Have you ever had an intense headache or migraine while surfing? Scanning for waves in the late-afternoon is the equivalent of staring directly into the sun. And a headache can be the least of your worries.
Water sunglasses are the single best investment I’ve made in surfing.
Ever since I started wearing these sunglasses into the water, it’s made a huge difference in many ways:
- It completely solved my headache problem.
- It’s so much more comfortable.
- I can actually see outside waves before the rest of the lineup.
Other than my boards, water sunglasses are the single best investment I’ve ever made in surfing.
I’ve been wearing sunglasses into the water since 2004 or so. Since then – I’ve seen maybe 2 other surfers wearing them.
People ask me about them nearly every time I get in the water – mostly questions like: How do you like them? Do they work well? How much are they? Where can I buy them?
I talk with surfers in their 50’s and 60’s. They’re suffering from cataracts, partial blindness, or need surgery.
This post presents the facts about the health risks, as well as pros and cons of the various surfing sunglasses I’ve personally tried, and the pair I recommend.
What is the health risk?
Surfers (who must regularly monitor the horizon for waves) are bombarded with UV rays over the course of their surfing career.
Even worse, these rays are compounded – because they reflect off the water. It’s like looking into two suns.
The EPA specifically warns against optical overexposure to UV rays. Research has shown that UV radiation increases the chances for cataracts. Other health risks unprotected surfers can potentially look forward to include pterygium (growths on the eyes), skin cancer around the eyes, and macular degeneration.
What about surfing sunglasses?
In response to this very real health risk, some surf companies began manufacturing sunglasses specifically for surfers.
In the beginning, the problem was that these products were so expensive as to be unaffordable to the general surfing public. (A shameful example of this is that of Oakley’s Polarized Water Jacket Sunglasses, which retailed for $250.)
However, in recent years an number of more affordable options have surfaced.
The best surfing sunglasses I’ve found:
I’ve tried many pairs of surfing sunglasses over the years, using both commercial models and do-it-yourself options.
Bottom line: The best pair I’ve personally tried and the ones I still use are Silverfish’s Road Trip Sunglasses.
These sunglasses are UVA/UVB protected and polarized (to reduce glare).
A big problem with surfing sunglasses is that they can fog up. Not with this model. They got around the fogging issue by creating an extended nose bridge – that functions to hold the glasses far enough away from the face in that it prevents fogging entirely.
They have a boxier style frame with straps in the back which can be removed.
For extra insurance, they come standard with a neck leash as well – but I found I’ve never needed to use it to keep my glasses. There have been a couple close calls over the years – I’ve come close to losing them in a couple big wipeouts, but I never have.
The only con? They don’t float.
Other commercial surfing sunglasses I’ve personally tried:
Do-it-yourself surf sunglasses
Do-it-yourself surf sunglasses:
Several companies manufacture various floating neoprene sunglass retainers, which attach to just about any pair of sunglasses. The idea is that when you lose your glasses, the retainer will float and it will be easy to locate, since the retainer “sticks out” of the water.
With do-it-yourself options, the glasses always fog up.
This solution does have some limitations. Specifically, it does not attach tightly to all kinds of glasses, and as such, you risk having your glasses slip out of the retainer with a hard enough dunk. A suitable workaround requires some simple sewing to tighten the “grip” of the retainer on your sunglasses.
The fogging issue is the biggest problem, as most standard sunglasses do not offer enough ventilation to prevent fogging.
Water beading & blur:
All sunglasses, regardless of type, will suffer from a slight “blur” effect created by the beading of water on the outside of the lenses.
This is a minor annoyance, similar to looking through a car windshield when it is barely sprinkling.
I have found it is actually very easy to accommodate and “look past” the water beads.
Other solutions to glasses fogging up:
As with a diving mask, if you spit on the inner portion of the lenses, fogging can be greatly reduced.
Rain X is a product that prevents fogging on car windshields. I’ve found that it can also reduce fogging with surf sunglasses.
If you want to try this, make sure you apply it exactly as the label says and don’t get any in your eyes. I’m not liable for anybody’s stupidity if they try this.
Who are you?
Just a guy who surfs. I’m not affiliated with any of the companies above.
I currently live and surf in Encinitas, California. I did the same in Santa Cruz for about 6 years.
Why are you doing this post?
Because this issue is important. Surfers should understand the issue, and take care of their eyes.
Have a great session, and I’ll see you in the water.