Surfing is, arguably, one of the most exhilarating and personally rewarding sports out there. Anyone who remembers riding their first-ever wave will testify to the excitement, adrenaline, and sense of freedom that surfing can bring.
Unfortunately, something else that surfing often brings is sunburn.
Many surfers will slap on some sunscreen before a surf session, but even water-resistant suncream can be washed away after long enough in the water, leaving your skin exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Another common side effect of sun exposure while surfing is sunstroke. An average of 600 people die from sunstroke in the U.S. every year, and the numbers have been increasing.
This is why the best thing you can do to protect yourself while you’re out surfing is to invest in a surf hat. When combined with high-factor sunscreen, a surf hat will help to shield your face and neck from the sun while shielding your head from excess heat.
We will be reviewing our top 5 favorite surf hats that you can currently buy online. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide full of tips for choosing the best surf hat, so you can trust that your choice will be the right one.
Best Overall: EINSKEY Sun Hat
Our top pick may surprise some of our readers because it isn’t strictly marketed as a surf hat. However, the EINSKEY Sun Hat functions impressively well as a surf hat and will protect you from UV rays and intense heat whether you’re in the water or out of it.
The reason this sun hat is versatile enough to function as a top-quality surf hat is that it’s made from 100% water-repellent polyester, so it won’t get soaked through every time you encounter a wave. Polyester is also a quick-drying material, so any water the hat does absorb will dry out in no time, especially in sunny weather.
Moreover, because this hat features a wide, 3.7-inch brim, it provides highly effective protection against the sun, so the risk of your face and neck being sunburned is minimized.
The drawstring strap that fastens underneath the chin is ergonomic and easy to work with, and can tighten enough to ensure that your hat won’t come flying off mid-surf.
Plus, thanks to the built-in sweatband, you can enjoy your surf sessions without the uncomfortable sensation of visual impairment of sweat dripping from your brow.
This hat will also help to keep you cool in hot weather because of the mesh panels sewn into the sides, which allow for ventilation and breathability.
Our only disappointment with this surf hat is that it doesn’t come in multiple sizes, so although it’s designed to fit both men and women on a one-size-fits-most basis, surfers with smaller heads may struggle to wear the hat comfortably and securely.
- Water-repellent polyester – Ideal for water sports
- 3.7-inch brim – Shields against the sun
- Drawstring chin strap – Quick and easy to fasten
- Built-in sweatband – Ensures comfort and clear visibility
- Mesh panels – Superior ventilation
- One size only – Not the best choice for smaller heads
Runner-Up: Dakine Indo Surf Hat
Dakine is a popular brand for surfing gear as well as apparel and accessories for other outdoor sports. The Indo Surf Hat from Dakine really reflects the company’s dedication to providing its customers with practical, high-quality sporting products.
This surf hat is made from 100% nylon, which is an excellent material for watersports apparel. The reason for this is that nylon is lightweightbut has a high tensile strength rating, which makes it durable and resistant to wear. Moreover, nylon can easily be cleaned and is machine-safe as well as relatively fast-drying.
Dakine’s surf hat has a foldable brim, which means that you can adjust the brim by flipping it upwards. This is useful when paddling because you’ll have better visibility when lying on your board.
The chip strap on the Dakine Indo Surf Hat fastens with a buckle that clips shut quickly and easily and can be adjusted with a simple pull on the strap.
An important feature of this surf hat is that the fabric has been treated with UPF 50, so it provides even more UV ray protection than the average sun hat.
Many people aren’t aware that UV rays can sometimes penetrate layers of material, but having that extra protection could potentially be crucial depending on the weather conditions.
Another thing we really like about the Dakine Indo hat is that it is designed to float in water, so even if it does somehow slip off while you’re surfing, you should be able to retrieve it.
Unfortunately, like our best overall pick, this hat only comes in one size, so it may be too large or too small for some surfers.
- 100% nylon – Lightweight but wear-resistant
- Adjustable brim – Clear view when paddling
- Buckle closure – Secure and ergonomic
- UPF 50 – Extra UV protection
- Floats in water – Retrievable if dropped
- Sold in one size – Not compatible with all head sizes
Best Budget: Dakine Surf Cap
A surf hat may be a very important investment in terms of your health, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend a fortune.
