Coastal Preservation, Updates, Climate Change, Smartfin
June 08 2016

Surfer-Scientists Searching for Solutions

by Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

Climate change is not only a widely recognized occurrence, but it is now becoming a common household term.  Regardless of where people ‘stand on the issue’ the words “climate change” have been flung around a lot lately.  

And now, those words—climate change—are going to be heard “in the line up”, as surfers say. 

Surfrider recently partnered with Smartfin to help collect ocean data in relation to climate change—specifically recording data on salinity, acidity, and water temperatures.  We decided to pursue this partnership because we are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change on both our coasts and ocean.   

There is ample scientific evidence proving climate change is altering ocean chemistry.  More than half of pollution emitted by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by ocean water.  As a result, high concentrations of CO2 are causing the oceans to acidify. More acidic water is dissolving sea creatures’ protective shells. If climate change continues at its present rate, the pH level of the Earth’s oceans will decrease by 150 to 200 percent by 2100. 

Surfers Drop In on Ocean Acidification 

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.  However, this challenge didn’t deter a few scientists and researchers who recently developed a new tool to further this critical area of research.  Their tool? 

A surfboard. 

Smartfin, is a surfboard fin with sensors that measures multiple ocean parameters including salinity, pH, temperature, location, and wave characteristics.  The data surfers acquire while in the water will become accessible in near real-time. 

Smartfin will not only serve the worldwide scientific community with valuable ocean data but will also raise environmental awareness about our ocean in general.

Smartfin is collaborating with researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the world’s leading institutions for Oceanographic research, to validate the scientific application of Smartfin in the surf zone.

In the upcoming months, Surfrider will be working with local communities and surfers to put these fins to work! Smartfin is the beginning of something very cool, and we are stoked t be part of it.  Check out this video.