My history with surf helmets began in the mid-90s while living in Santa Cruz, California surfing seven days a week and doing everything I could to manifest my pro career. During that time I started to have ear problems from the cold wind and water, a condition commonly known as Surfer’s Ear. After meeting with an ear specialist I was told that I had 60% closure in my right ear. Something that is very common among surfers.
One day in 1995 a sales rep came into the surf shop where I worked and asked if I’d be interested in wearing a helmet. Due to my recent diagnosis I immediately said yes. I wore that helmet every day, hoping it would help my issue.
Wearing a helmet day in and day out gave me confidence, prevented numerous perforated eardrum issues and kept me warm. That first helmet eventually fell apart but it made a lasting impression on me. That impression became a prelude to my future endeavor.
Around the same time, I launched my travel-coaching career and was now putting novice surfers into dream surf conditions in Fiji that included remote, shallow reef passes. I suggested they all order helmets for the trip and they did. My travel groups wore helmets and I am certain we avoided injury as a result.
In 2016 I had a vision to design and produce a helmet for a better surfing experience.
I researched historical helmets and became very interested in early designs such as those made by the Assyrians in 900 B.C. and 17th-century Mycenaean Greeks. With those designs as inspiration I cut a helmet shape from a red rubber schoolyard ball. I then went searching for a passionate product designer and was introduced to one by a colleague. I met him in Los Angeles and we kicked off the design process. After a few draft designs, I showed the work to a good friend and he decided to come onboard and back our dream.
We slowly built a team and got test helmets made. For the next two summers some friends and I tested the helmet in various sizes and conditions at the main break in Nihiwatu, Indonesia. Nihiwatu is considered “Black Diamond” with its shallow, top-to-bottom tubing wave. Dropping into a triple-overhead barrel at Nihiwatu is daunting, at best. It’s unpredictable, fast, and strong and needs total commitment to make it. The helmet endured every test God’s Left threw at us.
I continued to refine the design over the next months. I knew I’d hit it on the head when I felt totally comfortable with the final prototype in 8-foot solid surf. After more design fine-tuning and test sessions by surfers around the world, I’m beyond stoked to unveil the SIMBA Sentinel 1 helmet.