Another product from Dakine, this surf cap is similar to our runner-up pick in many ways.
The cap is made of 100% nylon, so it feels very light against the scalp while remaining tough enough to withstand intense surf sessions.
The snap buckle closure clips firmly shut for a secure fit, although it does feel a little stiff and can be hard to snap closed, especially out of the box.
The chin strap is adjustable and features mesh ventilation panels over the ears, which provide breathability and comfort on hot days.
Dakine’s Surf Cap also features a flip-up brim to increase visibility when paddling, and the fabric is treated with UPF 50+ for added protection from UV radiation.
Like the Indo Surf Hat, however, it only comes in one size, so if you usually wear an extra-small or extra-large hat size, this hat may not work for you.
- 100% nylon – Durable and lightweight
- Snap buckle closure – Secure and adjustable
- UPF 50 + – High levels of protection
- Mesh ear ventilation panels – Comfortable and breathable
- Flip-up brim – Better paddling visibility
- One size only – May not fit all surfers
- Stiff buckle – Can be hard to close
Best Premium: O’Neill Sport 2mm Sport Cap
If you’re looking for a super high-quality surf hat that offers protection against many factors and will work seamlessly with a wetsuit, you should check out our premium pick, which is the O’Neill Sport 2mm Sport Cap.
This sports cap is a thermal cap made from 2mm of neoprene with fluid foam lining for insulation, so it’s best for use in cold weather and waters. With that being said, it is still important to have head protection when the weather is colder because UV rays can be present even when the air temperature is low.
The adjustable, hook-and-loop chin strap built into this surf cap ensures a tight, yet comfortable fit that won’t feel either restrictive or insufficient. Meanwhile, the extra-durable flatlock stitching ensures that the hat will hold up against years of intensive use. As an added benefit, flatlock stitching is more comfortable than other seam stitches because it doesn’t stick out and rub against the skin.
Thanks to the short cap brim, which can be trimmed if necessary, you can enjoy some protection from the sun while wearing this hat without it affecting your visibility too much.
Unfortunately, there is no large size currently available, so this hat is only a recommended pick for surfers with head sizes ranging from extra-small to medium. Consult the size guide for further information.
- 2mm neoprene – Strong and wear-resistant
- Adjustable chin strap – Firm but comfortable fit
- Flatlock stitching – Durable and non-abrasive
- Trimmable brim – Offers both protection and visibility
- Fluid foam interior – Insulative
- No large size available – Not for surfers with larger heads
Highly Commended: Rip Curl Wetty Surf Men’s Hat
Last but not least, the Rip Curl Wetty Surf Men’s Hat is definitely one of the best surf hats on the market right now.
The canvas material that the hat is made from is lightweight as well as breathable. This breathability is enhanced even further by the mesh ventilation panels inside the hat, which prevent too much heat from accumulating.
Rip Curl’s buckle closure is easy to use and allows the chin strap to be ergonomically and securely adjusted and fastened at any time.
Our favorite feature of this surf hat, though, is its detachable neck flap, which can be used to protect against sunburn in especially hot weather, or detached when it’s not needed.
The main downside to this hat is that because it’s from a well-known brand, it’s not as budget-friendly as some of the other hats on our list. However, for an aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and well-constructed surf hat, we think the price is worth it.
- Canvas material – Lightweight and breathable
- Buckle closure – Easy to use
- Adjustable chin strap – Ensures a secure fit
- Mesh ventilation panels – Minimizes heatstroke risk
- Detachable neck flap – Extra protection against sunburn
- Relatively expensive – Not budget-friendly
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Surf Hat
When choosing a surf hat, it’s best to avoid the temptation to go with the first suggestion you find or simply pick the cheapest hat.
Surf hats are designed to protect you from the elements and minimize your risk of sunburn, which can develop into skin cancer. Therefore, it’s important to have an understanding of how you want to be protected and what protection a surf hat can offer before you buy.
Keep reading for a comprehensive breakdown of the features and factors you should keep an eye out for while looking for your perfect surf hat.
