In a cross-sectional survey of surfboard riders at the 8 most popular ocean surfing beaches on the east and west coasts of Victoria, near Melbourne, Australia, surfers were invited to participate if they were at least 18 years old and had been an active surfer for at least 1 year (n= 646, response rate 96.7%, 90.2% men, mean age 28.2, median surfing experience 10 years, and median surfing time in the previous 12 months 100 days.

Data collected the perceived risk of head injury across a range of sports and activities, the use of protective headgear, perceptions regarding protective headgear, and reasons for not using headgear while surfing (open-ended question).

The results indicate clearly that only a small proportion of surfers consider surfing to be associated with high risk. Slightly more than one third of all surfers considered that the risk of a head injury while surfing was either moderate or high. The most frequently given single reason for not wearing protective headgear while surfing was that there was no need for. More than one quarter disliked wearing helmets and reported them as being uncomfortable or claustrophobic or affecting the senses or balance. A further one third gave vague reasons, including ‘‘no particular reason,’’ ‘‘never bothered,’’ or ‘‘hadn’t thought of it.’’ Relatively few surfers were concerned about the looks or the cost.

In general, the majority thought that surfers who wear protective headgear are less likely to become injured. However, the majority also reported that protective headgear affects surfing performance and that they would rather risk an injury and surf without it. Although over one third agreed or strongly agreed that more surfers should wear protective headgear, opinions were divided regarding its benefits.

When you see this picture of surfer Mark Mathews, would you consider wearing a helmet?

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