I have seen paddlers use bike helmets, motercycle helmets, and climbing helmets. I have not seen horse-riding helmetes or ski helmetes (I'm in the southeast).
I don't have as much of an aversion to climbing and motorcycle helmetes ebcause they do offer significant protection and they will likely withstand the constant exposure to water, where at least some bike helmets will not. The motorcycle helmet on the particular Class I run we were on was totally out of place. I can't imagine anyone wanting all that bulk in whitewater on a regular basis.
So, yes, my major issue is with new paddlers wearing bike helmets in Class II and Class III. I have seen it several times and it always makes me uncomfortable.
The comment about $30 brains was in jest, that's what the little smiley at the end is for. I'm sorry you didn't get that. I do recognize that for some people a $30 helmet is reasonable, but far too often people take strides forward into whitewater and continue to wear a helmet that was okay in easier water, but now it is no longer adequate. In short, a cheapie Pro-Tec for Class II is not going to offer the protection you need in Class IV.
The OP has the mentality of someone who want to avoid buying one of the essential pieces of gear for whitewater or maybe sea kayaking. I personally think that's a bad idea if he's planning on doing things that might require a good helmet.
Again, expensive doesn't equate to safety, but in general the better helments aren't cheap. Do your research and buy what makes sense for you -- and maybe be a little conservative by buying something that exceeds what you think you need right now.
I have done the research and have two damn good helmets from sales at NRS and Rock Creek. I paddle Class III and I understand the risks. The helmet can only do so much -- if you have good skills and tuck quickly, you will seldom need a helmet that can take a hard blow over and over. Even so, I have one anyway.
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