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Old 06-22-2004   #11
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 490
I wear a full face helmet with good coverage on the back of the head and ears, too. I'm a cross-over from climbing and before that mountainbiking and motorcycling. I've always worn helmets and I have broken at least one helmet in every sport I've participated in. I would be either dead, retarded, or toothless if I didn't always wear helmets.

Here's my two cents. Buy a a full face helmet. Colorado creeks and rivers are shallow and have a disproportionate amount of sharp blast rock. I think the "snag" argument is pretty groundless. Furthermore, once you get used to wearing a full face helmet you won't even notice it. It takes longer to put your noseplugs on or pick your nose, but that's it. It's also handy for brush bashing. Dental work is extremely expensive. Lastly, if you actually had the extremely shitty luck of getting your helmet snagged on an underwater tree branch your number was up anyway.

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Old 06-22-2004   #12
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
Head out to the following link for one person's reason for now wearing a face mask

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Old 06-22-2004   #13
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
The story posted by Cheyenne ilustrates why I use one. That guy was lucky he wasn't knocked out and drowned. In addition to saving teeth and preventing broken noses, I believe the facemask will cusion a blow to the face that could otherwise knock you out. I got a class II concusion faceplanting in the terrainpark while skiing. I'm sure a rock could do alot worse.

My facemask has also saved me from several paddleshaft whacks to the face. I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes a rock will grab the blade that is in the water, wrenching the shaft from my upper hand and the paddle will come back and whack me in the facemask. I'm sure I would have had a couple broken noses by now without it.
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Old 06-22-2004   #14
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 580
How strong are those fast-tex buckles on helmets? If you were to snag (which seems unlikely to impossible) I think there would be enough force to break the buckle. Then your problem would be to get out of the river without a helmet to protect your head.
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Old 06-22-2004   #15
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 4
It boils down to balancing risk. In this sport, you need to make the choice.

Every exposed loop on your gear is another opportunity to snag something if you find yourself in the wrong place. It could be a beaner, a shoulder strap of your pfd, or a facemask. Odds pretty slim they will, but if they do it could be a real bad day.

Keep informed, make your choices, paddle safe.

I have busted my nose. It taught me to always tuck! I still don't wear a facemask. If I did more creeking, I might choose to.
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Old 06-22-2004   #16
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 39
Not clear cut

In response to an earlier request for examples of "snagging" injuries, here is a blurb from the ER doc and paddler I referred to earlier. Hard to tell all of the factors at play here, but draw your own conclusions.

"I personally know one person who suffered a C-2 fracture on the forks of the Kern river, and have read two brief written reports of cervical
fracture/death presumably resulting from violent hyperextension injuries
with face-masks. One of these two reports also listed hypothermia as a
cause of death. Three cases does not sound like much, but given the
relative lack of statistical analysis and reporting in this sport, it
probably reflects a problem. This is especially relevant given the fact
that face-masks are utilized by a considerable minority of boaters. There
are also a plethora of anecdotal reports which may fall into the realm of
urban legend. Interestingly, helmets with lips do not seem to subject the
head and neck to the same mechanics as a face-mask, thus a single bar across the mid-face region, set somewhat close to the face, may provide a similar degree of forehead and mid-face protection, and negate the effect of the lower part of the cage, which hypothetically may be responsible for the extreme hyperextension/distraction injuries. We may never know.

Certainly, a facemask can provide protection against facial lacerations and dental trauma, two of the most common injuries in kayaking, however, when they are providing this coverage (protecting you), this is presumably when they are subjecting you to the risk of a hyperextension injury. If you think about the mechanics, a single face bar is likely to cause only a moderate hyperextension, whereas a low-setting bar below the chin will cause a extreme degree."
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Old 06-22-2004   #17
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
If you are wearing a hockey face mask you have nothing to worry about because those rip free very easy. Two lightweight screws in plastic at the top. I think it is a very bad idea to wear a helmet designed specifically for one sport and use it for another one. Especially a sport that sees so many players retire every year from a concusion. On the ice a concussion means you get carted off, on the river its much worse. Hockey helmets are not that substantial and I believe poorly suited for kayaking.
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Old 06-22-2004   #18
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 38
FNA Headgear X-Stream

In reference to my post which includes hockey face cage links...
The guys I saw using the hockey products were actually wearing kayak specific helmets.
They just attached the "chin cushion" hockey face cages to the helmets.
I do not have a strong opinion about the pros and cons of such a cage now.

I am becoming more interested in the FNA X-Stream helmet as I dig deeper into this subject today.

Here is a review of it on

Whitewater Kayaking Photo & Video Journal
From Absolute Beginner on Paddle Day 1 to Advanced Big Water Paddler.
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Old 06-22-2004   #19
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 163
Here's a link to the mask I use on my mini-celled Bauer hockey helmt. The plastic got all scratched up in the back of my truck so I don't use the visor anymore. Has a clear vision area, its held on be 3 snaps, that would tear away if snagged.
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Old 06-23-2004   #20
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 23
Less than a year ago a group of paddlers and I went thru a sieve and over some nasty drops by mistake. I have a full head protection helmet from sweets and a cascade facemask and there is no doubt it saved my life. After going thru the sieve and being unable to roll up I started going off drops. The first one pulled me to the back deck and from there I began to take deathly hits to my body and face. It was so bad that I ended up with two broken ribs, two broken bones in on shoulder, another broken bone in the other shoulder that caused the tendon to be torn, and injury to my neck. The grab loops on my Huck are bent in. I started wearing a helmet with a facemask two months earlier when I took a small hit to the forehead after my old helmet rolled back. I am not going to tell anybody to wear a facemask I just know that it saved my life. Dan Crain died on that trip. Was it because he didn’t have a facemask, I don’t know? All I really know is I have never been beat down that bad and Dan took no less of a beating. Two others in the group also went the way we went but they were facing backwards they fared the best. There is no true answer to your question paddle awhile and see what you like. You can try and look at as many statistics as you like, but lets be real. The more times you go upside down, the greater the chance you will hit your head or face. The question is how hard. I have hit both more times than I can count its just the last time was really frigen hard. Have fun and be safe so you can have fun another day that’s really what its all about.


Reflecting on our adventures allows us to keep the spirit of joy, happiness, hardships, honesty and gratitude alive.
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