It's been a long time that I've had a poll regarding Sandboarding helmets on the right hand side of the page so I thought I'd take another look at the topic and look at the results while I'm here. As of 8th February 2020, the question was: "Sandboarders, do you own a helmet that you use regularly?" and with 9 votes in total, 7 respondents (78%) said "No" whereas 2 respondents (22%) said "Yes" and that doesn't surprise me because I'm forever seeing posts on Instagram of someone doing a run in Chile or wherever without any headgear; to which part of me thinks that it preserves the image and having a helmet would add accessories where space may be limited but at the same time, I also develop a degree of concern for these people who are involved for their safety.
So today I'll ask if helmets are worth the hassle for Sandboarding; the first topic we'll go to is regarding legality.
To quote an older blog post: "In November 2016, the wearing of helmets was made mandatory in all InterSands Sandboarding events." It's true that helmets are compulsory in some if not the majority of sports; but if we're talking about Sandboarding specifically then you might think that helmets are an extra designed for safety because all the stock photos you see of people on dunes, then the reality is different.
I couldn't find a single law regarding the mandatory wearing of a Sandboarding helmet; however, laws are different from policies and they are inconsistent amongst countries, and resorts. Intersands events require helmets whereas Sand Master Park do not and they are "rarely worn". But if we turn to Snowboarding & Skiing, a helmet mandate almost became a law in California in 2010 with the passage of Senate Bill 880. .
There are more likely to be rules that are there for the safety of minors; "for instance, in Italy children under the age of 14 must wear a ski helmet. If you’re caught without a helmet you will be fined." .
But for our winter equivalent, there exists only one place where helmets must be worn, Nova Scotia in Canada is the only jurisdiction in the world that requires that helmets be worn while skiing, failure to comply will result in a hefty fine. .
So considering that we won't necessarily be in a nanny state, it brings us to our next topic: safety. This one is self-explanatory:
So if snowboarding and skiing usually require helmets either by a law or a resort policy, why not Sandboarding? Well according to Doctor Dune himself on a Fox News article back in 2015: "The sand is very soft, so helmets aren’t necessary" . It's true that sand is very loose and if you fell head first onto a sand dune, you'll be much better off than if it was a snow capped mountain; but if we wanted to compare the number of deaths, it's not hard to see that there are more Snowboarding & Skiing deaths in 1 year than there are Sandboarding deaths in 10 years.
In 2018, findings by Nicolas Bailly, PhD concluded in his publication on the: "Effect of Helmet Use on Traumatic Brain Injuries and Other Head Injuries in Alpine Sport" the following: "This study confirms the effectiveness of helmets in protecting users from head injuries but questions their effects on TBI, especially concussion." .
TBI in case you're unaware, means Traumatic Brain Injury; in this research, the author highlights that helmets significantly reduce the chance of sustaining a head injury but has questionable effects when the injury involved a concussion or traumatic brain injury.
And finally, there's the topic of fashion: It's a stereotypical sight to see people snowboarding and skiing with helmets on; however, for sandboarding it looks as if the higher a dune you're on, the more likely you are to wear a helmet due to the unfamiliarity of the dune. For example, back in 2019 I trained at the Dune of Pilat in France; the first few times I would have worn my helmet just in case I hit a bump I didn't see or I gained more speed than predicted; but a few runs in (and because it was still 30 degrees centigrade in the evening), I was comfortable taking the helmet off.
Speaking of weather, Sandboarding in some situations would take place in a desert, therefore a lot of sandboarders just ditch the helmet because of the intense heat.
Ultimately, if your concern is safety or because you're a law (or in most cases, policy) abiding citizen; I'd put the helmet on. If you're in a particularly hot environment or if you consider yourself to be a professional and you know what you're doing, I'd ditch the helmet.
If it's my first time on a dune, even though I'm more likely to have an injury on snow than sand, I'd try the helmet for the first few runs just in case and if it's a hot day, I'd leave the helmet at home altogether.