Wondering which waterproof smartwatch is the best? Read which watches we rate — and why.

If you’ve read any of our previous reviews on the world’s best watersports sunglasses or even our feature on bombproof kiteboard bags for travel, you’ll know we take our watersports accessories pretty damn seriously.

And as much as we love the simplicity of going off-grid for the duration of our sessions, having an awesome waterproof smartwatch can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

From tracking your upwind tacks, heart rate, and accelerations, to being able to make a call in case of emergencies, modern waterproof smartwatches are fast becoming a key piece of kit for many.

But first of all, you should make sure a smartwatch is actually what you need depending on your projected use. And for that, we should briefly talk about jump height.

Well, this is probably the only area where a smartwatch is just not as good/accurate as, let’s say, kitesurf specific, board mounted trackers like the Woo 3 for example. The difference comes from the intent and technology used. The Woo 3 uses a 9 axis motion sensor that records relative position to measure not only jump height, but also air time, landing force, trick performed, and even landing quality. The AI and measurements are best because it’s all designed with kitesurfing in mind, and also because the device is located on the board, not the wrist. Smartwatches on the other hand are made to handle a wide mix of activities, like hiking, skiing or swimming, kitesurfing being just one of many.

So, if jump height and freestyle tracking is really what you’re after, we’d advise you to have a look at either the Woo 3, or the Duotone Piq. But if you’re more of a foil racer, free rider or even wave rider, then what you’ll be interested in is indeed one of these awesome waterproof smartwatches we’re about to talk about.

But the punch line, guys and gals, is that not all smartwatches are made equal:

Apart from the obvious factors like cost and aesthetics, there are a few super duper important things to consider when choosing a watch for watersports, which you’ll find just at the end of this post.

You might also like:

Our selection of the best waterproof smartwatches (for every need)

Best overall – Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is the crème de la crème for watersports and outdoor lovers, if you ask us. A true expedition watch, it can do just about everything.

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is designed to be used for watersports as well as running, cycling, and any other type of cardio activity you can think of — even climbing is there with the ClimbPro Ascent Planner app!

Pre-loaded maps for more than 2000 ski resorts, 41.000 pre-loaded golf course maps, animated yoga and pilates workouts to follow, hydration tracking, PacePro technology…

Conveniently, it’s compatible with both Android and iOS, and features a whole bunch of specs (for on and off the water) like biometric readings, contactless payment capabilities, and app connectivity (including your kitesurf specific apps).

Most interestingly for kitesurfers, windsurfers, and sailors in general, the Fenix 6 Pro allows you to connect to other global navigation satellite systems in addition to GPS, such as GLONASS and Galileo.

Garmin pushes this watch as the ideal piece of kit for “rugged adventurers”. In true Garmin fashion, the battery life on this baby is insanely long, lasting up to 14 days in normal smartwatch mode, 36 hours in GPS mode- and 10 with GPS AND music simultaneously. You’ll actually find a whole “Power Manager” app, so you know which settings, sensors and trackers are affecting the battery at any moment. How long can this watch last on a single battery charge in its most power-saving mode, the “Battery Saver Watch Mode”? Hold yourself… 48 days. Yes, you read that right.

But back up a sec. A watersports smartwatch… with music?!

That’s right lads and lassies, the Fenix 6 Pro let’s you store and play up to about 1000 songs thanks to 32gb of storage capacity, which you can then listen to through Bluetooth headphones (if you’ve never had a session with music in your ears, get ready to have your mind BLOWN).

The other seriously great thing about this watch is that it’s got an ATM rating* of 10 — double that of Garmin’s other popular model, the Forerunner — so it’s extra resilient when it comes to water resistance. In fact, it’s tested to U.S. military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance.

*Pssst: if you aren’t brushed up on ATM ratings and what they mean, skip down to our section ‘choosing a waterproof smartwatch – things to consider’ at the bottom of this article, where we explain what ATM ratings are all about and much, much more.

