Contributing Gear Editor
Staff
Support our work! The Inertia may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn more about our gear review policy here.
Best Surf Hats

A good surf hat stays put. Here are our favorites. Photo: Hong Feng/Unsplash

Be it for warmth or sun protection, surf hats are essential accessories that can greatly enhance your session. Not only do surf hats offer sun protection for your skin, but they protect your eyes from the sun as well. While an old trucker hat will certainly do the trick on occasion, a hat specifically designed for the lineup can make a world of difference. For one thing, they are harder to lose!

What follows are the best surf hats (that will actually stay put) according to our dedicated team of surfing writers and testers.

If you wish to learn more about how these hats line up against one another, take a look at our Comparison Table. Or, if you’re curious about what makes a good surf hat, check out our Buyer’s Guide.

The Best Surf Hats of 2024

Best Overall Surf Hat: Dakine Indo Bucket Hat
Most Stylish Surf Hat: Patagonia Merganzer Hat
Most Versatile Surf Hat: Melin A-Game Hydro
Best Surf Hat for Sun Protection: O’Neill Lancaster Hat
Most Affordable Surf Hat: Quiksilver Bushmaster


Best Overall Surf Hat

Dakine Indo Bucket Hat ($45)The Dakine Indo Bucket Hat, one of the surf hats we tested

Pros: Floats, detachable neck flap, velcro storage pouch  
Cons: 
Runs snug

If there’s one hat to rule them all, it’s this one. The Indo comes with a secure chinstrap that has yet to fail us, and even if it were to get ripped free, it floats.

There’s a velcro compartment inside the top of the hat. And, if you’re not worried about looking like an absolute kook, there’s a detachable neck protector flap. The flap folds up inside the velcro compartment when you don’t need it. Even without the flap, the hat provides great sun protection for your face and neck, although the brim is not the widest on this list.

I would point out that the hat runs on the snug side (all the better for staying put), but if you’re having any doubts, size up.

CHECK PRICE ON Amazon

Most Stylish Surf Hat

Patagonia Merganzer Hat ($45)The Patagonia Merganzer Hat, one of the surf hats we tested

Pros: Made from recycled materials, brim is buoyant
Cons: Chin strap digs in a little

The Merganzer hat is made from recycled and Bluesign-approved materials. It features a low crown style that sits close to the head coupled with breathable mesh for maximum comfort.

To ensure it stays put while surfing, the Merganzer has an adjustable quick-release buckle and a minimalistic chin strap. The strap can be stowed when not in use, which does wonders for the aesthetic during your time on land.

Another surf-worthy feature is the brim, which features a dark underbill to reduce glare. The brim is also buoyant, meaning it will float should you lose the hat mid-session. Finally, the Merganzer has a quick-wicking internal sweatband with built-in odor control for warm days or landlocked adventures.

CHECK PRICE ON Backcountry

Most Versatile Surf Hat

Melin A-Game Hydro ($69)Melin A-Game Hydro Surf Hat, one of the surf hats we tested

Pros: Hidden stash pocket, moisture-wicking
Cons:
Pricey, no strap

The Melin A-Game Hydro is a do-it-all lid that made a lasting impression on our testers.

It’s waterproof, floats, and comes in an array of sleek colorways. It is also one of the more comfortable hats we’ve worn. The Melin A-Game Hydro is made of lightweight poly with perforated side and rear panels to assist with breathability. The interior lining is moisture-wicking and also features a hidden pocket.

The only thing we didn’t like was the relatively high crown. For some reason, it seemed a bit fuller than other options we’ve explored. That said, Melin is known for its premium, Rolls Royce-fancy hats, and the attention to detail and elevated nature of the A-Game Hydro are vastly apparent. If you’re looking for a great hat that can do a little bit of everything, this is an excellent choice.

CHECK PRICE ON REI Check Price on Amazon


Best Surf Hat for Sun Protection

O’Neill Lancaster Hat ($38)The O’Neill Lancaster Hat, one of the surf hats we tested

Pros: Internal velcro pocket, UPF 50 protection
Cons: Flops around on bigger sets

O’Neill’s Lancaster Hat is a classic bucket style surf hat featuring a fun camouflage print as well as other colors. Made in the USA from 100% polyester, the hat boasts lightweight poly construction and offers UPF 50 protection. The hat features a moisture-wicking sweatband, which was much appreciated during hot days on the beach but easily soaked up water, resulting in some drippage while waiting for waves.

