Meet the Rip Curl Search GPS Watch
Story by Lucas Townsend Like all things sport, we hanker for metrics. How far did we run, what length did we swim, how long did it take, how heavy was the weight? A numeric value that quantifies our time and effort, to make one session comparable to the next, and to make you feel stronger […]
Story by Lucas Townsend
Like all things sport, we hanker for metrics. How far did we run, what length did we swim, how long did it take, how heavy was the weight? A numeric value that quantifies our time and effort, to make one session comparable to the next, and to make you feel stronger and better than me. Well, for the first time other than being scored in a heat, your surf is now measurable.
This week, I went to Torquay as a guest of Rip Curl to use their new Search GPS watch. It is my obligation to tell you that. I did not go and buy this watch (it won’t be available in store until November when it’ll cost 500 clams)… In fact I’ve never bought a watch. I’ve only ever owned two. The first, back before I could buy beer. The second was from an ex-girlfriend. She bought it because I was always surfing and thus late to wherever it was she wanted me to be. I lost that watch, very fast.
But this is forward thinking. Think: Tide watch meets Nike running wristband. The Search GPS uses satellite positioning to track your movements in the ocean, measure wave count, top speeds, ride lengths and session time. Just as the Facebook ‘like’ counter commodified social media, this is the first metric that’s ever been self-attainable for surfers. It’s your surf… in numbers.
In the carpark, I put the watch on the outside of my wetsuit which felt very uncool, but necessary to track my surf as it happens in the water. Yes, live stats! Surprisingly my watch was then calibrated with a satellite instantly, despite my phone being about as useful as a stone with zero reception. Then it was into the icy brine of Johanna for me, and there in a head-high rip bowl I was to experience this new piece of Inspector Gadget science.
Top speed had me most intrigued. Mick had clocked 34.1 km/h at Chopes, Wilko, 30 km/h at Ulus, and Owen Wright, 28.4 km/h at Port Alfred, South Africa. It also showed me exactly where they’d sat in each line-up. I know all that because I now follow the entire team on my Rip Curl Search app. In my world, surfing was never a how-fast-are-you-going? experience. But this changed everything.
I stroked into a bowly right with all intent of setting a heel-side rail and going as fast as the Delorean. Instead, I bottom turned, buried that heel-side rail with the bog of a thousand suns and surfaced with a mouthful of sand and two pieces of board. Full credit to the watch, I’d later find it even tracked my path back to the carpark to where I kicked my tin can, defeated and humiliated, to grab a back up.
The watch works hand-in-hand with the Rip Curl Search app. Sign-in via Facebook, your profile is instantly uploaded and your surfs are ready for social sharing. The two sync via bluetooth and after a moment of data transfer, my surf appeared in a minimally-designed layout. It’s slick. A Google map of the line-up appeared and as I scrolled down every wave I caught was mapped, every direction I paddled (or drifted) all together like a twisted bowl of spaghetti. The stats followed. 32 waves caught, 25.1 km/h top speed, 8.7 km paddled, 11km total and my longest wave was 152 metres.
The watch only has three buttons. It’s designed so that complex features are simple to use. One large select button on the left, and two on the right that work as an up/down combination. Beyond the tracking, it is still a very good tide watch. One-thousand-three-hundred tide locations globally are available, so it’s as simple as getting off a plane, recalibrating tide settings with the one touch auto-set, any you’ll have accurate information for your new location with just one button.
The GPS watch is an idea of Shane Helm, Rip Curl global chairman of watches & equipment, and has been in development for five years. It’s now in a final testing phase before global release. Helm knows his market and has designed it with gents in mind. Every session is editable. That means anyone combing through your recent whereabouts can be led astray with a tweak of dates, times and conditions of a particular session. Helm also knows how much we enjoy competition. Like Fantasy Surfer, the app includes a clubs divisions for you and your competitive pals to battle, gamble and excite your surfs. Plus, you can add photos of your sessions, board specs, star ratings and comments.
And a product of these heights costs how much to develop? A budget in the vicinity of one and two mill (so far). A worthwhile investment we thinks.
Cons? It’ll be interesting to see how the watch performs when traffic is at its peak, when a few hundred thousand surfers globally are syncing their sessions at the one time. Also, comp hounds who want to track their heat might be disappointed to know there isn’t a built-in timer countdown. And what if Mick doesn’t want you to know where he sits behind the rock?
But that aside, this is an innovative piece of equipment that could change the way you look at one surf compared to another. Particularly if you’re competitively inclined.
And lastly, yes, it does still tell the time.
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