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What's a Surf Watch? Garmin’s Instinct 2 Solar - Surf Edition is Reimagining Surf Gadgets

What makes Garmin's Instinct 2 Solar - Surf Edition worth talking about –– by Gear Patrol Studios.

talking points garmin instinct 2 solar surf watch

Welcome to Talking Points, a series that looks at what makes some products worth talking about, brought to you by Gear Patrol Studios.


The world of surf tech is quickly evolving. These days, users can secure highly advanced gear to elevate their performance, from motorized surfboards to cutting-edge wetsuits. That said, there’s one surf gadget that’s sure to impress on and off the waves – and that’s a purpose-built surf watch.

Garmin’s new Instinct Solar 2 - Surf Edition ($500) is a welcome upgrade to its first release (the original $450 Garmin Instinct Solar - Surf Edition) and totes all its predecessor’s favorite features plus better sizing and a suite of new perks. But first things first – what exactly is a ‘Surf Watch?’

A surf watch is a step up from a waterproof smartwatch: it includes tech that allows users to access data about tide and ocean conditions in any location and in real-time. To do so, most surf watches harness a mix of GPS systems, and Garmin’s new model is no exception, allowing users to access GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems. However, this new release is one of the best watches for surfing because it also allows users to track their personal surfing performance stats and health data, includes additional safety features and will charge up with solar power. The Surf Edition can even be reconfigured for windsurfing and kiteboarding, mountain biking, hiking, trail running or skiing. Here, we’ll take a deeper dive into what makes Garmin’s Instinct 2 one of the most exciting smart watches for surfers.

garmin instinct 2 solar surf watch
Steven Lippman

The Backstory

Garmin Instinct 2: A Rugged Smart Watch Built for Active Users

By this point, most people are familiar with the Garmin brand. The company was founded to create reliable products for active users and prides itself on bringing “GPS navigation and wearable technology to the automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor and fitness markets.”

Earlier this year, the company announced its Instinct 2 Series, which became the newest addition to its "popular Instinct family of purpose-built smartwatches." Garmin emphasized that these watches were "built to withstand any element" and remain "technology-driven" while also noting that they were built to military standards (MIL-STD-810) for thermal and shock resistance and boast a 10 ATM water rating (100-meter depths).

But the most notable part of the new lineup is the inclusion of “Purpose-Built Editions.” These included the Surf Editions as well as a Tactical Edition, which offers tactical features like a kill switch, stealth mode, night vision goggle compatibility and dual format position coordinates. Between these different editions, two sizing options and a wide range of colors, customers can choose their preferred Instinct 2 from a whopping 240 different design combinations.

Meanwhile, the Instinct 2 - Surf Edition is available in two sizes, with one colorway available each for the solar or non-solar option. Nevertheless, it comes with a long list of features that make it a welcome addition to the company’s larger suite of Water Sports Watches.

The Gist

With New Surf Wave Tech, This Surf Watch is More Than Just a Waterproof Smartwatch

The new Instinct 2 comes in two sizes, the traditional 45mm bezel and a smaller Instinct 2S sizing with a 40mm bezel. Both the bezel and case are made with a fiber-reinforced polymer, and the display features a two-window design. The solar version also offers essentially unlimited battery life across all smartwatch and GPS features – assuming you wear it for at least three hours outside every day to get enough juice.

As for surf specs and tide data, after pairing your Instinct 2 with your smartphone, this watch can help you track basic ocean conditions. You can also record your own surf activity, like the number of waves surfed, maximum speed reached and even distance traveled.

Download the Garmin Connect app, and you’ll also be able to access ‘Surfline data’ which will display the tide, wave height, wind and surf ratings for each of the five nearest surf spots. Set up your own Surfline camera to create a Surfline Sessions video of every wave you ride in front of it.

Of course, the Instinct 2 also comes equipped with all the capabilities you’d expect from a smartwatch, allowing you to receive email, text and calendar alerts. You can even use Garmin Pay to make contactless payments and access safety and tracking features (like incident detection). There are also plenty of health features to scroll through, like heart rate monitoring, stress tracking and advanced sleep monitoring. On top of that, the watch will also calculate your fitness age (“to estimate if your body is younger or older than you are”) and your "body battery" (i.e., a feature that uses "heart rate variability, stress, sleep and other data" to suggest whether you should stay active or rest).

Our POV

This High-Tech Surf Watch is One of The Best Surfing Gadgets You Can Find

If that long, long list of features was not enough to convince you this is a game-changing, high-tech– surf watch, maybe its versatility will.

As mentioned, the watch can be reconfigured for windsurfing to provide your GPS position, speed, distance and heart rate while windsurfing. Adjust it for kiteboarding, and you’ll be able to track all of this information plus your elevation so you can track and chart your jumps.

The watch is also built for on and off-trail adventuring, with Tracback® routing that can navigate back to a starting point and ABC sensors that can monitor elevation and weather data. With plenty of additional features for basic cardio, you can also use the Instinct 2 to optimize your gym routine or daily run, making this a smartwatch you don’t want to sleep on.

So not only is the Instinct 2 Solar - Surf Edition truly one of the best surf watches out there, but it’s also a versatile smartwatch equipped for essentially any active user. It makes tracking and optimizing your surf performance easy and catching killer waves even easier. Snag one soon – and get ready to hang ten.

Price: $500

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