The only thing we don’t love? She can feel a tad heavy, with 83 grams for the stainless steel version, while the titanium version is a bit friendlier with “only” 72 grams. Maybe less of an issue for men than women, but definitely good to know in advance.

We could go on for days listing all the specs of this piece of gear, but it’s probably best you just head to Garmin’s own product page to have a much better overview of all the Fenix 6 Pro can offer. You’ll also find that it comes with 2 different lens options: the Sapphire lens (yes, real sapphire crystals) is literally scratch-proof, while the Solar lens can harvest solar energy to help the battery last even longer. If any of these options, as well as music, maps and wifi capabilities aren’t really what you’re after, you can also opt for the more affordable Fenix 6, classic version.

And finally, with such a high end technological wonder, we highly recommend that if you decide to purchase this watch, you do so on Garmin’s own online store, as it’s both the surest way to guarantee hassle-free customer support, but also allows you to customise your watch exactly how you want it, from the diameter of the case to the 19 different colour designs to choose from.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro – Pros and Cons

We love:

  • 10ATM rating
  • GPS
  • Multisport functionality
  • Super durable materials
  • Seriously long battery life
  • Plays and stores music
  • WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities
  • Contactless payment
  • Full app compatibility
  • iOS and Android friendly

Meh:

  • Heavy at 83g, or 72g for the titanium version
  • Probably a bit large for smaller wrists, but you can pick different casing diameters
  • One of the more expensive models on this list, as after all this is Garmin’s flagship model

Best for comfort – Garmin Forerunner 935

This watch is a tasty mate for any outdoor adventure lover who’s looking to take their training to the next level. Garmin is a well known sports watch brand, but the Garmin Forerunner sets itself apart from other models in a number of ways:

It’s designed with multi-sport functionality in mind (think hiking, biking, and swimming for starters) so if you’re the type of person who digs other sports too, this one’s for you. Plus it weighs just 1.7 oz (49 grams), making it nearly half the weight of Garmin’s other popular model, the Fenix.

Not only is it one of the most comfortable watches on this list, but in terms of functionality it also comes out high on the pile. Rated at 5ATM, it’s also got a built-in GPS, heart monitor, barometer, altimeter, compass, WiFi capabilities, and sport-specific metrics (including a function that’ll tell you if you’re undertraining or overdoing it). To top it off, it’s compatible with both iOS and Android.

Best of all, its battery life lasts up to a whopping 2 weeks when used in watch mode (and still a solid 24 hours when used in GPS mode). It’s also got user-friendly buttons (take note, clumsy fingered friends who despise touch screens!). It syncs with a bunch of useful apps, too, like Accuweather and even Uber (possibly good for when you need a lift back upwind? Ha!).

Garmin Forerunner 935 – Pros and Cons

We love:

  • Multi sport functionality
  • Comfortability
  • Lightweight
  • GPS
  • Barometer, altimeter, compass
  • Super long battery life
  • User friendly buttons
  • iOS and Android friendly

Meh:

  • Not as many functions as the Fenix 6 Pro
  • 5ATM rating

A good alternative for women would be the Garmin Venu, pictured below, which is similar to the Forerunner in terms of functionality and weight but offers a nicer design with some feminine colour options as well as a Menstrual Cycle tracking app.

Best for iPhone users – Apple Watch Series 5

Ahhhh, the Apple Watch.

No list of waterproof smartwatches would be complete without paying dues to the i-Family (even if Apple watches are often a topic of contention… I ain’t pointing any fingers though, yo). Regardless of whether you’re a die hard iFan or an Apple avoider, the newest member of the Apple Watch series is worth considering as a waterproof smartwatch for a number of reasons:

With an ATM rating of 5, the Apple Watch Series 5 meets the base waterproof threshold you’d want to consider for a waterproof smartwatch. It’s got updated touchscreen technology which not only functions impeccably, but also boasts a seriously sharp display, too. You can also pair the watch with bluetooth headphones and rock out to some tunes of your choice during your next session.

