Ear plugs for surfing

Wear ear plugs when you surf

Surfer’s ear is nasty, and it’s not rare. Luckily for us, it’s completely avoidable. With one little piece of kit, you can avoid one of the worst parts of cold water surfing.

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What is surfer’s ear?

When you repeatedly dunk your head in cold water (that’s any surfer outside of the tropics), your body responds by growing bone across your ear canal. The bone growth – exostosis – narrows the ear canal, making it harder for water to drain and more likely that you’ll get an ear infection.

After repeated ear infections and serious hearing loss, you might start thinking about medical attention. This, my friends, is the grizzly bit. The only way to overcome surfer’s ear, and there’s a chance it will come back, is to allow an ENT specialist to cut this newly formed bone out of your skull. That means taking a scalpel to the skin behind your ear, pulling it away like a flap, then taking a drill or chisel to the offending bone.

So how do you avoid it? You can either stop surfing, or…


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Wear ear plugs

It’s a pain when you start wearing ear plugs. They’re fiddly — especially when you’re wearing gloves — and they can feel uncomfortable. But it’s worth it.

There are a load of different ear plugs on the market. If I could offer you one tip, it’s not to scrimp. Luckily for you, that’s what I did. The upshot is that I’ve collected dozens of different types until, eventually, investing in something worthwhile.

Here are a few I’ve tried, and some I’ve had recommended.


SurfEars 2.0 Surf Ear Plug Red One Size Fits Most.

All of my surfing friends rave about these ear plugs. They’re comfortable and secure, so you don’t have to muck about once you’re in the water.

Doc’s Pro Plugs


Doc’s Pro Medium Vented Ear Plugs – Clear

This is a pair that I sometimes revert back to. They’re actually musicians’ earplugs, so not as good as they could be for keeping water out, but they allow sound in. They also have a little leash that you can run through your wetsuit zipper, so they’re not going to disappear when you get worked.

Northcore Surfshields

2018 Northcore Surfshields Surfers Ear Plugs NOCO115

These are from the same school as Doc’s Pro Plugs. I’ve not tried them yet, but they look to have all the same functionality with a little more staying power. Water stays out, sound can get in, and there’s a sturdy looking leash to hold it all together.

Seals Balance Pro Ear Cap

Seals Balance Pro Ear Cap

These are the classic “bung” type plugs. They block your ear completely. No water can get in, but that means the same for sound.

Seals Balance Pro Ear Cap

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I’ve been told recently that the NHS (pro tip for the Brits reading this) can provide you with custom fit ear plugs for something in the region of £20-£30.

Might be one to explore?