For most people, wearing a surf helmet seems like a silly and ridiculous idea.
After all, surfing in a helmet doesn’t look cool, and if anything, surfing isn’t even one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
Yes, at least not until you strike headfirst against the reef in the shallow waters.
See, if you’ve been in the surfing game for long, you’re probably aware of some of the big wave and deadly surfing accidents that shook the surfing fraternity to its core, such as that of the renowned surfer Mark Foo.
Sure, some of these incidents are few and far between, but they’re not far fetched or away from reality.
Just as with bike riding at high speeds, the importance of surfing headgear can’t be overemphasized.
Along with the more obvious risks with surfing, like drowning or shark attack, it’s important to remember and protect the dangers for your head.
Remember, you’re never far away from hitting the water at high impact speed, diving headfirst into a shallow reef, or even getting hit on the head by a surfboard. Many of the fatal surfing injuries take this path- and having a protective helmet can be a lifesaver.
But with many options in the market, how do you choose the best surf helmets?
This is where we come in.
In the guide below, we’ll share our recommendations of the best surfing helmets for optimal safety.
Alongside keeping your skull from getting crushed from impact, our choice of helmets is comfortable and lightweight too.
Table of Contents
The Best Surf Helmets For The Money
#1 Gath Convertible Surf Helmet - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Our top pick, the Gath Convertible Surf Helmet, sets the standards when it comes to protecting your head and ears, significantly reducing the risk of sustaining life-threatening surf injuries.
It also sets the standards for surf helmets, and at the top of the market, it’s hard to go wrong with this pick.
But how good is this Gath helmet as a surfing helmet?
I feel it’s a good helmet, and one of the things separating the Gath convertible from other options is its unique fitting system.
Gath Surf Convertible is a hard helmet that actually stays on your head.
The fitting system gives professional surfers a snug suction-like fit to keep the helmet on when getting worked under the water. You won’t have to worry about the surf ripping the Gath of your head or the strap choking you because the helmet slipped off.
At the same time, the Gath Surf Convertible helmet isn’t too restrictive either. You won’t experience the bucket effect as you do in the other hard hat helmets. Instead, it feels comfortable, plush and will allow you to surf for extended periods without fatigue.
The other thing we love with this helmet is the construction.
Everything about the Gath Surf Convertible helmet is of the highest quality.
Take the tough outer ABS shell, for example. It’s sturdy as it gets and will take on the dings and crashes without breaking or affecting the helmet’s integrity.
On the other hand, the custom-built screws and rivets constructed from non-corrosive, salt-water resistant materials will stand up to abuses from elements.
But the main material is the molded EVA in the interior.
It’s quite a standard material among helmets, but there’s a reason why it is so popular and has been there for that long.
The closed-cell blocks inside the EVA offer meaningful protection and come in handy when you smack your head on a shallow reef, cushioning you against the knockout that would lead to serious head injuries or drowning.
Along with the EVA, Gath also has a non-water absorbent foam that keeps the helmet free from water logging while keeping your head snug and comfortable.
While the helmet is built to last and offer incredible shock impact resistance, it maintains a lightweight design. At only 10oz, you’ll barely feel the helmet’s weight, and this is important for maintaining the right posture and trying out the various surfing moves.
As if the handy rear mount strap wasn’t enough, the helmet features removable ear protectors. It’s a great feature, especially for surfers with sensitive ears.
Plus, the detachable ear protectors are useful for adjusting the helmet according to the existing conditions. For example, you can remove the ear protectors when the weather is hot and attach them back during the cold weather to keep your ears warm.
And that’s not all!
The detachable ear protectors feature adjustable audio vents that keep you cognizant of the surroundings. You can open them to hear the line-up or have them closed to fight any wind chill.
Overall, the Gath helmet comes with everything professional surfers need for a safe, comfortable, and practical surfing experience.
The multi-impact hard shell protects the helmet, while the non-water absorbent, soft EVA inner lining cushions your head from dings and impacts.
*Tip: The sizing tends to run a bit small. You can avoid this by carefully analyzing the sizing chart.
#2 Gath Neo Sport Hat Helmet - Most Versatile Gath Helmet
Second, on our list, the Gath Neo Sport Hat Helmet is yet another wonderful product from Gath, priding itself for being low-volume, modest, and versatile.
It’s primarily designed for surfing and hitting the big waves, but its aerodynamic and protective design promotes versatility in use. Gath Neo has a wide application, and beyond surfing, it’s perfect for skydiving, kayaking, water rafting, and other extreme water sports.
Safety-wise, Gath Neo Sport is made from the same high-quality, high-impact tough outer ABS shell as the Gath convertible and is just as tough.
Take the outer shell, for example. The tough impact-resistant ABS plastic will protect your noggin in case of a wave rams against you or you find yourself diving headfirst into a shallow reef.
