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.

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 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 a pilot through Surfrider San Diego 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, please fill out the form on the "contact" tab so you can receive updates and learn when a Smartfin program is launched in your community. 

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

Demo Videos

For more info and to contact the Smartfin team, go to

BBC Earth Unplugged | How Surfers Help Scientists Study the Ocean | May 10, 2018

Seeker | Waves Can Tell Us A Lot About Climate Change, But You Have To Catch Them First | February 11, 2018

SURFER Magazine | Smartfin Turns Surfers Into Citizen-Scientists | October 13, 2017

Science | Scientists put a 'smartfin' on my surfboard. Is it the next wave in ocean monitoring? | September 8, 2017

Hatch | Smartfin Brings Science to Surfing | August 15, 2017

PBS's Crowd & the Cloud, Episode 4 | Citizens4Earth | April 27, 2017

The San Diego Union Tribune | UCSD's Ignite Event Highlights Startups from Local Universities | February 23, 2017

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

The Today Show | Surfing for Science | August 28, 2016


Please send any media inquiries to

Smartfin Updates