Surf Helmets, The Ultimate Guide

For the vast majority of surfers in the world, wearing a surf helmet may seem like a crazy and kooky idea...


surfer head accident

...What most surfers don’t realize is that the vast majority of fatal surfing accidents could be avoided with proper headgear.

Think about getting hit in the head with a surfboard or bashing up against a shallow reef headfirst.

These are the kinds of things that could knock someone out, leaving them prone to drowning or severely injured.

Suffering serious head trauma could leave you with irreparable damages that, when compared with looking cool out in the summer waves, aren’t really worth it.

Surfing helmets have been around for quite sometime and a ton of professional surfers use them when surfing in harsh conditions.

If you’re ever out in extreme weather, hitting sharp reef breaks, or even out surfing solo, having a helmet is a smart choice.

This is why we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite surfing helmets on the market!

The 5 Best Surfing Helmets

Gath Convertible Surf Helmet

gath convertible surf helmet

5 Star Editorial Rating!

The Gath Convertible Surf Helmet is a very popular surfing helmet featuring the world’s most lightweight (at just over a pound), long-lasting, UV stable, and high impact resistant plastic combine with shatter proof visors, and multi-impact, non-water absorbent foam lining.

The same non-water absorbent foam is also pressed into comfort strips that line the inside of the helmet for extra cushion.

Quick release buckles are added for a secure retention and are coated in nylon and foam for strap comfort as well.

The ear protectors on the helmet can be removed which is ideal for those surfing in different weather conditions.

These sweet, space-age style helmets come in a wide array of different colors and definitely make surfing with a helmet far cooler than you would imagine.

Gath Sport Hat Helmet

Gath Sport Hat Helmet

The second Gath product on our list, the Gath Sport Hat Helmet, is another helmet that prides itself on being ultra-light, low volume, and very simple.

Though the helmet is used mostly for surfing, avid skydivers, kayakers, and other extreme sports enthusiasts enjoy it because of its protective, yet aerodynamic design.

The adjustable audio vents and foam forehead protection are just some additional features to this pro product.

The Gath Sport Hat Helmet is made from the same high-quality, high-impact plastic and foam lining as the Gath Convertible and is just as tough.

You can even get creative with the flexible comfort strips, configuring them to your perfect fit and feel. With an array of colors, you are bound to find a style that suits you best!

Gath Neo Sport Helmet

Gath Hat Neo

The Gath Neo Sport Helmet features a high-impact, UV stable shell and a multi-impact, non-water absorbent foam liner.

It comes equipped with a very unique thick neoprene headband that adapts to your head and keeps water from flushing into your eyes while riding.

You can also remove the ear protectors easily like the Gath Sport, which makes it great for hot weather as well.

The helmet has a very snug fit because of the Neoprene band and foam lining, giving you the sense of ultimately stability while still retaining a perfect peripheral vision and lightweight comfort.

With the secure, quick-release buckles, this helmet is an all-together winner that provides comfort, protection, and practicality!

Gath Helmet and Retractable Visor

Gath helmet and tetractable visor

The Gath Retractable Visor Helmet, one that easily crosses over into the world of whitewater rafting, kayaking, and water skiing, is an ultra-futuristic style helmet that comes in an array of colors for all preferences.

It has an infinitely adjustable, high-impact and shatterproof plastic, see through visor and non-water absorbent foam lining for comfort.

The visor offers 98% UV protection from the sun, as well as protection from harsh saltwater and ocean spray. It comes equipped with the same quick-release buckles and removable ear protectors as with many of the other Gath helmets.

With an incredible fit, the Gath Retractable Visor helmet is an excellent choice for someone who wants all around protection from the elements.

NP Watersports Surf Helmet

np watersports helmet

Like the Gath helmet, the NP Watersports helmets are ultra lightweight and comfortable for all watersports!

It is made from a high-impact resistant ABS outer shell and a soft EVA impact absorption liner.

The NP Watersports Helmet’s inner is incredibly soft and non-water absorbent and a chinstrap twist tightening system that is completely adjustable so you can find your perfect level of snug and comfort.

