Best drones for surfing [Buyer’s guide, shot list and tips]

Drones are incredible for capturing sporting activities. They give you an overview of what is happening and can follow people places that conventional cameras cannot. Drones are perfect for surfing as they allow you to get a birds eye view of what is happening but also allows the spectator to get up, close, and personal to the surface. Something that is simply not achievable by any other means. Whether you want to show off your latest surf trip or you are using the drone to better your surfing technique this article will go through all of the best drones for surfing that you need to know about.

The best drones for surfing are waterproof, easy to transport to the surfing location, and rugged. These include the SwellPro splash drone and the Spry+ drone – if you want something a little bit more portable. If you don’t want a waterproof drone the DJI Mavic air 2 is an excellent choice.

Ultimately, the best drones for surfing comes down to what exactly you are doing with your drone, the shots you want to capture, and your skill as a pilot. Taking into account things like accessing shoot locations, automatic mode such as follow me mode and your budget will allow you to settle on the best drone for capturing your surfing.

Drones to consider

There are many drones to consider if you are looking for the best drone for surfing. I have purposely chosen the top five which I think you should consider because they either are waterproof and have incredible photography and videography capabilities, or they are very well manufactured and trustworthy drones that you wouldn’t mind sending out overwater.

I’m going to give you a quick rundown on the following drones:

Swell Pro SplashDrone 3+Waterproof and swappable modules
Spry+Waterproof and portable
PowerVision PowerEgg XWaterproof and has awesome AI capture
DJI Phantom 4 ProTrusted rugged drone great camera
DJI Mavic Air 2Portable drone and awesome camera

Swell Pro SplashDrone 3+

This drone is perfect for filming surfing as long as you are comfortable spending a lot of money on the drone and also the waterproof camera module that is required to capture the footage.

The great thing about this drone is it has a variety of other payloads which means you can use it for fishing, waterproof photography, rescue, and much more. If you are regularly at the beach and you want a versatile drone that will give you the ability to go drone fishing as well as capturing your surfing trips – this is a fantastic option for you.

The great thing about this drone is that you can actually land on the water whether it. Having a completely waterproof drone means that you will be able to get much closer to the action without worrying about damaging your new gadget.

You are able to fly this drone in rain and snow and it is able to fly in winds up to 18 mph (28 km/h) with wind gusts up to 31 mph (49 km/h).

This also comes with a dedicated remote control which means that you do not have to risk your smart phone as the first person view display unit. It has all of the buttons and toggles that allow you to control the drone completely and has a 5 inch bright display which shows you the live video as you are recording your surf.

It’s features include

  • extended flight time up to 23 minutes
  • full body IP67 waterproof body
  • GPS module and lost drone location beacon
  • up to 4K video and 16 MB photos (with additional camera purchase)
  • 65 km/h top speed
  • floating design
  • all in one remote controller
  • flexible app control
  • follow me mode, circle flying, tap to fly, returns home.

The fact that it has a number of automatic flight modes such as follow me, circle, and return to home means that you are not limited by your ability to fly this drone if you want to capture a solo surfing trip.

Spry+

This drone is a portable and compact all in one waterproof drone. The aircraft and the remote controller of this drone are completely waterproof and corrosion resistance. This means that if you are interested in capturing footage very close to the water for example when surfing it will be safe. It is even able to land and take off from the water.

This drone does not have foldable arms and so isn’t as easy to carry as the DJI Mavic air 2. However, what it lacks for in affordability it makes up for in video quality and ruggedness.

If you don’t quite have the budget for the Swell Pro SplashDrone 3+ drone but you are still looking for a waterproof drone that you are comfortable taking out onto the beach – this should be one of your top options.

It’s features include:

  • 4K 30 frames per second video shooting and 12 megapixel photos
  • 64 GB SD card storage
  • six normal flight modes – GPS mode, circle mode, ATTI mode, follow me mode, or to return, circle and follow mode.
  • 65 km/h top speed
  • intuitive app control

Clearly, the 4K video option reason you’ll get crystal-clear images and 12 megapixel photos which will show off your surfing and location perfectly. It also contains a number of flight modes which allow you to capture perfectly framed shots at a push of a button.

PowerVision PowerEgg X

This drone is only waterproof if you install the waterproof accessories. That means it can fly in the rain and take off and land on water. It has been designed to perform well in aerial photography of watersports and can be used to fly in the rain with the same accessories.

