By Shane Helm

“One of the most anticipated genuine new surfing products finally hit the market in November. Since then the SearchGPS Watch has become one of the most talked about products in beach car parks around the country.”

The concept for SearchGPS watch came about in the mountains of Hokkaido, Japan, an unusual place to come up with a surf watch. A few key members of the Rip Curl watch team absconded from our usual Hong Kong supplier meeting drudgery, to catch a few days of powder snow in Japan, a couple of hours away.

We couldn’t believe how much fun we were having with our smartphones and a couple of GPS tracking apps we had downloaded. A competitive spirit quickly overtook the trip. Coffee breaks were forsaken, lunch turned into a quick, half hour re-fuel, and squeezing in two runs during “last lifts” became the norm. All for bragging rights over a few key metrics at the end of the day. Fastest speed, most vertical metres, total distance skied or boarded and maximum daily runs.

It didn’t take long for our minds to turn to work and start discussing how we might bring this same fun into our surfing lives. We weren’t the first to have this idea, but we did find ourselves in the fortunate position to be working for a company that not only encouraged this sort of idea, but also openly craved it.

The SearchGPS watch itself has an intense focus on simplicity. Less buttons (there’s only three), simple menu based screen navigation, intuitive functions and most importantly, AUTO-SET tide and time. Three different designs were built to discover the most ergonomic and most comfortable design. Light buttons were eliminated and then re-thought. A waterproof charging system had to be developed. Tide information generation had to be completely recreated to fit 1360 spots.

Three years later, and with a bit of luck, the right help, a few delays and a lot of, the watch was finally ready.

The feedback on the Search GPS watch has been positive and we think it will change the way in which you engage with your surfing life. It’s a motivator, a coach and a tide watch all wrapped up in one awesome bundle.

All users enjoy the simple “one touch” auto-set feature for tide and time. Thus eliminating the biggest problem tide watches have had – setting the darn things.

Some users love the logbook aspect of the product so they can keep an automatic surf diary, which may motivate them to catch those 1,000 waves a year.

Others thrive on the competitive aspect and challenging their mates on top speed or wave count.

Then there are users who simply enjoy the extra awareness the watch gives you out in the water. Wave count, session time and top speeds all give you that extra push to “get one more”.

The watch really comes to life when you get to the beach where you can easily and wirelessly transfer your surf data from your watch to your iPhone (Android coming soon) to enjoy a map of your surf. You can view the waves you caught, where you paddled, ride lengths and share it all with your friends.

For some surfing is an intangible, almost religious experience that can’t be measured by speed, or distance.

But for others, this will completely revolutionise the way they look at their surfing life, and ultimately encourage them to get in the water a whole lot more, which can only be a good thing.


*Shane Helm is the Global Chairman – Rip Curl Watch division