Helmet, for protection when rolling?

This is probably another one of those questions where, if I have to ask, I probably need it.

I roll my kayak in lakes and bays, and eventually in big slow rivers like the Columbia. If I’m close to shore I try to check carefully that there aren’t shallow submerged rocks or branches. It does make me a little nervous though in murky water. To greatly reduce that risk I can wait until I’m in 20+ feet of water.

Do you wear a helmet all the time for rolling? When do you where it, and when don’t you? Rock gardening, surfing, launches and landings in surf are all givens. What about other than that?

I love learning from other’s experiences.


Paul S.

i’ve not worn a helmet while kayaking ever, be it rolling, surf launch, surf landing or what have you.

I am a cautious person.
Probably more cautious than many here. So I now carry my helmet in my cockpit between my feet and put it on when I think it is a good idea (like the situations you suggest). If I am in water I know and conditions are calm I don’t always wear it for rolling. But otherwise I do. If there are docks or boats around I wear one. It is very easy to drift about while rolling and end up next to something. Wearing a helmet is an easy thing to do, does not interfere with anything, and does add some safety. I am sure others will completely disagree but it is my head.

If i am roll
practising in lake or ocean and i know its deep enough, nope. If it is a river where there is the potential for hitting something, yup.

You probably toss your coffee grounds
in the grass, too! :wink:

If practicing rolling alone

– Last Updated: Nov-05-06 11:29 AM EST –

Not always, but depending on the location. We have a couple of pretty shallow ponds around here that have rocks and tree trunks at the bottom, and in my earlier days of practicing with more swimming I was often nearer the shallow part than the deep part to shorten the trek to the shore to dump water out of the boat from a failed attempt. After I went over one evening after work, and was alone, and my shoulder caught a big rock I realized that a helmet would be a good addition. That could have been my head.
A later follow-up - for quite a while now I've been most comfy much further out, since a wet exit is unlikely at least in calm conditions. But the nearest and most convenient spots to practice skills on a weeknight after work, for various reasons like boat traffic or depth to start with, don't always have the kind of depth I'd prefer.
Plus, if you are going to be doing surf etc anyway where a helmet is de rigor, it'd be silly not to practice with it on at least once in a while to vet basic questions like whether it fits comfortably.
And pool sessions... I've known a couple of instructors who insisted on helmets after some participant found the edge of the pool with their head.

I’d sooner admit to
peeing in my wetsuit.

About four or five or six years ago
an unfortunate ex-student of mine was practicing his rolls in Sitka Harbor. He owned a kayak store there and as I understand it was paddling with his girlfriend. He rolled in the harbor in what should have been safe water. His head hit a piece of steel rebar as I understand it and he went unconscious. His friend got him to shore and help, but he didn’t survive…

Shit like that happens and you gotta wonder if it’s just your ticket getting punched??

I wear my helmet in whitewater and I’m sure I’d wear it for a big surf session but for simply rolling I don’t. It’s pretty easy to find water that’s deeper than 3 feet or so and the odds of hitting your head is pretty slim assuming you take the basic levels of precaution. If it makes you feel more comfortable rolling, wear one but really why are you spending time rolling in such shallow water to begin with?

would you …
Would you dive into a pool without first ascertaining the depth of the water?

If your answer is ‘yes’, don’t bother worrying about the helmut.

NOpe not usually
I check about with the paddle then tuck and go.

Sorry to hear about the story about the paddler and the rebar.

I have used them for surf launches and landings and when I am getting silly with rocks around. (can’t call what I do rock gardening really)

I check with a paddle, and choose an area that should be free of anything. In these cases, no helmet.

But if I am in the surf or rock gardens with waves, I wear a helmet even when I have no plans to roll.

Uh Oh
When you start a post about risk it sometimes gets ugly. The fact is, anyone who takes more risks than me is stupid and anyone who takes less risks is a pansy.

No, I never used a helmet in a sea kayak.

Never wore a helmet ???
> i’ve not worn a helmet while kayaking ever, be it rolling, surf launch, surf landing or what have you.

Really… not even during 4-star training and assessment? Who were the coaches?


Not unless
I capsized unintentionally while wearing a helmet in the first place. I’m usually good for at least one or two capsizes on the few days I paddle WW every year. I wear a helmet for surfing, playing in tidal races or reefs, too. Too many other factors going on to not wear a helmet in those situations.

I usually check the depth with my paddle before I roll intentionally in places I don’t know, or if the tide’s low.



– Last Updated: Nov-05-06 8:58 AM EST –

that's one of THE advantages of a WETsuit. I can out be out in surf for hours without needing to come in. Very important, especially for the older crowd (me included) where eyesight and bladder control go first....


PS. I guess if you're have a solid helmet in your boat, you can alway pee in that (provided a relief zipper in your drysuit) and dump it over the side. ;)

Don’t Forget The BCU Approved Thermos…

love the helmet
Did 3 blackburn challenge .coms and the 70 miler canoeregatta.org with helmet. Many old docks next to shore with steel and cement. You are in 3 ft waves or get nailed by big wave and tip because of hitting something and then you whack your head doing a roll. Helmets allow excellent air flow and keep on your shades and hat. Great for surf launches and reentry. Helmet has saved my life in ww and saved serious bleeding during ocean breaking waves. Drove helmet into forehead so hard that hasd small cut where edge of helmet hit forehead.

ANY moving water
is where i will wear one…

for me that is rock-garden areas/surfing and rivers…

protects me-head from being squashed like the gourd it is…albeit it between boats…or rocks…or the beach…

my open water IDW and ICE we wore our helmets everyday all day…hmmmmmmmm

if your is comfy enough no need not to…get a comfy one is the underlying point there…

Always when paddling
I have a very comfy Gath helmet that I wear on all my paddling outing (sea kayaking, rolling practice in pool, ocean surfing, etc.).

It is warm and cozy. If I get I hot, I roll, or alternatevely, I can use the helmet to scoop some cold water and pour it over my head, then put the helmet back on. Rolling is faster though. If the conditions are too rough to chance a roll, then I should not be worring too much about a hot head anyway. Stay focussed.

When I go in a car, I wear a seat belt, when I ride a bicycle, I wear a helmet, when I paddle I wear a helmet. Why play dice with your head? You are afraid of looking different? This is not about fashion, but safety!

People ask me, “Do you always wear that helmet?” The next time I see them bang their head on a paddle or a kayak while practicing a rescue or helping someone in the pool with their roll, I say, “Yes, I always wear my helmet”. People bang their heads all of the time during practice drills, but never seem to make the connection.

Wear your helmet! Use your head … and protect your head!