All other materials are equally tested for quality and strength, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the Neo Sport falling apart mid-session.
For example, the screws are rust-proof, so they can easily handle the elements, including rust and moisture.
While the exterior is incredible, the interior gets more interesting, especially considering the choice of materials.
The interior is covered with neoprene, a soft and a little more comfortable material than the standard EVA foam.
It’s a nice choice of material, offering a snug and comfortable fit, so you won’t have to worry about the helmet slipping when you’re getting worked by the waves.
The other good thing with neoprene, especially the neoprene headband section, is it helps with fit while offering adjustable forehead foam protection. Unlike EVA, neoprene headband have a bit of stretch that will, assuming you’re wearing the right size helmet, give you a nice, snug fit.
It’s expandable and will automatically adjust to your head shape for superior comfort while at the same time offering total peripheral vision.
Along with the neoprene, the interior has a non-water absorbent foam, helping provide a comfortable seal to your forehead while minimizing water flow over the eyes.
Together, both materials work to keep your helmet functional and keep your head safe from any aquatic impact.
While the helmet is a little heavier than some of our options, you can always be sure that the added weight translates to better protection.
Another Neo Sport’s strong suit is adjustability.
This surf helmet features a tight chin strap with a neoprene cover for added comfort as with the Gath Convertible. The helmet runs true to size, and regardless of the shape of your head, you can always adjust to achieve the comfiest experience.
The helmet covers your ears, but it’s nothing to worry about since it comes with audio openings/ear protectors, which you can always close or open to regulate the amount of air or water that comes through.
Overall, the Gath Neo Sport Hat Helmet has a lot of goodies for the surfer.
It’s from one of the reputable brands in the market and comes with all the features you need for a safe and comfortable surfing experience.
The impact resistance is awesome, while the neoprene interior and headband take the crown. It’s simply amazing, offering unmatched safety and comfort. You can’t go wrong with Neo Sport!
#3 NP Surf Watersports Helmet - Budget Option
The NP Surf Watersports helmet is adored among the reviewers due to its inexpensive pricing and quality provided since it meets the standard codes.
With CE approvals, this helmet is tested and approved; you can rest easy knowing it has passed stringent quality testing.
While it’s less known and less popular than Gath helmets, it’s a practical option that will keep your head safe in any watersport.
Many users are blown away by the incredible quality, fit, and style, especially considering what you get at such a fair price.
One of the things I like about this helmet is it comes in different sizes and colors. I’m a big fan of the beautiful light green color. It really stands out while on the water, and the reflective carbon look of the helmet is super cool and unique.
As for the fit, it feels right at home. Perfect. No movement.
The flap feels secure and comfortable, and for users with smallish heads like mine, the medium size is just right. It fits snug, even before cranking the dial. As it should.
Cranking the dial gets it just right, so it doesn’t move up/down or sideways on your head.
The ease of adjusting makes it a great pick, especially if you’ll be sharing the helmet with others. The “dial” style fit adjustment at the nape of the helmet is simple to adjust with one simple turn in either direction with one hand and with no guessing.
NPS Surf’s good fit doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and safety.
The twist closure system on the back of the head and the adjustable chin straps offer a snug and comfortable fit, regardless of the size of your head.
Safety is also prioritized on this helmet, and the hard ABS plastic shell protects the helmet and your head from impact.
The ABS along the soft impact-absorbing liner means you won’t have to worry about getting knocked by your longboard or a big wave wiping you out. All impacts, vibrations, and shocks are dulled and lessened when you wear this helmet.
Finally, NPS Surf is a convenient pick, coming with an air vent system that makes it suitable for use on land as it is on the water. Personally, I’ve worn these in full sun, and the air vents allow for plenty of air circulation, and I never felt too hot wearing the helmet.
Overall, the NPS Helmet has a lot to offer and will keep you safe and comfortable during your surfing experience.
It’s a practical option too for different applications, and beyond surfing, it’ll come in handy for kitesurfing, whitewater rafting, and other water-based activities.
#4 Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet - Simple Helmet
For water sports enthusiasts looking for a modest and strong helmet, the Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet ticks all the right boxes without overcomplicating things.
You get a solid but lightweight option that sits just right above the ears. Sure, it may not provide the ultimate protection with the full-face helmets, but it still manages to provide enough cover for a safe surf.
Pro-Tec Ace has a lot going for it, and we’ll start with the construction, particularly the choice of material.
Pro Tec’s Ace helmet is a high-density injection molded shell.
One of the greatest benefits of this hard plastic outer shell is its lightness. At only 1 .1 pound, you’ll barely feel the Pro-Tec when surfing, which is critical in eliminating fatigue and unbalanced body posture.
The other benefit of this material is sturdiness.
