An everyday surfer chick’s review of the RipCurl Search GPS watch

An everyday surfer chick’s review of the RipCurl Search GPS watch

To start off, I’d like to say I have had the idea for this product for years now. As a surfer, I always wanted the type of watch/mobile app that the runners and bikers have that showcases their commitment to their sport and passion. I really should just find some geeky tech nerds to bring all my ideas to life.

However, Rip Curl is the first company to bring such an innovation to the surfing industry which I believe will change surfing – for better and otherwise! I purchased the watch the first week it came out and have used it for about 8 sessions now, so I think I have a variety of wave sessions of use that I incorporated in my review!!

RipCurl Search GPS watch
Motivating you to surf harder and smarter – RipCurl’s Search GPS watch delivers!


I’ve done an in depth review and a few how-to’s for this product, so I’ll break it out for you beforehand so you can read what interests you about the product.

  • Overall RipCurl Search GPS/App review: Pros and cons of the concept of the watch/app
  • RipCurl Search GPS Watch/App: Product usage details and accuracy
  • Search GPS Watch: How To – Set Up & Synching to the app
  • Search GPS App: Suggested enhancements
  • Final verdict: Should you invest and purchase it?

Overall RipCurl Search GPS/App Review: Pros and Cons of the Watch/App concept
I think the Search GPS watch is amazing. It’s like an automatic surf diary that logs all of your surf session details. I think it will change surfing for the better because it will serve as a motivational training tool, will make surfing more social, and will give access to friendly competitive surfing to the everyday surfer!

Pro: It’s a motivational, learning, and training tool

When I’m wearing the watch out there in the lineup, I’m motivated to surf longer to get more waves in and it gives me the extra momentum to get past the white section so I can keep on surfing a wave and ride it longer and faster. Knowing I’ll see my results afterwards gives me fuel to push myself harder. I’m not a big competitive surfer, however I do like to compete with myself and that is the beauty of the watch, each surf session I’m trying to better my last surf session and make new surfing records for myself. I think it can also help you learn more about the various surf breaks and which ones work best for speed/length and with what board. You can add the surfboard that you surfed on to each surf session and look back on past surfs to see where you were able to get the longest rides at certain tides or certain breaks, and with what board. It provides you with the historical information customized to you in order to help you make better surfing decisions in the future, pending your goals for each surf session.

Pro: It makes surfing more social

You can follow professional surfers on the app and see how fast they can surf and how many waves they catch in a typical session. Seeing pro surfers logged surf sessions is cool, but what’s even more intriguing to me is the ability to follow all the regular jane and joe surfers as well! You can connect and follow surfers that surf your home break on the app (even if you don’t own the watch yet) and other surf breaks that you frequent and as you see their activity over time, you can get a feel if they’d be a good surfing buddy. Each day you check your surf logging screen, it shows you who has surfed where and how long ago. Therefore if you’re a weekend warrior that loves surfing in the summer afternoons at more forgiving breaks such as Tourmaline in San Diego, you might see someone you follow has the same habits and boom – become surfing buddies and recognize them in the lineup and say hi!

It’s funny because even if you go out surfing with friends, when you hit the water conversations generally stop, as everyone is focused on the waves that are coming. If a great wave is coming, there are no holds barred if you immediately stop talking to someone and go chase that wave. This watch won’t change that, but I do think it will make surfing more social before and after the surf session and help you recognize familiar faces in the lineup!

People always typically ask me where I surf the most and I mention my home break and a few other general places, but after a while of using this watch I’ll be able to tell what breaks I really truly do surf the most beyond my home break of Tourmaline! The watch/app will also motivate me to try to mix it up more often as well and try out more breaks that I haven’t yet surfed here in San Diego – as we have so many great surf breaks here in SD!

The app provides a way for us surfers to express socially our love and commitment to the sport and perhaps might get others to be more curious about surfing and give it a try as well – if they keep seeing others surfing posts in their social media feeds.

Pro: Access to informal and fun surfing competitions for the everyday surfer

I think there could also be a whole new way of competing based on some of the measurements that the watch can make. I don’t think it will become a main factor into professional surfing, as there is much more to professional surfing regarding the actual wave selection, performance, and wave riding style.

