Getting barreled has long been the one reliable way surfers could find a bit of shade in the water, until now. Surf hats are slowly gaining popularity among the wave-riding community, and it's no surprise — the degenerative effects the sun can have on one's eyes and skin after prolonged exposure in the water are plain. And it's more than a matter of the appearance of your skin; sun protection might just save your life (cue dramatic interlude).
We all know applying sunblock is crucial. The problem for surfers is that once is not enough, and hours-long sessions in the water often leave them exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays without any defenses. The dangers of UV rays are not breaking news to anyone — skin cancer cases have continued to grow since the early 1970s. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, occurs when pigment cells turn cancerous, which is exacerbated by prolonged exposure to UV rays. Some twenty years later the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to recognize and track the strength of UV rays, and in 1994 created the UV Index, which helps people determine and avoid overexposure.
What's more, the EPA has determined that water can reflect up to 10 percent more UV radiation than typical soil ground (sand can reflect up to 15 percent). And if that's not enough to scare you, researchers at Bond University in Australia found in 2015 that surfers are three times more likely than non-surfers to develop melanoma. Hold onto your hats because here's where wearing one begins to make sense. Though it's still recommended you apply sunblock, wearing a surf hat creates a physical barrier that can be your next-best defense against the sun. And a surf hat won't only protect your skin but could save your eyes too (don't get us started on cataracts).
The surf industry is catching on, with apparel brands adding adjustable straps to all styles of hats, including baseball caps, five panels and, of course, the classic bucket. The difficulty is finding the right fit, or, specifically, the right strap. Just like with bike helmets, ill-fitting ones can be somewhat uncomfortable — and there's nothing more agonizing than being held underwater without air, except maybe being held underwater without air, while being choked. It could take a couple of tries to find the perfect fit, but it's guaranteed to pay off in the long run. Of course, if you're confident enough in your ability, you can skip the strap — check out Patagonia's new line of hats featuring brims made of 100 percent recycled fishing nets. The rest of us can start with any of the other surf hats below.
Dakine Indo Surf Hat
Dakine's bucket hat provides excellent coverage and is even equipped with a secret stow-away neck flap. The brim is made of foam, making it light on your head and ensuring it floats in the water should you get separated from it.
Vissla Little Hatch Surf Hat
This stylish denim-like hat is made with water-resistant fabric that won't weigh you down. Its side flaps are complete with mesh inlays for your ears so you can still hear your buddies on the line.
Creatures of Leisure Surf Cap
The Surf Cap is fixed with a long brim that shades the whole face. In our testing, we found the strap was comfortable on the chin, and the clasp was easy to undo too. This hat also features a removable safety attachment that connects to your wetsuit or rash guard to help ensure it doesn't get lost in the waves.
Rip Curl Wetty Surf Cap
The Wetty is versatile enough to sport on and off the beach thanks to a minimal design featuring a detachable strap and neck cover.
Billabong Surf Cap
This sleek design is made from recycled boardshorts, making it a double win for your skin and the planet. Its vented ear covers and neoprene strap add a level of comfort and performance.
Patagonia Line Logo Ridge LoPro Trucker Hat
Patagonia's classic trucker hat features a quick-drain mesh in the back and a brim made with Bureo's fully traceable NetPlus 100 percent recycled fishing nets.