The awareness of potential head injuries from outdoor activities is probably as high today as it has ever been in history. I remember when I was a kid, no one wore bike helmets. When I was 10 years old and hit by a car, I suffered multiple cuts that required stitches, and a concussion. Did anyone say “you should have been wearing a helmet?” No, because there weren’t any.
Today, everyone who rides a bike wears a helmet. In some places it’s the law. Remember snowboarding in a knit cap? There are some Neanderthals that still do it. I love seeing the guy with his sun glasses, no hat, enjoying the sun on the slopes until he wipes out. Probably 80% + of all skiers and snowboards wear helmets now. Skateboards the same.
So why do you never see surfers wear helmets? It’s far too common for surfers to get a surfboard in the head every once in a while. Big wave surfers, come-on! They can get driven right into the reef or rocky bottom, yet you rarely see them wearing helmets. I’m surprised by how many paddle-boarders wear helmets and the same for surf kayakers.
I think it has to do with the foundation of the surf culture. A purest wants to wear shorts, no leash…where it’s just them, the board and the wave. I hear ya! I love that also, and on a warm SoCal day with 2-4 breakers, I’m right with them. I’m not saying surfers should be wearing helmets all the time, although it would be a good idea, I’m saying that when the surf is big or it’s really crowded in the line-up, and chances of getting a head ding are greater, we should wear helmets.
There is not a lot of selection for surf helmets out there…mainly because not many people wear them, but I think this will start to change with advancements in helmet technology and fashion. I think this is true of all water sports helmets. Most of the helmets used in paddle-boarding, kayaking, canoeing, skateboarding and actually helmets designed for other purposes.
A purpose-built helmet for watersports that is functional, light weight, impact absorbing and cool is needed. I’d like to see a small bill for surfers so we can duck dive and turtle-roll without getting it jammed into our eyes and a longer bill to keep the sun out when paddle-boarding, kayaking and canoeing.
Should you be one of the “damn the look” surfers, here are a few choices until something better comes out:
1) Gath Convertible Surf Helmet - $204.75 – If there is a popular surf helmet, this is probably it. It’s lightweight, just about 1lb. and is made from high-impact resistant plastic combined with non-water absorbing foam in the lining. It has a quick release buckle and the ear protectors can be removed. It does come in a few colors, but if you opt for the yellow…you’ll never be welcomed into the line-up!
2) NP Watersports Surf Helmet - $ 59.95 – A lot less expensive and it has a look more appropriate for kayaking or canoeing. It made from high-impact resistant ABS and a soft EVA impact absorption liner. It also has a quick release chin buckle and has open ear holes.
3) Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet - $54.99 – It was really hard to come up with a third alternative. Frankly the rest of the surf helmets look like snowboard helmets. This one is also made from molded ABS with a dual density EVA liner and has buckle chin strap and open ears. It’s got lots of ventilation but more suited for paddle-boarding and kayaking than surfing.
Not a lot of options yet, but more will be coming as it becomes more acceptable to wear a helmet while surfing. I’d love to see it start at the “grom” stage and work its way up. Personally, I’m going to try the Gath helmet and wear it in the winter and when it’s big. I’m also thinking an opportunity for Malo’o might be in the wind.