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I started paddling in Maine in the early 90’s and I swam a lot. I kept paddling as I was a raft guide and had many people around to go with and encourage me and instruct. There were many opportunities and streams and rivers, oceans to get out.

At the time squirt boating was big and the kayaks started to slightly emulate the growing free style moves that the squirt boats made possible and all I did was surf, squirt and run rivers.

If you are reading this your probably looking to, have been or thinking of whitewater kayaking. If you are in cold water upside down a lot or freestyle or squirt than this is for you. If your right side up most of the time or know where this is headed then you already know.

I started having to go to see a Ear Nose Throat specialist about five years ago because my ears were always getting infected, swollen or angry in general. My friend Tom told me to start wearing ear plugs about ten years ago but I didn’t listen. Not Good. Dr. Lenz had kept pulling stuff out of my swollen ear canals for years as I tried to avoid surgery and tried to sit still as he worked. Not easy.

Medically known as “exostosis of the external auditory canal,” surfer’s ear is caused by repeated exposure to cold water and wind. Cooling of the ear canal stimulates bone growth that narrows the canal and blocks the eardrum. Swimmers ear, surfers ear. Boaters ear.

My left ear was 90% occluded and my right 65% and unfortunately buckled and after a talk with a friend in Boston at Mass Eye and Ear came across a surgeon whom I met and trusted. Dr. De Venecia.

I’m not pro surgery at all and tried to avoid this at all costs but felt like I had no other option. Last winter I traveled back and forth to Boston 5 times for pre and post surgical consults and so far things are much better.

Get some plugs and wear them every time is all I can say. Start now. Make some swimmers ear rinse and use it religiously. It helps. Surf Ears, Westtone Customs and rubber plugs with chap stick works well just be careful of popping them out too fast, if you have a great seal then you can damage your ear by pulling them out too fast. If you can’t hear on the river then learn to read lips. Like I said above if your upright all the time then this isn’t going to be a problem for you.

My recovery time was very fast and I feel lucky to have met the ENT Specialists that I did. Any way to avoid this condition is the best way. I recommend plugs and ear rinse every time. See you out there paddling!