Do Surfers Wear Helmets?

Do surfers wear helmets?

The brain is the body’s most vital organ, and protecting it should be a top priority. And yet, you barely see surfers with helmets on them when they shred the waves.

While many surfers focus on catching the perfect wave and perfecting their technique, few consider the risks involved in surfing.

But as the waves become larger and the water more shallow, it appears that the frequency of helmet usage increases among surfers.

In recent times, it has become increasingly rare to spot surfers wearing a helmet, even when tackling dangerous conditions.

So, what’s caused the sudden disappearance of the surf helmet? Are surfers unaware of the dangers associated with head injuries, or is it a matter of looking too ‘rad’ to wear protective gear?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of wearing a helmet while surfing. Put your helmets on (or not), we’re diving into the debate.

Helmets Are Not Kook Magnet

Many surfers disregard the necessity of wearing a helmet, believing it will make them look like a kook or just not cool.

But the truth is, helmets are not just for beginners, if at all. Actually, pro surfers like Tom Carroll, Garret McNamara, Jeremy Flores, Sally Fitzgibbons, Gary Elkerton, and Keala Kennelly, have utilized helmets in various situations.

These scenarios range from surfing over shallow reef breaks to tackling spots with sharp coral bottoms and facing pounding beach breaks.

Specifically, helmets are much more prevalent among big wave surfers and of course, those who have previously suffered head injuries.

In the event of an accident where nobody is around you in the water to witness that something has gone wrong, a helmet’s sturdy outer shell can play a crucial role in preventing a loss of consciousness.

So maybe it’s time to forget about being trendy and prioritize head protection while surfing.

When Surfers Should Wear Helmets

The fact that surfers rarely wear helmets does not conflict with the importance of doing so.

Certain situations call for protective headgear, and it’s essential to be aware of when helmets are strongly advised.

Riding Big Waves

It’s no surprise that big wave surfing season is the most common time to see surfers wearing helmets.

When the waves are massive, a fall can result in severe injuries that can be life-threatening. The dangers are not limited to the surfboard or the ocean floor; the power of the lip of the wave is enough to cause brain damage.

In fact, high-speed collisions with the surfboard or ocean floor can lead to unconsciousness, ruptured eardrums, or worse.

To combat these risks, more and more big wave surfers are turning to helmets and inflatable life jackets for added safety measures.

Popular surfers such as Greg Long and Keala Kennelly have been outspoken advocates of using helmets and have inspired others to follow their lead.

This is why it’s not uncommon to see big wave surfers wearing helmets at places like Mavericks or Jaws.

Shallow Reefs and Breaks

Surfing over a shallow reef can be thrilling and relaxing, but it can also be dangerous — sharp and rough surfaces can cause head injuries if a surfer falls off their board or gets thrown off by a wave.

In addition, breaking waves that close out over shallow reefs can lead to a collision with the ocean floor, causing further injury.

Wearing a helmet can mitigate these risks and provide an additional layer of protection.

Previous Head Injury

If a surfer has had a previous head injury, they are at higher risk of suffering further injury if they hit their head again, therefore a helmet is a must when hitting the waves.

A helmet can protect against further damage, which is crucial in preventing long-term consequences.

The brain is a delicate and complex organ, and any injury to it, even minor, can have long-lasting and significant impacts.

Crowded Lineups

Surfing in crowded lineups can be unpredictable as there is a higher risk of collisions with other surfers, which can lead to head injuries sometimes.

With multiple surfers riding waves simultaneously, it is no wonder surfers suffer more injuries in such conditions.

Limited space and the sheer number of surfers competing for waves can create a bit of chaos, leading to potential accidents.

Additionally, crowded lineups are particularly problematic when beginners are taking surf lessons, as they may not have the same level of control and may collide with other surfers unintentionally.

Wearing a helmet can give surfers the confidence to navigate through the crowded lineup without the fear of a head injury, ensuring a safer surfing experience.

