Image source: Garmin

How wearable technology is changing water sports

It is not so long ago that wearable technology in the world of sports was the stuff of science fiction. Nowadays, it is commonplace to wear a Fitbit or an Apple Watch or some other gadget whilst out running or in the gym. As the industry grows and technology becomes more popular, it is inevitable that some more niche sports will get their own versions of wearables, catering to their unique nuances.

Essential reading: Head off to the pool with one of these gadgets

And let’s not forget GoPro. Although it hasn’t changed specifics of how we partake in sports, the documenting of them has been revolutionized by the popularity of these little devices. They capture high quality videos like never before.

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Image source: Garmin

Garmin wearables are a great example of where fitness trackers and smartwatches are heading. They follow us around 24/7 monitoring and checking that everything is in order. But they also allow us to switch to a specific sports mode when needed.

It is of little surprise that the company offers a range of products for water sports. For example, their Vivoactive range is proving very popular amongst swimmers. However for the out and out water sport fanatic, the Fenix model is a stunning addition to your arsenal.

With a new version recently out and rumours abound of the next generation, the watch offers specialized functions for swimming, open water swimming, SUP boarding and rowing, making it a water sports fanatic’s best friend, even if you take part in multiple sports. Its features include GPS, heart rate monitoring, altimeter, thermometer, calories burned and more. The Fenix 5 is designed to be something of an ‘all-rounder’ and truth be told, you need to niche down to find the most specific features.

The other great option is the Forerunner 935, same functionality in a less expensive wrapper. And lets not forget the Garmin Quatix – a must have for avid mariners of all types — or the Garmin Descent for divers.

Then there are products such as Rip Curl’s Search GPS (view on Amazon). This is a watch specifically designed for surfers. It can count waves, track speeds, distances, local tides and distances travelled.

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Image source: Garmin

But realistically, not all of us can afford tailor made products for each sport, or higher end smart devices. This is why the more ‘budget’ end of the market is starting to catch on. Fitbit’s Flex 2 is one such device. It comes with water resistance and can be used when swimming. The recently released Ionic and Versa are a step up for the company, its first fully fledged smartwatches that are water-resistant, too.

This article wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the Apple Watch. Series 4 is just out and it brings a host of new features such as an ECG monitor, watching out for trips and falls, keeping tabs on low/high heart rate and irregular heart rate alerts. Nothing new in terms of water sports but the device does take across all the great H2O features of its predecessor.

Wearables are an exciting prospect for water sports and although still in early stages of use, sports which were previously difficult to learn and participate in can use wearables and even virtual reality. A world where we can practice surfing or paddle-boarding in the comfort of our living room is just around the corner.

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Ben Jacklin

Ben is the founder of thewatersporter.com, a tutorial and review website about water sports. He is also a blogger and sports enthusiast from the United Kingdom.

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