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Old 06-21-2004   #1
allgood's Avatar
Denver, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 37
Opinion on Facemasks?

I am a beginning kayaker and I seem to be at a crossroads. I recently witnessed a friend of mine take a nasty bump to the head breaking his nose and leaving him with two black eyes. Since this incident I have been very tentative in the water. I have considered a facemask and I was wondering if anyone with some kayaking experience would be able to enlighten me on this topic. I have seen several people wearing these for protection, but I am sure they are tackling more difficult runs than someone like me who is tooling around the playparks. Any feedback is appreciated!

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Old 06-22-2004   #2
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 28
It's a pretty easy decision: if you like your face, get a face mask!

I once hit my helmet on a rock while window-shuttering and got a
NASTY bruise from the helmet digging into my cheek. If I hadn't had
a facemask...


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Old 06-22-2004   #3
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 163
I got a hockey helmet with a lower half cage and visor. The visor got all scratched up and don't use anymore but the cage is great. I replaced the hard foam with 1/2 mini-cell and it fits and works great. The cage is removable with 3 snaps too.

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Old 06-22-2004   #4
ski_kayak365's Avatar
Mountains on the river!!!, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 702

I wear glasses when i kayak, so using a facemask is great for me. there are disadvanages to it like snagging, but its a risk I take to keep me from loosing, breaking, or scratching my glasses. hitting a rock with a mask is far better than hitting a rock w/out.
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Old 06-22-2004   #5
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 6
An in between idea would be to get a helmet that has a hard visor. The visor offers some degree of face protection, but not as much as a facemask.
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Old 06-22-2004   #6
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 39
Face masks and neck injuries


A good friend and one of mine is an ER doc who has been paddling since the mid-1980s. Even though he's seen a lot of nasty boating injuries (primarily on others), he is still not a fan of face masks. If a face mask actually makes contact with something on the bottom (presumably the reason you'd want one), there is a reasonable chance that it can snag on whaterver it is contacting. Even a momentary snag can pull your head back with enough force to cause some nasty hyper-extension neck injuries. That being said, of course it can't be much fun to have this same experience without a face mask either.

Based on this info, I've decided that a good-fitting helmet without a face mask is the way to go for me. I have also always made a point of getting forward the moment that I flip and using that posture and good roll technique to stay protected.

Just my two cents.

Be safe and see you on the water!

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Old 06-22-2004   #7
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 38
Face Protection Options

I agree with the decision to use a face mask, although I don't use one currently. I expect to switch over to one after completing the "on camera" kayak segments of Savage Snow.
There seem to be limited good options for helmets that don't come down over the ears.
I have seen some people wearing an Itech hockey face cage that attaches at 2 points on top and seats against the chin with a padded chin cup. One wearer I spoke with liked it a lot. The chin contact was disconcerting to me, but if it is good for a 60 mile per hour heavy hockey puck...
Their website is painfully inefficient.
Here are some links for immediate gratification showing the Itechs and competing brands.

There is a photo of an interesting (no chin contact) cage used for kayak polo if you scroll down on this page.

This place in Ft. Collins says they sell kayak polo face masks, but I could not pull up any images.

The simple 2 bar cages that attach to ear coverage Pro-Tec helmets look like a good start if you are comfortable with a plastic helmet. I have been told that some rig those cages at an odd angle to attach to carbon fiber, earless helmets. I wonder how that works.
Here are some other products for Cascade ear protection helmets.
The chin bar option looks interesting to me.

And last but not least...
Here is another interesting item with a Darth Vader Theme. Check out the Stormtrooper model on this website.

As you can see, I have been accumulating data on this subject. I will definitely paddle with face protecton eventually. But for the film, it obscures identity too much. Unlike a kayaking movie, the narrative of Savage Snow requires a lot of closeups during the water scenes.

I haven't had any face damage yet in my short kayaking career, but an event described here caused me to think more seriously about face protection.

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From Absolute Beginner on Paddle Day 1 to Advanced Big Water Paddler.
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Old 06-22-2004   #8
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
This topic has been done before, and the only real disadvantage I ever heard (besides the image factor) was the "snag" problem Holebait describes. Someone put out a query for stories about personal or second hand experiences with a face mask getting snagged, and not one person posted a story about a face mask snag (there were however a number of stories about torn up faces). Actually the other issue I heard voiced before was interference with vision.

That said I don't wear one, but I suppose if I ever stepped up to some serious creeking I'd give it some serious thought.
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Old 06-22-2004   #9
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 38
Snagging a Face Cage

One more thing.
On the subject of face cages snagging on something...
Of course that is possible, but has anyone ever heard of it happening.

We know people smash their faces on rocks on a semi-regular basis.
Has anyone ever heard of someone snagging their face cage?
Of course, it could be a rare event because so few of us actually use face cages.
I wonder if the wireless designs might be less prone to snagging.

A few close call, imminent face impact experiences cause me to feel face protection is the way to go, at least on the more diffcult and boulder chute, creeky stuff I am getting into now.

Kayaking can be dangerous and unexpected things can happen no matter what we do, but I would be interested in hearing about other face impact and cage experiences that people have had.
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Old 06-22-2004   #10
Edwards, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 111
has anyone ever actually heard of an injury caused by a facemask snagging?? i think this reason for NOT wearing a mask is a bunch of bull.

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