6 of the best surf hats for 2021

by Tom Lacmundy
best surf hats

This guide to the best surf hats for the coming year should help you dodge the dreaded beetroot neck! It’s something that can hit any surfer in a destination where the sun is strong. Yep, from Sri Lanka to Mexico, the sunny beaches of Portugal to the Gili Isles, we’ve seen boardies with some pretty bad neck singing going on.

But this selection of the best surf hats isn’t just about fending off the UV. It’s also about getting you a piece of kit that will keep any glare out of your eyes and give you the edge in the lineup. Boom – there you go catching that wave while everyone else is still squinting for it!

The best surf hats for 2021 quick jump

Dakine Kahu Surf Hat Black – *Our pick of the best surf hats for 2021*


Best for: Our top all-round choice!

If we HAD to pick just one of the best surf hats from this list to pack in our bag for 2021, the Dakine Kahu would be it!

Why? Well, firstly, it’s super light. Even when we duck dived we came up feeling like there was a feather on our head. On top of that, it’s easy to fold and pack for longer surf trips (that’s important if you, like us, are already planning for a few romps around Asia and Central America to cure the COVID blues). It also ticks the basic boxes with 360-degree shade coverage – important if you burn on the front and the back – and a strong 50+ SPF rating.

The Dakine Kahu also does well for eco-conscious surfers. It’s made from environmentally friendly materials that allow for maximum breathability. In fact, we found the sweat wicking SO good that we’re planning to use it as our go-to hiking cap this summer to boot. It’s just an all-round solid surf cap with a sleek black design to match. Top points.

  • Very light and breathable
  • Doubles as a hiking/sports hat
  • Made with the environment in mind
  • Snug fit on the smaller sizes

Billabong Surf Bucket Hat – Probably joint first!


Best for: Our top all-round choice!

We know it’s a bit of a cheat to say it, but the Billabong Surf Bucket Hat is our second top-pick for 2021. It really only sits in second place because of the color scheme. We just reckon we look a little slicker in jet black than beige, but we’re no Coco Chanel. AMIRIGHT?

What we LOVE about the Billabong Surf Bucket Hat is that it’s crafted from bona fide boardshort fabric. You get the same stretch and anti-UV filters that cover the legs, only here it’s all sculpted into a thin-rimmed cap that offers protections around 360 degrees, from nose to neck. The strap is another star. You won’t be fiddling and fixing this from paddle out to session end. It’s a simple clip on with stretchy elastic in there. Easy peasy.

The brim itself has slight reinforcement. That helps it act a little like a baseball cap out in the water. So, you can bend it up for less-sunny periods and pull it down when the rays and beating down. If you like the beige, buy away – it’s a solid choice.

  • Made from boardshort fabric
  • Quick dry
  • Reinforced brim you can move up and down
  • Color scheme not to everyone’s taste
  • We can’t see an official UV rating

Dakine Surf Cap


Best for: Surfers who’ve not worn a hat before and want something easy and light

This simple but sweet surf cap from trusted brand Dakine is a good starting point for those who’ve not worn headgear in the water before. It’s built like a classic baseball cap. That keeps it light and non-intrusive. You should get used to it in a jiffy, and there’ll be minimal adjustments before it sits on the noggin’ like just another piece of gear.

There are a few features definitely worth pointing out here. The first is the 50+ SPF rating, which is a godsend if you’re paddling out at midday or anywhere where there’s strong sun. You’ve also got ventilated mesh coverings over the ears. They should make it easier to hear while you’re out in the water (the Dakine cap is a good option if you surf as part of a group and like to natter while you’re at it). We especially love the moveable brim, which you can turn upwards for more peripheral vision when you’re readjusting position.

  • Flippable brim
  • 50+ SPF rating
  • Easy to adjust
  • Only offers sun protection to the front
  • The brim will move sometimes when you don’t want it too!

FCS Essential Surf Bucket Hat


Best for: Serious surfers

Most seasoned surfers know that the FCS name means quality. Renowned for their range of groundbreaking fin technologies (people generally use nothing else but FCS on the underside), the company also churns out some darn fine surf accessories. This surf cap is one of em’. It makes it onto this list of the best surf hats for the coming year mainly thanks to its generous 360-degree brim and availability in multiple sizes.

Yep, with medium, large, and extra large offerings, you can hone this one down to get the perfect shape for your head. That’s really important if you’re planning on surfing rougher places, where the sets will throw you around and could easily dislodge a poorly fitted cap. The rounded brim is wide enough to shade the neck line and the chin, but not so big that it impairs your vision. It’s one of our favourite picks here and a very good all-rounder.

  • 360-degree shade from the brim
  • Easy buckle fastening
  • Multiple sizes on offer
  • Medium fits quite snug
  • Brim can sometimes impair vision when lay-flat paddling

Hurley Men’s Phantom Vagabond Elite Bucket Sun Hat


Best for: people who burn quickly and need more shade!

There’s no doubt about it – the Phantom Vagabond is one hell of a looker. Arguably the most stylish of the options here, we simply love its muted grey color scheme and understated brand logo right up front. Design wise, it’s a wide-rim option that provides some of the top shade coverage of all the best surf hats of the season.

The main downside is that it’s not actually an out-and-out surf hat per se. It’s intended as a general sun hat. That’s great news if you’re planning a surf trip that’s 50% lazing and topping up the tan, but not the ticket if you’re a pro who needs to lighten the load and have something that won’t intrude on your surfing. Nevertheless, the 99% polyester helps it dry quickly, the 1% spandex means it stretches well, and you get a 50 SPF rating to boot.

  • Looks really good
  • Drys fast
  • Very wide shade coverage
  • Can be a little heavy when wet
  • Wide brims sometimes droop

FCS Essential Surf Hat


Best for: Keeping it light

If you’re keen to keep things simple and sweet and don’t want to break the bank, the FCS Essential might just be the best surf hat for you. It checks all the boxes of a basic surf cap without becoming too heavy or fancy. You get a single peak of shade coverage and a nice elasticated strap to fix it on. That means it might not be the one for uber-long sessions where there’s a big sun arc (eg. Portugal), but it’s great for places where the light source is largely overhead (eg. Sri Lanka).

You also get the peace of mind that comes with buying a major brand. FCS is well-known in the industry and they’re known for quality accessories that last multiple seasons, not just one surf trip. To put it another way: It’s probably a hat for well past 2021 if you want it to be.

  • Extremely simple to use
  • So light!
  • Easy fixing
  • Can block off the ears
  • Small shade cover

A strong sunscreen is essential when surfing in sunny places. Check out our guide to the five best on the market right now to get what you’re after – AKA a block with zinc oxide that’s okay for both your skin and the ocean!

If you can think of any more suggestions to add to this list of the best surf hats going, we’d love to hear your ideas. Obviously, we can’t tryout every product there is to keep your head and neck out of the blazing sun. There aren’t just enough summer surf days to get through them all where we’re living :(!

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