7 wearables for water sports, from surfing to SUPing

Editor’s Note: In the month of May, we’re focusing on how wearable technology can help users better experience the Great Outdoors. Rapid innovation within the industry has yielded devices catered towards everyone from avid campers and rock climbers to kayakers and motorcycle riders. Whichever way you prefer to experience Mother Nature, whether by using your own two hands or by riding atop two wheels, there is some piece of technology to help you improve your performance or enhance the experience. 

Summer’s approach is nearing, and with the sultry season comes the customary set of beloved and/or feared (depending upon who you ask) outdoor activities: water sports.

An arena usually dominated by crowd favorite affixable camera, GoPro, wearables for water sports are quickly emerging to keep up with the pursuits of aficionados. From surfing to SUPing, wearables provide water fanatics unique ways to approach safety and activity, as well as receive real-time feedback for their favorite sports.

For perfect cadence

The Vaaka Paddle Cadence has revolutionized the way kayakers, canoers, and paddlers propel themselves since 2013.

These lightweight (55g) sensors attach to virtually any paddle and allow the user to receive “real time cadence feedback to structure your kayak training sessions and see your performance improve.” Each sensor is compatible with ANT+ GPS training devices like Garmin and provide immediate analysis of your own workout.

Not only do these sensors evaluate your efficiency, heart rate, and strokes, but the battery features power-saving capabilities that allow for daily use, requiring a once-yearly charge. Give Vaaka a go if you hope to “make your time on the water more productive.”

Wearables for the waves

Surfing is undoubtedly the summer sport that earns the most cool-points, but RipCurl and Nixon want these athletes to do more than look good on their boards. Both smartwatches are said to radically advance the way surfers train.

Proclaimed to be “the most advanced waveproof wearable yet” by Gizmodo in December 2014, RipCurl created the SearchGPS. Designed for serious, tech-loving surfers, the simple smartwatch is waterproof up to 330 feet, counts waves, tracks top speed and distance, shows local tides, and can tell you how long you’ve been out on the water. The watch includes an in-depth training tool to accompany the data gathered around your surfs, as well as a way to share with friends. Consider it your digital log-book.

But in the spring of 2015, Nixon released a new surfing smartwatch to rival RipCurl’s. Nixon’s partnership with Surfline brought about the Ultratide Watch, which not only tracks the basics of a surfer’s session, but provides up to 10 real-time data points and information for over 2,700 locations. Gizmag previously reported that these data points would “include things like wave height, swell height/direction, wind speed/direction, water/air temperatures, and tide readings for the next 48 hours.” Thanks to wireless Bluetooth connectivity, you can receive alerts when conditions are good at your favorite spots.

For the seasoned SUPer


It’s hard enough to stay firmly atop a paddle board, let alone try to maneuver and monitor performance. But for the more seasoned paddlers, SpeedCoach SUP and ConnexSUP make the go-to devices.

SpeedCoach, a Nielsen-Kellerman application, adapted its products into a SUP-specific equation that will calculate the amount of energy a paddler expends on the water.

ConnexSUP has partnered with SpeedCoach to create devices that are as durable on the board as they are easy to take off at the end of a training session. Because previous mounts and parts have been bulky and difficult to transport, the partnership has taken SUP monitors to a new level of convenience.

Advancements in rowing

For those that appreciate the art of team sports, rowers across the globe are making strides to get reliable measurement systems off of stationary indoor rowing machines and onto the outdoor training boats. Along with the aforementioned SpeedCoach by Nielsen-Kellerman, Australia’s CoxMate, Europe’s BioRow, and the American-made SmartOar have been making massive changes to both onboard rowing systems and the accumulation of data.

RowingRelated predicts that, “the rowing world will become increasingly interested in affordable onboard measurement and telemetry systems that can be integrated with indoor rowing machines, giving athletes and coaches a more complete view of training and development than ever before.”

Affordable and effective? Seems like the rowing world is doing something right.

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