There have been special prizes within the pro surf competition for who has surfed the fastest, etc., however where I really see this evolving surfing as an industry is the creation of a wider realm of amateur surfing events. I’ve never been one to aspire to a marathon, but if there could be the surfing equivalent of a surf marathon, I think that could be a great way to get the masses of people together to achieve the same goal, surfing/paddling for 26.5 miles and have some fun mini-prizes within the event, such as who rode the fastest/longest wave and who completed the surfing/paddling marathon the fastest!

I participated in the 100 Wave Challenge before as my version of a surf marathon and a way to help out a good cause for the Boys to Men organization. Perhaps their 100 Wave Challenge can be revised somewhat to be a true “Surfing Marathon” challenge! However it might take some people like me about 12 hours to complete that challenge that way. However maybe a surf marathon could have a different length measure, maybe paddling/riding waves for 13 miles, or just incorporate it into somewhat of a triathlon!

Cons: Bringing technology into the water and price

Surfing has always been the one place I go where I can just get away from it all – as it states in my Surf with Amigas song! I’ve never even worn a music device or watch out when I’m surfing. It’s just me, my surfboard, and the ocean/land outside of me. Time is literally not a concern as I have no idea what time it is. However, if you train yourself, you can just set it and forget about the Search GPS watch even being on and just use it to fulfill your nerdy desire for surf info after your surf session. However, if you’re like me, your curiosity gets the best of you and you keep looking at the watch. Therefore I’m sure 5% of the time, I’ll be like, I just want to be one with nature today and forget technology and go surf without it. However I’m sure on that surf session I’ll catch the longest and fastest wave of my life, but sometimes it’s not about what you know, but how surfing makes you feel – so you don’t need to prove it to anyone and most of all not yourself. If you catch a wave and it brings a big smile to your face with a big woo hoo, that’s all you need!!

Also, the price is a bit steep (for most people who aren’t nerdy info obsessed or committed and passionate surfers). However, it is the first product of its kind, so us early adopters are paying for all the technology and R&D that went into this product since we want to try it out first! I just hope it doesn’t become like the GoPro or iPhone, always coming out with a new and improved model each year to keep people spending money on it, as I won’t be an early adopter on any future versions, as this one is all I need!

RipCurl Search GPS Watch/App: Product Usage Details and Accuracy
Rip Curl’s Search GPS watch/app records A LOT of surf session information, most of it is automatically recorded to your watch and synched via satellite information, and some that is pulled from other wave info sources, as well as other information you can add manually. You can see right away from your watch the date, time, number of waves, & total distance paddled. Once your surf session is done, the watch also summarizes the previous items as well as provides you with your top speed, total distance (paddling and surfing), total time spent surfing, and latitude/longitude of your surf. However, you can get even more information once you synch your surf to the app (and in cool, visually graphic formats), which I’ve listed below.

Automatically recorded info

Search GPS Home Page Screen Shot
This is the first screen you see when you open up your surf session that has been synched!













Search GPS app - paddling view
All the white marks shows where I’ve paddled out and around and unsuccessful attempts at catching waves – ha!














How many waves you’ve surfed
The watch is about 85% accurate in recording the number of waves you catch. The first time I took it out to San O State it was 100% accurate as I was catching all the waves on my longboard from way outside. However I’ve noticed it doesn’t count every wave you’ve ridden if it’s a shorter ride on a short board or if you are in the white wash surfing (as the only reason I was surfing whitewash was because I was surfing with my dad and trying to give him some tips in the whitewash as he was trying to learn how to surf). But hey, nothing is really 100% accurate, so I think it’s much better than the wave watches you have to manually push a button each time you catch a wave.

The speed of each wave you’ve ridden
The first time I used the Search GPS watch I got a little too excited thinking I was surfing at the speed of Mick Fanning. However I realized the watch was recording speed in kilometers per hour vs. when I synched the watch into to the app, the speeds are in miles per hour – as I had my app set to Imperial units vs. the watch that is set at default to record Metric units. Therefore I would suggest that you make sure your app and watch are set to the same measurements to avoid any confusion.

