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WSL and Apple Partner to Make Apple Watch 'Official Surfing Equipment' for Athletes

Stay Ahead in the Game: World Surf League and Apple's High-Tech Partnership for Surfers


It has been a while since we have seen any major innovation in how world tour events are run, as most of the rules have remained the same for decades. However, the 2023 season—which starts this week at Pipeline—will see one of the most high-tech advances in the history of surfing.

Before this season, competitors had to rely on the beach announcer and the priority tower to keep them informed about heat scores, what they need to advance, and who has priority. While scores are sometimes posted on electronic billboards on the beach and the priority tower has a revolving flag that informs them of priority, these are often difficult to see, especially from far out in the water, which often has a glare from the sun. In addition, when the waves are pumping or the competitors are surfing a spot that is far out to sea, it is often difficult to hear the beach announcer and know the status of the heat. This can make it quite difficult to strategize, know what scores one needs to acquire to advance, and know how and when to use priority.

This is especially consequential near the end of the heat, when athletes have the opportunity to use priority to effectively block their opponents from getting scores. The priority flag is intended to encourage surfing and help more waves get ridden, as it lets the surfers in the heat take turns choosing what wave they want to ride. After the surfer with priority rides a wave or paddles for a wave, they lose priority and the other competitor receives priority, which allows them to choose whatever wave they want. This is a much better system than having two competitors paddle each other deeper and deeper as they fight for waves, often resulting in both of them being out of position. However, the priority system can sometimes be used to block opponents from getting waves. While this is not its intended use, it is good strategy, especially when the surfer who has the higher score has priority at the end of the heat. Instead of letting their competitor catch a good wave in the last few seconds of the heat and potentially get the score they need to advance, the surfer who is leading and who has priority can “block” the other surfer by going on the wave, since priority means that they get to ride that wave alone, without any interference from their competition.

In the past, surfers have had to pay close attention to the beach announcer, the heat scores, and the priority flag in order to effectively strategize.

But this year, the World Surf League has partnered with Apple to provide the athletes with Apple Watches that have the WSL surfer app on it.


This app will keep athletes informed in real time about their scores, their placing in the heat, what they or their competitors need to advance, and who has priority. By simply checking their watches, they can know exactly what the status of the heat is and craft their strategy accordingly. Sometimes, they don’t even need to look at the watch. For example, they can set the app to vibrate on their arm when they have priority, so that they know without looking what their status is.

Filipe Toledo WSL Official watch Apple watch

 Pic from WSL

While this will likely be a bit confusing for athletes at first, just as any new innovation is, it will eventually lead to a more efficient, streamlined competitive format where athletes don’t have to depend on beach announcers and difficult-to-see priority flags to adjust their heat strategy. This means they can focus more on surfing, which is ultimately what we are all tuning in to see.


I’m looking forward to seeing this new technology implemented this week at the Pipeline Pro, which kickstarts our year and the battle for the 2023 world title. I’ll see you all down at Ehukai Beach when the event is called on!