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We’ve seen various collaborative affairs in product development from ION recently, first with Wingman on their high hook harness jacket and now with WIP on an all new wingfoil-specific helmet in the form of the Slash Core.
All foiling sports, as we know, have the inherent danger of being smacked by the foil or board, as well as some fairly heavy crashes from height in general, and particularly when we enter heavier wave, freestyle or even tow foil environments, things can go wrong quickly so protecting your head is, without a doubt, a sensible idea.
Being foolishly slack on the head protection front, I was intrigued to see what a water-specific helmet would feel like, and whether it would impede my performance. The first thing I noticed about the Slash was the weight, or lack thereof. It’s a shade over 400g and none of it absorbs water, so it doesn’t get any heavier when saturated. Popping it on, and there’s a rotary tightener similar to a snowboard boot BOA system which sits at the back of your head above your neck. This links to a band that runs all the way around your forehead in a circle, allows you to tighten in tiny increments, which click satisfyingly and let you lock the helmet in place with a comfortable level of security and tightness. There’s a fair amount of adjustability here, with my S/M size working with a 5cm range of head circumferences betwixt 51 and 56cm for a micro-skulled homo sapien like myself.
Once it’s locked on there’s no budging it, and if you want to, the adjuster will allow you to crank it so hard your brain may pop out. Internally, there’s some softer EVA which does a great job of padding between the harder impact resistant material and your scalp; comfort levels are high. It comes with removable ear pads, which have some small apertures to give you some decent awareness of your surroundings, and importantly, you can still hear the wind increase and decrease. These are going to be great for keeping you warm in the winter and avoiding the dreaded surfer’s ear. If like me you’re a sensitive soul and a little on the claustrophobic side, these popper off to allow you full high-definition stereo, and would shed a bit of heat in warmer climes.
Protection-wise, it’s a helmet designed with EPP to take serious hits and be reusable, and not needed to be swapped out if you do have an episode like some products. When you do take a big impact, there’s six vents over the top of your skull and two more at the back, so the water drains out without you being aware. The chinstrap has two points of adjustment, one where the two straps running down join, a lever can winch this apex up and down a smidgen to accommodate all calibers of ear. The final closure is a ratchet system with two larger red buttons to disengage it. It’s very tactile to locate and fit, so you won’t be stood fumbling ashore. It’s a true set-and-forget system – you’ll adjust it the first time and probably not need to again.
Probably the biggest accolade you can award a helmet is its lack of presence. Once it was installed on my dainty little cranium, mainly due to its feather weight and excellent fit, I completely forgot it was there. Particularly without the ear pads installed you barely notice it. If your levels of self-preservation necessitate one, this lightweight and full-featured helmet could be the most important purchase of your impact protection quiver, transcending all water sports stealthily.