Particularly interesting for kitesurfers, the Series 5 watch has never-before-seen functions like ECG monitors, fine tuned accelerometers, and a gyroscope — all of which make the Apple Watch’s ability to detect movement, acceleration, and velocity better than ever. Add that to its GPS capabilities and you’ve got yourself a pretty thorough outdoor workout buddy.

With an 18 hour watch battery life (6 hours on GPS mode) it’s definitely shorter than most of the other smart watches on this list. Just remember that this watch was made with everyday, fitness oriented users in mind, rather than kitesurfers or outdoor adventurers looking at spending days hiking and camping in the wilderness without guaranteed access to power plugs. If that’s the kind of use you might also be after, a simple solution would be to add to your kit this pocket sized, 12600 mAh power bank, which is also water, dust and dirt resistant. The Series 5 being equipped with a 296 mAh battery, you’d be able to recharge it up to 30-40 times, or your iPhone X up to 4-5 times.

If you value the ability to make and receive calls (maybe because you’re on call at work, or you like to have the security in case of an emergency on the water) the Apple Watch Series 5 GPS + Cellular version offers full cellular capabilities when paired with the SIM in your iPhone — so calls, texts, and app use are all go.

The only downer is that you have to have an iPhone to be able to use the Apple Watch (all of them, regardless of series). So if you’re an Android user, this probably isn’t the one for you.

Finally, in terms of warranty, there is actually a way here to make sure you’ll get a replacement in case of accidental damage, and it is to purchase an Apple Care+ plan, which will both extend the warranty to 2 years, and guarantee up to 2 replacements in that time frame (still subject to a $69 service fee), should your watch fail due to accidental damage.

Note that it’s much better to purchase the Apple Care+ plan at the same time as the watch. Doing it later means Apple will have to re-test your watch before approving it for the plan AND the start date of coverage will always be the purchase date of the watch — not of the plan itself. Real life example: if you buy Apple Care+ 2 months after buying the watch (after which it isn’t possible anymore), you’ll only get 22 months of coverage and not 24).

Apple Watch Series 5 – Pros and Cons

We love:

  • Fancy pants touchscreen with sharp display
  • Comes in two sizes (40/44mm)
  • Movement detection is second to none
  • GPS
  • Updated biometrics
  • Plays music
  • Cellular capabilities (for the GPS + Cellular version)
  • Wifi & Bluetooth
  • 32gb Storage capacity
  • Possibility for Apple Care+

Meh:

  • Only compatible with iPhone
  • Relatively short battery life
  • 5ATM rating

Best for wave riders / surfers: Rip Curl Search 2

The Rip Curl Search 2 is quite unique as it offers live wind, swell and tide reports, but is also GPS equipped. That makes it a winner for riders whose main discipline is waves (with or without a kite) but who also want to be able to track their speed, routes and tacks.

Another reason to love this watch is that it’s one of the few on this list rated at 10 ATM.

We also appreciate the simplicity of use here, as there’s only 3 large, easy to press buttons from which you can reach any mode and function. The GPS one touch time / tide set function even makes it easy to find which spot you’ve just arrived to without having to scroll through all of the preloaded tide locations.

Download the Rip Curl Search App (rated 4.1* on the App Store) and get to re-live your session right on your smartphone, from distance paddled to wave count, graphic charts, location map, top speed or longest wave. You can even use it as a surf journal, documenting with a quick write up and uploading a picture to keep session logs. You may also want to follow your friends’ or Rip Curl’s pro riders activity.

While live weather conditions get pulled by the Search App from their partner Surfline by default, you’ll actually get a 3 months free trial of Surfline’s Premium version, giving you access to the biggest network of surf spot live cams, long range swell analysis and quality weather forecasts.

