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Searching for the best surf hat? While it’s not the most exciting topic, there came a point in my surf *~journey~* where I got over spending sunny surf sessions with one hand over my forehead, only to return home with sunburned eyes and a red nose. While surf hats are not the most fashionable item out in the line-up, they do a pretty good job of keeping your face protected from the sun.
My friends and I have worn (and lost and broken) many surf hats over the past few years. Here are the surf hat picks that have stood the test of time.
Overview: Durable and simple bucket-style surf hat made with Fair Trade materials.
Patagonia in general makes solid surf gear, and their surf hat is no different. Their bucket-style surf brim hat comes in light green and charcoal. The durable straps wrap around your ears, and there’s an adjustment tab to help secure the hat to the size of your coconut. (This adjustment feature makes it a great surf hat for women, as many of the ‘unisex’ surf hats run a little big). Sizes come in small/medium and large/extra large option.
Overview: Durable bucket style surf hat with solid chin strap. Best for larger heads.
This surf hat has survived many a days out at sea in my household, it’s practically greased in zinc at this point. It has a firm front bill and fits a little large for those who have small noggins; it only comes in one size. You can get it in charcoal color as well.
Overview: Robust baseball style surf hat with mesh ear ventilation; machine washable.
This surf cap offers a bit of extra sun protection around the ears, while still allowing the wearer to hear a mate call “outside!” The straps are quite stretchy, meaning you can pull it pretty snug without having it choke you or feel like it’s about to fall off. 100% nylon, it dries quickly and is machine washable. The only downside is that the buckle doesn’t feel as secure as it could be.
Overview: Quick-drying bucket surf hat with mesh ear flaps and a firm brim.
The Dakine Surf Hat comes with an adjustable flap that tucks inside of the hat when not being used. This hat is great for the tropics, made from a lightweight material that dries quickly and floats if it does come off. The brim flaps around a little bit (it sticks up and gets that ‘Gillian Island’s’ look a bit easily), but this is certainly a convenient feature if you need to expand your peripheral vision.
Overview: Durable surf hat; comes in multiple colors and sizes.
FCS makes pretty robust surf gear. My FCS surf booties have been going strong for 5+ years and we have a surf travel bag that’s nearly 15 years old. FCS makes a bucket style and cap style surf hat, though I feel the bucket style hat is a little less flimsy than its cap counterpart. The front of the brim is rigid and the buckle of the strap feels durable. It comes in blue, black, and light grey and runs true to size.
Overview: Lightweight and quick drying surf hat with neck flap.
I impulsively purchased this hat during an online shopping binge a few years ago, but have been pleasantly surprised with the durability, quick drying aspect, and comfort of the Sticky Johnson surf hat. The neck flap is a little annoying as it fastens with Velcro–a nightmare for surfers with long hair. Runs a little small.
*Only available in New Zealand if ordering online.
There are two styles of surf hats: bucket and baseball cap. Bucket hats offer a little more coverage on the sides of the face, the ears, and the back of the neck. Personally, I find these easier to wear in the water as the bill of the hat doesn’t catch as much while duck diving. The bill of a bucket style surf hat should have additional reinforcement at the front of the face so that it doesn’t flop down when it gets wet (and heavy). Surf bucket hats usually have shorter bills than typical bucket hats for this reason.
Many surfers prefer the baseball cap style with a larger bill as they offer more shade on the face. You’ll want this style of surf hat to fit pretty snugly. If it’s too loose, the bill of the hat might flop down as soon as it gets wet.
Both types of surf hats might come with an add-on piece of material that covers the back of the neck.
A robust chin strap
More experienced surfers can get away with wearing an everyday hat or a bucket hat with a thin rope around the chin.
If you’re constantly duck diving or finding yourself caught inside, like me, you’ll want a robust chin strap that clips together. Just about every type of hat will slip off to the back of your neck during an especially big pounding, but it’s less likely to rip or come off completely if the chin strap is thick and secure.
Quality of materials
There’s a small suspicion that every surf company orders their surf hats from the same manufacturer. Honestly, there’s not a large difference when it comes to fit or materials from the big brands.
Can anyone with a straight face ever call a surf hat stylish? We’ll let you be the judge of that one. There tends to be an inverse relationship between sun protection/robustness and style when it comes to surf hats. So, you can get a bit of a cooler hat if you forgo the thick straps and chin buckle. But, I end up losing these surf hats within my first few times out in the water with them, and I hold the view that a sunburn looks worse than any surf hat does.