This drone and the PowerEgg has an impressive array of features which are focused around the camera. The camera is able to recognise faces and also follow a subject to keep it in the centre of the frame.

  • 4K at 60 frames per second
  • Voice sync to capture the audio from your mobile while flying.
  • 30 minutes flight
  • 3.7 miles image transmission
  • AI camera mode
  • drone mode three axis gimbal
  • waterproof with wizard package
  • 20 knot or 10 m/s wind resistance

If you’re looking for a camera solution which can automatically stabilise and follow people as well as becoming handheld camera and a drone look no further than this awesome bit of technology.

If you are not using it as a drone it has a maximum battery life of 3 ½ hours which means that you can take it on some pretty serious recording missions.

For someone who wants an all in one solution to capturing their surfing trip which includes drone footage as well as handheld shots on the beach this camera/drone is a no-brainer.

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is not a waterproof camera. However it has been designed with the professional creator in mind.

If you want to capture amazing slow motion footage of your surfing trip this has some of the best features including a 4K recording at 60 frames per second. Perfect for slowing down to get cinematic slow Mo shots.

It’s mechanical shutter means that you are able to capture fast-moving surfing action without distorting the image.

This drone has:

  • 4K at 60 frames per second
  • 1 inch sensor
  • mechanical shutter
  • five direction obstacle sensing
  • 30 minute maximum flight time

Even though the camera on this thing is excellent is also the powerful flight performance which gives this drone the edge while capturing surfing.

There are several flight modes which will make the flying very easy and smooth and you can switch 20 flight modes as you need to. The maximum speed is 45 mph which is fast enough to capture all of your surfing adventures.

If you want an industry standard drone which will enable you to capture your surf this should be on your list!

The drone will also return to home automatically upon a low battery or disconnection from the remote control. You won’t get to take the remote control into the surf with you so you will need an extra pair of hands to film your trip.

DJI Mavic Air 2

Another drone which is not waterproof but completely deserves your attention is the DJI Mavic air 2.

I think that the best drone flying over the water at the moment is the DJI Mavic air 2.

If you don’t like the idea of a drone which is made in China check out my other article – the best drone not made in China – seven awesome options. Click here to be taken to the article which will include some drones that you probably have never heard of but are well worth thinking about.

I love my Mavic Air and was happy when DJI decided to upgrade the drone. It seems like they have done it in all the right ways! The Mavic Air 2 takes power and portability to the next level, offering advanced features in a compact package. It has a range of intelligent shooting functions and excellent image quality put aerial masterpieces within reach.

The camera includes:

  • 1/2-inch CMOS sensor: it has smooth 4K/60fps video. The D-Cinelike flat color profile retains more information for post-processing. The HEVC (H.265) video codec records more image information, uses less storage, and preserves the dynamic range and detail of your footage, ensuring next-level content.
  • 8K Hyperlapse: this will allow you to simply warp time and space for especially stunning footage.

this is an inexpensive and ultra-portable drone that I think you’d be silly not to consider if you want to be a little more budget conscious.

  • Weight – 570 g
  • Dimensions
    • Folded: 180×97×74 mm (Length×Width×Height)
    • Unfolded: 183×253×77 mm (Length×Width×Height)
  • 34 minutes max flight time
  • Max wind-speed resistance – 8.5-10.5 m/s
  • 8 GB internal storage
  • Max speed – 19 m/s

The Mavic air 2 is an incredibly portable drone that you can chuck in your backpack and head off to the beach. What it lacks for in waterproofness in makes up for in flight time and image quality.

If you want a drone that you are confident to send out over the water and you want to capture more footage this is the drone for you. With features like focus track, and a 34 minute flight time I’m certain you’ll be able to capture all of the impressive parts of your surf.

Here are the most important aspects for buying a drone to capture surfing.

Buyers guide

There are a ton of different drones which would be suitable for capturing surfing. Essentially, as long as the drone has a great camera you’re good to go. However, there are some features of a drone which will make it stand out as a drone you are comfortable to take surfing. Let’s take a look at those now.

Waterproof/sandproof

If you are regularly taking your drone surfing and to the beach you want it to be as waterproof and soundproof as possible. Even the most careful of owners still drop their drone and inadvertently land in places that can damage the drone body and hardware.

The fact that you are flying out over water regularly means that having a waterproof drone gives you a piece of mind that no other feature can give you.

If the drone is waterproof and it can land in the water even if you have to swim out to get you know that you have not caused any damage to the internals and your drone will survive another day.

