What’s the Buzz Around Drone Surfing (and is it Legal)?


Drones have grown very popular among hobbyists as of late because it can be great to have something that you can control remotely to take photos of beautiful scenery. However, drones are also becoming quite popular among a completely different group of people—surfers. Surfers have been using drones for surfing in a way that is oddly similar to kitesurfing, only using a drone instead. So, what’s the buzz around drone surfing, and is it even legal in the first place?

Drone surfing has become a new big thing because it is easier compared to kitesurfing as you can more easily control where the drone is going and you don’t have to rely on the wind. But even though drones are strictly legislated, there is still no consensus as to whether this is a legal activity.

That said, as we dive into a future that is more driven by technology than ever before, even surfing has become a tech-driven hobby now that we can make use of drones to actually have fun out in the water. Of course, the verdict as to whether or not it is legal for you to do this is still up in the air. But, as long as there are no laws that will stop you from using a drone for surfing, it is best to enjoy every moment of it while you can.

What is Drone Surfing?

As technology continues to evolve, people have seen the rise of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in many areas. In the past, we often thought of drones as military weapons that the military could control remotely so that they could bomb or monitor certain areas without having any personnel there. However, today, drones are now also invading the consumer market as there are UAVs that you can use for a wide variety of different recreational or even professional purposes.

Drones are being used in a lot of surprising and different ways today. As drones are on the rise and people are beginning to find new and creative ways to use them, they are also used for an entirely different recreational activity that may seem different from all of the other activities that usually involve drones. And the activity we are talking about here is drone surfing.

When you think about surfing, you might not think that it could possibly be related to drones in any kind of manner. Of course, it is not rare for you to see people taking aerial photos and videos of people surfing as this is the best way for you to get the best angles when it comes to surfing. However, in relation to surfing itself and not to how you take photos of surfing, you wouldn’t automatically think that there could be any relation at all between the two activities.

However, here comes the type of surfing we call kitesurfing. Kitesurfing involves riding a wakeboard and allowing a kite to pull you through the water while you do all kinds of different tricks while surfing along the surface of the water. In this sport, you can still enjoy surfing through the water without having to wait for waves that are good enough for you to be able to surf in the traditional method.

Thanks to the inspiration of kitesurfing, a new type of surfing has now been invented by Freefly Systems, which is a company known for developing, manufacturing, and selling different types of drones. While Freefly often caters to media demands such as aerial photography, they were able to accidentally develop a new way to enjoy drones while being on the water.

It was when Freefly was testing out its ALTA 8 drone that they realized that you could actually surf the water using a drone. What they did was to strap their ALTA 8 to one end of a rope, while having someone hold a handle attached to the other end of the rope. A little bit of trial showed that this was a fun way to surf. Of course, the person has to be riding on a wakeboard the entire time. 

During this initial trial, Freefly was merely trying to test out how powerful the ALTA 8 is with its eight rotors. What they didn’t know was that they were actually inventing an entirely new way of enjoying drones and surfing without even relying on the waves and the wind.

So, the basic premise of drone surfing is simple. All you need to do is to be on the water while riding a wakeboard. You need to hold onto a handle with a rope that is attached to a drone that is actually strong enough to pull you through the water. Of course, someone has to be remotely controlling the drone because you probably won’t be able to do so while you are riding on your wakeboard and holding onto the handle.

The result is a different kind of surfing where you are able to surf through the water even though there are no waves, and potentially no wind. Of course, it is very similar to kitesurfing but the difference here is that you no longer have to rely on the wind to actually carry you through the water. As you have probably already guessed, it will be very difficult to kitesurf if the winds are not strong enough to actually blow the kite. But because drones do not rely on strong winds to fly, you can still drone surf without the benefit of the wind or the waves as long as you have a drone strong enough to pull you.

Why is Drone Surfing Popular?

Now that you know more about drone surfing actually is, you might be wondering what the buzz about it is all about and why it is becoming increasingly popular as of late. Of course, the traditional methods of surfing are still more popular, but you should know that drone surfing is also becoming quite popular. But why is drone surfing becoming as popular as it is?

