I have never been one to wear earplugs while surfing. I don’t like the feeling of not being able to hear and I often feel like I am kind of “out of body” because my hearing and balance is slightly off.
However, recently I’ve been having some ear pain in my eustachian tubes and I also noticed that I kept getting water stuck in my right ear. I haven’t been diagnosed with surfer’s ear officially, but I figured it would be a good idea to wear earplugs while I surf – especially when I am swimming in the lineup with a camera shooting photos as I tend to dive under waves and get smacked in the head with whitewater much more often.
I stopped by Encinitas Surfboards to pick up a pair of SurfEars 3.0. Yes, I was drawn in by the nifty carrying case and the fact that they claim to let sound in but keep water out. I liked the idea of being able to hear and not feel so weird with plugs in. I also liked the leash system so they wouldn’t fall out and get lost in the water. Plus, they come with three sizes of buds so that you can try to get the best fit. They’re probably the closest you can get to “custom” earplugs as you can without, you know, actually getting custom earplugs.
SurfEars were developed in 2011 by Swedish surfer Christian Dittrich after contracting a serious ear infection while on a surf trip to Morocco. They are currently on their third design iteration, and also include a silicone magnetic case and minimal packaging to be eco-friendly.
Comfort – SurfEars Review
The SurfEars are silicone and nice and soft. The leash is stretchy but seems slightly delicate so I’d advise treating it gently when you put it on and tighten the little cinch clip. Each plug is color-coded red or blue to make putting them in the correct ear relatively quick (although making blue the right ear goes against all the ways I could think of to remember which color is which, red-right-return, political parties, R for Right, etc.).
The plugs come pre-loaded with the medium size earbud, and I found that that one fit just fine. I fumbled with them at first, trying to figure out the leash system. Basically, you put your head through, cinch the little clip behind your neck so the loop is somewhat tight around your neck, and then bring the earbuds around to your ears from the back. It’s a bit weird at first but after a few uses I have the hang of it.
Overall they are decently comfortable for me. They aren’t 100% perfect – the left ear fits slightly better than the right – but then again they are one plug fits all and I wouldn’t expect them to feel like a custom pair. I find that they stay in place and I can hear my friends quite easily. The only downside is that the wind will cause a faint whistling noise through the plugs. Not terrible but makes it feel like you’re surfing in a storm if it gets a bit breezy.
These plugs reduce your hearing a bit, but I can still hear my friends talking quite clearly even if they are far away. It’s more akin to having some cotton in your ears vs. having them totally plugged. Also, there seems to be a sweet spot where they protect from water but still let sound in. If you jam them in too deep and create a suction they’re both uncomfortable and you can’t hear very well.
Do they keep the water out? Yup. And they help protect my ears when I take weird wipeouts or get caught inside and have the lip of the wave land on me – two times that my ears often get a bit hurt by the sudden pressure. My first session with the plugs I was paddling over a wave while someone coming down the line sprayed me with a cutback and hit my ear dead on. I was quite glad I had my plugs in for that.
Overall I like these plugs and recommend them a lot. My friend seems to find them uncomfortable, but I hardly notice they are in my ears when I’m surfing and I find that I surf more confidently with my ears protected for some reason (I also notice this when I wear a hood, interestingly enough). I think my body was trying to tell me something.
They are a bit spendy for earplugs, but I think they were worth it as I can hear decently well with them in. I have yet to see how long they last but I think that if you take care of them and rinse them off as often as you can after sessions they’ll hold up a long time.
Pick some up at your local shop or get them on Amazon.
Our top choice for a comfortable ear plug that still allows you to hear and doesn't make you feel like you're in an echo chamber.
- Allow decent amount of hearing
- Three sizes in one
- Case included for storage and travel
- Leash prevents plug from falling out and getting lost
- Currently no replacement parts available
- Pricey for plugs
Do you have a pair of these? How do you like them? Leave a comment below!