What about the Rip Curl Search 2‘s battery life?

As the original intent here is obviously surfing, you’ll get only about 7 hours of battery life when using GPS, which will certainly not be enough for wild multi-day downwinders. As long as you can get it to charge every night though, you’ll be fine. Note that the battery lasts up to 2-3 months without using GPS.

Then, something we’re glad to see from Rip Curl, is a clear explanation of its warranty policy: as long as you’re buying from an authorized dealer, you’ll be covered for 5 years on inner movements, 2 years for water resistance, and 1 year for the battery.

Rip Curl Search 2 – Pros and cons

We love:

  • Live wind, swell, tide & moon phase
  • GPS
  • 10 ATM rating
  • Well made Rip Curl App
  • Surfline Premium first 3 months free
  • Weather forecasts & live surf cams with Surfline Premium
  • Great user experience
  • One touch GPS tide location
  • Track other activities: snowboarding, hiking, cycling etc…
  • Clear warranty policy
  • Affordable price considering functions and ATM rating

Meh

  • Short battery life with GPS on

Best value fitness tracker – Fitbit Ionic

If you love the style and vibe of the Apple Watch but either a) don’t have in iPhone and don’t want to get one b) don’t have any need for all the sparkly extras or c) don’t care much for the price tag, then the Fitbit Ionic might be the solution.

Think of it like a stripped back version of the Apple Watch; it doesn’t have half of the app functionality or full cellular capabilities, but it does have great biometric readings, fitness-specific apps and training functions, and super accurate GPS (which many users reckon is on par with that of a premium Garmin watch). It’s got 5ATM rating and, most deliciously of all, it’s a fraction of the price.

The Fitbit Ionic also rocks a battery life of 4-5 days, which beats the Apple Watch by a country mile. In addition, you can also play and store music directly on the Ionic (which is an upgrade from its popular sister model, the Blaze) and use full WiFi and Bluetooth functions (whereas the Blaze only has Bluetooth).

Added plus:

The latest Ionic has a really user-friendly touch screen; it’s super responsive and the display area is nice and large — which really is a must from a smartwatch if you plan to interact with it on the water.

In short:

The Ionic is an awesome all-rounder as far as waterproof smartwatches go. It’s great value for money and does what it says on the tin. Two thumbs way up from us!

Fitbit Ionic – Pros and Cons

We love:

  • Value for money
  • Accurate GPS
  • Updated biometrics
  • Relatively long battery life
  • WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Plays and stores music
  • Works with Android and iOS
  • Replaceable straps

Meh:

  • 5ATM rating
  • Doesn’t offer full cellular capabilities
  • Design isn’t the most attractive

You might also like:

Choosing a waterproof smartwatch: Things to consider

Functionality

This is waterproof smartwatch 101: what the heck do you want the damn thing to do?!

Maybe you want to fine tune your upwind angles, or get an overview of how much distance you covered during your session; whatever the reason, if you want your waterproof smartwatch to track your movements, GPS is a must.

Julia Tausch kiteboarding in Sibaltan, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Although if you had to get lost somewhere, this place wouldn’t be too bad… [image: Daniel Meissner]

What about biometrics, like lactate threshold or heart rate measurements? You’ll want a watch with a good sensor (make that an extra good one if you prefer to wear your watch outside of your lycra or neoprene, which may be the case if you want to see what’s on the screen while you ride).

Does it have a built in barometer? Altimeter? Tidal and weather information? What about a compass? Or WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity? Does it have a touch screen or buttons — or both? All things that could be important, depending on what your needs are.

Finally, you’ll also want to consider the battery life — some otherwise great watches need to be recharged notoriously often. Watch out for that one (see what I did there? Ohhhh boy….)!

Waterproof rating

This sounds like an obvious one, but terms like “splash proof watch”, “waterproof watch”, and even “dive watch” get bandied around like mad — and they aren’t always that accurate.

