Faster & Higher: Extreme Athletes Can Track Feats with Tech

A new device called Trace aims to help skaters, surfers and snowboarders track their activity, distance and speed.
A new device called Trace aims to help skaters, surfers and snowboarders track their activity, distance and speed. (Image credit: ActiveReplay)

While there's been a surge in gadgets to help runners and bikers track their every jog and ride, extreme sport athletes have been largely left out of this "quantified self" movement (the use of technology to collect data about oneself). But thanks to a new device, skaters, surfers and snowboarders may soon be also able to measure their feats.

The device, called Trace, a hockey-puck shaped object about 2 inches in diameter, attaches to a skateboard, surf board or snowboard, and tracks information about speed, distance traveled, height of jump, calories burned, number of tricks and more, according to the maker ActiveReplay.

“If you’re a biker or a hardcore runner you have all these really cool gadgets to tell you your mile splits, heart rate and so forth," David Loshkin, the vice president of products for ActiveReplay, told TechCrunch. "I grew up skiing and snowboarding, and surfing and skating, and none of this exists for those sports, even though I think the information is way cooler."

A free app lets Trace users see their own information and share it with friends, creating a social network for like-minded sports enthusiasts.

ActiveReplay has a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to mass-produce the device.

While many activity trackers on the market today — such as the FitBit Flex and Withings Pulse — may be aimed at motivating people to be more active, extreme sports athletes are unlikely to use tracking devices for motivational reasons, experts say.

"That desire to participate and be involved is usually really strong to begin with," among extreme sport athletes, Steve Portenga, an assistant professor of sport and performance psychology at the University of Denver, told LiveScience. "A device like this might not impact overall motivation to participate," Portenga said.

Rather, it's the social aspect of the device that is likely to be a big draw for these athletes, Portenga said. Many athletes already like to chat about their latest tricks, or claim bragging rights for higher jumps or longer hang-time, with friends.

"It just makes another way of understanding what you're doing [and] talking about what you're doing," Portenga said. It may even spark some friendly competition, Portenga said.

Those who pledge $99 to the campaign now will be first in line to get a device when they are available next year, ActiveReplay says.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.