Technology beats forward every day. And with each breakthrough in progression, diligent minds are taking note and finding ways to translate that in to something they are passionate about.
Take developer and Anton Bremer for instance, a surfer hailing from the frigid coastline of the Netherlands who now calls the UK city of Bristol home (yes, he's surfed The Wave). Anton wanted to combine his passions and find a way that modern tech can improve or enhance his, and your, surfing experience.
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With that, he developed Dawn Patrol a free app you can download for your Apple Watch and iPhone, that can track your waves, speed, where abouts you caught a wave from, wave count, hell, even the calories you burned during a session.
And for some, that's an exciting proposition – after all, if you can break down wave after wave with myriad data beamed to your wrist or palm of your hand, then that could be a gate opener to push your surfing limits.
At its core, Dawn Patrol turns your Apple Watch into a fully functioning surf watch. But this isn't a gimmick or quirky Euro-jank, or something that just floods the App market with the next 'thing'. Put simply, it works exactly as it says it does, and we wanted to take a deeper plunge into how it all came together. So, here's a chat with Anton about the tech, why he thinks it's important and how it can positively improve your surfing life.
So, tell us a bit about Dawn Patrol, what is it and how it was started?
We love surfing and we love apps – I know that sounds strange. But we wanted to share that passion with every one, really. So with Dawn Patrol, you can transform your Apple watch into a fully functioning surf watch.
It can track your surf, count your waves and show them on a map, it measures your heart rate and calories burned too.
Before and during the surf you can check the actual tide of your favourite surf beaches on your wrist.
Sounds great, and you’re from Holland, right? What’s the surf scene like over there right now?
At the moment I live in Bristol, but yes, I am from Holland. Holland is not the first country you think of when you plan your surf trip.
The sea is relatively small and cold and as a surfer you live mainly on wind swell. But sometimes everything seems to come together. Light off shore wind and a decent swell. The banks along the wide stretch of coastline (appr. 350km) are in general good and on these days the surf can be epic.
The water temperatures in Holland vary widely between winter and summer. I think in a cold winter it could go down to below 5 degrees celcius, and in a good summer the water temperature goes up to about 20.
With those surf conditions in Holland and also with the cold water, we have a really keen surf scene. Dutch surfers are very dedicated and go out in any conditions. Surfers in Holland bond very well, because of the surf conditions we feel as if we’re kind of “in the same boat” if that makes sense.
At what point did you have that eureka moment and realise this is what you wanted to do?
Well, it began in Holland. We all want to surf as often as possible so I started to have ideas on how to make the experience last longer.
My idea was that we could take the waves home with us and continually evaluate them and see what, where or how we could improve.
When Apple launched their new watch, I thought that's easy enough to do, hence Dawn Patrol.
Dawn Patrol allows surfers to count their waves, know their top speed, beat personal records, measure waves and water time and know the distance surfed per wave
Dawn Patrol allows surfers to count their waves, know their top speed, beat personal records, measure waves and water time and know the distance surfed per wave. All this can be done using an Apple Watch.
The app then transfers data across to the users' iPhone allowing them to relive and analyse their surf sessions, view waves on a map, see their performance per spot and surf board. Dawn Patrol integrates with the Health and Activity apps on your phone.
Surfers from around the globe are now giving Dawn Patrol feedback as we continually improve and make any changes possible. The Dawn Patrol team takes this feedback, updates the app and puts it to market.
But this isn’t just a gimmick, right? It’s helping people with a whole set of data to dig into, how did you chose what to measure?
A few things to measure are just common sense. I mean, it is in the Health and Fitness category on the App store. Fitness apps measure people’s heart rates and calories burned, so that was an obvious one to start with.
At the start, for the more surf related data, it was mostly thinking of what we find interesting ourselves to know about our surfing.
When I started developing the app, I asked our ambassador Nienke Duinmeijer (professional longboarder from Holland) to help me to test it. Together we defined the data that would be interesting for surfers to get insight to.
After that, we started to collect feedback from users. The users tell us which data they would like to see, and we are slowly adding more metrics to the app based on that feedback. We will continue to do so.
And what data does it use?
I can't get into too much technical detail....
Oh, go on...
Well, as you can imagine some of that is sensitive information. But since we display your waves on a map, we use the GPS of the Apple Watch to get the locations of the waves you surf.
Ok fair enough, so how can this positively impact on people’s surfing lives?
We believe that by using Dawn Patrol you can collect interesting data about your surfing. You can learn from this information and improve your surfing. Personally I noticed that when I started to use Dawn Patrol I was kind of catching waves all over the place.
By comparing that with Nienke's data it became obvious to me that she was catching waves all at the same position. I then taught myself to stay closer to the peak. By reviewing my waves on the map I can see now that I got much better at staying in position and keep taking waves at the same peak.
Furthermore, Dawn Patrol shows which waves you caught at which water level. By gaining a deeper understanding of in which conditions you are catching the longest or best waves, you learn a lot about your local break.
We also had feedback from users recovering from an injury that took them out of the surf. When they get back in the surf they see their wave count going up whilst time passes. This is a great motivation for people when you’re on a long and slow recovery path.
How about development, how did this go from brain wave to execution?
We started in 2016 when Apple launched their Apple Watch Series 2. The first version of the app was launched in January 2017. Since then Dawn Patrol has become increasingly popular among surfers who are keen to develop their skills in the water but also learn about the characteristics of the spots they surf.
With the increased demand the Dawn Patrol team has grown into a group of like minded individuals spread throughout Europe. Our team all share the same passion and stoke for both surfing, the ocean and technology. With Dawn Patrol's team growth we strive to achieve outstanding levels of customer satisfaction alongside building the most accurate surf tracking app.
So how long did it take to develop? I don’t know what to tell you, we’re not done yet as we keep improving the app. It’s like a house, it’s never finished! [laughs]
It sounds rad, how can people get the app?
Simply by searching Dawn Patrol on the Apple App Store. The app is free of charge on the App Store. Surfers who want more can then opt into our Soul Surfer subscription to get the tides on their wrist and to get more in-depth data.