Well, going back to the basic premise of what drone surfing is, what makes it so popular is that you can do it almost anytime and anywhere because you don’t have to rely on the water and wind conditions to be able to surf. This is something of a drawback to traditional surfing as you need to have strong waves to actually surf or good winds for you to enjoy kitesurfing. So, when the waves and the winds are calm, you won’t be able to enjoy traditional surfing.

For another thing, drone surfing is actually as popular as it is because of how convenient it is. You don’t have to be out on the open sea for you to be able to enjoy surfing the waves because you can still drone surf even if you are in a calm lake or even a large enough pond. Moreover, there is also the fact that drone surfing doesn’t rely on the wind to carry the drone as there is someone behind the controls of the drone to fly the UAV remotely so that it can pull you along as you surf through the water.

Because of how convenient and readily available drone surfing is (as long as you have a strong enough drone, and someone to control it), it has become easier to do for those who love water sports. You no longer have to be on a good enough beach where the waves are strong so that you can actually surf. As long as your drone is strong enough to drag you through the water, you will be able to enjoy surfing in a less conventional way.

The Pros and Cons of Drone Surfing

If you want to know more about drone surfing and whether or not this might be the new water sport for you to enjoy, here are some pros and cons to consider.

Pros

  • Doesn’t require strong waves or winds. You can basically surf without the assistance of nature.
  • No need for a kite or a sail because all you need is a drone, a wakeboard, and a rope that you can attach to the drone and to a handle.
  • You can do this in virtually any body of water that is large enough.
  • Fewer cables are involved here because all you need is a strong rope.
  • You (or at least the one controlling the drone) can dictate where you want to go as you are not a slave to the water or to the winds.
  • You can control how fast you can go by choosing a drone with more rotors or more powerful motors.

Cons

  • You need a strong enough drone that has at least 8 rotors so that you can enjoy drone surfing. Anything lower than 8 won’t be strong enough to carry your weight across the water. Drones with 8 rotors can be quite expensive.
  • If you end up with a situation where your drone falls from the sky and ends up in the water, you won’t be able to do drone surfing anymore without replacing your drone.
  • You can’t enjoy this sport without the assistance of another person controlling the drone remotely.
  • If there is more than one drone surfer out on the water, there is a danger of crashing one drone with another.
  • Not the most environmentally-friendly activity because drones require energy consumption, especially when compared with surfing or kitesurfing that rely entirely on natural sources of energy for movement.

As you can see, drone surfing isn’t perfect as it does have its own flaws. That means that you may still prefer to enjoy the more traditional methods of surfing. But if you have the equipment for drone surfing and it sounds like fun to you, then there is no reason for you to not try it out for yourself.

Is Drone Surfing Legal?

Now that we have talked more about drone surfing, let’s go into the details of whether or not it is actually legal for you to do drone surfing. And this is an important topic to talk about because the use of drones is strictly regulated by the government due to the many safety and security risks involved with them.

So, for starters, because drone surfing is not yet as popular as some other drone-related activities, there still are no specific laws that actually dictate whether or not drone surfing is legal. That said, the legality of this activity is still up in the air, and that means that you can practice it so long as there are no rules and laws put in place to specifically police or even ban drone surfing.

However, the best course of action to take is to follow the rules and laws regarding drone flying in general, because drone surfing still involves flying your drones. Of course, it is also a good idea to follow specific rules and guidelines related to surfing as well.

You can check this page out if you want to know some of the general laws you need to follow regarding drone flying. Follow these rules so that you would be able to enjoy drone surfing without getting in trouble with the law. Of course, it is also best to look at the pertinent laws of your state and ordinances of your city, town, or county regarding drone flying to make sure you’re complying with local regulations. After all, some states, cities, towns, or counties may have their own specific laws regarding drones.

Other than following general national and local regulations, and practicing good common sense, feel free to give drone surfing a try, without worrying about whether a police officer or ranger will try to interfere with your fun.

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.

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