Stab Magazine | Smartfin: Surf Fins Fighting Climate Change

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Smartfin: Surf Fins Fighting Climate Change

Who ever thought that fins were the future of environmental research?

news // Feb 26, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Smartfin first launched in May last year in San Diego, now the GPS and sensor-filled-fin is hitting Australian shores. 

“The coastal range is very hard to monitor because there’s a lot of currents, movement, and it’s really hard to follow the entire coast” – Dr. Joannes-Boyau told the ABC.

However, there is an entity which constantly lurks close to shore, amongst the turbulent wave-ridden waters – surfers. 

When we surf, we typically surf the same region, perhaps alternating between a few different beaches depending on winds and swell. This provided scientists with the perfect opportunity to solve their ocean monitoring woes, whilst also stoking out a few surfers with some free fins. 

The Smartfins measure water temperatures, acidity, flow of currents, wave speeds, all while monitoring the surfers current location.  

So how does it work?

The concept behind Smartfins. 

“A bluetooth module, GPS module, IMU which records movement, CPU – the brains of the fin, memory card, temperature sensor and battery,” said Jon Richard, Director of Manufacturing, discussing the electronics which are packed into the hand crafted fins. 

Other than encasing a bunch of electronics inside, which won’t hamper your surfing potential, they’re no different to a standard set of fins. 

The data which is collected is accessible via a smart phone app post-surf, where the data can be distributed online and accessed by scientists around the globe; furthermore, Smartfins is a not-for-profit organisation, meaning the data is free to access and the surfers pay next to nothing to own a fresh set of rudders.

A truly symbiotic relationship!

Smartfin was released last year in 2017 for use in conjunction with the Surfrider Foundation in California, where 50 surfers in the area used the product

Last weekend was the annual Byron Bay Surf Festival and what better platform to release an environmentally conscious product than to a bunch of earth-aware, northern NSW surfers.

The current study is being run alongside Souther Cross University, where they’re hoping to create a network of surf-zone temperatures. 

At this stage Smartfins are not freely available to the public as they’re still in a prototype phase.

You can however donate to their cause (it costs around $200 a pop to make each fin), or get in contact if you feel as if there’s a large enough contingent of surfers in your area who might be interested in plugging their boards with a scientific set-up. 


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