I heard the speed is pretty accurate, as it was tested it on a jet ski and compared to the jet ski’s odometer and it was pretty accurate (based on a review of the product I read before the watch came out).

The length of the waves you’ve caught

How far you’ve paddled
If you forget to end your surf session before you get to shore or start your surf session while you are still on shore, it will count your walking to the ocean as paddling time/sessions, so if you want this to be as accurate as possible, start your surf session as soon as you begin paddling and try to remember to end your surf session before you head back to shore.

If you see a bunch of paddling around the same spot, it’s probably where you’ve tried to catch a lot of waves but did not succeed. That’s kind of interesting to see post-surf session.

Your total surf time
The total distanced you have both surfed and paddled

Auto recorded info – that you can adjust and edit & Manually input info

RipCurl Search GPS Magic Seaweed info
Rate your surf, session, add any notes, and adjust the wind speed/wave height/tide if needed. This info is provided by Magic Seaweed.














The location where you’ve surfed
It’s about 90% accurate with location, however it could get a bit more detailed. My home break is Tourmaline, which is nearby Wind and Sea but there is a clear break between the two surf spots. The watch always logs me at Wind and Sea when I surf Tourmaline, so hopefully their database will get more detailed with  the surfing spots it assigns. You can change it manually, but it would be nice if it was a bit more accurate.

If you don’t want it to reveal any secret spot, you set it to either hide a specific surf session or location.

The time and date of your surf session
I’ve always said between 11 and 4 and Saturday and Sunday, you can find me at the shore, surfing waves on sunny days! This will be interesting to check in the future to see when I actually do go out surfing most!

Swell – height, period between waves, direction
Wind – strength and direction
Tide – low/high and incoming/outgoing
I usually change this info quite a bit as there have been a few times I’ve been out in low tide/outgoing and it’s said it was a high tide and incoming.

Your rating for the surf session

Any notes you want to document for the surf session
Up to a certain number of characters length – to add any commentary to your surf session

Board you surfed
You can add all of your boards and keep track of when you’ve surfed each of them


On each users’ profile, it also summarizes the best stats for all their surf sessions. It will show your total surfs, your longest wave ridden, top speed, total number of waves, total distance (paddled & surfed), total water time, and total days surfed. This can also be filtered by the last 28 days, year to date, or all time! You can also show different elements of yourself (gender, age, height, weight) and the boards that you surf.

RipCurl Search GPS Watch setup
The setup of the watch is very simple. There are only 3 buttons on the watch and the directions that come with it are very basic and easy to follow. I think RipCurl did this on purpose, however the directions in the product manual could have a few more detailed tips. There is a help button within the app that leads you to more detailed trouble solving tips, however I still had to figure out a thing or two myself by trial and error. I had a bit of trouble getting the RipCurl watch to synch with the Search GPS app at first, however I realized you needed to do things in a certain order for the two to connect together (more on the setup below).

It sometimes takes a bit of time for the watch and app to synch up together, on the example I show below, it took about 2 minutes to complete the process – on a surf session that wasn’t very long or had many waves. However it is automatic and you can do other things while it’s synching, I just get a little impatient sometimes!  The battery life is really great as well, up to 10 hours of surf time and without clocking any surf time they say it can last up to 6 months, not that you wouldn’t be utilizing it for surf activity!

RipCurl Search GPS Watch – How To Synch it to the App
Since the instruction manual and online help/FAQ section didn’t speak to the step by step detail on how to synch the watch to the app, I’ve included a quick video below that shows the step by step process. The problem I had was that I set my watch to synch my surf and hit the watch section on the app, but thought it would automatically start synching from that point, when it doesn’t. Once you set the watch to synch, you have to hit the watch button on the app and then also hit the “synch to watch” button when it pops up and then, BAM, everything should start synching. Oh, by the way, the music playing to the synch demo is Iration’s Undertow, if you like to surf, you’ll love them and their music!