Although the wide brim flopped around a bit when turtling or duck diving on bigger sets, the detachable drawcord ensured the hat never made an actual getaway. Like the Dakine Indo, the Lancaster Hat includes an internal Velcro pocket, perfect for stashing wax, chapstick, or whatever else you may need.

Check Price on Amazon

Most Affordable

Quiksilver Bushmaster ($20)Quik Bushman

Pros: Rolls up for travel, looks good on land
Cons:
Flops around in heavier surf

Reminiscent of a day in the bush, the Quiksilver Bushman offers a classic surf style and easily rolls up, making it well suited for travel. Made from cotton, the hat ensures full sun protection with a wide brim. While the hat may flop around in heavier surf, the chin cord with a secure toggle makes it ideal for beach hangs or smaller days. For those interested in a more fashion-forward option, that transitions well to land, look no further.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Surf Hats: Best of the Rest

Solite Convertible Watersports Hat ($50)Solite Convertible Watersports Hat, one of the surf hats we tested

Pros: Rear adjustable strap, convertible visor
Cons:
Pricey

With the Convertible Watersports Hat, Solite thought of everything. The one-size-fits-most sizing includes an adjustable chin strap and a rear webbing strap that facilitates a custom fit. While many hats have a chin strap, most don’t have a rear strap, which we really appreciated for sizing.

Our lead tester found she could easily flip the brim back while paddling and then flip it forward for sun protection between sets. That’s a feature likely to win over folks who don’t usually wear hats while surfing because of obstructed vision. Made from a blend of nylon, polyester, and neoprene, the hat is lightweight, comfortable, and dries quickly. To top it off, mesh ear flaps keep your ears covered from the sun’s harmful rays.

CHECK PRICE ON CLEANLINE

Billabong Surf Bucket Hat ($36)Billabong Surf Bucket Hat, one of the surf hats we tested

Pros: Neoprene strap
Cons:
Not a super snug fit

Billabong’s take on the classic surf bucket is a bit wider and floppier than the performance-oriented Indo. It stays put well with a neoprene strap, but the relaxed fit means you’re going to have less security when duck diving.

CHECK PRICE ON Real Watersports

Everyday California Waterproof Snapback ($36)Everyday California Waterproof Snapback, one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

Pros: Stylish, floats
Cons: No chin strap

While surf hats are ideal for sun protection, they are often lacking in the style department. Everyday California’s Waterproof Snapback looks like your favorite snapback, but it is waterproof  — and better yet, it floats. The adjustable hat is made from a non-absorbent satin fabric that prevents it from getting waterlogged during sessions. The absence of a drawstring means you may still be playing fetch from time to time,.

Insider tip: if you have long hair, pull half of your hair through the hole and secure it with a rubber band to the remaining hair to prevent ever losing your hat again.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Kaiola Surf Hat ($72)Kaiola Surf Hat, one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

Pros: Thin chin strap, floats, dries quickly
Cons:
Pricey

Made by surfers for surfers, the Kaiola Surf Hat includes every detail you could want in a hat. Although the price is a little steep, the hat features a slim yet secure chin strap, a bendable but strong visor for enhanced paddling vision, a padded internal headband, and UPF 80 protection.

Additionally, the hat floats, is lightweight, and dries quickly. The chin strap can be easily tucked in, providing for a seamless water-to-land transition. Available in two different sizes and a variety of color options, the Kaiola Surf Hat fits securely even without the chin strap, but it’s there should you need it.

CHECK PRICE ON kaiola

Dakine W20 Surf Cap ($30)The Dakine W20 Surf Cap, one of the surf hats we tested in this guide

Pros: UPF 50+, mesh ventilation on the ears, brim flips up
Cons:
Small brim

Be it overhead waves or blaring sunshine, the Dakine W20 Surf Cap is ready for anything and everything. Made from nylon or polyester, the cap is rated UPF 50+ and dries quickly. Standout features include an adjustable chin strap that doesn’t rub and mesh ventilation at the ears for better hearing in the lineup. Also on board — a brim that flips up for paddling and an adjustable back closure.

Although a fuller brim would offer more sun protection, the bill offers decent coverage while still maintaining a sleek design.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Salt Life Freeflow Visor ($28)

salt life visor

Pros: Lightweight feel, can wear hair in a bun
Cons: No chin strap

While full hats are a classic surfing option, our tester is a big fan of visors. She likes that they feel lighter on her head and that she can pile her hair up in a bun with the visor easily strapping in around it.

