|Light, minimal||Water drips in eyes|
|Stays on your head||Takes on a tad bit of water|
|5-star protection according to Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab|
Recommendation: Good performance and protection. My top recommendation currently on the market. It also happens to work well over a wetsuit hood.
And Justine Dupont recently wore it at Mavericks.
The Gamebreaker-Pro Soft Shell powered by D3O is about as close to a high-performance, effective surf helmet that you can get available today. It’s not made specifically for surfing (more for many different sports on-and-off the field), but it works, and it works, actually, quite well.
I first noticed this soft shell headgear being worn playing water polo, which is how I had the idea of trying it out surfing.
The headgear has two different kinds of impact-absorbing foams. One of which is the notable, D3O — one of those smart molecule foams that’s soft to the touch and hard on impact (much like Armourgel, these materials are also referred to as non-Newtonian materials). The other is Gamebreaker’s own mix of custom SAF and EVA foam. Both the D3O and custom foam work together to provide an extremely high level of protection for soft shell headgear. High enough, thatis, to be rated 5 stars by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, an independent research body.
This headgear has become my go-to, fun-size to double overhead surf helmet.
Let’s talk about its ability to absorb impact first. I haven’t yet-partnered with a helmet lab to compare the true effectiveness of the helmets on this site, but you’re reading the words of someone who has actually experienced a small impact while wearing this headgear. My board hit me in the head underwater in overhead surf. I’ve always been scared of these minor impacts ever since my recovery, but am I scared anymore? No. My reaction at the time was “huh, that felt funny,” and then smirking underwater, relieved that the impact was so reduced and happy that all my research had paid off.
The very-light impact I experienced was probably due, mostly, to the layer of D3O within the headgear. Read more about D3O’s ability to absorb impact in this research paper. And watch this video, showcasing this new material technology:
D3O is the orange foam you can see near the headgear’s ear holes.
Not only does it absorb impact well, it doesn’t disappoint in surfing performance either. In fact, the Gamebreaker-Pro with D3O is in a league of its own at the moment. Its lightness and soft-to-touch, minimalist character and stretching mechanism in the back make it truly unique.
In my experience, it fits snugly and hasn’t moved underwater while getting washed around under set waves, it doesn’t pull my head backward while duck diving like some of the higher volume hard cap style helmets do, and I haven’t experienced any whiplash from the common, sort-of, high-speed, slamming-into-surface, face-plants that every surfer experiences day-to-day. The sorts of crashes that usually result in neck and muscular stress while wearing hard hat style helmets or, sometimes, helmetless. This headgear’s profile is particularly low, so that stress is comparable to riding helmetless.
It’s not perfect though. It does take on a little bit of water noticeable when you get out while it also allows water to drip into your eyes after coming up from duck dives. To remedy these issues, it could use a new interior mesh that doesn’t absorb water and a visor made out of wetsuit material.
The Gamebreaker-Pro Soft Shell powered by D3O is my top recommendation for your go-to surf helmet. With it, you’ll have the highest level of safety, but take the smallest hit to the surfing experience. Only in the case of longboarding or paddleboarding in small waves would I consider anything else.
If you decide to purchase the headgear, order the two sizes closest to your size so you can achieve a truly snug fit. Keep in mind that “snug” for surfing is not the same as “snug” for 7v7 football, soccer, or water polo — the sports that this headgear was designed for (and the fit that the sizing guide refers to). You’ll want the headgear to fit where the back-piece is stretching just a tiny bit. Where it feels like a tight sock on your head, but obviously not so tight that you’ll get a headache. This picture represents the stretchable back-piece that I’m talking about (the back-piece is also padded with D3O, a nice improvement on other rugby-style headgear, which are laced in the back).
When purchasing, order directly from Gamebreaker to ensure that you’ll receive the latest and greatest version of the headgear. The newest versions have the thickest layer of D3O, and are therefore the most effective. The newest versions are also the ones that received the 5 star rating from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab - the Gamebreaker Pro 2018 (After 3/18).
If you must order from Amazon, make sure to write a note, asking for the newest version.