of tide functions.

As you’d expect at this price point there’s no GPS, so you’ll need to set the tide settings yourself – it can be a little tricky but it’s easy to find instructions online.

We liked the auto-light feature which illuminates the watch face automatically when you tilt your wrist towards you. There’s also a button you can use to light the face.

There are other features you might expect such as a countdown timer, world time options and auto-calendar.

This watch is water resistant to 200m, and the robust design will stand up to knocks from your board and day to day life.

Specifications

Material:
Resin
Size:
46.7 x 43.2 x 12.7 mm
Movement:
Quartz
Case Diameter:
46.7 mm x 43.2 mm
Battery Life:
Approx. 7 years

Pros

  • Auto-light illuminates watch face automatically when your wrist tilts towards you
  • Water resistant to 200m
  • Well-priced
  • Auto-calendar

Cons

  • Can be tricky to set up the tide graph
  • May show up some scuffs and knocks over time

Tide Watch Buying Guide

Watch Type

The best type of tide watch for you depends on the performance you expect and functions you’d like it to include. 

Simpler timepieces will answer your basic requirements, providing tide data and the time, but others can pack in a range of extra features. 

These can include stopwatches, countdown timers and heart rate data.

Many surfer watches can also be used for other outdoor pursuits, able to track distance, elevation gain and other information that lets you measure physical activities ranging from hiking to running or cycling. For hiking activities, you are going to need watches with specific features like altimeter and GPS. We have covered a bunch of hiking watches in our guide, so make sure you check that one out.

The most comprehensive option is a surf smart watch, which can be linked to a compatible smartphone to display messages on your wrist. 

Materials

As surf watches need to be able to cope with getting wet, they tend to feature durable and hard-wearing materials. 

Leather, for example, works well for dress watches but it deteriorates with frequent exposure to water, especially the salt water of the ocean. 

Two of the most common options for surf watches are stainless steel and silicone. 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an attractive as well as a robust material. 

It doesn’t corrode which means it can survive frequent exposure to water, and it is hard enough to deal with the inevitable knocks and bumps of frequent wear. 

Another benefit of stainless steel is that it very rarely causes any skin irritation or reaction. 

Silicone Band

Silicone is a pliable material and so moulds well to your wrist for a comfortable fit. Silicone straps are available in a wide variety of colours, and the material is generally durable. 

However, it’s not breathable so you may find that perspiration gathers under the strap when you get hot, and this can speed up the deterioration of the strap.

Features

As we’ve mentioned, surf watches can significantly vary in their complexity. 

We’ve focused here on some of the most common features people can look out for in a surf watch; those you’re likely to depend on during day to day use.

Water Resistance

If you’re interested in a tide watch because you’re a surfer who wants to know when to head out on your board, then making sure your chosen watch can survive in the water will be one of your main considerations.

There are two terms used to indicate how water may affect a watch, and it’s important to know that they mean different things. 

Water resistance is measured in metres – for example you might see a description state that a watch is water resistant to 100m. 

This doesn’t mean that you can take the watch underwater to a depth 100m – it means that in tests, the equivalent amount of water pressure could be put onto the watch before it let in water. 

It would be fine for swimming, but not for diving, for example. 

A waterproof surf watch on the other hand shouldn’t let in water at all, however you use it – it should be constructed in a way that’s impenetrable to water. 

It’s an ambitious claim to make, so you’re more likely to see ‘water resistant’ than ‘waterproof’ surf watches, especially at the more affordable end of the market. 

Bear in mind that the seals that keep water out of a watch can wear over time, and replacing the battery is one of the most common ways to damage a seal. 

If you want your watch longer than the battery does, it’s worth getting a professional to replace the battery rather than doing so yourself. 

Countdown Timer  

A countdown timer is another popular feature on a surf watch, because whether you compete in surf competitions or just like to compare yourself to the professionals to see how you perform, a timer can be used to mimic heat times. 

Battery Life

All of the features that are built into surf watches can zap your battery’s energy, shortening the battery life. 

That’s why some surf watches have batteries that can recharge on solar power, or be recharged from the mains. 

You don’t want your watch to drop out whilst you’re in the middle of a surf session, so look out for watches that offer these features or, even better, allow you to see the remaining charge and manage the battery to last longer.

Digital Display

Because they need to present so much information, surf watches usually have a digital display. 

When you’re sat still it’s easy enough to read the data on your wrist but that becomes harder once you’re on the ocean. 

Look out for watches with a really clear and sharp display and good contrast. A light that can illuminate the display in low visibility is another handy feature.  

GPS Tracking

GPS technology has allowed tide watches to provide comprehensive real time information, wherever you are in the world. 

It can pinpoint your location more precisely and give you more insight than simple tide times alone – informing you about wave height, wind speed and other factors that may affect your time on the water.

Tide Functions

Tide functions can be a term used to refer to the tide information presented on your watch. 

Simple tide functions would cover the basic information on tide times, often for a range of locations which are pre-programmed into the watch. 

More complex tide functions might allow you to track your session, recording the number of waves surfed, speed and distance travelled. 

Watches with GPS technology typically present the widest range of data, based on real-time information. 

Pricing Range

If you’re content with a surf watch at the more basic end of the available range, it’s definitely possible to get a decent all-rounder for something around the $100 mark, or possibly less. 

For this you can expect basic wave functions and some features such as countdown timer or stopwatch. 

If you have more to spend, then you’re going to benefit from a heap of extra features, probably the most significant one being GPS technology when you start to look at watches around or above $250. 

If you have an active lifestyle then you might consider it well worth spending $400+ for a surf watch which you can also use to track activities such as cycling and running. If you are interested in more cycling specific watches, make sure you read our cycling watch reviews.

Our Verdict

We found some great options for surf watches so it’s tough to name our favourite. For those on a budget, we’d strongly recommend the Rip Curl Digital Tide Surf Watch.

As you’d expect from a company synonymous with surfing, they’ve clearly paid attention to the features that a surfer is really going to prioritise.

If you’re feeling a little more flash with your cash, the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch gets our vote.

Not only does it give surfers extras that will help improve your performance – such as tracking the number of waves surfed, distance travelled and speed – it’s also going to earn its keep every day with a robust design that’s built to US military standards.

We also like the ability to manage the battery.

Our best overall choice may surprise you, as it’s the Apple Watch Series 5.

This is simply because it has such a range of features and uses that once you’ve loaded a surf app, it’s a great surf watch and much more besides.

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