Apple Watch Series 3 & 5 Review For Surfing

The Apple Watch is a popular option for surfers. It’s one part watch and one part toy. An expansive toy. Think - an extension of the iPhone, with some very specific, very handy, very cool functionality. It also tells time.

Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 5 Reviewed

We think both the Series 3 and the Series 5 Apple Watches are a great choice as your go to surfing watch. There are some subtle differences in the models. We broke them down for you. 


Apple Watch Series 3 & 5

The Apple Watch is our preferred surf watch of choice. It makes sense if you’re already an Apple user and you want to get nerdy with Surfline’s Sessions app that tracks your waves and allows you to see them once you get out of the water.

There isn’t big difference between the Series 3 and 5 from our perspective. The biggest difference is a few millimeters in size that is worth the jump in price. Not everyone will feel that way. You do you.

Apple Watch Features for Surfing

The Apple Watch Series 3 and 5 have the below features to get the most out of your surf session.

Comes With GPS

The Apple Watch comes with GPS standard. For surfers, this means your watch will tie in with the Surfline app and record you surfing sessions so that you can watch them back on video later. You do need Surfline Premium to do this.


You can upgrade your watch to include both GPS and cellular service. This allows you to not be dependant on your watch connecting to your iPhone for calls and texts for example. We tried out the GPS only version and that is more than enough for us. We have no interest in taking calls or replying to texts from the lineup.

If you always want to be connected, get the cellular. If not, stick with the lower-priced GPS version only.

Water Resistant

The Apple Watch is water resistant, not waterproof. Wearing your watch while exercising, in the rain and washing your hands is fine. You will need to use the water lock feature before you hit the surf (and shower). This feature locks the watch functionally and keeps the water out while you are surfing. To be clear, your watch will be OK with surfing. You should not use it for diving, for example. It is not designed to withstand the pressure.


We covered surfing apps over here. The summary is, there are a number of surfing apps that you can use on your Apple Watch that will make life fun. From tide apps to Surfline’s Sessions app that counts your waves and videos your rides, you have a lot of great options so that you can get the most of your watch for surfing.


We recommend getting the Apple insurance coverage. We aren’t warranty or insurance junkies typically, but we think it is too easy to swing your arm and smash the glass face or forget to water lock the watch before surf. In this case, a little more money can go a long way.

Battery Life

The Apple Watch can give you up to 18 hours of battery life, depending on your usage. Think – push notification, making phones calls and other functionality that will drain it. If you are mostly using it to tell time, track your waves on Surfline and exercise like we use it for, you will have a long battery life.

The Difference Between Apple Series 3 & 5

The Series 3 and 5 have all of the above. Only the Series 5 has the below:

Retina Display and Screen Size

The retina display of the Apple Watch Series 5 is consistently turned on. The user does not have to press any button or wipe it in order to view the screen, unlike the Series 3.

The screen size if bigger on the Series 5. That alone pushes us to buy the Series 5.

The Series 5 is available in 40mm and 44mm size options. The Series 3 comes in 38mm and 42mm sizes. As surfers we are well away of what 2 and 3mm look like. The difference is a lot on a tiny watch face.

Built-In Compass

The Apple Watch Series 5 watch has a compass installed in addition to the GPS. This of course provides precise direction and can be helpful when you are exploring a new surf break or hike or other activity.

Heart-Rate Monitor

The Apple Watch Series 5 has a heart-rate monitor a bit more sophisticated than the Series 3 given the upgraded technology that is in its younger sibling.

The heart monitor on both watches tracks electrical activity that is generated by the heart and relays the information on the digital screen.

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