Children and Young Surfers

Kids are more prone to injuries and are softer than adults as they are still developing their skills and are more susceptible to accidents.

They are also more vulnerable to the consequences of head injuries and parents should ensure that their children wear helmets to prevent injury.

And when it comes to kids, any injury especially head injury should always be prevented.

Extreme Weather

Surfing in different weather conditions can affect your head and cause various issues. In colder and windier conditions, surfers may develop surfer’s ear (Exostosis), a bony growth in the ear canal that can cause hearing problems.

On the other hand, surfing in warm and sunny conditions can lead to headaches and scalp damage due to prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Wearing a head protector can defend your scalp from these harmful rays, and protect your ears from cold water and wind.

Surfing All by Yourself

As much as we all love a solitary surf session, it can be equally dangerous — the thought of getting injured while surfing alone with no one around can be a scary one.

As a precautionary measure, surfers who decide to paddle out solo opt for wearing helmets. It is always important to prioritize safety, especially when surfing in unfamiliar locations or when there is no one else out in the water.

Why Surfers Don’t Wear Helmets?

So it seems to be a good idea to wear a helmet while surfing, right? Well, apparently not for many surfers out there.

Some argue that helmets ruin the surfing experience, while others claim that they will look like a kook.

What actually stopping them?

Looking Like a Kook

This is probably the main reason why surfers don’t wear helmets — surfers have always had an image of being cool and laid-back, and wearing a helmet doesn’t necessarily fit into that stereotype.

They are afraid that wearing a helmet will make them look like a kook, and that other surfers will judge them for it.

And in the surfing world, wearing a helmet when catching smaller waves might attract unwanted attention and insulting comments.

However, a helmet’s purpose is to keep surfers safe and prevent serious injuries in case of accidents, and ignoring potential judgment, and prioritizing safety should be the norm.

Surfing Feels Safe Especially in Small Waves

Surfers often feel that wearing a helmet is unnecessary because they are surfing in small waves or in areas where the ocean floor is sandy and there are no sharp rocks or reefs.

In most cases, this is actually true as the ocean can be much more forgiving. If all other elements of, for example, a crowded lineup are nonexistent, then there’s no actual need to wear a helmet.

Helmets Can Feel Claustrophobic

Some surfers are simply not comfortable wearing a helmet because it can feel tight and claustrophobic.

Riding a wave and getting held down underwater can be a disconcerting sensation and give a feeling of being trapped and if you wear a helmet that is too tight, it can also make you feel more uncomfortable.

Surfing with a helmet may restrict some of the freedom and flexibility that you feel while surfing, especially in situations when you need to get back up to the surface as soon as possible.

Helmets Block Out Sounds Around You

Imagine muting the sound of birds and wind, waves’ splash, and the sound of your board hitting the water.

And surfing is not just about riding the waves, it’s a holistic sensory experience — the coolness of the water, the sight of the beach and waves, the taste of salt water, and the sound of the wind and waves — all come together to create an almost spiritual atmosphere.

This fully immersive experience helps you forget all the worries of the day and just enjoy the waves.

However, wearing a helmet can detract from this atmosphere. Many helmets cover your ears, muffling the sounds of the ocean and disrupting your sensory experience.

Surf Helmets Are Expensive

If you are looking to purchase quality and effective headgear, it is not cheap. A good surf helmet that offers top-notch protection can cost up to $200, which is a significant amount of money.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to head protection, the cost might be worth it.

Not all surfers may feel like they need a helmet, and this could make the price tag seem expensive.

Remember that it is crucial to weigh the benefits of head protection against the cost and decide what works best for you.

Final Thoughts

As with any decision, it’s a personal choice. If you’re surfing in big waves or dangerous reefs, a helmet can provide crucial protection.

However, if you’re a beginner or sticking to smaller waves, a helmet might not be necessary for you.

While they may not look cool or be the most comfortable, the potential benefits of wearing a helmet outweigh the negatives, but ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the risks and decide.

Just remember, no matter what choice you make, the most important thing is to have fun and stay safe out there