Up to the age of 35 I thought I had completely avoided any of the effects of Surfer’s ear. I’d surfed a hell of a lot in the previous 23 years in the sort of cold, windy conditions that virtually guarantees the boney growth in your ear that every surfer dreads – Exostosis (or Surfer’s Ear) – but thus far I’d been lucky.
Then out the blue one warm sunny day my right ear started to ache and was impossible to clear seawater from. Nothing too painful but worthy of a trip to the doctors.
I was pretty lucky in that my ear was a long way from closing over but was told in no uncertain terms that to continue to expose my ears to the elements while surfing was to invite more trouble and probably an operation, maybe two, in the future.
Several of my mates have had the operation to remove the boney growth that causes all the trouble – basically they cut the back of the ear, flap it forward and drill it out. This is followed by at least six weeks out of the water.
I didn’t fancy that much so the only option was ear plugs and in the last five years I have tried out quite a few. There have only been three types that in my experience have worked however:
- Silicone style plugs
- EQ Seals
- Blu-Tack (Yes Blu-Tack. That Blu-Tack. The stuff you put posters on the wall with.)
I’ve heard people rave about the Christmas Tree shape plugs but they have never worked for me and I’ve never managed to get a totally waterproof seal with them whereas the other three I have.
So which is the best earplug to surf with?
Each have there pro’s and con’s but I can tell you now that when it comes to value for money you won’t beat Blu-Tack! All of the three types listed here will form a perfect seal and stop any water from entering your ear but Blu-Tack is definitely the cheapest. There are a couple of negatives that you should consider before you rush to you nearest stationers however.
Blu-Tack can be quite tough especially when the air temp is cold making the process of rolling the Blu-Tack into a ball and inserting it into your ear quite uncomfortable, especially brand new Blu-Tack. Once it has been in your ear for a few surfs it will soften up significantly so you definitely don’t want to lose your precious ear plugs once you have broken them in!
For me the real drawback is that while they keep water out perfectly they don’t let much sound through so having a conversation or hearing the sneaker set breaking on the outer rocks is virtually impossible. Surfing is a very sociable sport and not being able to talk to your fellow surfer can take some of the fun out of it. Unless your the sort of sociopath who wants to shut himself off from the world then this is a very real consideration. You can buy it at Poundland.
Silicone Ear Plugs
Silicone style earplugs are basically a soft version of Blu-Tack so they can be applied painlessly. Once again you get a perfect seal if you apply them correctly but, again, conversation is more or less impossible. The price is reasonable at about £5 for four.
You can’t put up your posters up with this stuff though.
EQ Seals (formerly Sorky Earplugs)
EQ Seals are still relatively new to the marketplace and are like the Rolls Royce of surfers earplugs. They are priced accordingly at around £43 but they have been professionally designed by French physicians. They are also exceedingly well made.
They give a perfectly watertight seal but the real advantage to these is that you can hear with them in. They have an inner gauze that will let sound through but not water or wind. There is some genuine wizardry at work here and, for me, the benefit of being able to yap to your mates without them sounding like they’re from a foreign country is worth the expense.
They can be a bit fiddly to put into your ear at first but once you get used to them you can put them in in a matter of seconds. You also get a handy little metal storage tube so they won’t get clogged up with wax or sand.
They’re also rubbish for putting your posters up with though.
So the best ear plug for surfing is…..
I have been a convert to EQ Seals for about six months now and unless I lose one I won’t be going back to the other style of surfing ear plugs any time soon.
The only other option would be to surf year round in a neoprene balaclava. And nobody wants that do they?