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Olaian Soft Surf Helmet

Best small wave

Wed, 05 Feb 2020
Pros Cons
Moderate impact, sun protection Slides back duck diving waves over 3-4 ft.
Surfer-friendly look & cost
Very light, minimal
Deflects water from eyes

Recommendation: A great buy for some protection in small waves. It’s become my go-to surf helmet in So-Cal, but it would work well for any destination not requiring a wetsuit hood.

Only available directly from Decathlon.

Review

The Olaian Soft Surf Helmet by Decathlon is an amazing improvement on a surf hat, and a solid first attempt at a surf helmet.

Reaction

The first thing I noticed is that this thing is just made for surfing. It looks and feels like a hat that could complement a surfer’s style. It has a medium-sized brim that’s small enough to not be a hindrance when duck diving in small waves, but large enough to provide some protection from the sun. It has an elastic, stretchy mechanism to wrap around the under-side of the back of a surfer’s head, helping it stay in place, even while duck diving. And it costs no more than a hat, making it something that shouldn’t hurt any surfer’s wallet.

The elastic, stretchy mechanism that wraps around the under-side of the back of your head.

One thing I didn’t realize before I had it in my hands, however, is that the main foam material is not completely flexible. As a result, it’s not quite as comfortable as other soft shell headgear (like Gamebreaker’s for example), but still moreso than hard shell helmets.

Protection

The main foams’ impact-absorbing capacity comes from a combination of 60% Polyvinyl chloride and 40% Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene — basically a Vinyl Nitrile liner somewhat similar (albeit thinner) to Giro’s soft shell Combyn snowboarding helmet.

This helmet’s ability to absorb impacts as it relates to concussions isn’t totally clear since no independent body has tested it. Although it might help reduce the feeling of small impacts, don’t expect it to protect you from the effects of concussions. Instead, expect it to protect you from scalp wounds, which is something European Directive 89/686 EEC stipulates for light headgear. It’s therefore certainly helpful when most surfing related head injuries involve impacts with your own board or someone else’s. But this is no ground-breaking surf helmet in terms of protection from rotational force or the symptoms a surfer will experience post-concussion.

Performance

It’s only good in small surf. Even though the brim does fold upwards, when worn down, the brim is still rigid enough to get “caught” by the force of the wave while duck diving in anything larger than 3-4 ft. surf. The brim’s rigidity also makes it possible for something to impact it (and therefore your head) at the perfect angle, which would surely cause the impact to be a little worse, or at least cause whiplash.

However, the brim was ideal in terms of deflecting water after duck dives. After testing this helmet for a few days, the water dripping in my eyes even after the first submersion while wearing the Gamebreaker-Pro was immediately noticeable and annoying.

What could be improved

The next model could use a brim made out of softer material, like lightly reinforced neoprene, which would improve the helmet’s ability to stay on while duck diving in larger surf without compromising on the water-deflecting feature. Also, a thin layer of EVA or similar foam between your head and the main foam would be great just to add a little comfort. Or better yet, since a thin layer of EVA will add no additional impact protection, a layer of soft, non-newtonian foam that would contribute to its ability to absorb impact could be used instead. Furthermore, the same material could be used in the fabric that covers your ears and wraps around your chin for more coverage.

Conclusion

All said, this is a great little product. It only costs $25. No excuses if you’re avoiding wearing a surf helmet because of cost at this point. Grab this sucker to add some moderate protection in small waves, especially in crowded lineups. No reason not to. You’ll be getting a brim that not only protects you from the sun, but also deflects water from your eyes after duck dives, foams that offer minimal protection from minor impacts and definite protection from scalp wounds, and a hat that, for the most part, stays on in small surf unlike many other brimmed, surf hats out there. No complaints. It’s now my go-to surf helmet in small waves.

One more thing: If you do order it, don’t worry about the circular shape when it arrives. The material is soft enough for oval-shaped heads like my own.

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