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REVIEW: Surf Hat Soliloquy

walking on a beach wearing a surf hat carrying a surfboard

People don't read blogs anymore. Technology evolves. Audiences change. Dinosaurs Will Die. I get all of this, but I don't really care. I write it, you can read it, or not. Today let's talk about the sun and protecting your noggin from it. As a lifelong surfer in my 50's, my skin's been cooking for decades, regardless of how much sunblock I've piled on. That celestial ball of fire is powerful, and somewhat dangerous in larger doses of exposure; we all know this. So a good strategy these days is to hide your head and neck from that yellow dwarf as much as possible. I mainly do this by wearing a hat. I know, not very cool, but at my age completely necessary. So with no further ado, I give you The Hat Blog you've all been waiting for.

The Backstory on Hats in Sports


picture of the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors baseball team

The first time a hat was worn during an organized athletic activity dates back more than 150 years ago. The origin of the traditional ball cap, now a staple in American culture, is credited to the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors baseball team. Their uniform hats had a rounded-top with a button, and a long peaked brim to help shade their eyes from the sun. The baseball cap trend quickly became popular among players of America's favorite pastime, and by the early 1900's the "Brooklyn-style" cap was a fashion statement off the field as well. Today the modern ball cap is worn by folks from all walks of life, for sport and for fashion.


a vietnam soldier wearing a bucket hat holding a rifle and field gear

The bucket hat, originating with Irish fishermen and farmers in the early 1900's, became popular with American soldiers during WWII, and by 1967 was part of the standard-issue uniform during the Vietnam conflict. Simply called a "Boonie" by soldiers, the full brim hat helped shield them from the harsh elements of outdoor warfare. Eventually the boonie went mainstream, and by the mid 1960's pop-culture icons were seen wearing "Bucket Hats" for fashion. In modern culture the bucket hat, like the baseball cap, is worn for sport and for fashion.

The evolution of sportswear over the years has made ball caps and bucket hats an integral part of many athletic activities, serving mostly in a sun protective role. So it makes total sense to wear one while surfing... or does it?


When we surf we have to arch our necks and backs awkwardly to paddle around and catch waves. It's not a natural body arch, and your technique for catching and riding waves relies heavily on your ability to find your center, especially during a take-off, as you rotate your hips and replace your front hands with your front foot. Wearing a hat can have a negative impact on this process, as you've got to extend your chin higher to see below the hat's brim. We all know how sensitive a surfboard can be related to our head, and where we are looking... adding even a slight up-angle tilt to your neck posture while dropping-in on a wave can disrupt the timing, and ultimately the trajectory of your take-off. So you've gotta learn to look through the brim and keep your head at a proper tilt.

Additionally, hats can impede vision while you're up and riding. They get knocked around and twisted up by waves and duck-dives, and you'll find yourself adjusting your hat at times you should be paddling, or paying attention. Also, when you're ducking waves, water sometimes gets caught up in the hat straps that cover your ears... so you'll need a free hand for a moment, to tug on the straps, to release the water, to restore your hearing. So wearing a hat while surfing can be a nuisance, and does take some getting used to, but the trade-off is worth it because you'll be able to surf more days when the sun is peaking on the UV index.

Breaking Down the Hat Options

I've tried a bunch of different ball caps and bucket hats made for surfing. Surf hat or not, most of them float. So in calmer conditions you can just wear any old hat with a brim. You don't need straps. If the hat falls off, don't panic. Just reach over and grab it. But let's talk surf hats, ones made specifically for surfing. And there are a ton of options. Here are a few recommendations...

Ho Stevie! - Is there a piece of surf gear that this guy doesn't sell? Truthfully, these are my go-to hats. They're solid and premium in quality, comparable to the big brands, probably better. Both the Ho Stevie ball caps and the bucket hats have incredible UV protection, they're super comfortable, with adjustable straps that allow water flow out of the ear pockets. These hats never come off, and all of them come with desert neck attachments included for a little extra coverage. Various brim sizes. So rad. Thanks Stevie! $25/$35 BUY THEM HERE

O'Neill - This is the best drawstring bucket hat on the market. There are no straps or buckles, but I've not had an issue losing one, even though it has come off a few times. The medium size full brim provides good sun protection, but it's not too big to be in the way. The stylings and fit of the Wetlands model is top-notch, and it can be worn out of the water as well. I LOVE these hats. O'Neill does not have a ball cap with straps.

Dakine - Solid job blocking sun, light-weight, and they don't come off in rough surf. The wear-n-tear is average and I usually wear them out pretty quickly from summer to summer. They've got flow in the ears, and a nice surf style design. The Indo bucket hat in the current line is pretty choice. Keep 'da noggin covered wit 'da cool kine! Available in a variety of styles and brims at a premium price point. $35/$45/$55   BUY THEM HERE

FCS - A lot like the Dakine hats with colors and stylings, decent job in all the categories, but the wear-n-tear is average. The one I bought was toast after one trip to Costa Rica. FCS hats come with desert necks included for extra coverage. $32/$40 BUY THEM HERE

Solite - I haven't tried this hat, but I had to include it because it looks so rad. A bit on the pricey side, but I'm intrigued by the convertible brim. It's got mesh ears for water flow, and the straps look well-made. Solite is known for making premium cold water wetsuit boots, so there's no reason to believe that their surf hats aren't of the same quality. Plus local Space Coast ripper and former tour surfer Damien Hobgood has given his endorsement on Instagram... so there's that. If I grab one of these convertible hats, I'll do a full review at a later date, but I don't think you can go wrong with this ball cap. It's just a matter of time before other brands develop their convertible hats. Capitalism at work!

There are also a slew of overseas brands making surf hats that you can buy on Amazon and other online stores. Just search "Surf Hat" and you'll get a ton of options from ball caps to bucket hats at price points ranging from $15-$50. I've not tried any of these knockoff brands, so I can't speak for their quality and durability. I guess you could save a a few bucks by going with the $15 Amazon options, but my recommendation is to go with the Ho Stevie hats for a little more dough, and a guarantee that it'll be around for years to come. OK, I hope you're surfing where you are... and protecting yourself from the sun! I'm headed to the Aloha state in a few days, visiting friends in Oahu and Kauai, so stay tuned for more content and Mahalo for reading!!!

Jebshred Merch, including Bucket Hats! (not made for shredding, just vibing around town)

link to shop for Jebshred merch including hats


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