Surfer’s ear is hardly breaking news. A cursory trawl of the net will reveal a wealth of wealth of information about the condition. Unless you are a complete beginner, chances are you will have either had some surfing related ear problems or at the very least know someone who has.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by going into detail about why our beautiful obsession with waves can lead to repeated ear infection, partial deafness or unpleasant surgery to sort the problems out. What I am going to do is encourage you to be proactive about it.
Most of you will be aware that the damaging effects of wind and water can be reduced by wearing earplugs when you surf but most people don’t start using them until they are already having problems. If you will allow me to offer a piece of advice – start wearing them now, before you get a problem, you’ll thank me in the long run!
There are lots of different options, blue tac does work as do off the shelf silicon putty plugs but the safest option is custom made earplugs exactly like the ones Rob Shaddick at Surfplugs made me. Granted they are more expensive than blue tac but (unless you are a muppet like me and lose one) they last for years. We spend hundreds of pounds a year on boards, wetsuits, petrol, carparks all in the pursuit of waves and custom plugs are realtively cheap in comparison, especially as they will help prevent a condition that could seriously limit or curtail your water time eventually.
Surfplugs are made in a cast of your ear, poured up from a silicon rubber impression Rob takes of your inner and outer ear which is an interesting and slightly weird experience in itself. After placing a piece of sponge over your eardrum the rubber is injected into your ear and sets hard enough to remove in a couple of minutes.
My plugs were back in about a week and, once you have the knack, are easy to place and remove. It does take a few sessions to get used to them. Lots of people say it affects their surfing but I honestly think if you wear them for every session you adapt to the feeling of wearing them quickly. I think lots of people don’t wear plugs consistently enough to get past this. They don’t affect your hearing enough to stop you chatting in the line-up, though you can feel a little cut off in winter if you are wearing a hood as well.
Having already worn the putty-style plugs for a number of years I’ve found the custom plugs more comfortable and you don’t spend half your session pushing them back into your ears. I now feel a little uncomfortable surfing without them, especially in winter when it seems the cold gets inside your head more without them in.
Don’t just take my word for it, many of the best surfers in the country are wearing Rob’s plugs, whether the logo is on their board or not. If you want to find out more about the plugs themselves or surfer’s ear, click here.
Incidentally, I paid for my plugs. They really are that good: no free product related ass kissing here!