Commentary: What's protecting your head?

Thursday, 09 November 2006

big_water.jpg Photo by Liz Burnside.

Over the past year or so, I have noticed a huge increase in the popularity of videos and photography depicting paddlers surfing, rockhopping, and playing in tidal rips. That's fantastic. It provides great inspiration for new paddlers just getting into the sport and is nice contrast to the popular media depiction of flatwater sea kayaking.

Here is my question, "So why do sea kayakers think they don't need to wear a helmet when they are out surfing or playing in tidal races?"

Now, before you yell at me saying that you wear one all the time, I know, you do. It still concerns me of the huge number of people who aren't protecting their head.

I recently asked a couple friends about why they didn't wear one. They said that they didn't need to wear a helmet because the water in the tidal rip was deep and they wouldn't hit anything. It is true that you probably won't hit a rock in that situation but there are lots of hard boats out there waiting to hit you.

The other big area that really concerns me is people surfing at a beach with no helmet. Are you crazy? It might be sand, but hitting it with your head at surfing speed is no different then hitting a rock.

It is my biggest gripe I have with the many DVD's out there. There is quite a bit of footage of paddlers out in really big, rough water without helmets. The people in the videos are really advanced paddlers but in my humble opinion, they should be setting a better example.

Whitewater kayakers wouldn't be caught dead with a helmet even in class 1 water. Why are sea kayakers different? Aren't you just doing whitewater in sea kayaks?

Got an opinion? Disagree? Good, post a comment below.

Here are a bunch of examples I found on

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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