In the recent Tahiti Pro Teahupoo surfers wearing helmets became commonplace. Yet it wasn’t always thus. In surfing history the presence of a brain bucket usually signified an act of bravery or an extreme situation. We sifted through the archives to find out when helmets really made the difference.

 1) Owen Wright Wins Chopes

Wright finally puts his 2015 brain injury behind him by turning up and ruling Teahupoo, which featured the biggest day seen for the competition since 2014. This was a classic sporting comeback tale featuring heartbreak, redemption, bravery, skill and huge talent. Owen’s Gath helmet was the visual symbol of that narrative; the white hat reminding you on every wave what he’d been through and what he had achieved to get back to the top. 

2) Jeremy Flores Wins Chopes 

Flores entered the Tahiti event in 2015 at the last minute after suffering serious head injuries in Indo freesurfing just two months before the event. Flores had head-butted Lakey Peak doing an air and after being airlifted to Bali was operated on by a plastic surgeon and received 35 stitches to his face. While Chopes wasn’t huge that year, Flores’ bravery in donning the lid and eventually defeating Medina with a 9.87 in the final was still impressive. 

Jeremy Flores also claimed a victory at Teahupo'o with cranial protection.

3) Sally Fitzgibbons Bursts The Drum

In 2015 in Cloudbreak Sally Fitzgibbons perforated her eardrum whilst surfing in the early rounds of the event. Going against doctor’s advice the Aussie warrior taped up her noggin, then dusted off a rather bulky helmet and proceeded to charge all the way to win the Final. Sally wore the helmet for the better part of the season until her earhole closed up. “I may auction the helmet one day,” Fitzgibbons said a few months later. “It’s a really cool piece of memorabilia in my career.” The buyer may have been disappointed. The lid was specially moulded to fit Sally’s head.

A helmet enabled Sally FItzgibbons to continue competing with a busted eardrum.

4) Camel’s Best Ever Gnaraloo Tube

No surfer has worn a helmet with more pride, through more tubes, than the underground legend Geoff “Camel” Goulden. Yet it was this one negotiated at Gnaraloo back in 2011 that stands out as not only Camel’s best ever in the north-west but possibly the best ever ridden at the famous desert wave of Tombstones.

5) Tom Carroll Wins Pipeline

Tom Carroll first decided to wear a helmet at Pipe having seen pro surfer, Steve ‘Beaver’ Massfeller, go into the reef at Pipe in 1983. “I just wanted to keep going for it at Pipe,” he told Tracks recently, “but I also knew that I was kind of a bit prone.” Remember that in the late 1980s wearing helmets was seen as a sign of weakness. That ignorance was soon dispelled when the helmeted Tommy claimed victories in 1990 and 1991 at the Pipe Masters, setting new performance benchmarks in the process.