Your guide to shopping shades ideal for water sports
Choosing the right pair of water sports sunglasses can be a struggle. You have to find a pair that fits your face in a style you want, while ensuring they make sense to wear while participating in the water sport(s) of your choice.
If you go surfing, for example, you shouldn’t worry about losing your specs while catching a big wave. Nor should you fear a rough tide shattering your lenses on a leisurely kayaking trip. That's why you'll need to consider lens coatings to protect your glasses and your eyes.
When you decide to go fly fishing, you will want the best sunglasses for fishing. You want to focus on your catch rather than catching a rogue fishing hook to the eye.
And, while parasailing, your sunglasses should help you enjoy the relaxing ride 500 feet in the air without having to worry about winds whipping away your shades or blowing debris in your eyes.
When enjoying any water sport, make sure your sunglasses can take a beating while providing you with the protection you need from the sun’s damaging rays and the intense reflection off the water.
There is no one pair of sunglasses that is best for every type of water sport, so look for shades that provide the sun protection, anti-glare advantages and durability for your specific needs on the water.
Let's start our checklist with a look at the importance of sun protection while you are surfing, fishing, water-skiing and more:
How important is UV protection?
Protecting your eyes from the sun should be a top priority when selecting sunglasses and even more so when on or near the water. That’s because surfaces like water can reflect up to 80% of the light that hits them. This glare can make it hard to see clearly and cause you to be more susceptible to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and its harmful UVA and UVB waves.
Without proper eye protection, you put yourself at higher risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, photokeratitis (also known as snow blindness) and other eye diseases that can, in a worst-case scenario, lead to permanent blindness.
Always look for sunglasses that provide UV 400-blocking protection. UV 400 provides nearly 100% protection from harmful ultraviolet light rays, ensuring light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, including UVA and UVB rays, are blocked. Sunglasses should indicate this amount of protection on their label.
SEE RELATED: Choosing the best sunglasses for an active lifestyle
How can I reduce glare?
Polarized sunglasses are highly recommended for use during water sports to prevent what is known as blinding glare. Blinding glare is caused by light reflecting off of smooth, shiny surfaces like water, which can cause potentially hazardous visual impairment.
Glare can cause eye squinting, fatigue and strain, resulting in headaches, not to mention glare can make it very difficult to see clearly.
Polarized sunglasses and goggles have an anti-reflective coating that blocks intense reflected light off of the water. This can help reduce glare and discomfort, while allowing you to see more clearly through the surface of the water, which is great for sports such as fishing and swimming.
Be advised, however: Not all polarized sunglasses offer adequate protection from harmful UV rays. Polarization and UV protection are not synonymous, so just make sure the polarized sunglasses your eyeing also have the proper UV coating.
DO YOU HAVE YOUR SUNGLASSES CHECKLIST? Shop for the best sunglasses for your preferred water sport at an optical shop near you or an online eyewear retailer.
Sunglasses accessories you should consider
For additional protection on the water, invest in wraparound sunglasses to shield your peripheral vision from harmful rays, glare and even wind that may dry out your eyes. Additionally, other accessories to consider are:
A head strap
Water is more likely to wash away your sunglasses than the wind is to blow them away. In either case, it’s a no-brainer that a head strap should accompany any sunglasses used for a water activity.
Sunglasses can break your nose if they get hit hard enough, which can happen when doing a lot of water sports, especially surfing. The lenses also can shatter.
Sunglasses specifically designed for water sports should have padded frames and should be shatter-proof. Look for a pair that distributes the force of impact across your face, which should be indicated on the sunglasses’ label.
There is a high probability your sunglasses will get drenched and your lenses will blur with water while you are doing almost any water sport. A hydrophobic coating added to sunglasses will help create surface tension on your lenses, which will repel the water and keep your vision clearer.
Sunglasses that have ventilation actually prevent your lenses from fogging up. Sunglasses or goggles get foggy because when the lenses go under water, they get cold. But your face stays hot. The more ventilated your sunglasses are, the less they will fog up.
SEE RELATED: Anti-fog for glasses
What are the best sunglasses for water sports?
Ready to check out some specific shades for your water sport enjoyment?
Sunglasses ideal for water sports come in a variety of fits, styles and, maybe most importantly, price points. A good pair of shatter-resistant, 100% UV-blocking sunglasses with polarized lenses can cost as little as $30 or as much as $500, depending on brand, materials, style and fit. Prescription sunglasses will also increase the cost.
Here are a few options that will provide optimal protection and coverage while on the water and won’t break the bank.
Oakley Split Shot
Oakley Split Shot sunglasses offer 100% UV protection. The frames and lenses also have polarized protection, and the tips of the arms are made so you can attach a strap and secure the sunglasses to your head. These are ideal if you don’t want to lose your new investment to that next killer wave.
The Smith Transfer offers QuickFit adjustable temples to ensure you always have a comfortable fit. The Transfer styles give you the option to go with ChromoPop lens technology or their Techlite polarized glass lenses. Both work well to cut out glare. The ChromaPop polarized lenses are oil and water resistant, while the Techlite lenses are more scratch resistant than regular polycarbonate lenses and lighter (and safer) than the average glass lens.
The Costa Fantail offers heavy-duty TR-90 nylon frames that are exceptionally impact resistant. These can work well for fishing, parasailing and even a leisurely canoe ride. The Fantail also includes scratch-resistant lenses and a patented ventilation system that lets air flow through to reduce the chances of losing them should you encounter a big wind gust.
Ray-Ban Liteforce Tech RB4179
Ray-Ban RB4179 shades are lightweight, durable and comfortable to wear. They are built from a semi-crystalline thermoplastic that Ray-Ban claims is used in aerospace, medical transplant equipment and automotive impact technology. The polycarbonate lenses include an oleophobic coating that repels water, dust and smudges.
Dragon Vantage LL H2O
The Dragon Vantage LL H20 features a sporty frame purpose-built for all types of action. These sunglasses will work for almost anything from water skiing to paddleboarding. Water- and dirt-repelling lens coatings limit smears and smudges to keep your view clear while swimming. The Dragon Vantage is also available as an H2O Floatable option or with premium Performance Polar lenses.
SeaSpecs Stealth Extreme Sports Floating Sunglasses
The SeaSpecs frame can work for almost any water sport. It is made of thermoplastic material, which makes it lightweight, impact resistant, durable and flexible. The frame floats in water in case you drop them or a wave sweeps them off your face. Plus, these sunglasses come with an easily adjustable elastic strap that ensures a secure and comfortable fit. The SeaSpecs’ polarized lenses are also impact resistant and offer UV 400 protection.
If you're an avid water sports enthusiast and you don’t currently have sunglasses that offer sun protection, anti-glare and other coatings, and durability, keep these tips in mind as you search for that perfect pair of shades.
MAKE A SPLASH WITH YOUR SUNGLASSES: Shop for the best sunglasses for your preferred water sport at an optical shop near you or an online eyewear retailer.
Page published in March 2020
Page updated in September 2021