Hats designed specifically for surfing have become increasingly popular in recent years. Rather than being all about fashion, these hats have some unique practicalities that are well balanced alongside styling. A surf hat needs to withstand some incredible force from the waves, or it will be lost forever on its first trip out.
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Can you wear a hat while surfing?
You can definitely wear a hat while surfing. From sun protection to staying warm and even trying to stop surfer’s ear, there are quite a few reasons why people wear hats for surf.
There’s no getting away from the fact that long term exposure to the sun causes cancer and premature ageing. To be exact, the sun produces harmful UV rays that damage the skin. Melanomas can be treated if caught early but surgery will still leave an unsightly scar. If left, a melanoma will spread to other parts of the body and often the lymph nodes and then the survival rate reduces to just 25%.
Unfortunately, surfing is one of the sports where sun exposure is increased and therefore the risks are higher than many other outdoor pursuits. When you are out on the waves your neck, ears and face are exposed to the sun and the danger is increased by the reflection of the water.
A study in the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that wearing a hat for surfing could significantly reduce the risks of developing cancerous lesions.
Of course, a hat should be worn in addition to sunscreen to ensure that all your skin is protected from the sun’s rays. In hot climates remember that even on a cloudy day there are harmful UV rays.
When it is sunny, visibility can be significantly reduced out on the water. To protect your eyes, it’s a good idea to wear a hat that keeps the sun off your face and improves your visibility as well as offers additional protection. Sun exposure on the eyes can lead to long term problems such as cataracts and other eye conditions so if you find yourself squinting, it’s time to put on a hat.
Hat’s arent just about sun protection, especially here in the UK where the water is very cold mid-winter. A type of hat surfers wear in the winter is normally in the form of a balaclava.
More often than not these types of surfer hats are called ‘hoods’ and offer full head and neck protection from the cold sea and winds. They are made from neoprene which is the same material wetsuits are made from.
Surfers ear is a really annoying, sometimes painful bone growth that forms on the inside of the ears. This happens over a long period of time through exposure to the cold sea and wind, and I suppose it’s the body trying to protect the ears from the harsh elements.
Along with keeping my head warm, one reason why I always wear a neoprene hood in the winter is to try to stop surfer’s ear from happening. The neoprene forms a protective layer between my ears and the cold water, which will hopefully help hold back any ear issues I may get from surfing.
In the summer months, a hat like the Ocean and Earth Stiff Peak Surf Cap with its mesh around the ear area will certainly help protect the ears from wind and water.
What to look for in a surf hat
A hat for surfing has some unique requirements due to the pounding it will take from the waves.
Since the hat is going to get wet you want material that will dry quickly and not be damaged by the constant exposure to saltwater. It also needs to be lightweight even when wet or it will be uncomfortable.
You will need a hat that doesn’t fall or get blown off your head as you surf, so a chinstrap is an obvious solution. Keeping a surf hat secure is the most challenging thing about its design since it will need to endure so much movement and force from the waves.
Beware of chinstraps that are only made from rope as a big swell will probably snatch it away and you will lose your hat.
Hats like the Tilly or Dakine No Zone should only be used by longboarders or paddleboarders who don’t have to duck dive and get hit on the head by a wave too often.
The very best designs will stay in place after even the mightiest wipeout!
Since the main reason for wearing a hat for surfing is sun protection it makes sense to choose a design that will offer the best.
A bucket hat has a rim all the way around so it will protect your face and neck from the sun. In my experience, the soft rim also offers more flex when a wave hits you directly on the head.
You can also get wide-brimmed hats and caps that offer some sun protection but may be less flexible or secure.
The best surfing hats in the UK
Dakine Indo Surf Hat
Dakine is a company founded in Hawaii in 1979 that specialises in solving problems in outdoor pursuits. The founder Rob Kaplan was a surfer who loved engineering products using his own experiences.
