The best surf hats for riding waves

October 12, 2021 | Surfing
Surf hats: a useful, comfortable, and practical surf accessory | Photo: Williams/Creative Commons

Surf hats are increasingly popular in the world's busiest lineups. Here's everything you should know about these specific stay-on head coverings for wave riders.

All surfers know that style matters - in and out of the water.

But when it comes to protecting our health from the elements, one must always favor utility over class and sophistication.

Hats are one of the most underrated surf accessories.

And it's quite understandable why surfers tend to avoid wearing hats in the waves - it doesn't look comfortable and practical.

The paradigm is changing, though, and all credits go to longboarders, who were first to introduce hats into wave riding and have been using them for decades.

Today, it is no longer rare to spot shortboarders wearing surf hats in some of the world's most challenging waves.

There's a rational reason for it, and they should no longer be a sign of kookiness. So, what exactly is a surf hat?

A surf hat is a head covering specifically designed to withstand an oceanic environment and constant contact with salt water, sun, and sand.

It must also be developed and built to stay put while surfers perform their regular routines, maneuvers, and wave riding activities.

Can you wear a hat while surfing? Yes, and, in particular circumstances, you should.

Longboarding: loggers have been using stylish hats ever since | Photo: Torobekov/Creative Commons

Why Should You Wear a Surf Hat?

There are four perfectly valid reasons for putting on a surfer hat while paddling out for a session.

The first and most obvious is skin protection. Throughout their life, surfers are exposed to direct sunlight for thousands of hours.

In most situations, they're out in the water between midday and 2 pm, which is the most dangerous time to be in the sun.

As a result, they will, sooner or later, develop more or less severe skin problems and, in the worst case, skin cancer.

This is not a myth or something that only happens to others. It's real and affects thousands of surfers of all latitudes and longitudes every year.

Sunburns lead to pain and could potentially develop into melanoma.

If you're wearing a wetsuit and covering your head with a good surf hat, you're protecting your face from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Don't forget that even the slightest reflection of the sun from the water can increase your exposure to UV radiation.

The second reason why you should cover your head while surfing is eye protection.

Pterygium, also known as surfer's eye, is a condition that occurs on the white of the eye (sclera) - the side of the eye closer to the nose - and leads to wedged-shaped bumps.

The main cause of pterygium is UV radiation, and it usually starts affecting surfers in their 30s. Light-eyed and light-skinned surfers are even more at risk.

So, using a hat in the surf will mitigate the direct impact of sunlight on the eyes and help you navigate the waves better when surfing against the sun.

The third reason is hair protection.

Excessive exposure to the sun can dry your hair to the point that it will damage the cuticle - the outside cover of the hair strand - and make it more prone to breakages.

Broken or split ends, discoloration, frizziness, discoloration, thinning, and dry and brittle strands may occur due to the lack of protection.

Last but not least, low air and water temperatures.

A surfing hat provides a basic yet relevant layer of protection against cold environments, meaning that it could reduce the loss of body heat by 10 percent.

Also, if you cover your head with a cap, you will minimize brain freeze, also known as cold-stimulus headache, and surfer's ear.

Surf trucker hat or cap: comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and UV radiation proof | Photo: Loiterton/Creative Commons

Types of Surf Hats

There are several types of surf hats available in the market.

The most common models are:

1. The surf trucker hat or cap;

2. The surf bucket hat;

3. The surf brim hat;

4. The snapback cap;

The main section and canvas and the front section are often made from 100% percent recycled polyamide (nylon), 100 percent polyester, cotton, cationic polyester, and elastane.

High-quality surf hats feature a water repellent (or water-resistant) finish or coat that makes them waterproof, seamlessly adjustable chin straps, optional neck and ear flaps, and even a detachable cord that attaches to the wetsuit's zipper.

Some high-end models also include an internal headband, vent and drain holes, mesh ventilation near the ears, adjustable back closures, vented ear covers, quick-release buckle closure systems.

Surf hats are available in different sizes and colors. There are also exclusive models designed for toddlers and female surfers.