Follow me mode

I would also be looking for a drone which has a follow me mode and other types of intelligent follow modes. This means that it allows the operator to capture the person surfing with minimal effort at the touch of a button.

I would choose a drone that has simple artificial intelligent modes so that you don’t have to spend hours learning how to capture those shots manually – you can in the future – but at the moment you just want to focus on surfing.

Long battery life

drone battery life is increasing year on year and the DJI Mavic air 2 has got a look maximum flight time of up to 34 minutes. In my experience that is probably closer to 25 minutes in real-world conditions.

Nonetheless, that is an incredible amount of time and it means you can even paddle out with a follow me mode catch a wave and allow it to land automatically upon low battery. Local laws mean that you should be in control or times but if you’re in a remote place with no one around why not give it a go?

The longer the battery life the more epic shots you will be able to take instead of worrying about taking off, landing, and getting back to the landing spot with plenty of battery to spare.

Foldable

the waterproof drones in this article are not foldable because if they were foldable it would give the water place to enter the drone. However, if you have to backpack or regularly walk to your surfing spot and you don’t want to lug around a huge drone getting a foldable drone will allow you to chuck it in a backpack easily.

How to get awesome surfing drone shots

Getting the perfect drone shots relies on you creating a shot list and getting comfortable with the settings on your camera. For example you need to know what a shutter speed does and how to you can use neutral density filters to capture awesome footage in bright sunlight.

Here are the things that you need to consider when capturing the perfect drone shots:

Position

First of all, I would consider the best position to place the drone relative to where the people are surfing. It doesn’t make sense to place the drone behind the surfer as you will not be able to capture the majority of the surf.

You want to position the drone pointing out from the beach and at a 90° to 45° angle to the action. This will give you the best opportunity to capture the wave as well as the action.

Once you are aware where the drone needs to be positioned in front of the wave you should make a shot lists that you don’t go home disappointed.

Make a shot list

making a shot list means that when you get home to edit your footage or photographs you have captured everything you need to betray the story of the surfing trip accurately and interestingly. Here are the shots that I would take of the action.

Straight towards the drone

First, I would position the drone 90° to the wave. And allow the surfer to come towards the drone. You can make this seem more dynamic by flying towards the person surfing or slightly rolling to the left or right to follow the surfer as they surf.

From above

One of the last shots I would try to get is what the sets look like from directly above the surfer. Take the drone as high as it makes sense based on whether you can still make out the surfers and the waves.

Placing the drone directly above the beach and the surf will give you some awesome texture as the sand turns into water.

Waves passing drone

I would position the drone and leave it stationary so that the waves pass underneath the drone. You can follow the surfer with the camera to demonstrate the sorts of speeds that are associated with surfing. This will give you the ability to cut into another view as the wave passes underneath the drone.

45 degree to the wave

At 45° angle to the breaking wave you are able to capture much more of the wave and give a perspective that not a lot of people are able to see.

You are able to capture much more of the action and you don’t have to be as precise with your camera tracking to capture some rate footage. Essentially, you are giving yourself some aero bars which allow you to play about in postproduction.

Establishing shot

An establishing shot is one of the beach or the surfers heading out for surfing. I recommend that you pan out from the beach as well so that people get an idea of where you are, the interesting features around the surfers, and you have set the scene for the upcoming shots.

Light behind the drone

Make sure that the light is behind the drone for the majority of the shots and you can use a polarised filter on the front of the drone lens if you are getting a lot of glare from the ripples in the water.

The camera is only able to operate as well as the amount of light that is entering the lens so aim to maximise light exposure at all times.

Quick shutter speed

Using a quick shutter speed means that you’ll be able to freeze fast-moving objects in place. It will also reduce motion blur if that is the desired effect you are going for.

Practice

There is no doubt that practising as much as possible will actually make you a much better drone pilot and videographer than anything else. I like to try and replicate the auto modes manually so that I can combine the shots as and when I need them.

Keep going until you are proud of the sorts of things that you can achieve with your drone and photography.

Summary

In this article we have gone through the best drones for surfing. Ultimately, you need to make a decision on whether or not a waterproof drone is important for you and sorts of shots that you will be taking.

Using a drone with an amazing camera is only the first step in capturing awesome footage or photos.

Get out there, get practising and enjoy learning more about drones!

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. Andy started droneflyingpro.com to share his love and the research of all things drone! He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drone. His favorite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!