This one is specially designed for use on the water and comes in a wide-brimmed style with extra neck protection that stores inside the hat when not needed. It comes in different sizes and should feel snug until wet, so it remains in place.
With material offering UPF50+ protection it is a great hat for hotter climates. It comes with a sturdy adjustable chin strap that has a mesh panel around the ears. This should prevent the hat from falling off but just in case it is also designed to float.
One extra feature is that the stiff brim can be flipped up to provide extra visibility when paddling.
A full brim that can be flipped
Sturdy adjustable chin strap
Choose a size up to normal – Can feel tight
Ocean and Earth Ulu Stiff Peak Surf Cap
Ocean and Earth is a surf company that was started by surfing friends in 1978 in New South Wales, Australia. Their knowledge of surfing drove the product development and it has since grown into an international brand.
From £25 – View on Surfdome
Designed for tropical climates, their Ulu cap has a stiff peak that is ideal for protecting the face and eyes from the sun as well as minimizing glare. The one size fits all design is adjustable with a Velcro back and it’s made from a lightweight quick-dry material.
Made purposefully for surfing, the cleverly designed side vents allow water to drain after a duck dive. Security is provided by the quick release chinstrap that is made from padded neoprene and has a protective mesh to cover the ears. Additionally, surfers can attach the Velcro at the back of the cap to their wetsuit zip webbing to make extra sure they keep hold of their hat.
Stiff peak cap for full face and eye protection
Sturdy quick release neoprene chinstrap
Velcro can attach to a wetsuit zipper
No neck protection
C-Skins Legend Wetsuit Hood
Our first neoprene hood in this list of surfing hats. As we live in the UK, half of year is about trying to stay warm on the water, rather than keep the sun off.
From £34.99 – View on Ann’s Cottage
C-Skins is a global surf brand known for creating high-quality gear that is good value. Being a British company, these guys know what is needed to keep warm in the cold winter months.
This wetsuit hood is made from 2.5mm ultra-stretch neoprene, so it stays nice and snug on your head without being uncomfortable. The 2.5 thickness is more than enough for the UK winter, so your noggin will never get cold again.
The double-layered gusset that fits on the inside and outside of the wetsuit really helps to avoid flushing, which is really important when the water is freezing.
Glued and blindstitched construction for added warmth
Adjustable face cord/lock to cinch
Not for summer!
Dakine No Zone Surf Hat
Another hat from Dakine, the outdoor solutions company started in Hawaii.
The Dakine No Zone hat has a sturdy wide brim offering excellent all-round sun protection. The brim has inserts that will help it hold its shape in windy wet conditions.
Designed for the water it is made from a quick-drying nylon material that will help keep you cool. A unique feature is its floating design which means you have some chance of retrieval if it does escape during a fall. However, the adjustable chin strap is just a cord with a bungee design that will keep it in place some of the time but may not withstand serious wave conditions.
This unisex hat comes in plain black with a utilitarian look and is available in different sizes. It’s a good choice for surfers who also want to use it for beachwear and walking.
Adjustable chin strap
Available in different sizes
May not withstand any duck dives
Rip Curl Wetty Surf Hat
Rip Curl started in 1969 in Australia and it has grown to become one of the top three surfing brands in the world. It operates across the globe as a clothing brand for surfwear and other watersports.
Their Wetty surfing hat is a bucket style hat made from a lightweight cotton and nylon mix. The soft brim style is popular with surfers as it is easy to wear and performs well in the waves. It comes in different sizes and has a few plain colour choices.
The neoprene chinstrap is constructed with mesh panels to release water and offers the greatest security for wipeouts and duck dives. To reduce the chance of losing the hat even more there is a further strap with a clip that can be attached to a wetsuit.
For those who surf in tropical climates, there is a detachable neck flap that offers even more UV protection when the sun is at its strongest.
