Should You Surf With a Helmet?

You know what clever folks say- It’s better to be safe than sorry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing helmets while you surf. And NO! It doesn't make you look kooky. Helmets are an amazing way of protecting your head against collisions.

People religiously wear helmets when it comes to extreme sports like biking or climbing. But why is it so hard to associate this safety gear with surfing? It may be because surfing is not considered a DANGEROUS sport (even though it can be!), or maybe it’s because you haven't seen any professionals wearing one.

If you’re a surfer, the first thought that would strike your brain would be, “Do I even need a helmet?” The simplest answer is YES... if you wanna surf safely forever. The truth is accidents do happen. Imagine getting hit by someone else’s surfboard-stylish fins hitting your head or shoulder, or getting wiped out on a shallow reef…Ouch! That’s gotta hurt.

To avoid staying in hospital for weeks, you should wear a helmet while surfing. According to Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, “Competitive surfers experience a higher injury rate, with 4.0 injuries per 1,000 days and 6.6 injuries per 1,000 hours.”

Let's explore why pro surfers like Owen Wright and Geoff “Camel” Goulden prefer to wear helmets and in what ways it is beneficial for surfers.

When Should Surfers Wear Helmets?

Surf With a Helmet

Surfing is a cool sport, and wearing a helmet may totally kill your style. It’s your choice whether you want to strap on that helmet for a carefree surf or ride without it and regret it.

When you're gearing up for an epic surf, don’t forget to don a helmet. It’ll boost your confidence and keep you safe from potential ear, muscle, and bone damage and even serious head injuries. Surfers must wear helmets in the following situations:

High-Impact Surfing Environment

Surfing isn't the same everywhere. At some places like Nazare, Portugal, and Peahi (Jaws), Maui- surfers can find high waves that are beating world records.

Imagine getting wiped out in a big swell, which has enormous energy and weight. In the worst conditions, you can find yourself rag-dolled in the sharp reefs. To minimize the effect of that dangerous impact on your head, consider using a helmet.

Surfing Near Shallow Reefs and Rocks

Surfers often seek out reef breaks as they typically provide higher-quality waves. Some reefs are like underwater caves that can keep you stuck for a while. Now imagine what you would do if a shark showed up… 

Surf spots with rocky bottoms or coral reefs can pose a risk of head injuries if surfers come in contact with its sharp and hard surface. Helmets work best in this case, as it has saved the lives of many surfers around the world.

Crowded Surf Break

If you have chosen a surf spot where you will see a lot of surfers showing off their skills and some kooks trying to ruin the fun for everyone, well, it's best to wear a helmet. In crowded line-ups where surfers are closely packed, collisions are pretty common. 

According to PubMed, “67% of acute surfing injuries are caused by board contact”. Wearing helmets can reduce the chances of head injuries when surfers accidentally run into others and collide with boards and monstrous fins. They can even hurt a bunch of swimmers around.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Don’t underestimate this little safety gear on your head. When a surfer is faced with extremely cold or windy weather, he may experience a medical condition known as Surfer’s Ears. This can cause discomfort and potential hearing issues. Helmets keep your ear safe from chronic cold waters that may cause permanent damage.

On the other hand, if a surfer finds some mellow waves on a sunny day, he can still make use of the helmet. It will protect them against heat, UV rays of the sun, and headaches. So, in both cases, helmets come in handy.

Learning to Surf

If you're a total beginner trying to learn a few tricks, it is highly recommended to wear a helmet. The chances of falling over and over again are high for new surfers. Don't be intimidated by what folks would think about you, and you should prioritize safety above all.

So, while you're still developing your balancing skills, helmets can immensely help you pass this learning phase without any head injuries.

Frequent Wipeouts

If you're trying out different maneuvers, like an aerial or a barrel ride, you may consistently experience wipeouts or falls. If you really wanna enjoy the sport without worrying about injuries, helmets are a wise option to protect your head against getting hit by your own board.

Solo Surfing

Most surfers crave those epic solo sessions, scoring quality waves without the crowd hassle. But what if you’re way out there, catching a high swell, and suddenly a brutal wipeout leaves you injured? There is no one nearby to lend you a hand.

If you love enjoying moments of solitude surfing, strapping on a helmet can be a big life-saver for ya.

Safety Over Style

Surf With a Helmet

When you head over to a surfing spot, you can easily look at the petit percentage of people wearing helmets. It’s not because they lack awareness regarding the dangers associated with this sport, but they don't want to look like a nerd who is just starting out. But seriously, Mother Nature doesn't care about your looks.

It often takes a knock on the head, shoulder, leg, or knees to convince you to gear up for safety. But fret not, and your style won’t suffer. Times are changing, and with dedicated researchers working in the field, you can find tons of trendy and well-designed comfortable helmets that fit perfectly and do not get in the way of your fashion statement.

Why People Don’t Wear Helmets To Surf

Some folks just don't feel comfortable putting a water bucket on their head. By not wearing a helmet, they are able to see and hear better. That way, they have greater chances of avoiding a crash.

Some surfers avoid helmets as it is not a part of typical surf culture, especially if you're trying to blend in a crowd where no one is wearing a helmet. 

Other than that, prolonged use of helmets may cause skin rashes and hide your Surfers hairs.

Many people have suffered fatal head injuries after landing on sharp reefs or from board strikes. You can save yourself from a possible crash by wearing this one safety gear. Still, it's totally your choice if you wanna take your chances without the helmet.

Is it worth spending on a helmet?

Even if high school wasn't your jam, you can still do this simple math. Investing around $130 on a good helmet is way below the hospital expenses in comparison to a serious injury. Whether you’re shredding a mellow 2-footer or charging an epic swell, a helmet is your best option against minor bumps and bruises to serious reef-induced lacerations.

Wearing a helmet gives you an edge in the water, which is a real game-changer when you’re taking a wild ride through the churning waves and the razor-sharp reef below. One of the rad choices you can make is to buy a Gath helmet that is indeed worth the price.


The question of whether you should surf with a helmet sounds more relevant than ever. It's not about looking kooky or like a dweeb, but rather it’s about valuing your safety. Accidents happen whether you're a novice or a pro. Competitive surfers do experience their fair share of injuries.

From dealing with gigantic waves and gnarly reef breaks to crowded line-ups and extreme weather conditions, helmets have your back. Safety is way cooler than risking a wipeout. The tides are shifting, and the future promises a wave of savvy surfers who prioritize safety over style, donning their helmets with pride.

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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