Helmets For Water Sports


Whether you’re a beginning kayaker or an experienced whitewater rafter, there are always good reasons to wear a helmet, some of which you probably never even considered.

If you need convincing about the need for a helmet, then keep reading the sections below. On the other hand, if you have already decided that you need a helmet, then you could (possibly) fast track to the Helmets for Water Sports showcased below.

couple paddling in a canoe
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Water Sports Helmets Comparison Table

On Mobile Devices, drag Table left to see more, if necessary.

Name Certifications Size Range Visor/Brim Weight
SANDBOX Legend Low Rider
CE EN:1385 53 – 63 cm
20.9″ – 24.8″
No unknown
SANDBOX Classic 2.0 Low Rider
CE EN:1385 52 – 60 cm
20.5″ – 23.6″
Yes unknown
WRSI Current Kayak Helmet
CE EN:1385 53 – 62 cm
20.9″ – 24.4″
Yes 1.45 lbs.
658 grams
(Size M/L)
WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet
CE EN:1385 53 – 62 cm
20.9″ – 24.4″
Yes 1.75 lbs.
794 grams
(Size M/L)
WRSI Trident Composite
CE EN:1385 53 – 62 cm
20.9″ – 24.4″
Yes 1.45 lbs.
658 grams
(Size M/L)
NRS Havoc Livery
CE EN:1385 53 – 62 cm
20.9″ – 24.4″
No 0.95 lbs.
431 grams

JUMP TO :
Water Sports Helmets Comparison Table
Do I Need a Helmet?
Types of Water Sports Helmets
What To Consider When Buying A Water Sports Helmet:
– Certification
– Helmet Fit
– Caring for Your Helmet
HELMETS FOR WATER SPORTS
++1. SANDBOX Legend Low Rider Helmet
++2. SANDBOX Classic 2.0 Low Rider Helmet
++3. WRSI Current Kayak Helmet
++4. WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet
++5. WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet
++6. NRS Havoc Livery Whitewater Helmet

Do I Need a Helmet?

There is no law to say that you must wear a helmet, so it’s pretty much up to your level of common sense and what type of water activity you’re going to be enjoying. Not to mention, your personal skill level, the weather forecast, perceived level of danger, and so on.

Many people will accept the fact that in white water situations a helmet is either ‘a good idea’ or ‘an absolute necessity’.

Sadly, a lot of people will think that if it’s a river where the water is not moving very fast, or the water is flat, like a lake, no helmet is necessary. Those people are mistaken.

You need to realize that helmets for water sports are not the same as bicycle or motorcycle helmets. Those types of helmets are designed to protect the head and brain when hitting a hard surface like a road or trail.

Head injuries in water sports come as a result of hitting something that you, more often than not, cannot see. Submerged rocks, trees, tree stumps, etc. The vast majority of deaths in water sports are as a result of drowning after being knocked unconscious from hitting that unseen danger.

Submerged rocks are to be expected in rivers, but how often do people consider the submerged trees, branches and stumps below the flat water of a beautiful lake.

Also, consider the possibility of being hit in the head by an out of control kayak or canoe. Such situations can be very real if you are in the surf.

Also, when paddling down a quiet, rural stream, keep an eye out for low hanging branches that could easily knock you over or into the water and leave you disoriented.

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Group of people canoeing
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Do you need a helmet? That choice needs to be made by you as you assess the situation. Just keep in mind that we don’t pre-plan accidents, they just happen by themselves without warning. A whitewater helmet can reduce the risk of serious injury or death.

It’s your call!

Types of Water Sports Helmets

There are three types of helmets available for water sport activities (kayaking, canoeing, rafting, etc.). The type of helmet that you will need depends on the activity, your skill level, and the level of danger involved.

Half-Cut Helmets

The Half-Cut helmet is the most basic of the three and is as its name suggests, a half helmet. It covers the top, sides and back of the head but not the ears. It is most suited for low-level danger activities like recreational kayaking or canoeing.

