I'm doing some equipment research for a friends surfing doco.

I need a lapel mic and a recorder as small as possible to be sewn into a surfers rash vest.

A waterproof lapel mic I've seen is the Voice Technologies VT500water. Anyone used one in water?

I then need to connect it to a recording device that I can hit record on and leave recording for roughly 30mins( the length of the film) but preferably 50mins.

The device will need to withstand being thrashed around in the surf and therefore needs to be waterproof or resistant. I don't need anything fancy, just a mic input and a button to record with, with either inbuilt memory and an output method or record to memory card.

Sound quality I'm not too sure on yet, but it is to capture breaths and body movement sounds of a surfer out in the water, there will probably not be any dialogue needed from this mic and recorder setup as several on camera mics in the surf will cover dialogue if there is any.

I have a few solutions I've found, but any help appreciated. size of device is probably the most important thing as it needs to be hidden and not too visibly protruding from under a rashvest(not a wetsuit) and i'd like to keep away from transmitters.

On another note has anyone had experience where they have needed to be in the surf or rapids while doing higher quality recordings with shotguns, with a good chance you are going underwater at any moment?

  • 1
    I get the feeling you'll probably end up doing a lot of foley for that one...
    – g.a.harry
    Jan 10, 2012 at 8:18
  • Yep you're probably right, but I want to stay away from that as much as I can. The director and I have been talking about this doco for about 5 years and the sound of foley in most docos shits me to tears, I'd rather leave it out than fake it for this film. Cheers
    – ofa
    Jan 10, 2012 at 8:43
  • 1
    I hate to point it out, but that may be my favourite typo ever... "Shits me to tears."
    – g.a.harry
    Jan 10, 2012 at 11:38
  • Ha, no typo, it's slang. Curious though, What did you think it should be by the way?
    – ofa
    Jan 10, 2012 at 22:50

5 Answers 5


a cheapomatic solid-state-memory recorder with no moving parts and no phantom power should not generate any heat so you can stuff it in whatever you can construct, and take cables out to a waterproof microphone or hydrophone or, best, both going left and right. You could probably wrap+hide a Zoom H1 easily? It won't win on quality but imagine a 702 sinking :) Anyhow, worst case the kit gets destroyed, but even then chances are you would be able to recover the data from the card. the higher the quality you want the higher the risk =) my 2c.

  • size is most important in this scenario, a H1 is still too big and bulky, I need something the size of an ipod nano.
    – ofa
    Jan 10, 2012 at 23:38
  • that's an interesting idea. a franken-mic setup and an older generation nano. maclife.com/article/videos/ipod_nano_video_tests .. but it would probably do just one channel and you'd still end up blending in other stuff.
    – georgi
    Jan 15, 2012 at 12:15

Good responses so far. I've done some boat recording and I found two things very useful:

1) Plumbers Tape-- rubberized tape used to seal pipes and other stuff. It's has all of the uses of gaff tape, plus it can make objects/seals water tight.

2) Dry bags--Used for diving etc., (usually found in places like REI) keep a recorder in there, sealed with plumbers tape.

PS: Be careful when using phantom power in the water, since the XLR is conducting current.

  • Plumbers tape and dry bags are an excellent idea, the director makes and sells underwater camera housings so he should have plenty of that lying around. Cheers
    – ofa
    Jan 10, 2012 at 22:57

It might sound silly but there is a very easy way of making small equipment water resistant. My friend did all his underwater recordings this way. He used condoms and duckt tape on a pair of cheap microphones. I am sure there is some way of making any recorder resistant to water.

  • Condoms work fine for a few drips of water, but after I destroyed one (cheap) microphone with that technique I won't suggest to use it for this case. Maybe it's worth I try to look for cases build for underwater cameras...you won't get pristine sound with it, but at least it's safe Jan 10, 2012 at 11:17

An aquapac with headphone connector would most likely work perfect. I have on for my iPhone for sailing, no sailing is not surfing. But I tested my aquapac at two meters an not one drop entered the bag. Use two, and use smallish recorders like Olympus etc in the bag. Then electrets with plugin power for mics. Depending on the risk of actually beeing in/under the water the protection would differ. Simple capsules with condoms and rubber bands could even work in a pinch. And when/if they fail they are pretty cheap to have a few extra.

  • @ErikG sailing and surfing are similar in this instance, both technically not in the water, but you're likely to get drenched. I've checked out the aquapacs as you mentioned, but they still might be too bulky to place under a surfers rash vest.
    – ofa
    Jan 10, 2012 at 23:07

How far out from the beach will they be?

If you're able to be within transmit distance, you can use the Lectrosonics mm400c. Pair that with the Countryman B3s are water resistant and top-notch.

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