We have discovered that a product CAN be too good. There will be zero blowing of smoke up asses here but instead a very real account of how a manufacturer can get things a bit too ‘right’.
Northcore, never being known to shy away from a new challenge, have developed their own surf ear plugs that let sound in but keep water out. They are called Surf Shields and we have tested them.
If you want to know more about Northcore the company, how they started and what they stand for then you can catch up here on an article we did with them. Otherwise I coax and encourage you on.
Surfing Ear Plugs
Invariably one of the most important and overlooked items of surf equipment in the world is the ear plug. I can hear the scorn already, what about sunscreen? What about a surfboard?
To address these concerns in order and in full. Yes sunscreen is important, very important. And yes, a surfboard is also important if you want to surf. The next and most overlooked product is the surf specific ear plug.
Why? By the time you want correct the damage inflicted by a combination of water and wind on the ear canal, it’s normally too late. You may either have a long history of extremely painful ear infections, or had to have had an extremely painful ear operation or are as deaf as a doorknob.
As you may have guessed, I am a strong advocate of using an ear plug when surfing, so much so that I often use two. I am outspoken about it, often advising people to get a pair.
“But I don’t have a problem with my ears...” is the inevitable reply.
“Not yet you don’t, but by the time you do it will be too late” I think to myself.
Now we have established my stance on them in general, we can answer the question, what did I think of these new Surf Shields from Northcore.
Surf Shields – The Product
Holding my hands in the air, this is the second pair from Northcore I have tried. The first fell out on my second surf, never to be seen again and while they were impressive in both price and performance, they lacked something to keep them floating away.
Northcore, never being a company to give up, gave them a ‘work over’ and (kudos to their innovation) added a kind of leash to keep them around your neck when they become dislodged. It was test time again.
I am going to try hard not to compare them with any other brand of plug, they do have their own look but, really how different can ear plugs be. The functional aim of these plugs is to keep water out but let sound in. There are a few different plugs like this available now and I have tested a handful.
The Surf Shields come with various adapters and fittings for different sized ears and a full wrap around and fastened leash to keep them from being lost to the sea. They come in a handy case to keep it all together. They don’t cost the earth either.
Fitting, Testing and Surfing
As I have mentioned, this is not my first rodeo with surf ear plugs so my findings are kind of relative to my experiences.
The moment I put them in, I was amazing at how comfortable they were. The soft silicone plugs slide in effortlessly and I found I could still hear quite a lot. Once I had determined which size my ear canal was on the Northcore scale, I inserted the correct attachments and decided to get wet.
First Surf – in head high conditions, gentle off shore breeze. Wow, they worked, I had no problem hearing, they stayed in the whole time and I kind of forgot I was wearing them after a while. Very impressed.
Second Surf – head and a half and chunky with a strong off-shore breeze. The first half an hour was incident free until a large set came through and gave me a rinsing. I did a couple of laps of the sandbar underwater and had to battle to get out back again. A good 15 min paddle. Turned around and caught a the first wave in the set again (idiot) and wore the rest of them on the head.
At some point in doing laps underwater my left ear plug must have come out but as they are so comfortable I didn’t notice. The plug was still there around my neck but it means I had (on a windy day) been surfing for about twenty mins with no plug in my left ear. I knew right then, I was going to get an infection. And I did.
Was this a fault of the plug, you could argue either way. Perhaps I should have checked it was in? The thing is that with my normal brand of plug, I could feel it there and I would know if it had come out. The Surf Shields were that comfortable that I simply couldn’t tell.
I loved the price of these that RRP at 32 euros, a great price point. They do exactly what they say on the tin, keep water out while letting sound in which means less pain. The only real downside is that they are too comfortable.
Oh. Then there is the case. The case has a zip on it that (I am a stickler for zips) corrodes with the salt and seizes up. It’s a very small thing but kind of annoying, if I was being really picky, maybe a different (zip free) case would be an amazing addition.
All in all a pretty good surf specific ear plug. A lot cheaper and less painful than a series of operations or a multitude of ear infections. Well done Northcore … again.
Wana know more about the Surfsheilds? Here you go.