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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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" :-)