Best Ear Protection for Wakeboarder

How Can Wakeboarding Affect Your Ears

Ear drum Rupture

Hitting the water at high speed while wakeboarding can cause a rupture to your ear drum, as well as pain and immediate dizziness from exposing the middle ear to cold water can also occur. 


Surfers Ear

Regular exposure to cold wind and water can cause bony growths within your ear canal to develop. This can trap water and debris which has the potential to cause a painful ear infection. In some causes when the growths begin to close the ear canal, causing deafness, surgery is required to remove them.

With better tecnology making thicker wetsuits and neoprene accesories on the market more people are surfing colder waters and in winter months than ever before, increasing the risk of surfers ear. 

If you have perforated your ear drum or concerned you may have Surfers Ear, it is worth consulting your Doctor for an ear examination. 

Prevention Tips for Keeping your Ears Safe while Wakeboarding:

  • Helmets are essential part of a wakeboarders kit in this day and age
  • Look for helmets with specific ear protection incorporated into them
  • Keep facing straight ahead rather than looking at your feet to help reduce number of falls and protect your neck
  • If you wakeboard regularly in cold water - custom made ear plugs are more expensive than generic ear plugs but will be a good investment at preventing water entering your ear canal at all, keeping them warm and dry.
  • If your more of an occasional wakeboarder using the generic shop bought plugs is do-able, however the additional use of a neoprene headband or hood will help keep your ear plugs in as well as give extra protection to your ears.
  • Using a neoprene hood anyway while wakeboarding will help keep the water around your ear warmer.
  • Do some stretchs before you start to warm up your body and prevent injury
  • Keep your ear plugs with your wetsuit, ready to hand.
  • Keep your ears toasty warm outside of the water, using a hood up/beanie/woollen hat when out in the cold
  • If you experience sudden ear pain or dizziness while out wakeboarding tell the driver you want to abort, head back to the beach and make sure you are OK.

The one thing with wakeboarding is you will fall flat on your face a lot and it hurts! Water isn't as soft as it appears especially when going at high speed. Along with your face, importantly comes your ears and more often than not ear drums can get damaged from such slams so here are some recommended equipment additions.

Helmets For Wakeboarding

Wearing a helmet in wakeboarding may not be seen as fashionable, may even feel a little claustraphobic or feel as though it reduces your sensory awareness of your surroundings, but with advances in technology and lighter more sophisticated helmets on the market it really is something to look into and we discuss a little about it here.

Wearing a helmet when wakeboarding helps to protect your head from injury, but be careful not to be tempted to use different helmets such as for snowboarding for wakeboarding, it is important you don't becuase the internal material is different for each. It is a common incident that wakeboarding for you to move up and down and over the place very very quickly this means you have every chance of slamming into the water quickly, hitting your head against your board, an obstacle in the water, like a jump or rail or even the boat. A helmet could be a life saver for an experienced rider and if you are just starting out in the sport as a beginner a helmet will be a worthwhile investment.

protec ace wake helmet

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The Protec Ace Wake Helmet is a solid high density inject moulded ABS hard plastic shell. It comes in four different sizes and this one particularly is in the colour 'hot magma orange'. The interior lining is made from an EVA material and there are 16 open vents for ventillation and drainage, this is one of the largest number of vents I have seen on a watersports helmet. This helmet is certified to CE EN 1385 Water Sport Safety Standard.

You have the option to adjust the size using the head lock fitting system to the back of your head and the adjustable chin strap with soft neoprene chin rest. This is a particular helmet to buy if you have ear protection in mind. It has detachable ear pieces that pop into place covering your ears. The chin strap helps to secure these further in place so that when you are out on the water the ear pieces are fully secured. Once you take the helmet off the ear pieces do become loose. These ear pads do not feel tight against your ears so that there is no suction or pressure effect as you hit the water. The vents or 'water channels' in the ear pieces help to break pressure seal as well.

TSG dawn wakeboarding helmet

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The TSG Dawn Wakeboarding helmet is a full hard shell construction, even the ear protection comes under this hard shell. This makes it an excellent contender for the best ear protection incorporated helmet for wakeboarding. Using a Engporigem EVA interior material, it is waterproof yet comfortable. This helmet is a snug fit and their is no means of adjusting the helmet at the back due to its full hard shell design however you can buy this helmet as a S/M or a L-XL and still be able to adjust the chin strap to fit comfortably. I would still recommend going for the slightly larger helmet than your size due to its snug nature.