The helmet’s EVA close ear protectors will help with keeping any elements from getting to your helmet, but can also be removed upon preference.

For those looking for a very safe helmet at an incredible price, the NP Watersports helmet is an excellent fitting choice that will be sure to keep your noggin in tact for years to come!

10 Reasons Why You Need To Wear A Surf Helmet!


If you’ve ever been nailed in the head by a surfboard or been pummeled onto the sea floor by a giant wave, it’s pretty obvious how dangerous that can be.

Something like that can completely knock a surfer out if they aren’t wearing protective headgear.

If they’re not knocked completely unconscious, there’s a good chance that high-impact like that could burst an eardrum leaving them severely disoriented.

big wave surfing accident

That sort of disorientation could result in a surfer drowning, an unfortunate circumstance that has taken the lives of many great pro surfers.

If you’re a big wave surfer, wearing a colored helmet could make it easier for a rescue team to find you in the event of a bad wipeout.

Being taken down by a big wave could be a fatal incident and having a helmet could take much of the risk out of that.


surfing shallow reef break

Hitting a rocky seafloor could be another fatal situation if not properly protected. Many great pro surfers have lost their lives to the dangers of shallow reefs.

Whether you’re coming up against sharp coral that could potentially rip through your skin or hard rocks that could leave you unconscious if slammed up against them, having a helmet could reduce the risks of head and facial cuts or scrapes, as well as other critical head injuries.

The majority of accidents that left pro surfers dead on shallow reefs were from these sorts of head injuries

#3. Popular or Crowded Lineups

Again, getting nailed in the head with a surfboard is a great recipe for disaster.

If you’re out in crowded lineups with inexperienced surfers or wave hogs, the chance for a collision skyrocket.

Regardless of if you’re out surfing bigger breaks or in near the shore surfing the smaller breaks, a big crowd is a solid sign that you should put on a helmet.

If you find that there is a spot in your local surf community that seems frequented by many all the time, investing in something to keep you safe at that spot is not such a bad idea.

crowded surf lineup


kid surfer

Kids are far less rational surfers, as they tend not to think as consequentially as most adults while out on the water.

This can be great for catching big waves, but terrible in the event of a collision or big wave pummel. A child’s skull is so incredibly fragile in comparison with an adult’s.

If you wouldn’t let your kid ride their bike or skate without a helmet, why would you let them go out into a crowded surf spot without one?

A 10-year-old Pascal Datter was badly injured a few years ago in Byron Bay when a board hit him in the head, shattering his skull and almost causing horrible brain damage.

He was lucky enough to leave with only a few plates in his head, but others may not be so lucky when taking that risk.

#5. Beginner Surfers or New Learners           

If you’re new to surfing and are maybe going out to rent a board for the day, you should think about picking up a helmet as well.

Not having the experience of how to function in a lineup, how to properly catch a break, or how to maneuver in a crowded spot, could leave you seriously injured.

Regardless of if you’re hitting the waves solo or with an instructor, we strongly recommend having that extra protection.

#6. Helmets Can Protect You From Water

All of the helmets in our list come with ear protectors.

These can be very helpful in protecting against what we know as surfer’s ear or exostoses.

Surfer’s ear is essentially when the ear canal forms lumps and bulges throughout your ear where water may be trapped.

surfers ear

These abnormalities form when the ears are exposed to cold water and cold air for long periods of time.

This could eventually result in infection or loss of hearing.

Having the ability to protect your ears from dangerous exposure is an excellent way to fend off exostoses.

#7. Protect From Dangerous UV Rays

Many studies show that surfers develop potentially fatal melanoma three times faster than the average person. Obviously lathering on a waterproof sunscreen can protect you for a bit, but that protection won’t last all day.

A helmet can protect the top of your head from harmful UV rays, especially if you’re a bald surfer.

Some surf helmets, such as the Gath Retractable, come with UV protection visors that can even keep your face and eyes safe.

Surfer’s eye, a yellow, wing-like membrane that grows from the corner of the eye and points toward the cornea, is caused by excessive exposure to UV rays, glare, wind, and seawater.