Full-Cut Helmets

The Full-Cut helmet is similar to the Half-cut except that it covers your entire head including your ears. Covering your ears can be beneficial if you’re in a colder climate. Not only that, the full coverage offered by the Full-cut helmet gives more protection in white water situations and/or if you are inclined to or prone to tipping over.

Full-Face Helmets

The Full-Face Helmet is exactly that, a full head cover much like a motorcycle or motocross helmet. The Full-Face gives the maximum protection and is highly recommended in extreme white water situations up to Level IV rapids.

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Man kayaking in whitewater rapids
Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

What To Consider When Buying A Water Sports Helmet

Safety Certification For Water Sport Helmets

As there is no standard certification for Whitewater helmets in the United States, the de jure standard as recommended by the CPSC is the European “Helmets for canoeing and white water sports” EN 1385:2012.

EN 1385 only specifies the requirements for helmets in Class I to IV rapids and recognize that most deaths in whitewater sports are as a result of drowning following a knock to the head rather than the head injury itself.

The Certification doesn’t extend above Class IV as your safety cannot be guaranteed in extreme water conditions due to the variety of possible situations that could arise in fast moving rapids or flooding.

I have noticed that some websites refer to WRIS certification, however, I have yet to see the existence of any such certification.

Helmet Fit

The most important aspect of any type of helmet is how well it fits. If it is too small, it will be tight and will give you a headache thus deterring you from wanting to wear it when you should. If it is too big, it will wobble around on your head and can easily become dislodged by the hydraulic forces of the water.

The ideal helmet is one that fits your head firmly and snugly without causing discomfort and without excessive movement (looseness).

Please refer to our page ‘How to know your helmet size‘ to know how to measure your head for a perfect fit.

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Kayak tipping over in rapids
Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

Caring for Your Helmet

Once you have your perfectly fitting helmet snugly enveloping your head, the most important part of your helmet is the retention strap. If your retention strap should snap or come adrift from the helmet shell, then your helmet will fall off as soon as you hit the water.

You need to ensure that at the end of each day, the inside of your helmet is dry. The retention straps are anchored to the inside of the helmet with a metal end-piece and rivets. If they don’t have the chance to dry properly, then they can rust and easily break away.

This is particularly common if you’re using your helmet in the sea. The saltwater will corrode the metal in quick time. In fact, if you are using your helmet in the salt water, it would probably make a lot of sense to wash it with fresh water, then air-dry it after each use.

You need to regularly check the integrity of the retention straps. Look for frays, or any cuts that may begin to develop. Hold the end of the strap and give it a good tug (better you break it now than in the middle of the river). Buckle the straps together and test the strength of the buckle by giving it a tug as well.

A good quality helmet is well within reach of everyone’s budget as you will see below.

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Helmets For Water Sports

1. SANDBOX Legend Low Rider Helmet

With the SANDBOX Legend Low Rider Helmet, you can navigate the rapids with confidence. Featuring a low-profile, skate-style design, this whitewater rafting helmet provides reliable head protection while you’re paddling a canoe or kayak.

The SANDBOX Legend Low Rider is composed of a sturdy ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) outer shell and a soft-core EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam to protect your head and brain against impact.

Just like most SANDBOX sports helmets, the Legend Low Rider comes with multiple fit pads of different thicknesses, allowing up to 18 different ways to customize the fit of the helmet. The fit pads feature quick-dry polyester spandex fabric that wicks away sweat and moisture.

The SANDBOX Legend Low Rider Helmet is available online from GritrOutdoors (ex 1800Gear).

This watersports helmet is designed with 11 air vents for better air circulation. You can outfit it with ear covers (sold separately) in case you need more protection for your ears.