The ear protection within the hard shell allows for maximum ear coverage along with the rest of your skull. There are vents throughout the skull and at your ear point of the helmet too, helping ventilate and provide extra comfort. Having your ears protected really is crucial against ear drum perforation during wakeboarding that is why helmets such as these should still be worn with ear plugs also.

hyperlite wakeboarding helmet

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The Hyperlite Step Up Helmet 2010, is a specifically designed wakeboarding helmet with ear protection. The helmet uses a unique material called Brock Foam technology which is a lightweight foam lining that allows moisture and air to circulate through without being absorbed.

It comes in two sizes and there is an adjustable chin strap, I would recommend going for the slightly larger of the two if your head fits in between as the helmet is quite snug.

With a removable snap system this helmet provides an optional ear protection feature. These consist of soft conforming ear muffs that sit around both ears which will help protect against sudden blows to the ear and when slamming into the water from a high fall.

Ear Plugs For Wakeboarding

Wearing a good quality helmet will definitely help reduce the chances of head and inner ear trauma occuring within your ear as the helmet will help to take the brunt of it, the problem occurs with your ear canal still being exposed to flushing or option hitting the centre of your ear when this part is exposed.

When it comes to finding the right ear plugs, there are many options out there but you need to find the ones specifically designed with wakeboarding in mind.

docs pro plugs

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For the cheap and cheerful option there are the docs pro plugs. These are a discreet pair of ear plugs as they are clear, they do come with a leash in case they do fall out you can reel them back in.  One of the main reasons ear plugs are important is to reduce the slam of water pressure when you hit the water so you need strong ear plugs. These are made from a hard wearing silicone material . They are washable and reuseable and come in the option of eight different sizes to match your ear size. There are also small vents in the ear plugs to keep the same air pressure inside your ear that is outside your ear and when it comes to wakeboarding due to moving from in the air to down suddenly in the water, ventilation in ear plugs is important. These pro plugs also help to keep your ears warm by storing the head's conductive heat and to stop the flushing of water in and out, which will eventually make your inner ear cold.


hot surf 69 putty

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The Hot Surf 69 silcone putty is a different ball game altogether, with these you mould the putty to your ear before you get in the water.

Again due to you doing this yourself and you can't see your ear you will need to take time to do this to check it is fully sealed your ear. The box comes with  6 balls of putty so if you mess up the first try you have the option for another go. One of my concerns with these is the simplicity of them that doesn't account for pressure build up from slamming into the water. There are other branded silicone putty ear buds which will work just as well if that is what you are after.

surfears ear plugs

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Now when it comes to non custom made ear plugs, I have to say the SurfEars 2.0 are a serious contender. This comes as a whole package for you to try out different sizes that work for you. It comes in a small carry case with a clip and your ear plugs are attached to each other with a lanyard to prevent them getting lost in the sea if they come out. Just attach this to your zip cord or to the neck of your wetsuit and you should never lose them.

You can really tell a lot of thought has gone into the design element as well as the processing and production of these ear plugs. My only query is the slight delicate nature of them. At first go, these really did do the trick, the bud comes in three sizes and as I have small ear canals the smallest size worked best for me.


The best solution to protect your ears while using a helmet is to get custom fit made ear moulds (with pressure vents).  Although these do need you to have an impression of your ear taken, this means the ear moulds themselves will match your ear correctly. An ear impression will take into account each contour and unique bumps and shapes of your ear.

What you will find is because they match your ear shape correctly they will also be much more comfortable in your ear as well as keeping your ear fully sealed for water. The custom fit also has the ability to stay within your ear better and most custom made ear moulds will come with a lanyard to connect to your wetsuit if they do fall out. The major things to consider with custom made ear plugs is the price and booking yourself in with an audiologist to get an impression taken and over time you will need to have them re made as your ears slowly grow. If surfing is your world then custom moulds really are the way to go.

Surfer's Ear Explained by Surf Plugs
Video by Laura Matthews Newkirk on how her ear drum ruptured wakeboarding

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