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Ear Wars: Ways to Combat ‘Surfer’s Ear’

surfers earThere’s nothing sweeter than throwing on the 5/4/3, booties, gloves and hood and jumping into the icy Atlantic in the heart of winter. While it’s at once stupid, hilarious and damn life-affirming, I’m never happier than when I trudge back up the beach with a cold swollen face, shaking hands and a chill throughout my body.

Only problem is that my head doesn’t share my affinity for lonely, cold-water peaks. It seems that after 20 some odd years of surfing year-round, my noggin’s had enough. The trouble kicked in with my first bout with exostoses-that awesome condition that causes your ears to develop bony growths in the canal to protect the ear drum. After a bit of hearing loss and constant infections, I finally opted for the surgery which, at the time, put me out of the water for a year. The procedure was scarier than the time I got caught inside at a famed reef break in West Oz.  Best part it is the condition is coming back.

Now I’m dealing with chronic sinusitis, which has lately been causing numbness in my face and pain throughout my head.  That stuff sucks so bad, I’m actually thinking about cutting back on my cold-water time—a tad.  

Below are a few things I’ve found that have slowed the progression of sinus/ear problems for me over the years.  They’re simple, require little money and, if employed early in your surf career, can help you avoid some medical decisions you really don’t want to have to make.

Beanies:  Besides making even John John Florence look bad ass, they keep your head and ears warm/dry. And that’s what it’s all about.  I wear them religiously whenever the temp dips below 55 degrees.

Ear Plugs:  I don’t jump in without ‘em. While not perfect, they keep out a decent amount of water and a whole lot of the cold. I live on Mack’s. 

Claritin-Day / Zyrtec-Night (Use as Directed and Consult your Physician):  Any time I feel a bit of surf-induced congestion, I take a Claritin-D 24 for the daytime and/or a Zyrtec at night. Both clear out your sinuses better than nasal irrigation and they’re nowhere near as nasty.

Alcohol/White Vinegar Mix: This 50/50 mixture is a god-send for getting water and crud out of your ears . Pour the mix into your ear canal, then immediately dump it out. Do it twice and bask in the knowledge that you’ve greatly reduced your chances for ear infections. 

Blow drying:  While a bit of a hassle, I make a point of blow drying my ear canals after every shower or instance they get wet. Getting rid of the moisture will cut down on infections and infections kill water time. Infections=Bad.

So don those bad-ass beanies, stick the plugs in and revel in your new alcohol/vinegar cologne. You’ll get more waves to perfect those fly-away air reverses you insist on doing and perhaps even land a chop hop or two. 

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