Smartfin – collecting data for deeper understanding of our changing oceans

What is Smartfin?

The Smartfin is a surfboard fin with sensors that measure multiple ocean parameters including salinity, temperature, location, wave characteristics, and pH (in development). The data surfers acquire while in the water will become accessible in near real-time to the world-wide scientific community. But Smartfin is not only about the data. It is also an effort to connect surfers and their communities to larger issues affecting ocean health. Using the data collected with Smartfin, we can better understand trends in ocean warming and acidification and mobilize our communities to take action to combat these problems caused by climate change.

How was it developed?

Smartfin is the result of a partnership between non-profits, engineers, and the scientific community. It is the brain-child of Dr. Andrew Stern of The Lost Bird Project and engineered by Benjamin Thompson of BoardFormula. In 2015, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the world’s leading institutions for oceanographic research, came on board to validate the scientific application of Smartfin in the surf zone. Surfrider Foundation joined the partnership in June 2016 to provide logistical and outreach support for the distribution of fins to its network of surfers worldwide.

Why are these measurements important?

There are many scientific instruments collecting data offshore and in the open ocean, however the nearshore environment, like the surf zone, is a more dynamic ecosystem (think lots of wave energy), making it difficult to place sensors, buoys, and floats there. By putting sensors directly onto surfboards, we can collect data and begin to learn about changes in temperature, salinity, and pH, which are properties that have huge implications for the species that live in nearshore ecosystems.

What fin set-up is Smartfin compatible with?

The Smartfin was developed for a Futures fin set-up. Anyone with a Futures board can ride a Smartfin!

How do I get a Smartfin?

Smartfins will be distributed through the Surfrider Foundation chapter network, beginning with a pilot launch in San Diego in early 2017. Sign-up on our contact form to learn how you can get yours!

Who can I contact for more information?

Please fill out the contact form or email Shannon Waters, Smartfin Project Manager at Surfrider Foundation, at swaters(at) for more information.

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