The WRSI Trident and a Composite of Helmets Past

Photo: Andrew Daigh


I love talking about gear: the upsides and downsides of functionality or craftsmanship, the styling. I even enjoy diving into issues of market share and brand positioning. Of course, all of this becomes more interesting when looking at historical examples and technology trajectories over the decades. But I’m digressing. When it comes down to it, at some point, everyone has to make that decision whether to buy or pass up a piece of gear. If that said piece of a gear is a helmet, there are a lot of specs to take into consideration and burliness isn’t the most important. Like a PFD, the most useful helmet is the one you actually want to wear, and a helmet you want to wear is one that will be comfortable all day long. Insert the WRSI Trident whitewater helmet. This is a helmet that should not be dismissed. Let me explain.

I’ve owned a lot of helmets over the years: the Romer, Wildwasser, Seda, Shred Ready, Grateful Heads, FnA, Predator, Sweet (Rocker and Strutter), and, of course, the ubiquitous Pro-Tec (thank god those days are over). I treasured each of them at various points in my 27 years of kayaking and rafting. At one point, I even dabbled in shaping and making my own fiberglass shell with a mini-cell foam liner. Of course, the many variations of glittery fades of color and flames are just fun and eternally stylish. Right?

I now wear the WRSI Trident helmet for every type of whitewater and in any temperature. I love it. But let me back up.

For simplicity, comfort, weight and durability I will always love my plastic Wildwasser helmet. It’s the low-profile helmet usually seen in the slalom crowd. Once adjusted, it rarely needed work done and it was the lightest and most comfortable right off the shelf. Safety rating? It was probably safe enough for most uses, but I needed something better once I started running class V.

Photo: Sam Swanson

Until now, my favorite helmet had been the Sweet Rocker Full Cut from 2010-ish. This is the gold-standard that I have since judged every other helmet by. I’ve owned four Rockers and they have all generally fit the same: warm, well padded, predictable. I like the looks and I’ve never had to fuss much with the outfitting/padding to make it fit right. But, there’s that price tag. Rockers are definitely the most expensive on the market.

Back in 2007, after learning about the origin of WRSI, I was hugely disappointed when I didn’t love the original Current Helmet. It was and still is revolutionary in safety design. The unique safety harness and multiple layers of varying densities of foam and plastic that absorb and dissipate impacts made it an instant success story. The helmet was designed and engineered by Gil Turner after the tragic loss of his son Lucas. Nick Turner, Lucas’s brother took the helmet and WRSI brand into households across the country.

My problem was I just couldn’t get the helmet to fit right. The outfitting options were far from a fix-all, the strap was finicky and I felt the helmet fit too high on my head, even when I did get the shape to fit right. In the years since then, WRSI has developed two versions of a full face, as well as a composite shell. Today, the newest composite helmet also features outfitting that has taken the helmet to the top of my list. This is the Trident.

I love this version. So, what changed?

First, the liner is different. The first layer next to the head is a quick draining fabric with a plush softness to it. The older WRSI liners tended to move around or fall out because the hook-and-loop attachment eventually failed. Now it’s a single piece of padding that snaps into place against the dense foam, inner layer. You can still customize the fit by adding shims underneath the liner, giving the Trident an advantage to competitors’ shims which are prone to falling out.

Second, I never really understood the continuous strap system in the original WRSI helmet. Really, I hadn’t taken the time to customize it to fit my head. Just too complicated. (I know, I know, this is pretty important.) With my Trident, I took the time to adjust this. I can’t emphasize the importance and pay-off for this little bit of initial adjustment. Once I got the strap to fit my head and around my ears, I finally felt the benefit of having one continuous strap that also snugs against the back of the head. As the force of the water pushes the helmet back, the interconnect system self-adjusts to hold the helmet firmly in place. It definitely beats the Sweet Rocker for staying in place during a beat-down.

Case in point: this spring, I was kayaking the Cache La Poudre. It was higher than the recommended high flows. I was playing follow the leader on all the lines, as it was my first trip down. The take-out rapid is one of the most difficult requiring more than eight precise moves to make in a row. At the first big ledge hole, I was a little off line and had to charge hard left to make the next hole, but the aggressive angle meant that I dropped in sideways and had a Maytag moment, before playing out the left corner. I was expecting my helmet to have shifted back or forward and assumed I would need to take a hand off my paddle to push it back into place. Instead, upon rolling up, the helmet was right where it started and I could paddle on and devote all my attention to working out a plan-b for the rest of the rapid.

Photo: Rob Elliott

Lastly, the small bill of the Trident is appropriately sized for most activities. I can wear just the helmet on bright sunny days and keep the harsh rays out of my eyes pretty well. Or, I can wear a mesh and foam trucker’s hat under the helmet for extra sun protection. But right out of the box, the bill beats most other helmets for sun protection while being small enough to not be an issue getting pushed around by current while window-shading—er—I mean “tricky wu-ing.”

For colder weather paddling, I now wear a skull cap under the helmet, which isn’t something I used to do with a Sweet Rocker. Sometimes I miss having the extra insulation and padding of the ear flaps on the Rocker, but I now prefer the streamlined feel that a helmet-plus-skull-cap offers. I can definitely hear better and access my ear plugs without taking my helmet on and off.

Bottom line, the Trident is the best all-around helmet for whitewater kayaking, canoeing and rafting. I’m looking forward to trying out the Current Pro for even more sun protection right out of the box.

Photo: Andrew Daigh