In short:

Your smartwatch must be strong enough to withstand the dynamic pressure of a wipeout. Even if it’s just for a split second, the pressure that comes from a surface wipeout can be equal to (or in some cases, greater than) the pressure experienced when diving 10’s of meters underwater.

Basically:

You want to look at the watches’ ATM rating (short for atmospheres) which is a measurement of pressure. It tells you how far underwater you can theoretically go before your watch is unable to withstand the pressure (at which point water may enter the watch). If you buy a smartwatch with an insufficient ATM rating, the watch may be breached, corrode, and eventually stop working.

5 ATM is hypothetically good up to 50 meters, 10 ATM is equivalent to 100 meters, and so on. Essentially, the higher the ATM rating, the safer your watch will be. Bear in mind though that moving water creates more force than still water, so the depths above aren’t literal (since watersports inherently involve plenty of movement) but more of an indication.

To be clear, a 5 ATM rating is considered largely sufficient for kitesurfing. After literally hours spent digging on the web, we just could not find any mentions of breached waterproof smartwatches due to kitesurfing.

In theory, you would have to crash hard enough to create more than 75 PSI of pressure to crack a 5 ATM watch open, but such an impact would also be more than enough to knock yourself out unconscious which, in our opinion, does not happen very often in this sport.

And if it does, it’s truly exceptional, unlike waterskiing, for example, where rope angle and boat direction can easily multiply the base speed by 2 or 3 fold thanks to inertia force.

That’s why life jackets are mandatory for waterskiing or wakeboarding but not kitesurfing or surfing. So unless you’re Alex Caizergues attempting a speed world record, or Jessie Richman screwing a loop at a King of the Air final, there’s not really much to worry about.

Still, you should know that if you were to experience water damage on any of these watches while kitesurfing, there’s a very good chance the brand will not consider this a valid claim for a warranty replacement, arguing that this would fall under the “accidental damage” category.

We would strongly advise that right after purchasing or receiving one of these watches, you’d just soak them in clear water at home and film the process on your phone, from opening the box to taking off protections, soaking the watch and finally checking meticulously for any leaks, in order to make sure you did not get a faulty model. If you did, you can then return it right away and honestly claim a replacement covered under warranty, helped by your little video.

If water damage was to happen during kitesurfing, and since each brand treats each case differently at their entire discretion, you may still get a replacement covered under warranty terms, but there is simply no way to know beforehand and you probably shouldn’t count on it.

Compatibility

Smartwatches are essentially teeny weeny computers, right? And just like any other computer, they have operating systems which are limited in their compatibility. A lot of the watches on this list are designed to be used in conjunction with a phone, so keep that in mind and remember to identify whether they’re meant for Android, iOS, or both.

Read next:

Wrapping it up (and picking a winner!)

There’s a million and one waterproof smartwatches on the market these days, and this list is by no means inclusive of every single good one. This list is designed to give you an overview of a few very trustworthy, high quality waterproof smartwatches for kiteboarding, windsurfing, sailing, suping and other outdoor activities; and to show you an idea of what you need to consider when choosing the right smartwatch for your own needs.

The 5 waterproof smartwatches we’ve listed above are all awesome in their own way, but if we had to pick an overall winner it’d be the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro because of its amazingly long battery life, durability, powerful water resistance, and overall great functionality.

As always, if you have any questions about a product in this list (or one we didn’t include!) drop a comment down below and we’ll do our best to give you some good advice.

Hey, want to make sure you don’t miss any of our future articles? just sign up to our monthly newsletter when exiting this page (or in the footer / sidebar) or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube!

Get $100 – €100 off your new GoPro Hero 8 Black, offer valid until 1st of July only on GoPro.com!

Just share it.


Grace Austin

Hi! I'm Grace -- freelance writer & content creator for the outdoor travel industry. I spent the past few years living in China, Vietnam, and Thailand working as a blogger, TV presenter, and documentarist. These days you can find me Europe side scouting out the best outdoor adventures Ireland has to offer -- and drinking ALL the wine. Obviously.