Made from 100% polyester, the Salt Life Freeflow Visor is lightweight and dries quickly. The print is cute and our tester found that the visor worked well for surfing, paddling, hiking, and hanging on the beach. The velcro closure allows for easy adjustments and makes it so that the visor fits most head sizes. Because the Freeflow doesn’t have any sort of chin strap, it is possible to lose it on bigger sets and wipeouts, but our tester found that if she wore it snugly, she didn’t usually have any troubles.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Roxy Pudding Party Safari Boonie Sun Hat ($27)

The Roxy Pudding Party Safari Boonie Sun Hat, one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

Pros: Chin strap, fun color
Cons: Limits visibility while paddling

The Roxy Pudding Party Hat transitions seamlessly from surf to shore. It features a classic safari-style wide brim with a drawcord to ensure it stays in place while in the lineup. Made from 100% polyester, the hat is lightweight and dries quickly.

The wide brim offers generous sun protection, but our tester found that it sometimes limited visibility while paddling. Also, if the chin strap wasn’t cinched tight enough, the hat tended to flop back while on a wave. Our tester was a big fan of the electric blue color and loved wearing the Pudding Party hat both on and off the water.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Manera Bobby Bucket Hat ($49)

The Manera Bobby Bucket Hat, one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

Pros: Durable, saltwater resistant
Cons: Pricey

The Manera Bobby Bucket Hat is made from the same fabric as Manera’s board shorts.  The upshot? The Bobby is lightweight, fast drying, and UV and saltwater resistant. It also feels a lot heartier and more durable than some of the other hats we tested, leading us to believe it will be a surf companion for years to come.

The Bobby features an adjustable chin strap and a wide brim for generous sun protection. Like most of the wide-brimmed hats we tested, the Bobby can limit visibility a bit when paddling, but for the most part, we didn’t have any issues.

CHECK PRICE ON Jacks CHECK PRICE ON Manera

Kaiola Surf Bucket Hat ($88)

kaiola bucket hat

Pros: Adjustable chin and head strap, UPF 80
Cons: Very expensive

With the Kaiola Surf Bucket Hat, Kaila thought of everything. The Bucket Hat features an adjustable chin strap with room for your ears to poke out and a rear head strap, so you can easily custom tailor the fit. The chin strap is low profile, and the padded internal headband makes the hat comfortable despite its snug fit.

The Bucket Hat features UPF 80 protection, and the wide brim ensures the sun stays off your face while in the water. The stiff front brim allows you to pop the brim up while paddling and then easily flip it back down. At $88 the price is steep for a surf hat. But in this case, you get what you pay for — a surf hat that’s comfortable, lightweight, dries quickly, stays put, and floats.

CHECK PRICE ON Kaiola

Surf Hats Comparison Table

Surf Hat Price Chin Strap Yes/No Floats Yes/No
Dakine Indo Bucket Hat $45 Yes Yes
Patagonia Merganzer Hat $45 Yes No
Melin A-Game Hydro $69 No No
O’Neill Lancaster Hat $38 Yes No
Quiksilver Bushmaster $20 Yes No
Solite Convertible Watersports Hat $50 Yes No
Billabong Surf Bucket Hat $36 Yes No
Everyday California Waterproof Snapback $36 No Yes
Kaiola Surf Hat  $72 Yes Yes
Dakine W20 Surf Cap $30 Yes No
Salt Life Freeflow Visor $28 No No
Roxy Pudding Party Boonie Sun Hat $27 Yes No
Manera Bobby Bucket Hat $49 Yes No
Kaiola Surf Bucket Hat $88 Yes Yes

a line up of surf hats on the beach

Some of the many surf hats we tested. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia


How We Tested The Best Surf Hats

To test these hats, we did what we do best at The Inertia — we hit the waves. We considered how comfortable the hats were, how well they stayed put, the amount of sun protection they offered, and how stylish (or unstylish) they were. All while paddling out, sitting in the lineup, riding waves, and during wipeouts.

We first published this guide in 2020. At that time, the Dakine W20 topped our list. In early 2022, we tested the Dakine Indo Bucket Hat, and realized there was a new sheriff in town.

