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World Surf League adopts Apple Watch as its ‘official wearable’ for competitions

World Surf League adopts Apple Watch as its ‘official wearable’ for competitions


The smartwatch will be used to give surfers real-time information about scores, wave priority, and how much time is left in a heat.

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Brazil’s Ítalo Ferreira surfing in the middle of a pipeline wave
This is the first time the Apple Watch will be an official wearable of choice in a professional sports league.
Image: World Surf League

The Apple Watch will officially be catching waves. The World Surf League announced today that it’s adopting the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra as official equipment to keep surfers up to date during competitions. It marks the first time a professional sports league has named the Apple Watch as its official wearable of choice.

Before each heat, each athlete will be given Series 8 and Ultra watches preloaded with a specially made WSL Surfer app. The app will connect with the league’s scoring system in real time and give surfers updates on scores, wave priority, and how much time is left in the heat. They’ll also be able to see how many points are needed to either advance or take the lead. The idea is to help surfers better plan and focus on each wave, especially in difficult surfing conditions.

Render of the WSL Surfer app on an Apple Watch Series 8
The WSL Surfer app will display information like wave priority, time left in a heat, and how many points are needed to take the lead or advance.
Image: World Surf League, Apple

“The noise of the wind and waves can sometimes make it impossible to hear the announcers while competing, and that means you miss crucial information,” WSL champion and Olympic gold medalist Ítalo Ferreira said in a statement.

Many surfers wear sports watches to track swells, and while other smartwatches could have fit the bill, the WSL cited the Apple Watch’s “large bright screen, durable design, and cellular connectivity” as reasons why it ultimately won out. While the Apple Watch has been rated safe for swimming for a few generations, the Ultra kicked it up a notch, as it was designed to be fully waterproof for a variety of water sports. The WSL also noted that several of its championship tour athletes had tested the WSL Surfer app over the past two seasons. Those who haven’t gotten the chance will be trained on how to use the app before the start of this season. The first WSL competition featuring the Apple Watch will be this Sunday at the Billabong Pro Pipeline in Oahu.

Athletes are among the most avid wearable tech supporters. The NBA, for example, used the Oura Ring as a part of its covid-19 prevention plans. Meanwhile, soccer club Manchester City is developing its own smart scarf for fans and recently launched its own wearable performance tracker. Many professional athletes and Olympians also use wearable tech in an unofficial capacity to optimize their training.

What makes the WSL’s official adoption of the Apple Watch interesting is that it’s not related to performance — it’s a means of transmitting information to athletes in real time, leveraging the Apple Watch’s cellular capabilities. Another is that the WSL is adopting a popular consumer wearable as an official piece of equipment at a time when the role of wearable tech in sports is hotly debated. Tech doping, or an unfair advantage provided by wearable data, is a growing concern, and leagues aren’t always on the same page. For example, while the Football Association and the MLB allow players to use certain wearables during games, the NBA once banned a player from wearing a Whoop tracker during games and also banned wearable data from contract negotiations.