Yes, it’s light, but it can take a beating like a champ. The helmet will survive getting hit by a wave or even smashing against the reef, and this is useful in keeping your noggin safe.
The shell, alongside the Dual Density Waterproof EVA Liner, ensures the helmet is suitable for the water. Whether you take a swipe, smash the reef headfirst or bang against the surfboard, the material will absorb the shock impact and cushion your head against damage.
And the good thing about the helmet is its complete reliability. It boasts a CE EN 1385 water sports safety certification, so you can always expect a dependable surfing experience.
To make sure the helmet is suitable for the water, the folks at Pro-tech have included a whooping 16 open ventilation hole.
These ventilation holes are critical in draining the water from the helmet while allowing the free flow of air. The ventilation system offers an easy and convenient solution, especially when surfing on bright, sunny days.
Finally, the Pro-Tec Ace Water helmet is a versatile pick, and whether you’re surfing, kayaking, or wakeboarding, it has you covered.
Overall, the Pro-Tec is an amazing headgear, coming with a simplicity that meets the practical and safety needs.
It excels on many fronts; yet, it only comes at a fraction of the price of most of its competitors.
#5 Gath Safety Surf Helmet with Retractable Visor - Best Surf Helmet for the Ultimate Protection
If you need a surf helmet that can stand up to anything Mother Nature throws at you, go for the Gath Retractable Surf Helmet.
It’s a premium pick and among the best visor-style helmets. It offers the best protection you could get from a helmet while keeping it comfortable and hassle-free.
There’s a lot to like with this Gath helmet, but we’ll start with the color.
Yes, color may seem trivial when selecting a helmet, but yellow on the Gath does more than aesthetics. I love this choice of color because it’s reflective, and this is necessary, especially in an emergency, as rescuers can spot you easily.
The other thing I love with the Gath Retractable Surf Helmet is the design. It comes with a modest and small profile, just enough to offer protection when surfing or even on a jet ski.
The main highlight, however, is the retractable visor. It’s a nice addition, bolstering the overall safety by protecting you from the ocean sprays, wind, and harsh saltwater.
At the same time, the retractable visor offers 98% UV protection from the sun and will prevent the harsh and blinding UV rays from compromising your vision and affecting your overall performance.
The good thing with the visor on this helmet is it’s completely adjustable, so you can always set it as you want. Whether you prefer a full-face visor or simply need a visor over your eyes, this helmet can handle it all.
And that’s not all!
The visor is constructed from shatterproof plastic, and so whatever comes to your face, you can trust it will hold.
But the retractable visor is just but one of the protective measures on this helmet.
The outer shell, for instance, is constructed from hardy ABS material and will stand up to the dings, bangs, and big wave crashes.
Alongside a soft inner liner foam, you’re practically guaranteed safety even when getting worked by the big waves.
In particular, the soft ava foam liner absorbs all the shock and impacts from big wave crashes, knocks by the surfboard, or even crashes onto the reef.
And as with all other Gath helmets we’ve reviewed, this option has an incredible fit, with the same quick-release buckles helping with proper adjustment.
On the other hand, the removable ear protectors mean you enjoy surfing in the hot summer days just as you would during the cold seasons. The ear guards are adjustable, letting you control the amount of air that gets in.
It’s UV stable, too, and will protect you from harmful UV rays.
The best part with the Gath Retractable Visor Helmet purchase is you also get a protective storage bag. It keeps the helmet safe, free from the elements while offering a convenient mode of transport.
Best Surfing Helmets Buying Guide
In our guide below, we look at everything you need to know about selecting the best quality helmets.
First, let’s look at why you need a water sports helmet.
Why Do You Need a Surf Helmet?
Head injuries are undoubtedly the worst form of injury you can take.
This is particularly true in the sea or ocean, where unconsciousness might easily lead to drowning even without the impediment of large surf.
Furthermore, while the legs lead in sustained surfing injuries (46%), Sports Medicine Australia asserts that the head and facial injuries come in second at an estimated 26%.
When Should you Wear Surf Helmets?
Here are some of the instances that necessitates the need of wearing a surf helmet;
Big wave Surfing
You should wear a surf helmet if the energy and the weight of the wave are enormous. A giant rapid lip hitting you can be fatal.
If you’re learning how to surf, or catching your first wave, consider wearing surf helmets.
Wearing a helmet on the reefs saves you from wipeouts and when you hit the rocky seafloor.
The possibility of getting hit by fins or other surfboards is high and might even kill you.
So, consider wearing a helmet to avoid such incidents.
We all like solitary moments, but when a wave hits you while alone, your life might change for keeps. So, when alone, consider wearing a helmet for your safety.
The skulls for young surfers are fragile, and a helmet may come in handy during the less rational decision-making incidents.
Extreme weather conditions
During the windy and cold conditions, a surf helmet comes in handy to prevent the development of a surfer’s ear/exostosis.