If something like this isn’t treated, it could result in blurred vision, bloody tears, or eye inflammation. Luckily, wearing a helmet is an amazing preventative risk.

#8. Surfing Solo

Surfing alone out in the water can be a very spiritual or meditative experience for many surfers. It gives you the chance to have a solitary connection with the ocean without the distraction of other around us.

But what happens when you’re alone and you get into a bad accident and there is no one around to call out to?

That can be a very dangerous situation that leaves you in a treacherous twist of fate. Having a helmet as a preventative measure when you’re surfing alone is a smart choice.

The best part is, if you were worried about looking like a kook, no one will be around to see you!

#9. Practical GoPro Application

surfing barrel pov

If you’re a passionate surfer with a love for filmmaking, being able to attach a go pro to your helmet is an excellent way to get some awesome POV footage.

Many helmet manufacturers are creating add-on accessories to allow for GoPro attachments.

Typically these are designed as quick clips that wrap around your head and mount to the top giving you a headlamp-style perspective.

#10. Vanity Should Not Overrule Safety

It’s obvious that many surfers choose not to wear helmet because they fear being labeled a kook or dweeb by their fellow surfers.

The beauty of it is that many pro surfers have begun wearing helmets, hopefully paving the way for the millions of recreational surfers and mainstream surf style. Tom Carroll has been rocking helmets since his great Pipe Warriors victory in 1990 and 1991.

Jeremy Flores was rocking a Gath helmet at the 2015 Billabong Pro when he took the win.

Sally Fitzgibbons was outfitted with a helmet at the Vans US Open of surfing to help with the pain she was experiencing with her injured eardrum.

So yea, if helmets are “cool” enough for pro surfers to wear, they should be for you as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you choose the right size helmet for optimal fit?

Gath and other manufacturers have sizing charts for most all head sizes, though you should be careful to take a measurement around the head, just above the ears with a piece of string or a measuring tape. You’ll want your helmet to fit snugly on top of your head. There is nothing worse for your balance than a loose helmet that moving atop your head out on the water. Many of the Gath helmets also come with adjustable strips to best fit it to your head.

How can such a lightweight helmet really absorb all that impact?

Great surfing helmets use the same principle as many car manufacturers. If a car were designed to be very rigid and sturdy, a high-impact accident would transfer the energy throughout the car. A car with a more lightweight design will partially crumble upon high-impact, absorbing and dispersing energy from the force of the blow. That is exactly what these helmets do. They can be put to the test in terms of strength and durability as they absorb the force of a blow.

I want to purchase the helmet with the visor, but I’m afraid of the possibility of it shattering.

The Gath RV helmet has over a 20-year history without any shattering. The 98% polycarbonate plastic is very strong and has proved to be extremely safe for sport visor material. Many people also fear a bucketing of water with the visor style helmets because of their design, but that is another common misconception.

What is the difference between the NeoPrene headband and the EVA headband?

The NeoPrene headbands are about 3-4mm thick and are made from the same material as your standard wetsuit. It is the original design for the Gath helmets and makes for a snug and comfortable fit for those with common head shapes and sizes. The EVA headband is a little thicker at 10mm and is made from the same material as the foam liner on the insides of the helmets. It is much better for higher or longer-shaped heads as it allows for a more custom-style fit. Because it’s thicker, it also acts as added forehead protection in the case of crazy impact. They’re both excellent no matter the choice and it totally comes down to your personal preference.

Can these helmets be used for other sports besides surfing?

Absolutely! Whether you’re an avid kite-surfer, whitewater rafter, wake-boarder, base-jumper or extreme sport enthusiast, having a helmet is a great choice. You’ll want to make sure you make the right choice depending on the sport you want to use it for, as surfing helmets are designed to suit water activities more than anything. For example, having ear protectors that are great for water may become uncomfortable or irritating if you’re out performing dry sports. Base your decision on the amount of coverage, stability, peripheral vision, comfort, and ear protection that you need and see what helmets offer those features.