Surf caps: they protect you against surfer's ear | Photo: Stoke Drift/Creative Commons

How To Use a Hat in the Surf?

Keeping a hat firmly secured and in place seems almost impossible, especially when we think about all the situations a surfer goes through.

You don't want to lose it on your first session, so you've got to make sure it doesn't fall off your head.

Remember that the simplest duck dive may send it to the bottom of the ocean.

So, it's important to choose a hat that stays on your head, features some form of leash or strap and, ideally, has floating properties.

All you have to do is tighten it as much as you can and tie a string or leash from the hat to the wetsuit or rashguard.

You'll notice that the right surf hat will stay in place even after the most spectacular wipeout or two-wave hold-down.

Surfing hats: headware that protects your skin, eyes, and ears | Photo: Weeks/Creative Commons

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Surf Hat?

As we've seen above, surf hats cast a shadow over your face and neck - that's their main goal.

Here are 15 features and characteristics that make a good surf hat:

1. Form-fitting;

2. Protection against UV rays;

3. Anti-glare protection and obstruction-free peripheral vision;

4. Warm and comfortable to wear;

5. Lightweight;

6. Waterproof;

7. Breathable and quick-drying fabrics;

8. Water, duck-dive, and wipeout proof;

9. Detachable and unobtrusive straps, neck and ear flaps, and safety clips;

10. Soft padded inner headband and neoprene straps;

11. Flippable peak visor or brim;

12. Floating properties;

13. Venting and drainage holes;

14. Availability in many sizes;

15. Durability;

The Best Surf Hats in the World

After choosing your favorite type of surf hat, it's time to get the best models in the market right now.

The best surf hat brands and manufacturers are Dakine, FCS, O'Neill, Koloa, Roxy, ION, Ocean & Earth, Oakley, Patagonia, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, and Vissla, Billabong, and Xcel.

Take a look at our favorite and carefully selected collection of men's and women's surf hats and caps.


Dakine Indo Surf Hat

Dakine Indo Surf Hat

The Dakine Indo Surf Hat creates your shade on the water. It provides coverage (UPF 50+)against the sun's UV rays while remaining tightly fit to your head.

The hat features a stowable flap for neck protection, and its foam brim inserts will always keep it afloat.

Buy: Amazon.com


Koloa Surf Premium Thruster Mesh Snapback Hat

Koloa Surf Premium Thruster Mesh Snapback Hat

The Koloa Surf Premium Thruster Mesh Snapback Hat is highly breathable and extremely comfortable.

With an old-school design, it will fit you perfectly. This high-profile model is structured in 100 percent polyester foam and is available in 13 colors.

Buy: Amazon.com


FCS Essential Surf Bucket Hat

FCS Essential Surf Bucket Hat

The FCS Essential Surf Bucket Hat was designed to stay secure while you surf.

It comes with an adjustable strap, and its lateral earpieces provide extra stability.

Buy: Amazon.com


Dakine Surf Cap

Dakine Surf Cap

The Dakine Surf Cap is a quick-drying headware model specifically designed for surfers and pounding waves.

It will protect your eyes and face (UPF 50+) and stay in place all the time.

There's mesh ventilation in the ear zone, adjustable chin strap and back closure, and the brim even flips up for more comfortable paddling.

Buy: Amazon.com


Melin A-Game Hydro Snapback Hat

Melin A-Game Hydro Snapback Hat

The Melin A-Game Hydro Snapback Hat features hydrophobic technology that beads away water from the crown panels and prevents absorption.

It is floatable, breathable, and will stay on your head in mid-to-deep depth.

Buy: Amazon.com


O'Neill Lancaster Hat

O'Neill Lancaster Hat

The O'Neill Lancaster Hat is a lightweight bucket model featuring a moisture-wicking sweatband, a detachable drawcord, metal mesh eyelets, and a drawstring closure.

Buy: Amazon.com


Roxy Water Come Down Trucker Hat

Roxy Water Come Down Trucker Hat

The Roxy Water Come Down Trucker Hat is a women's surf hat with a mesh back design, a curved brim, and an adjustable back closure.

It is made from 100 percent polyester.

Buy: Amazon.com