If you’ve ever surfed with a hat, then you’ve likely lost a hat as well. Be it for warmth or sun protection, a hat is an essential surf accessory that can greatly enhance your session. Not only does a hat offer sun protection for your skin, but it protects your eyes from the sun as well, which can be particularly helpful during midday or sunset sessions here in California. Or, if you live in a colder region, a surf cap can help prevent heat loss via the head, doing wonders to keep you warm. 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.
What Are the Best Surf Hats?
Best Overall Surf Hat: Dakine Indo Bucket Hat
Most Stylish Surf Hat: Patagonia Merganzer Hat
Most Versatile Surf Hat: Melin A-Game Hydro
Best Sun Protection: O’Neill Lancaster Hat
Most Affordable Surf Hat: Quiksilver Bushmaster
Best Overall Surf Hat
Pros: Floats, detachable neck flap
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 (that stores in said velcro compartment if you are worried about such things). 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, choose the M/L instead of the S/M.CHECK PRICE ON Amazon
Pros: Made from recycled materials, brim is buoyant
Cons: Chin strap digs in a little
Patagonia is in the business of making top of the line outdoor and adventure gear and their Merganzer hat is no exception. Created with the environment in mind, this hat is made from recycled and Bluesign approved materials. The hat 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 glare-reducing brim that features a dark underbill to reduce glare. Also, the brim is buoyant, meaning it will float should you lose it 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
Pros: Hidden stash pocket, moisture-wicking
Cons: Pricey, no strap
The Melin A-Game Hydro, simply put, is one of the best hats we’ve ever gotten our hands on. Unfortunately, our gear tester lost it out in the field (while traveling, not in the water), but it made a lasting impression.
The A-Game Hydro is waterproof, floats, and comes in an array of sleek colorways. It is also one of the more comfortable hats we’ve worn. It’s made of lightweight poly with perforated side and rear panels to assist with breathability. The interior lining is moisture-wicking, and also has a hidden pocket…for whatever you want to stash in there.
The only thing we felt slightly self-conscious about was how tall the crown of the hat appeared. For some reason, it seemed a bit fuller than other options we’ve explored. That said, Melin is known for their premium, Rolls Royce style hats, and the attention to detail and elevated nature of the A-Game Hydro is vastly apparent. If you’re looking for a great hat that can also hit the water, the buck stops here.
Best for Sun Protection
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 has a lightweight poly feel 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 hat flopped around a bit when turtling or duck diving on bigger sets, the detachable drawcord ensured it 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
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
Other Surf Hats We Loved
Pros: Rear adjustable strap, convertible visor
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 allow you to fully size the hat to your head. While many hats have a chin strap, most don’t have a rear strap, which we really appreciated for sizing. Our lead tester doesn’t typically don’t like wearing hats while surfing because she feels like they obstruct her vision while paddling, but with the convertible visor she could easily flip the brim back while paddling and then flip it forward for sun protection between sets. Made from a blend of nylon/polyester/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. This hat’s a winner!CHECK PRICE ON CLEANLINE
Pros: Neoprene strap
Cons: Not a super snug fit
Billabong’s take on the classic surf bucket brings the style with a bit of a wider and floppier outline than the performance-oriented Dakine Indo. It stays put well with a neoprene strap but the lack of a super snug fit means you’re going to have a bit more wiggle-room when duck diving.CHECK PRICE ON 58surf
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 Aviator-grade satin fabric, which allows it be waterproof and prevents it from getting waterlogged during sessions. The absence of a drawstring means you may still be playing fetch from time to time, but the floating ability comes in clutch because if you look hard enough, you will find it eventually. Insider tip: if you have long hair, pull half of your hair through the hole and secure it with a rubberband to the remaining hair to prevent ever losing your hat again.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Pros: Thin chin strap, floats, dries quickly
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 offers UPF 80 protection. Additionally, the hat floats, is lightweight, dries quickly, and 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 hat fits securely even without the chin strap, but it’s there should you need it.CHECK PRICE ON kaiola
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, mesh ventilation at the ears for enhanced hearing, a brim that flips up for paddling, and an adjustable back closure. Although a fuller brim would offer more sun protection, the bill offers just enough while still maintaining a sleek design.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
|Surf Hat||Price||Chin Strap?||Floats?|
|Dakine Indo Bucket Hat||$45||Yes||Yes|
|Solite Convertible Watersports Hat||$50||Yes||No|
|Patagonia Merganzer Hat||$45||Yes||No|
|Billabong Surf Bucket Hat||$36||Yes||No|
|Melin A-Game Hydro||$69||No||No|
|Everyday California Waterproof Snapback||$36||No||Yes|
|O’Neill Lancaster Hat||$25||Yes||No|
|Kaiola Surf Hat||$72||Yes||Yes|
|Dakine W20 Surf Cap||$30||Yes||No|
How We Tested The Best Surf Hats
In order to test these hats, we hit the waves. While surfing, we took into consideration how comfortable the hats were, how well they stayed put, the amount of sun protection they offered, and how stylish (or unstylish) they were. We considered all of these factors while paddling out, sitting in the lineup, riding waves, and during wipeouts.
