24 July 2012

REVIEW: Shred Ready and Nutcase helmets

Undeniably looking goofy, just like bike helmets were on cyclists when they first appeared, helmets for sea kayaking are not very popular in my part of the pond.
A helmet for sea kayaking? really? what will they think of next...
And that’s what I thought when I used to paddle the sheltered waters of the bay.
Admittedly I can’t see much use for a helmet in an sea that has no surf and where the chance of bumping you head is rather remote.
The game changed once I realized that for me the real fun in a sea kayak is in white water and luckily most of the shores in my area where the ocean meats land are sandy with rarely I rock in sight.
While the chance of banging my noggin on a reef is remote, I have made contact with the hull of my kayak, and that of others.
As wise paddlers say: "we are just in between swims", I regard my roll as proficient but not bombproof and, despite all the rolling training and play in the surf zone, I still come out of my boat.
Tossed out of my boat, my head and my kayak sometimes decide to be in the same place at the same time.
Just like I embraced bicycle helmets years ago (way before they became compulsory) I now don a helmet when going out in conditions that might see me contacting the head with something hard.
In sea kayaking the increased risk factor over bicycles is that a knock to the head, that would make me unconscious even for a very short time, would probably spell disaster.
I was lucky to not have drowned a few years ago when crashing my windsurfer I passed out. Maybe wearing a helmet would have prevented me seeing stars even tho not sure if it would have saved me from ending in hospital for shoulder reconstruction.

In my shed I have two helmets for sea kayak surfing: the Shred Ready Shensu carbon and a Nutcase Watermelon.

Shred Ready Shensu Helmet_c

The Shensu is a carbon fibre and Kevlar lid with closed cell foam interior padding. Unlike EPS foam in bicycle helmets this foam has a bit of flex and does not dimple if pressed hard but returns to its original shape. The helmet comes with pads of different thickness that attach to the bottom perimeter of the interior padding with small Velcro tabs. A fully customized fit can be achieved for a perfect feel with no pressure points.

Shred Ready Shensu_c

What sets this brain bucket apart form the rest is the extremely good retention strap system. The typical under-the-chin plastic buckled strap is complemented with HOG occipital lock: a tensioning system that grabs the back of the head and keeps the helmet perfectly in place even during the most head banging spills.
I have seen this type of ratchet system on bicycle helmets and shoes and they have proven to work well.

SR retention system_c

The Shensu fits my large head well. I have struggled to find a helmet that could offer me comfort and security at the same time. Most other helmets I have tried just felt like a bucket on my head often putting pressure on the temples. If however your head is shaped differently Shred Ready offers a more elongated style that fits smaller heads: the more budget-conscious Super Scrappy is injection molded ABS shell that won't break the bank.

The Nutcase has a more conventional helmet look with its shell shape shared with many other sport helmets for skateboarding and bike riding.
What sold me with this helmet was the funky graphics: it's not like I can hide wearing a helmet so I might as well stand out :-0
This water version has an ABS Shell with the same closed cell foam (EVA) lining that cradles the head but doesn't absorb water.

Nutcase melon_1_c

Additional comfort open-cell padding found on top of the head keeps this helmet comfortably seated.
There are removable heat molded foam ear flaps to protect me from lateral light impacts but I found those flaps pressing down on my non-Dumbo ears after a while. With some careful gentle heat-gun action I slightly reshaped the flaps and domed them to create the perfect fit.

Nutcase melon_3_c

Nutcase uses one size shell for their adult helmets but increase the inside EVA padding for the S-M size.
The Nutcase comes with additional small soft pads that can be used for a custom fit but I didn't need them in my L-XL one; the fit is smaller than the Shensu.
Nutcase melon_2_c

Now the question remains: does everybody need a helmet when paddling?
Probably not. The fat chance of banging one's  head while paddling on a Sunday morning millpond condition outing doesn't really warrant one but somehow I feel safer wearing my helmet when the waves get steeper and the surf traffic wanting to share the same space increases.

Zegul surf_5

PS: no shwag and no kick-backs for this review either. Bought the helmets with my own money and no prompts from the manufacturers. 
Heck, I don't even sell or monetise nothing on this website... 
One downside: I receive almost daily offers from totally unrelated Chinese manufactures asking me to become their agent for electronic parts , carbon  fibre or plastic goods. I even had offers from website design managers in USA and India offering me to maximize my "profitability" :-)


  1. So far I have scraped my head by falling while portaging or some river boulders blocking the run. I've also had a number of scrapes with the hard sandy bottom while learning to surf at the beach. If there is any white water around I strongly recommend a helmet, even though I've never had another boat hit me, the earth really hurts.

  2. Ive been into motorbikes for years and seen the benefit of helmets firsthand, as in the road grinding past 3cm from my eyes and thinking how nice it is that my nose and lips are still on my face not smeared down the road like a crayon.
    So I dont have the "helmets are uncool and a hassle" mindset that some people seem to.

    Ive seen someone come out of their boat in 20cm surf, come up on the beach side, then the next small wave smack the boat squarely into their face. The helmet saved them from a smashed nose, broken glasses and a possible KO in the water. All this in tiny surf on a 50cm deep sandbar.

    There is a story on Fernando's blog about an extremely experienced instructor almost having their head rammed into during a chaotic rescue, proof of how easily situations can become risky. Worth thinking about the consequences of having the groups best paddler KO when the groups resources are already taxed to the limit.

    Helmets in calm conditions are completely unnecessary. However as soon as you introduce surf, rockgardens, a following sea with multiple kayaks, or rescues in bouncy conditions they really become a critical piece of safety gear. Not just for the individual, but for the whole group which will have to deal with the complexities of a head injury.

  3. Nothing like a helmet in rough conditions, always wear one especially when surfing among all the other kayakers and SUPs. It gets crowded on the waves and the chances of collision make helmets mandatory.Thats a lesson learned the hard way.


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