“You know, I saw him that morning. That surfer who died out at Rincon. He drove past me and I swear it was him,” Terry Simms, surfing jack of all trades, tells me on unseasonably cold Southern California afternoon. “It just breaks my heart because I’ve got something that can help, I just need to get it out there…”
One-time Coastie-turned-professional longboarder, coach, surf tour guide and the man who appeared in the very first advertisement for the revolutionary leash has crafted Simba, the world’s first surf-specific helmet, and every time he reads or hears of head injuries out in the lineup it boils his blood.
“Look, I know that surfers aren’t going to wear helmets every time they paddle out but it should at least be a consideration sometimes. Like, if you’re surfing over shallow reef, out in a crazy crowd… all kids should be wearing them.”
“What makes your helmet different?” I ask.
Simms lights up.
“Well, it’s based on a Roman gladiator design and it has no straight edges, nothing for the water to grab so when you break the surface of the water your head doesn’t get ripped around. The water just channels through and runs out the back. Again, I really just want for people to know this is here because with the crowds the way they are, people bailing their boards, running into each other… it’s just becoming more necessary.”
A year ago, I would have thought Simms was wonderfully eccentric but mad in his assessment. Now, with the wild influx, the VAL utopia, I think he may be right. I recall when I first started snowboarding, two and a half decades ago, zero people wore helmets.
Now, only kooks don’t.
Will the same happen in surfing?
Will the helmet become like the leash before it?