On the other hand, during sunny and warm conditions, the surf helmets prevent headaches and shield the scalp from harmful UV.
Styles of Surf Helmets
Before we look at the factors to consider when choosing a surf helmet, let’s first see the different styles of surfing helmets.
Surf helmets come in different shapes and forms but are generally classified into three main categories: half-cut, full-cut and full-face.
Half-cut helmets sit above the ear. They offer less protection than other options as their shape limits their protection and coverage around the head.
But on the flip side, they’re generally lighter, easier to wear, and offer slightly more convenience when surfing.
Full-cut helmets offer more protection around the rest of the head and ears. They’re obviously safer to wear but more restricting than the half-cut helmets.
The full-cut helmets also offer extra warmth around your ears.
Full-face helmets are the safest option. They’re like motorcycle helmets, protecting the entire head.
While they offer maximum protection, they’re more restrictive than all our previous options.
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Surf Helmets
In the section below, we’ll look at the critical things you should remember when looking for a surfing helmet.
The choice of surf helmet color may seem trivial, but it may just be important as the helmet itself- especially in a rescue situation.
Brightly colored helmets such as orange, pink, yellow, and red are more visible in the water than dull or muted colors.
When choosing your surf helmet color, it’s a good idea to think about where you’ll be surfing. For example, if you’re in blue water, color options such as neon green tend to stand out more.
Just as you would want reflective stickers on your bike helmet for more visibility, consider adding some to your surf helmet.
Reflective stickers may help you become more noticeable.
As with the choice of surf helmet colors, choose the brightly colored stickers.
Surf helmets are designed for use in the water, so they should have a ventilation system to drain the water.
Always check to see if the helmet has ventilation holes in it.
The helmet’s fit is as important as protection.
While many helmets are available in different sizes, you may find options offering extra adjustment.
The adjuster mechanism comes in handy, allowing you to secure the fit while preventing it from moving while wearing it.
An adjustment system may also come in handy, keeping your helmet secured in your head if you end up in the water.
Generally, surfing helmets are constructed with multiple layers of material, with every layer adding protection or comfort.
In most cases, the outer shell is often hard plastic and occasionally reinforced with carbon fiber.
This layer is tasked with offering impact protection, and is designed to spread the impact’s force all over the rest of the helmet’s outer shell.
Inside the shell, you find a tough, closed-cell foam liner. This layer is tasked with absorbing impact through its shock-absorbing properties. It’ll keep your head from getting damaged from the initial impact.
Occasionally, some of the surfing helmets have extra layers, which allow for a better fit.
When purchasing a surf helmet, go for an option weighing just right for you.
Heavy surf helmets may cause some imbalance in your body posture, not to mention they may fatigue you after surfing in them for extended periods.
It’s always a good idea to choose a helmet offering convenience and ease of use.
For example, helmets with removable ear protection or ear covers are handy if you surf in varying conditions.
The soft ear protectors offer better ear protection and will keep your ears warm and cushion them against the wind chill.
On the other hand, the removable ear protector ensures proper ventilation and a free flow of air.
The other thing to consider is the presence of an adjust chin strap. It holds the helmet securely while offering a tight fit.
It’s always a good idea to choose a helmet with the necessary certification.
It shows it has passed all the quality regulations and that it can guarantee safety.
If you’re in Europe, pick a helmet with CE EN 1385 water sports safety standards, while those in the US must meet the CPSC standards.
Best Surf Helmets Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How do you choose the right size of surf helmet for optimal fit?
A: Most manufacturers have a sizing chart to help you find the best helmet size.
But the most surefire way of choosing the right size is by practically using the helmet and seeing whether it fits.
Q: Can a lightweight helmet absorb impacts?
A: Helmets are tested before they’re released into the market. These helmets may be lightweight, but they’re strong and rigid, and as with a car, the impact energy is transferred to the helmet and not on your head.
Q: Can the Visor possibly shatter when surfing?
A: You don’t have to worry about the visor shattering, especially if you choose the great surfing helmets and certified helmets.
Q: Can these helmets be used for some other sports aside from surfing?
A: Yes, these surfing helmets are versatile, and beyond surfing, they can also be an amazing choice for wakeboarding or even whitewater rafting.
But remember, they’re only meant to suit water activities more than anything else, so they may not be ideal for biking or any dry land activities.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our review of the best surf helmets has finally come to an end, and hopefully, you’ve decided the option to go with.
If not, I would suggest you go with our first pick, the Gath Convertible Surf Helmet.
Because it has a lot going for it, including an ergonomic helmet fit, reliable protection, and a wonderful surfing experience.
It’ll keep your head safe from crashes and dings while it’s lightweight and comfortable to offer an amazing surfing experience.
Plus, it’s an inexpensive purchase!
What more would you want in a surfing helmet?