So I just got done counting: I did 189 surf sessions in the past year and gave more than double of that in surf lessons. Makes an incredible amount of hours spent in the ocean. Here in Galicia the water in winter is around 13°C, in summer it can go up to 17°C, maybe. Usually no problem at all with a good 4/3 wetsuit and a warm shower after every session. The things is that it can also get really windy, perfect offshore about 30km/h or more. And recently I started feeling a little pain in my left ear, especially after cold and windy winter sessions. So I googled a bit about it, and here is what I have found.
The so called Surfer’s Ear is a real threat for surfers. It is a natural reaction of the human body, and actually kind of cute: In order to protect the hearing canal from wind and cold water the inner ear bone starts to grow by itself. What’s not so cute anymore is that it can actually grow as much as to almost close the entire ear. Specialists say that 3000 hours of exposure to wind and cold water are enough to close the ear canal: Impaired hearing, annoying pain and countless ear infections are some of the consequences of this phenomena. If you want to learn more about the phenomena check out this video:
Now me being almost 30 years old now, and getting a little more mature every year, I started thinking of using ear plugs for surfing. Like I really did. But then I remembered how it felt like to ski with ear plugs: I hated it! You couldn’t hear the people right and left anymore, couldn’t hear the ski’s carve through the snow and also I though my balance was kind of affected. The experience was just not the same. Ear plugs for surfing? Hell no.
Well, since 2020 has been a year full of surfing and cold water experiences I still decided to give it a shot. And thank you for leading me onto the right path Santa Claus (yes, the ear plugs were underneath the christmas tree). I tried the SurfEars 3.0 plugs. They promise to “Let sound in – keep water out” and come in a handy little box with adaptable plugs. I was suprised – didn’t have to change anything in the preset plugs, they would fit right into my ears.
Then moment of truth: 40km/h offshore winds, and about 2-3ft left peelers… I decided that the moment has come. I set the plugs in, already in the van. I was surprised by how well I could still hear the music. And talk to people. My voice was a bit less loud but I could hear everything around me perfectly. Alright: let’s go to the water… First duckdive – And I was so happily surprised! I have heard the sound of water like never before. A sweet little splashing off on my ears, the perfect soundtrack for a duckdive. I was pretty happy, beside the obligatory brainfreeze from the cold water of course. During the session I couldn’t feel any wind (hold wind off – check!). A little bit of water entered the ears, but it was not a constant flow of water going in and out. More like a drop that entered in the beginning and couldn’t get out anymore. I almost felt like they kept me warm – probably a hoodie would even more and for real – but I was still kind of pleased about the idea.
Lot’s of positives… on the other hand I had to admit that after a while I was getting a little bit annoyed by wearing them. Not because they hurt me or were bothering me – it’s just that if you want to talk in the lineup you really need to focus a little more. And that can get really annoying and a bit exhausting. I mean usually I don’t like to talk in the water – but that day the waves were just perfect and I had to share it with someone… Anyway: overall a really positive experience. And I can’t wait to try the SurfEars in heavier surf. Let’s see if they hold up.
Ear plugs should be a must for surfers in cold waters. Here are a few options for any kind of budget (no excuses guys!):
Earplugs made of silicone. This is a good option for people that still want some kind of comfort but cannot afford to buy the high-end products. Available in sport shops and big supermarkets. Downsides: No hearing either, maybe a bit more comfortable than wax, some water can come through. Around 10 Euros, e.g. Ohropax, Gplugs.
Earplugs for surfers. There are several companies that make earplugs especially for surfers like SurfEars, Doc’s Pro Plugs, JBL Hydro Seals, Gooq, EQ Tapones and Alpine Surf Safe. These are the priciest options but also the most comfortable and most protecting ones, also they come with a strap so you won’t loose them. Starting around 30 Euros.
Feel free to drop a comment below, ask a question or tell me about your experiences with different ear plugs. I am very happy to share all opinions later in another post! Btw this is not a sponsored post. I am just trying to share my experiences with you.