There was a problem with one of my surfs synching and the error always pops up when I start synching new sessions, however I just ignore the error as all of my sessions have been synching fine. Sometimes if you are not in a good reception area and you’re phone isn’t accessible to the internet (if you’re at more of a remote surf spot) you have to wait and synch your watch when you get in an area where your cell phone has internet access.  The app is only available on later versions of the iPhone for now though, however if you don’t have an iPhone you can upload your surf session to your computer.

RipCurl Search GPS App – Suggested Enhancements

Social Media Sharing
Right now you can only share directly to Facebook. Adding a Twitter and Instagram share would provide a much broader way for us to share our surf sessions and also get RipCurl more visibility for its Search GPS app and watch.  Being able to log into the app via Twitter as well would be really useful.  The Twitter environment is a more open platform than Facebook, and would be ideal if you want to use a more anonymous identity for showing your surf sessions – as Twitter is a bit more of a free for all environment with various user names.

Searching for Surfers within the App
It would be cool to be able to search by home break or by surf spot, so you can get to know more people within your direct surfing community. Right now I’ve found people to follow through looking at the pro surfers and who is following them and then seeing if they’ve either used the app a lot or have surfed a lot at nearby breaks to me. It would also be fun to search for people by the type of board they surf or even by day of week/time. It sounds a bit creepy, it’s not like I’d be surfing/stalking them or anything, but it would be interesting to be able to search for other surfers that not only like to surf in my city but also around the same times I surf – sorry but I’m just not a morning person, and a lot of surfing groups I’ve joined always have surfing events in the early a.m. hours – I’m trying to find some surfing buddies that like to surf in the sunny afternoon weekend times!

It would also be a cool way to invite random but nearby surfers to any surf club you want to create within the app! My ideal scenario would be for me to create a sunny afternoon weekend longboarders San Diego surf club and invite those I find around San Diego who I think would be interested into my group. It would also be an interesting thing for a surfboard brand to be able to create a surf club for all members of a community who own a certain brand of board. This goes beyond user searching within the app, but I wonder if RipCurl has access to the richness of information that is within this app. I bet they could then be able to pinpoint the exact type of surfer they want to target on Facebook (using their Facebook user ID tied to their app activity) and get a huge ROI on that ad campaign. However ignore that comment, that’s just my nerdy marketer side of me thinking out loud here!

Commenting on other surfers sessions
This could definitely increase the “social” aspect of this app as you could ask questions about a break if you see someone surfing there a lot and you’re thinking of traveling there soon. It could also be a great way to invite others to any surf clubs you want to create in your community!

Even more (to their already detailed) surf session reporting customization
This is just my nerdy information loving persona talking, but it would be cool to see if I could run a report on all of my surf sessions and cross-reference when I’ve surfed the most (what times/days) and where I’ve caught the fastest and longest rides and on what boards. You can look through historical data to find this and the app shows you your top stats in your overall profile summary, however being able to filter certain items of your surfing together would be a very interesting feature!

Search GPS profile screen - top section
Follow me! Top of your user profile screen!












Search GPS profile summary screen
A summary of my latest 28 days of surfing – I’ve caught a 200 yarder, but that was more than 28 days ago!














Search GPS detailed wave report
A play by play stat listing of each wave of your session – my first surf sesh with the watch was my best to date!














Each GPS - surfboard listing section
The app contains a section for you to keep track of each of your surfboards and match them to each session as used!













Final Verdict: Should you invest and purchase RipCurl’s Search GPS watch?
If you’re brand new to surfing and are just trying out the sport and haven’t caught the stoke yet, this product is probably not the best fit for you right now. I would still recommend downloading the app and looking at other people’s surf sessions until you get more serious about surfing.  Once you’ve caught the stoke of surfing and are committed to it (meaning if you go a week or two without surfing you begin craving the waves) and want to be motivated to elevate your surfing or are just a plain nerd and love to see this data, I highly recommend it! It’s an automatic surf diary and I think is one of the greatest advancements in technologies in the surfing industry, similar to the GoPro, Soloshot, and the wave pools of the future!! So if you’re curious about your surfing, go out and pick up a RipCurl Search GPS Watch HERE right now!!!

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