We first ran our review on the best surf hats in December of 2020, with the Dakine W20 at the top of our list. In early 2022, we tried out the Dakine Indo bucket hat, and realized there was a new sheriff in town.
For 2023, we did a complete retest of the best surf hats on the island of Oahu, a perfect location for testing with plenty of waves and plenty of sunshine, adding options like the Patagonia Merganzer, and others. A couple 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. After a summer of surfing in the hats in the Hawaiian sunshine, we added updated testing information, a little more info about what makes a good surf hat, as well as some original photography.
|Surf Hat||Style||Stays Put||Comfort||Overall Rating|
|Dakine Indo Bucket Hat||9||10||9||9.3|
|Solite Convertible Watersports Hat||8||10||10||9.3|
|Patagonia Merganzer Hat||9||9||9||9|
|Billabong Surf Bucket Hat||9||8||9||8.7|
|Melin A-Game Hydro||10||5||10||8.3|
|Everyday California Waterproof Snapback||10||5||10||8.3|
|O’Neill Lancaster Hat||8||8||8||8|
|Kaiola Surf Hat||7||10||7||8|
|Dakine W20 Surf Cap||6||10||7||7.7|
What Makes a Good Surf Hat?
What makes a good surf hat is a matter of opinion, but there are a number of factors that most can agree on. A solid hat will offer sun protection, include stay-put technology, be able to withstand the elements, be somewhat stylish, and be comfortable.
Instead of spending your session tracking down your hat, invest in one that will stay put so you can focus on what really matters: the waves. After the sea claimed a number of my hats, I took it upon myself to test out some of the best in the game. I took into consideration style, how well it stays put, and comfort.
As with most things, surf hat style comes down to opinion but in general, some hats are agreeably more stylish than others. But oftentimes style comes at a cost. In my opinion, wide brims and goofy chin straps aren’t the most stylish, but they are oftentimes the most functional. I 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.
For a surf hat, I’d say this is the most important criteria. When you’re surfing, you want to be focused on just that and not whether your hat is flying off your head. I want a hat that either has a chin strap or is adjustable so I can cinch it tight to my head. If it doesn’t offer any way to secure it to my head, then I want to make sure the hat floats because at one point or another, I know it’s going to go flying.
With most of my clothing and gear, comfort is a top priority. I tend to spend a lot of time in the water and on the beach, so I want to make surf my hat is comfortable. If a hat has a chin strap that firmly secures the hat to my head but digs into my chin and makes me feel like I’m choking the entire session, it’s not a winner. I want a hat that’s both functional and comfortable.
The Dakine Indo stays put, is comfortable, and doesn’t look too bad either.
What Else Should I Look For in a Surf Hat?
A hat is pointless if it doesn’t offer some solid sun protection. A wide, full brim will obviously offer the most sun protection, shielding both 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 when you’re in the market for a hat and purchase accordingly. Many hats will include a UPF rating, which can also be helpful.
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 on the beach, going for 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 potentially mold, so having something that dries quickly is a huge plus.
Saltwater is extremely corrosive and will definitely take a toll on your equipment. Buying a hat that is specifically designed for the surf and saltwater exposure is a good call as it will oftentimes 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: For more gear reviews and gear features from The Inertia, click here.