Lost Bird Project


Mission Statement

The Smartfin Program is a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to improving coastal well-being by engaging surfers in the collection of nearshore ocean data.
The Smartfin itself is a patented high-tech surfboard fin equipped with sensors that record ocean chemistry. The data collected by the Smartfin is sent to the cloud over a cellular connection and made available to scientists at no charge. To surfers, the Smartfin looks and performs like a standard, high performance longboard surfboard fin. To scientists, it is an innovative tool for the study of nearshore ocean health and coastal shoreline ecology.


Why Smartfin?
There is considerable research on the consequences of rising water temperatures on our oceans, but little is known about the impact of these increased temperatures on coastal ecosystems. None of the traditional methods for collecting oceanographic data: research vessels, buoys, moored sensors and satellites, are ideal for studying the nearshore ecosystem.
Satellite acquired data, while accurate for the open ocean, is not accurate for coastal regions. Traditional buoys and moored sensors cannot withstand the persistent punishment of coastal ocean waves and are too expensive to be deployed in large numbers. A community of surfers equipped with Smartfins can fill this data gap. The aggressive nearshore environment is precisely where surfers choose to spend their time. Smartfins deployed in large numbers can affordably gather, in near-real time, coastal data across the globe, including changes in temperature, water quality, and coastal physics such as riptides and changing swell patterns.
Why Surfers?
Half of mankind lives on the coasts and billions of us depend on coastal ocean health for our food and livelihood. Surfers are perfectly, geographically and culturally, positioned to be both citizen scientists and global ambassadors for ocean health. Surf breaks dot the coasts of all continents, even Antarctica. Many of the most endangered coastal ecosystems are located at iconic surf breaks.
The global surfing community is estimated to comprise over 5 million individuals. Surfers welcome the opportunity to help monitor the coastal zone. Our pilot Smartfin Program in the San Diego area has proven that surfers are committed to ocean health and find surfing a Smartfin to be a meaningful way to give back to the environment.

Program Details

Smartfin Development to Date
The Smartfin Program began in 2014. From 2016 to 2017, we conducted a focused Smartfin Pilot Program. Smartfin has been rigorously tested by surfers and oceanographers. We now have a fin that is robust, accurate, user-friendly, and currently in development for scaled-up manufacturing and distribution in TBD 2020.
While developing the Smartfin technology, we have concurrently built strong relationships with ocean science institutions, surf industry leaders, and ocean advocacy organizations. Smartfin technology has been developed by our partners at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego. Our Scripps partnership ensures that the Smartfin technology and data is accurate and held in high regard by peer research institutions worldwide. Smartfins and the data collected with them are currently being used by teams of oceanographers in England, Australia, San Diego and Hawaii. Scripps scientists will also be publishing scientific papers for peer-reviewed publications.
For Smartfin’s surfer engagement strategies, we have partnered with Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches through a powerful activist network. Surfrider will provide logistical and outreach support for the distribution of fins to its network of chapters across the United States.
Our data management collaborator, Axiom provides data organization, consolidation, visualization and open accessibility. Axiom presents Smartfin data alongside other established monitoring systems like NOAA buoys and NASA satellite data. Axiom’s platform makes this data available to end users for scientific research and analysis. Axiom’s platform also provides our internal Smartfin team with a way to monitor and manage the data that is coming into the system.
Primary Issue
Secondary Issue
Climate Change
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