Smartfin

The Smartfin is a surfboard fin with sensors that measure important ocean properties that help researchers and coastal communities understand trends in ocean health. With the Smartfin, surfers become citizen scientists, turning wave sets into data sets simply while surfing their favorite breaks.
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Researchers and scientists have been scrambling to obtain baseline information about changing ocean chemistry for the past several years, but collecting data in a nearshore environment like the surf zone with high-energy dynamics is not easy.  This challenge didn’t deter a few scientists and engineers, however, who recently developed a new tool to further this critical area of research.  Their tool? The Smartfin.

The Smartfin is a surfboard fin with sensors that measure multiple ocean parameters including temperature, location, and wave characteristics (sensors that measure salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll are in development).  Using an app on their phone, the data surfers acquire while in the water becomes 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 will be able to better understand trends in ocean warming and acidification and mobilize our communities to take action to combat these problems caused by climate change.  Learn more about Surfrider’s campaigns to address climate change.

The first Smartfin program kicked off with the San Diego chapter in May 2017 and Smartfin citizen scientists are out in the waves - as we speak - collecting oceanographic data. But you don’t have to be a surfer to participate! At the heart of the Smartfin project is a mission to engage and educate communities about changes in ocean health and we need people to help us tell this story. So in addition to collecting data (surfing) we welcome people who can:

  • Represent Surfrider’s Smartfin committee at community events, beach cleanups, or demo days
  • Help write blogs or social media messages to help spread the word about ocean health in your community
  • Give presentations at local schools
  • Talk to local elected representatives about ocean health issues
  • Plan events or fundraisers to support the Smartfin project

If you are in San Diego and interested in participating in the Smartfin program, you can sign-up with the San Diego chapter. If you are outside of the San Diego area, check out the “resources” tab on this page to learn how to start a Smartfin program in your area. 

Smartfin is an innovative collaboration with researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the world’s leading institutions for oceanographic research; Lost Bird Project, an environmental arts organization that aims to inspire each of us to engage toward a better relationship with the earth; Surfrider Foundation; and Futures Fins, the world’s leading surfboard fin manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Planning a Smartfin Program

Smartfin User Manual

Smartfin Quick Start Guide

Demo Videos

Ride a Wave, Save the Ocean (GMA News Online; August 10, 2016)

Surfing for Science (The Today Show; August 28, 2016)

How Surfers are Helping Scientist Fight Ocean Pollution (Lady Free Thinker; September 1, 2016)

Surfboard Sensors Serve Science (AMI Newswire; September 2, 2016)

Smartfin - Collecting Data for Deeper Understanding of our Changing Oceans (United Nations Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre; September 9, 2016)

Surfers Crowdsource Oceanic Data Using Smartfin IoT Sensors (Network World; December 12, 2016)

World-Building (Marketplace's Codebreaker Podcast, Season 2, Episode 5; December 14, 2016)

UCSD's Ignite Event Highlights Startups from Local Universities (Union Tribune; February 23, 2017)

Citizens4Earth (PBS's Crowd & the Cloud, Episode 4; April 27, 2017)

Smartfin Updates