Bucket style surf hat
Neoprene chinstrap with mesh panels and extra security strap
Detachable neck flap
Stylish in and out of the water
Often out of stock
Mystic Desert Hat
Mystic is a Dutch brand that started in 2002 specialising in products for the windsurfing and kiteboarding community. They use their expert knowledge to produce equipment, accessories and clothing that withstands the wear and tear of these sports.
From £25.95 – View on SUP CO
This black desert hat comes with a full wide brim to give all-round protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It is made from a lightweight material that is suitable to be used in the water thanks to its quick-dry properties.
The simple unisex design is enhanced by a wide secure chinstrap made from the same material as the hat. Designed to withstand strong winds it is built to offer security and a close fit to ensure it stays in place. A good choice for those who enjoy crossover sports.
Full wide brim
Lightweight material that dries quickly
Secure wide chinstrap that will withstand windy conditions.
One size fits all
Alder Wetsuit Cap
Alder is a British brand that was started in Devon in 1966 by Bob and Anne Westlake. The couple combined their passion for surfing with sewing skills to design products, especially for surfers.
From £14.99 – View on Ann’s Cottage
The black stealth wetsuit cap is a neoprene fitted cap that has a front peak to protect the face from the sun. A neoprene full chinstrap keeps the cap in place whatever conditions are encountered.
This is the solution for serious surfers who are surfing in cold waters and need some protection for their head to reduce brain freeze but still want some protection from the sun.
A bit of sun in Cornwall does not mean the sea becomes tropical so this is a great solution for regular UK surfers.
Neoprene close-fitting cap to wear with a wetsuit
Secure neoprene chinstrap
A wide peak for reducing UV rays and glare on the face
Full head coverage
Only for use in the water
Not a fashion accessory
May not provide full neck coverage
Tilley All Weather Hat
Tilley is a Canadian company that specialises in hats for outdoor pursuits. They are a brand that believes in durability and quality.
From £90 – View on Tilley
Their all-weather hat is particularly good for sun protection as the material is UPF50+ meaning it offers superior protection from the sun’s rays. It also reduces exposure with an all-round brim. The hat comes with a lifetime guarantee suggesting it is well made and durable.
What makes this special is the temperature control technology and moisture-wicking properties that make it a great hat for hot weather. For surfing, it only has a corded adjustable chinstrap.
This hat would suit someone who wants to invest in something long-lasting that is versatile for hiking and paddleboarding. It may not be so great for serious surfers who are likely to lose it in strong waves.
Innovative water repellent, UPF50+ and temperature control technology
Adjustable chin strap
May not survive a duck dive
Ocean and Earth Trucker Hat
This is another cap from Ocean and Earth, the Australian surf company, that comes in a trucker style.
From £24.99 – View on the Wetsuit Centre
The lightweight quick-dry material is designed for surfing with a deep peak that offers full face protection from the sun. The curved design of the peak should help with visibility whilst minimizing glare.
It comes in just one size with a snap closure adjustment band at the back. The padded headband and chin strap in neoprene provide security while the mesh back panels allow water to escape after a wipeout. As an extra precaution, you will find that the Velcro at the back can attach to your wetsuit webbing.
A deep front peak for face and eye protection
A curved peak for extra visibility
Neoprene chin strap and Velcro for extra security
One size only
Quiksilver Bucket Hat
Quiksilver is one of the largest and most popular surfwear brands. Started in 1969 in Australia it is now based in California in the US.
The Quiksilver bucket hat is made from cotton twill fabric and has an adjustable strap in matching fabric. The brim is wide and floppy with minimal styling and just a logo on the front.
The cotton fabric is lightweight and cool to wear while the wide brim offers plenty of protection from UV rays. Designed to be comfortable the narrow corded chin strap can be tightened to offer some security in the water, but it may not withstand a full dunking or big waves.
The hat comes in different sizes, but the fit is snug with extra-large being a little tight for those with larger heads.
Popular bucket style
100% cotton to keep heads cool
Wide floppy brim for good sun protection
Just a cord style chin strap
Not specifically designed for surfing
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.