Want Half-A-Brain? Keep Calling Helmets Lame - Stab Mag

Live Now: How Surfers Get Paid — The Queens of Ascension


Want Half-A-Brain? Keep Calling Helmets Lame

Kai Lenny surfs hideous Jaws + Mavs + Waimea, joins esteemed list of surfers to donate brain cells to Pipeline.

Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 2 minutes

“If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t” – Emerson M. Pugh 

This past Hawaii season saw an unprecedented number of high-profile surfers sustaining serious head injuries at Pipe. There was Joao Chianca, Kai Lenny, Koa Rothman, Eimeo Czermak, and most recently 2023’s SSOTY Nathan Florence – who had nine staples in his face for his Florence shoot after slamming into the reef at OTW – You can read his analysis of why Pipe in particular seems to over-index on head injury cases here.

By extension that meant Dr. Jason Keifer of Brain Health Hawaii had a revolving door of pro surfers entering his clinic this season too. Jason completed his medical degree at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine and his psychiatry residency at the University of California San Diego. He has overseen the care of: Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright, Jack Robinson – to name only a few. 

Previously Jason told Stab, “Your brain is a cluster of 100 billion neurons with this very sophisticated interconnected architecture that processes and relays all the information you take in. And its consistency is like tofu inside of a bowl, it’s gelatinous, and if you’re travelling at speed and then suddenly stop, that inertial force of it hitting the bowl wall won’t cause it to rip apart but it will easily cause shearing. The common misconception within surfing is that because water is soft it’s not possible. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the water, timber or concrete, if you hit it with force you can have a concussion.”

Jason’s conservative estimate of the prevalence of concussion symptoms in surfers is about 30%. “The real figure (owing to stigma and poor understanding of symptoms) is probably higher though.”

Like all Life of Kai episodes, this one is action-packed and bookended by some hard-hitting substance. Indeed, the amount of stuff they manage to cram into a 30 minute segment is very impressive but makes writing titles hard – on which jumping off point are we to expand?

With Pipe crowds now exceeding 107 people on average days – the forecast for the next winter of brain injuries looks… worse than the one that just passed us by. 

You can read why Tom Carroll, Nate Fletcher, Parker Coffin, Koa Smith, Keala Kennelly, Owen Wright, Mikey C and others started wearing helmets here. Alternatively, you can access the Brain Injury Preparation And Prevention Guide here.

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