Drones are taking over the surfing world.
Try and surf any world class break and you’ll hear the buzzing of a drone circling the lineup overhead.
For the past ten years or so they’ve been an amazing way to get clips of your surfing.
Surfers like Jamie O’Brien have made trademark youtube videos with the classic drone shot.
However it’s important to know what to look for in a drone when looking to purchase.
Allow us to fly through some of the best options on the market.
History of the Drone - and its Relationship to Surfing
Surfers through the years have always been on the lookout for how to get a better clip of their surfing.
Of course there’s the classic beach shot that’s been used since surfing hit the mainstream.
Then people started taking videos in the water which was revolutionary and offered an up close personal look at a surfers wave.
Then, the early 2010’s introduced drones to the surfing world.
Since that point nobody has looked back. When operated correctly they can get amazing aerial shots tracking a surfer on some of the best waves in the world.
Go to Pipe or Waikiki on a good day and that buzzing of drones might be louder than the crashing of waves.
What Should You Look For in a Drones
The only downside of purchasing a drone is how much money a good one will set you back.
Some of the best and most reliable drones on the market can run in the $2,000 plus range.
However there are mini drones that are fairly reliable and usually run for about $300-$500.
It really depends on how long you plan on keeping your drone in the air and how committed you are to drone surf photography. If you’re just starting out something in the $300 range should be just fine.
Camera on the Drone
There’s no surf clips without a good camera on the drone so always make sure the drone you plan on purchasing has a camera and that the camera is high enough quality to capture your waves.
Most drones will say 4K or 8K camera in the description which should be perfect for getting some good aerial surf clips.
Drone Flight Time
An important factor to consider when purchasing a drone is how long the drone can stay in the air.
A cheap drone may only have a battery life of about 20 minutes which would be relatively useless in a surfing situation.
So be sure to get a drone with a solid flight time and batteries that are easily replaceable.
Most states require that you register your drone with the FAA but it's also important to make sure that your favorite surf spot isn’t directly over a no fly zone.
As long as you're not too close to a wildlife refuge or airport you should be good to go.
You also need to make sure you don't plan on flying anywhere higher than 400 feet.
The 5 Best Drones For Surf Photography Today
DJI Mavic 3 Classic
DJI is probably one of the best manufacturers of camera drones in the world and their flagship Mavic 3 Classic is one of the best drones on the market.
The flight time on this drone is 46 minutes and it also has an incredibly professional looking 5.1K HD video camera.
It’s also incredibly light weight and has a ton of features that make flying it relatively simple. Since this is one of the better drones on the market it will set you back about $1,599.
You can check out this drone for surfing here.
DJI Mini 3
Another DJI, this drone is better suited for those just getting into drone photography.
This drone has a 4K video camera and also has a flight battery life of 38 minutes which is pretty solid considering the size of this drone.
It weighs just about 249g which is perfect for transporting anywhere.
This drone for surfing also stays incredibly steady in windy conditions despite its lightweight build.
This drone is a little more reasonable and costs $559.
Learn more about this drone for surfing here.
Perhaps fulfilling all the surfers needs, the SwellPro Spry+ is one of the best waterproof drones on the market.
The aircraft itself and the remote controller is 100% waterproof which is perfect for getting some closer shots without having to worry about losing your $2000 drone to the waves.
Just because it's waterproof doesn’t mean it lacks in other areas. It still has a 4K camera and is much more reasonable than a new DJI, coming in at $987.
Learn more about this drone here.
Holy Stone HS720G
Holy Stone is one of the only drone manufacturers out there making GPS drones.
Their HS720G is one of their best drones in their fleet and has a ton of great features for getting some insane surf clips.
They have a 4K camera and 26 min battery life which may not seem like much but they are replaceable so you can bring multiple backup batteries during a filming session.
This drone is also incredibly reasonable priced at $270 and is great for anyone just starting out. Learn more about this drone here.
SwellPro SplashDrone 4
Another SwellPro, this drone is similar to the Spry+ but it has several features that make it a better overall drone.
It has a waterproof landing platform and 30 minute flight time.
Then the camera is another high quality 4K. It also has a really cool powerflip feature which turns the drone over if it lands in the water upside down. This drone is on the higher end and comes in at $2498.
Learn more about this drone here.
Drones For Surf Photography Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the best quality drone to buy?
DJI is probably the most reliable and quality drone you can buy on the market. They’ve been a leader in the drone market for years now and for really good reason. They also have plenty of options depending on your experience with drones.
Q. What is the most durable drone?
I would recommend something like the SwellPro for durability. Since they specialize in waterproof drones and water is one of the biggest obstacles when filming surfing then it is probably your best bet.
Q. Can drones fly for hours?
No, they usually have flight times around 30-45 minutes but most of them have replaceable batteries so they can be ready to go right after one battery dies.
Q. What size does a drone come in?
It depends on the drone. If you're looking for something more lightweight then look at the DJI Mini or SwellPro Spry+. Something less portable would be the DJI Mavic but the overall quality is much better.
Q. What happens if your drone falls in the ocean?
Depending on if it's waterproof it could be bad. It could sustain some serious water damage but if you invest in a waterproof drone this whole problem could be avoided.
Q. Are there any liabilities with a drone?
If you don’t follow the laws surrounding drones then yes. It’s important to register your drone with the FAA and stay below 400 feet. Then of course stay away from airports and other no fly zones.
Drones For Surf Photography: The Bottom Line
Aerial drone shots are perfect for surfing. They offer a new perspective and allow you to get really interesting shots of your surfing.
Since they are a relatively new piece of technology there is still so much to explore with drone photography, so get out there and take some amazing clips of you and your friends surfing with a drone.