To Helmet or not to Helmet? That is the question.

The topic of helmets has hit the Headlines– and unfortunately for all the wrong reasons recently. It is a contentious issue in most sporting codes – to wear a helmet or not to wear a helmet. Bikes, Skateboarding, Skiing, Snowboarding – and here in lies the dilemma – SURFING – you have an option not to wear one – but should you?

“Not so long ago, pro surfers wore helmets at surf contests. Top surfers like Tom Carroll or Gary Elkerton wore protective headgear either competing at Pipeline or free surfing at G-Land. Lately, it seems that very few surfers still wear a helmet, even in death-defying conditions. So why has the surf helmet dropped off the radar? Aren’t surfers aware of the risks of head injury? Or are they just too cool to wear a helmet” Guillaume Barucq- Doctor/Author of Surfers’ Survival Guide.

A very interesting point made in an article written by Guillaume Barucq- Doctor/Author of Surfers’ Survival Guide and featured on

Some interesting statistics have come out of an Australian Study:

  • 2% of surfers wore protective head gear on a regular basis
  • ONLY 38% take the risk of trauma to the head seriously.

A further study done in the Southwest of France showed that 51% of injuries in the surf affected the surfers head through scalp or facial cuts, concussions, nasal fractures, dental traumas and perforated ear drums. The question asked now is: If that surfer (out of the 51% injured) had worn protective head gear would he/she have been less exposed to the risk of a serious head injury? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Head Trauma from surfing can be caused by a few factors: contact with rocks, coral/reef, and just plain old sand. But alarmingly the main cause for head injury in surfing is a pretty common one – it’s a collision with your own board or another surfer’s board. Obviously collisions can bring about losing consciousness and also severe blood loss if skin has been lacerated. All of which can spell disaster if nobody is around to rescue you immediately.

The surf helmet is not an option in some situations. It’s a necessity.

  • Surfing a shallow reef
  • In crowded line-ups
  • Big Waves
  • Children – so very important that young groms learning to surf grow up into this helmet wearing habit. Good habits taught young last a life time!

Helmets offer other perks as well as protecting your all important skull! Sun protection is a biggy and also keeping your head warm and ears sheltered – chances are if your head is warm your body is retaining heat also – which enables you to stay out in the surf a bit longer!

Let’s not think though that the helmet is going to save you from all insundri out in the surf – but it will minimize some of the severity of a possible head injury and sometimes make the difference between life and death.

Surfing has never been about “what we look like”. It’s been about getting out there and expressing yourself through surfing the waves. Maybe we should start thinking about wearing helmets more seriously. When we are teaching our own kids to surf – helmets should be on. If we run a surf school, we should be instructing with one on and every “learner” should have one on also. If we are a huge “surf company” that sponsors events and promotes surfing to the masses  – maybe we should be getting all our sponsored surfers to wear helmets and get them to lead by example! And then probably most other surfers will start to wear one too! Its not rocket science. “Positive peer pressure” it was called at school. And it worked.

– After all – being able to express yourself through surfing the waves is what its all about. Hard to do that from the car park.

Liam McNamara 2 for web 300x222 - To Helmet or not to Helmet? That is the question.