In 2023, we did a complete retest of all the hats in this guide and also added options like the Patagonia Merganzer, among others. A couple of months after the review went live, we received an email from the owner of Solite claiming that they had developed “the best surf hat ever,” so we decided to give it a go. It proved to be an incredible hat, so we added it to our list. In this update, we’ve added updated testing information, a little more info about what makes a good surf hat, and some new original photography.


 a man wearing one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

The Kailoa Surf Hat is a fantastic ball-cap-style surf hat. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia


Surf Hats Buyer’s Guide

Surf Hats: Performance Considerations 

What makes a good surf hat is a matter of opinion, but there are a number of factors that most surfers agree on. When judging the performance of the surf hats we tested, we considered the stay-put technology, the sun protection each offered, the style, and the comfort of each option.

a dog wearing one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

Even pups love the Kaiola Surf Bucket Hat. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

Stays Put

The most essential criteria in a surf hat. When you’re surfing, you want to be focused on flow and not whether your hat is flying off your head. We want a hat that either has a chin strap or is adjustable so we can cinch it tight to our heads. If it doesn’t offer any way to secure it to our heads, then we want to make sure the hat floats. Because at one point or another, we know it’s going to go flying.

Sun Protection

Surf hats are pointless if they don’t offer solid sun protection. A wide, full brim will obviously offer the most sun protection, shielding your face, neck, and ears. A baseball-style cap with just a front brim will protect your face but leave your ears and neck exposed. Consider what type of protection you need and purchase accordingly. Many hats will include a UPF rating, which can also be helpful.

Style

Style is a matter of opinion. But sometimes style comes at the expense of performance, and that’s quantifiable. In our opinion, wide brims and goofy chin straps aren’t the most stylish, but they are oftentimes the most functional. We appreciate hats where the chin strap can be stowed away when you’re not surfing so you don’t look like a total kook when hanging out on the beach post-session.

a man on a mountain over looking the ocean, wearing one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

The Everyday California hat is tremendous for surfing but also has utility on hikes. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

Comfort

With most of our clothing and gear, comfort is a high priority. Surf hats are no exception. If a hat has a chin strap that makes us feel like we’re choking, it’s not a winner — even if it stays on after a wipeout. We want a hat that’s both functional and comfortable.

Best Surf Hat
Best Surf Hat

The Dakine Indo stays put, is comfortable, and doesn’t look too bad either.

Price: $45

Buy Now

What Else Should I Look For in Surf Hats?

The Visor

The visor on a surf hat is essential for sun protection, but it can also limit visibility while surfing. We really appreciated surf hats where the visor could flip up or back so that it was out of the way while paddling. The Solite Convertible Watersports Hat was great for this. With that one, the entire hat flipped backward so that it was entirely out of the way while paddling.

patagonia surf hat, one of the surf hats we tested for this guide

The Patagonia Merganzer hat is a great everyday hat and surf hat. Photo: Hunter Miller/The Inertia

Polyester

Although the materials used to make each hat varied slightly, the most common was polyester. Polyester is durable, lightweight, fast drying, wrinkle-resistant, low cost, and retains its shape well — a winner material for surf hats.

woman wearing a hat and an inflatable paddleboard backpack in the forest

The Manera Bobby Bucket Hat is perfect for surfing, hiking, and paddle boarding. Photo: Jenna Miller/The Inertia

Dry Time

Even if you’re the best surfer around, your surf hat is going to get wet at some point. Having a hat that dries quickly is a huge plus. If you plan on hanging out at the beach, taking a hike, or going out for burritos post-session, it’s nice to have a hat that dries quickly so you’re not walking around dripping all day. Wet hats can also stink up your car or get moldy, so having something that dries quickly is a huge plus.

Durability

Saltwater is extremely corrosive and will definitely take a toll on your equipment. Buying a hat specifically designed for surf and saltwater exposure is a good call, as it will usually hold up better. While a cheap gas station hat will get the job done for a few sessions, it likely won’t stand the test of time — something to consider when selecting your hat.

Editor’s Note: It’s still chilly out there, folks. Don’t hit the lineup without The Best Women’s Wetsuits. Or, for a more general take, check out the Best Wetsuits for Surfing. For more gear reviews and gear features from The Inertia, click here.

Return to Comparison Table | Return to Top Picks

RAEN Rece
The Best Sunglasses of 2023
We tested sunglasses from top brands across the market such as POC, Ray-Ban, RAEN and others to find the best sunglasses of 2023. Read more…

Newsletter

Only the best. We promise.

Contribute

Join our community of contributors.

Apply