11 Comments

Kristian Reed · May 18, 2020 at 1:37 AM

How come you haven’t got the Huawei GT2e amongst these other watches?

Fu · May 9, 2020 at 5:16 AM

No warranty at all if you use Apple watch during kitesurfing, read this carefully before you buy it: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205000

    Jim Thirion · May 12, 2020 at 12:49 AM

    Thank you Fu for bringing this to our attention. It seems indeed Apple would not cover its watch for kitesurfing, although it uses surfing shots for its TV ads and has a kitesurfing app available on the App store designed to work with the latest Apple Watch Series.

    We’re trying to get clearer information on the subject and will update this post asap.

NM · February 5, 2020 at 6:36 PM

Hello I would like to know if garmin venu have been tested for kite surfing and if yes , can it be adjusted to measure jumps , speed and map out the session

    Jim Thirion · May 12, 2020 at 1:03 AM

    Hi there,

    I haven’t heard of the Garmin Venu being used for kitesurfing, but checking out the specs, there should be no problem at all. It’s got a 5 ATM waterproof rating, GPS to track speed and routes, silicone band, and the ability to load additional apps, even music, so in theory you should be good to go. If measuring jump height is an important factor though, note that kitesurf specific trackers like the Woo are known to be much more accurate, as it’s not using GPS or barometer / altimeter but relative motion sensors.

Warren Techow · October 23, 2019 at 5:50 PM

Thanks for the great insight to all the watches. My guess is that the new Fenix 6 will have what the Fenix 5 has plus more. Any chance you have any info on that ? Xmas is coming and I need to upgrade, my current Garmin vivoactive HR is not a huge fan of being bashed around while kiting. Have had issues in the past. Thanks again, great article.

    Jim Thirion · May 12, 2020 at 1:13 AM

    Hi Warren,

    Sorry for getting back to you so late! We’ve just updated this post replacing the Fenix 5 with the latest 6 Pro. Most significant improvements seem to be battery performance with new Expedition mode (up to 46 days!), storage capacity (32gb instead of 16gb on the F5), Body Battery monitor, PacePro, preloaded ski resorts maps.

    If you’ve got one we’d love your feedback!

marc · September 1, 2019 at 7:09 PM

Thanks for the review Grace , very useful 🙂 Never considered an Apple watch … but may change my mind 🙂

    Grace Austin · September 2, 2019 at 3:16 PM

    Hey Marc 🙂 glad you found the post helpful. Indeed, before we started to dig into it, the iWatch wasn’t really on our radar either — but in fact it’s one of the best options out there, we reckon. It pairs really easily with the watersports app which records tons of data for kitesurfers, and the call functionality makes it all the more reassuring in case of difficulty out on the water.

    Let us know if you make a purchase; we’d love to hear how you get on with whichever model you go for.

Chad · June 7, 2019 at 9:47 AM

I loved your review, thank you. Which watch measures height of jumps the best? Gamin fenix 5 or Apple i4? I have a gear s4 and Android phone and it’s not good only measures floors and many jumps it does not even register

    Jim Thirion · May 12, 2020 at 1:21 AM

    Hi Chad,

    Since smartwatches use either the GPS or barometer to measure height, they will never be that good for kitesurfing jumps. The original goal here is to track elevation changes for activities like hiking, cycling or skiing for example. If jump height is really something you’re interested in, we’d advise you to look at kitesurfing specific trackers like the Woo 3, which uses a 9 axis relative motion sensor, much more accurate for this type of use. Altimeters also struggle with the ocean as water surface is always shifting, due to swell or simply tides.

    You can actually pair the Woo 3 with some compatible smartwatches to also be able to use GPS tracking through the Woo App, although that seems to be part of new subscription model they’re getting at.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *