Is it worth getting the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf watch?
If you want an affordable GPS surf watch with a long battery life, the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf edition is unbeatable.
• Very long battery life
• Super tough
• Waterproof up to 100m
• Clear and easy to read
• Brilliant range of sports apps
• Surfline app compatible
• Relatively affordable
• Not a touch screen
• Buttons a little confusing when starting
• Questionable accuracy of surf tracking
For more details read on…
Does the Garmin Instinct track surf?Yes, the Instinct Surf edition records your surf session duration, how many waves you caught, longest wave caught, top speed, plus the total distance and time spent riding waves. The GPS tracking also maps your movements paddling and riding waves.
Want video footage of your waves? Surfline Sessions App creates a video of every wave you ride in front of a Surfline camera while wearing your Garmin Instinct Solar watch.
Using GPS it’ll also find the local tide data and stick it on your Garmin. Bleddy handy that!
Why do you need to know your surf stats?
To be honest most of us will survive without them, but they can prove useful.
Surf stats provide good evidence for when you casually drop the line ‘yeah, I had a 500ft ride and was belting along at 40mph but it wasn’t my best wave’.
Logging surf sessions and comparing stats will satisfy your inner geek. You’ll also have a nostalgic collection of your favourites sessions.
Beware though, the tracking isn’t 100% reliable and can occasionally go haywire. Like my 1,857ft wave reaching speeds of 101.9mph (see evidence in image above)! To be fair this was my first session and the tracking has been reliable ever since.
The wave count is usually generous, but consistently so, making it a good stat for comparing sessions.
Finally the GPS can occasionally take a little while to kick in, so it’s worth trying to get a GPS signal before you paddle out.
Garmin watch apps and sensorsThis watch includes all the sports apps a typical surfer needs e.g. surfing, swimming, running, biking, hiking, rowing and more.
I started using the Garmin running, swimming and biking apps on my old Vivo active watch when marathon training. To be honest, I never thought I’d keep using it or upgrade! But you become slightly addicted to improving on past performances, pushing yourself further, and beating friends. If you’re competitive like me anyway.
The Instinct Solar Surf has all the usual Garmin sensors including heart rate monitoring, stress tracking, oxygen saturation, altimeter, compass and thermometer.
Did I mention the battery is powered by the sun? The solar charging is what sets this watch apart from the competition. You can charge with the usual Garmin cable plugged into a mains socket, but solar power is what keeps this watch going for weeks without a charge.
How tough is the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf?
The watch has a tough fibre-reinforced polymer case and is waterproof up to 100 metres. It’s built to withstand tough outdoor living and activities, rather than look pretty on your wrist. Consequently it’s bulkier than my old Vivo active watch or an Apple Watch.
Personally I prefer the button functions over a touch screen. The buttons can be a little confusing at the start, but you soon remember what to press and when.
With my old Vivo Active I regularly touched the screen accidentally, either stopping the tracking or changing the view. It happened when I ran the London Marathon last year, meaning I haven’t yet recorded a full marathon on Strava 🙁
What Garmin watch is best for you?
If you want to track your running, biking, swimming, surfing and other water sports then the rugged Instinct Solar Surf watch is for you.
For a sleeker watch just to track your running and swimming, consider the Forerunner or Vivo Active.
Want all the bells and whistles plus outstanding battery life? Invest in the Garmin Enduro or Fenix 6 Solar.
GPS surf watch comparison
Most surfing watches don’t have GPS functionality, here’s three of the best that do:
Garmin Instinct Solar Surf
• Battery life, up to 54 days
• Super tough
• Wide range of sports apps
• Relatively affordable
• Questionable accuracy
Rip Curl Search GPS 2
• Legendary surf brand
• Great surf stats
• Comparatively cheap
• Needs charging after every surf
• Limited non-surf stats
• Top draw smartwatch
• Great surf apps available
• Sleek and stylish
• Poor battery life
What GPS surf watch should you get?
If you’re a Mac addict with money to burn, the Apple watch will make you happy.
If you’re a hardcore surfer who has little time for other activities and has easy access to a power socket, the Rip Curl Search GPS will suit your lifestyle.
If you’re a surfer who doesn’t want to charge their watch everyday and enjoys other sports, the Garmin Instinct Solar Surf is a clear winner.