Main features summary:

  • Tough ABS shell + flexible EVA foam liner
  • Skate-style inspired, low profile fit
  • Two sets of durable and quick-drying fit pads made from polyester spandex
  • 11 fixed air vents for better temperature regulation
  • Compatible with water sports ear covers (sold separately)
  • Includes sticker sheet and user manual
  • CE EN1385:2012 Certified for Water Sports

What do the Reviews have to say about the SANDBOX Legend Low Rider Helmet?

Most reviews say this safety helmet feels light and comfortable, but also provides great impact protection. Others like that it comes with removable fit pads, which help in finding the perfect fit.

IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size.

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2. SANDBOX Classic 2.0 Low Rider Helmet

Whether you’re canoeing, kayaking, wakeboarding, or whitewater rafting, you know that you are protected from head injuries while wearing the SANDBOX Classic 2.0 Low Rider Helmet. This great-looking helmet features SANDBOX’s signature brim and offers comfortable protection.

The Classic 2.0 Low Rider helmet sports a tough ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) shell in a soft-touch matte finish. It is lined with multi-impact EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam that helps reduce force in the event of an accident.

It comes with two (2) sets of fit pads made from durable and quick-drying polyester spandex. These fit pads are of different thicknesses, so you can find the perfect fit.

The SANDBOX Classic 2.0 Low Rider Helmet is available online from GritrOutdoors (ex 1800Gear).

This watersports helmet is designed with stealth vents, just like other SANDBOX 2.0 Classic models. They allow air to circulate into the EVA liner through ventilation channels and then push heat and moisture out the rear vents.

Main features summary:

  • Signature low-profile brim helmet
  • ABS Shell with EVA foam liner
  • Multiple removable fit pads made from polyester spandex
  • Undercover vents
  • Optional ear covers (sold separately)
  • Includes sticker sheet and user manual
  • CE EN1385:2012 Certified for Water Sports

What do the Reviews have to say about the SANDBOX Classic 2.0 Low Rider Helmet?

Most customer reviews are positive. They like that this watersports helmet looks stylish and fits well. However, a few mentioned that it feels a bit heavier compared to other helmets.

IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size.

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3. WRSI Current Kayak Helmet

The WRSI Current Kayak Helmet is a multi-impact helmet designed by the Whitewater Research and Safety Institute and distributed in partnership with the Northwest River Supplies (NRS).

The Current paddling helmet sports an open-face design and comes with an ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) outer shell and air vents to allow air to circulate and water to drain. The inner shell is a combination of an EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam liner and a polyurethane sub-shell that effectively reduces impact during crash or collision.

It comes with a soft, removable padded liner that conforms to the shape of your head. To ensure a snug but comfortable fit, this whitewater helmet features an adjustable O-Brace Harness.

The WRSI Current Kayak Helmet is available online from REI Co-op.

For extra protection against hydraulic forces, the Current is designed with the Interconnect Retention System that securely holds the helmet in place and self-adjusts in case water pressure pushes the helmet back.

Main features summary:

  • 3-layer Impact Absorption (ABS outer shell, EVA foam liner, and polyurethane sub-shell)
  • Self-adjusting Interconnect Retention System
  • Adjustable O-Brace Harness
  • Plush, removable, and washable liner
  • Three (3) air vents for better ventilation and water drainage
  • CE EN1385:2012 Certified for Water Sports

What do the Reviews have to say about the WRSI Current Kayak Helmet?

The majority of ratings and reviews are positive. People say that this helmet feels comfortable even when worn for long periods. Others also like that it offers good visibility.

IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size.

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4. WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet

The WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet is an upgraded model of its predecessor, the WRSI Current paddling helmet. This evolved version comes with all the features of the Current helmet, but with additional safety enhancements to protect your head in rougher water conditions.

The Current Pro boasts the same multi-impact ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) shell that comes with an inner EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam liner and sub-shell made of polyurethane. This combo delivers three-layer impact absorption and protection while ensuring comfort.

For an adjustable fit, this paddling helmet combines the Interconnected Retention System and O-Brace Harness. These features also keep the helmet securely in position in the face of hydraulic forces.

The WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet is available online from REI Co-op.

What sets the Current Pro apart from the earlier model is that it is designed with removable ear pads for protecting the ears from waves and providing extra warmth. Another additional feature is the sun visor that shields your eyes from the elements.

Main features summary:

  • Impact absorbent multi-layer shell design
  • Self-adjusting Interconnected Retention System
  • Adjustable O-Brace Harness that keeps the helmet securely in place
  • Detachable ear pads that provide warmth and protection
  • Stylish visor for keeping sunlight and rain away from the face
  • Plush, removable, and washable liner
  • CE EN1385:2012 Certified for Water Sports

What do the Reviews have to say about the WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet?

Most of the reviews are on the positive side. People like that the upgraded design provides great impact protection, fits comfortably well and is easy to adjust.

IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size.

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5. WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet

The WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet delivers impeccable style and exceptional performance under the most challenging conditions, making it a great choice for paddlers and kayakers, whether they want to brave hard-hitting Class IV rapids, enjoy multi-day paddling trips, or simply cruise long stretches of water.

The WRSI Trident dons a rugged, scratch-resistant carbon-composite outer shell that can withstand multiple impacts. It is outfitted with a visor that protects your eyes and face from sunlight and rain.

Just like the WRSI Current and WRSI Current Pro, this kayaking helmet is designed with an EVA foam liner combined with a polyurethane sub-shell for better impact protection. The padded liner is removable and washable.

The WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet is available online from REI Co-op.

This paddling helmet lets you achieve the perfect fit thanks to the O-Brace Harness. And with the self-adjusting Interconnected Retention System, is guaranteed to prevent roll-back when you’re subject to hydraulic forces.

Main features summary:

  • Lightweight, high-impact carbon-composite shell with EVA foam and polyurethane sub-shell
  • Interconnected Retention System
  • Adjustable O-Brace Harness
  • Protective visor for keeping sunlight and right away from the face
  • Plush, removable, and washable liner
  • CE EN1385:2012 Certified for Water Sports

What do the Reviews have to say about the WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet?

Customer reviews are positive. They like that this whitewater helmet provides good coverage and protection while ensuring a comfortable fit. Many also like that it has a brim that’s large enough to provide sun protection.

IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size.

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6. NRS Havoc Livery Whitewater Helmet

No more second-guessing when it comes to finding a helmet that fits your noggin. The NRS Havoc Livery Whitewater Helmet is a one-size-fits-most paddling helmet, designed to accommodate a variety of adult head sizes.

The NRS Havoc Livery helmet is composed of a lightweight ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) outer shell with plush fit pads that deliver a comfortably snug fit in key areas. The fit pads are glued to the inner shell so they won’t come off when you’re riding through rapids or swimming underwater.

This safety helmet has an adjustable chin strap to ensure that the cap stays in place no matter how much you move. It also comes with a ratchet-adjust Dial-Fit system that lets you customize the fit with a simple turn of a knob.

The NRS Havoc Livery Whitewater Helmet is available online from REI Co-op.

For extra comfort, the NRS Havoc is designed with large vents to allow air to circulate, keeping your head dry especially in hot weather. These vents also serve as drainage holes that let out water fast.

Main features summary:

  • Lightweight and impact-resistant ABS shell with an EVA foam liner
  • Ratchet-adjust Dial-Fit System
  • Adjustable chin strap
  • Six vents/drainage holes
  • Fits head circumference of 20.8 to 24.4 inches (53 to 62 centimeters)
  • CE EN1385:2012 Certified for Water Sports

What do the Reviews have to say about the NRS Havoc Livery Whitewater Helmet?

Reviews are generally on the positive side. Most users like that this helmet is reasonably priced, very lightweight, and easy to adjust. However, some reviews say that it would be nice if the helmet had a brim. Some users also had a few issues about the straps being a bit uncomfortable.

IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size.

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