Today in California, the heart of both surfing and tech culture, the World Surf League (WSL) announced that it will now integrate Apple Watch as an official piece of wearable equipment during competition. According to the press release issued early this morning Aussie time – when most Aussie surfers were catching their final AM wave – this introduction marks the first time Apple Watch will be used as official competitor equipment in a professional sports environment.
The joint statement from Apple and the WSL indicated that competitors on the Championship Tour would be provided with either an Apple Watch 8 or an Apple Watch Ultra before each heat. The provided Watches will be preloaded with a new WSL Surfer app which provides crucial metrics relating to their heats, including wave priority, heat time remaining and their scores – information needed when planning wave selection and manoeuvres necessary to clinch a heat from the jaws of defeat.
Traditionally, this data has been fed to competitors from the beach over a loud speaker, or if eyesight permits, via big screens. Whilst oftentimes effective, crowd, surf and wind can distort the sound of the announcements, sometimes leaving surfers confused as to their standings. However the upgrade to Apple Watch will mean more reliable communication while surfers are competing, even when they are hundreds of metres offshore.
“The noise of the wind and the waves can sometimes make it impossible to hear the announcers while competing, and that means you miss crucial information,” said ítalo Ferreira, WSL Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist. “Challenging conditions can make it hard to see the beach and a priority penalty could cost you the heat, so not needing to rely on seeing the beach or hearing the announcers makes a huge difference and prevents guesswork. When it’s all on the line, scoring and priority are critical. You have so much on your mind at that point, so having an Apple Watch helps you stay on track in those situations and is a total game changer.”
“The unique capabilities, ease of use, and incredible water resistance of Apple Watch make it the ideal solution to support our surfers competing in the extreme conditions of our worldwide tour,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO, in the statement. “Surfers need critical information while they compete, and the WSL Surfer app we’ve developed for Apple Watch provides real-time data that will help the communication flow from the WSL Scoring System to the competitors in the water. We are so excited to roll this out and enable our Championship Tour athletes to focus on their performance and improve competition throughout the 2023 season.”
Cellular connectivity and a durable design make Apple Watch a logical solution for including tech into adventure sports where athletes can find themselves in adverse environments and off the beaten track. The partnership between Apple and the WSL is an innovative step for further inclusion of wearable tech in professional sport.