When should surfers wear helmets?

Surf helmets: protect your head from lacerations, perforated eardrums and scalp cuts | Photo: WSL

They still don't look cool, but as with anything, it might only be a matter of time. Surfing is not one of the most dangerous sports in the world. We know that. At least until something painful happens.

For many, wearing a helmet in surfing can be a ludicrous and unnecessary idea, but when accidents happen - and some of them were already fatal - protective headgear makes the difference.

Yes, some kooks wear helmets in two-foot summer surf, but what if they were doing the right thing?

Studies have revealed that nearly 40 percent of all surf-related injuries involve the head.

If you get hit by a surfboard or hit the reef with your head, you can drown, suffer multiple lacerations, perforate an eardrum, or end up with facial and scalp cuts.

Head trauma leaves a mark on your body. Petr Cech, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, started using a head protector after suffering a severe head injury, and soon after., it became an iconic part of his outfit.

The helmet absorbs the energy from an impact and defends your head, neck, and spine from irreversible physical injuries.

Yes, it might be a little bit harder to duck dive with a regular helmet, but if you opt for a close-fitting model, you won't notice the difference.

Surf helmets: nearly 40 percent of all surf-related injuries involve the head | Photo: WSL

Protect Your Head

Surf-specific helmets are not new. Surfers like Tom Carroll, Garret McNamara, Jeremy Flores, Sally Fitzgibbons, Gary Elkerton, and Keala Kennelly have already used them in multiple scenarios such as shallow reef breaks, spots with sharp coral bottoms, and in pounding beach breaks.

Remember: the helmet's hard shell will help prevent loss of consciousness if something goes wrong and no one notices.

So, forget coolness and protect your head in the surf. When should you use helmets? In the following situations:

1. Reef Breaks

Wearing a helmet can save your life if you wipe out and hit a rocky seafloor. Pro surfers have died or hurt themselves after hitting a sharp reef.

2. Big Wave Surfing

In extreme surf spots, the energy and weight of a wave are enormous. If you get hit by a giant whitewater lip, the consequences can be tragic.

3. Ultra-Crowded Line-Ups

Surfboards and fins are dangerous guns. They can kill a surfer, a swimmer, or a beachgoer. The chances you're going to get hit by a board in a crowded, urban surf spot are extremely high.

4. Surf Lessons and Beginner Surfing

If you're learning how to surf by yourself, or if you're starting to catch your first waves with the help of a surf instructor, you should consider the option of wearing a helmet.

5. In Extreme Weather Conditions

If it's cold and windy, a surf helmet will prevent the development of surfer's ear (Exostosis); if it's warm and sunny, a head protector will prevent headaches and defend your scalp from UV rays.

6. Young Surfers

Because a kid's skull is extremely fragile, a helmet can protect him/her from a few less rational decisions in the surf.

7. When You're Surfing All by Yourself

We all enjoy our solitary surf moments, but if your surfboard hits you in the head during a four-foot offshore session, your life might change forever.

If you're a smart surfer, wear a helmet.