The material that has been used to make a surf hat will have a significant impact on how it feels and how well it holds up against water, which are both very important factors in surf hats.
Polyester is a common material for surf hats because it is so durable, fast-drying, and lightweight. It’s basically everything you could want from a surf hat.
Nylon and neoprene are also great choices because they are both resistant to a variety of external factors. For example, nylon has very good tensile strength, so it doesn’t tear easily. Meanwhile, neoprene has excellent chemical and UV resistance.
Neoprene is also a highly effective thermal insulator, so if you’re looking for a hat to protect you from the cold as well as from UV rays, this is the material to go for.
Canvas also makes a good material for a surf hat because it’s both lightweight and durable, and it’s also very easy to machine wash.
If possible, we recommend buying surf hats that have been treated with UVF 50+ for additional protection since UV rays can penetrate certain materials.
Moreover, if you frequently surf in hot weather conditions, mesh ventilation panels on the sides of your hat or built into the chin strap will help to keep you from overheating.
Surf hats come in a variety of styles, as our above selection demonstrates.
The style of surf hat that you choose should be chosen based on both practicality and your personal style preferences.
Most surf hats resemble regular bucket hats, with wide brims for extra protection from sunburn. If you are prone to getting sunburned, particularly on your face and neck, we’d recommend this kind of hat.
If you’re concerned about the wide brim getting in the way of your vision when you’re paddling, many surf hats in this style allow for the brim to be flipped up as needed.
Other surf hats are made in a cap style with a brim at the front as opposed to all the way around. This protects your face but will leave the back of your neck exposed.
You could also choose a swimming-cap-style surf hat. These will go well with wetsuits and are good for surfing in colder weather. They also protect your ears better than other surf hats and, if the material is thick enough, can provide protection against jellyfish.
If you want to ensure that the back of your neck is fully protected when surfing, we recommend choosing a hat that comes with a detachable neck flap. This way, you have some flexibility in how much protection you feel you need for each session, depending on the weather.
Finding a surfing hat in the perfect size for your head can be a difficult task because surf hats so often come in one-size-fits-most.
Therefore, the best way to ensure that your surf hat will fit you correctly is to go by customer testimonials provided by other buyers. Specifically, look for reviews by customers who indicate that they typically wear your hat size.
Occasionally, head measurements will be provided by the manufacturer, but this is not always guaranteed.
However, there is another way you can minimize the risk of your hat not fitting on arrival, and that is to prioritize surf hats with highly functional, adjustable chin straps.
Every surf hat needs to have a secure chin strap to prevent it from flying away the second the wind catches it.
With that being said, chin straps can come in many shapes, styles, and lengths, so you will need to think about what kind of chin strap would work best for you.
If you want your surf hat to double as a classic sun hat, we’d recommend something with a simple, adjustable drawstring cord. You can tighten this to act as a chin strap and loosen it for more casual wear.
Alternatively, you have the option of a buckle strap, which is one of the most common styles of chin strap for surf hats. These straps typically fasten very securely and are easy to adjust, although they can be too stiff to fasten easily.
If you would prefer a surfing hat that acts as a swim cap, you may wish to opt for a velcro closure. Because swim-cap-style surf hats fit so tightly, a buckle may feel uncomfortable.
Velcro straps, on the other hand, feel softer against the chin. Moreover, they are very quick and easy to adjust and won’t present a struggle as some buckles can.
Remember to look for ventilation panels in the strap of your surf cap, especially if you can’t see any mesh panels anywhere on the rest of the hat. Ventilation panels on surf hat straps will usually be roughly triangular in shape and made of mesh to allow air to circulate.
You won’t find very many additional features included with surf hats, but if you’re going to be surfing in extremely hot weather, we’d recommend choosing a surf hat that comes with a built-in sweatband.
Not only can a sweaty brow feel uncomfortable and distracting when you’re trying to concentrate, but excess sweat can impact your vision if it gets into your eyes, which is the last thing you want while surfing. A built-in sweatband will help to absorb sweat before it becomes too much of an interference.
Apart from that, a high-quality, well-designed surf hat should provide you with all the comfort and protection you need without any extra bells and whistles.