Surf Sunscreen 101

Water Sports and Sun Protection

This Article is written to introduce ways to protect surfers from the burning sun. Surfing is one of those sports – where sun exposure to the skin is exceptionally severe – so a great precaution must be taken to protect our largest organ – the skin.

 Sand and Water reflect UV rays and increase exposure.

A cloudy summer day can mislead people thinking that the sun is not damaging their skin and might even drop the idea of applying sunscreen. The fact is that UV rays penetrate easily through the clouds. Also through your polyester clothing – so it’s better to be safe and sorry. I have listed a few products that not only protect your skin but also smell good.

How To Protect Yourself From The Sun When Surfing?

UV-Resistant T-Shirt with an SPF50+ Protection

There are plenty of products to choose from when you are into water sports. You can protect your skin with the following:

  • UV-resistant clothing
  • Lotion on your skin
  • Lip-balm for the lips
  • Zinc for your face
  • Long Hair for your head and neck

What is the UV Index Scale?

As you check the weather forecast on your phone – scrolling down on the weather application allows you to check the UV index on a current day. Generally, UV rays are strongest at midday, but still, have a damaging effect before and after that.

0-2 Low

A low danger for the average person. Sunglasses are recommended, but being in the water can double the exposure.

3-5 Moderate

Try to avoid being in the sun at midday. SPF 30+ Recommended.

6-7 High

Try to avoid sunlight from 10 is to 4 pm. SPF 30+ Sunscreen Recommended. As being on the water reflects the UV, the intensity of the sun exposure to your skin is rather high.

8-10 Very High

Time to avoid direct sunlight 10am-4pm. Wear sunglasses and a hat when out of the surf. SPF 30 – 50+ Recommended. Try not to go in the water to save your skin, lips, and eyes.

11+ Severe

Time to avoid direct sunlight 10am-4pm. SPF 50+ Recommended. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the UV radiation. Not a bright idea to go surfing.

The Shadow Rule:

Great way to check the UV is by looking at your shadow. On the morning and evenings, your shadow is likely to be large and tall – which means the UV index is smaller. At a daytime – when the sun hits its peak or is on its zenith – your shadow is likely to be smaller than you – which means that the UV radiation is quite intense.

What is the SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. On Water Sports, an SPF30+ for your lips and skin is a must! Sunscreen is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer.


To get the maximum protection from the sun – It is advisable to apply the sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun. Sunny or cloudy – Always better to be safe than sorry.

Face and Head

Clear 50+ SPF Zinc for Face and sensitive areas

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Best way to protect your Face is using the Zinc. Zinc generally leaves a physical “mask” on your face and protects your face and skin most efficiently. Although this Zinc Oxide by Sun Bum comes in a clear form, most other Zinc’s leave an intense hue on your face. Zinc usually comes in all sorts of colors you could ever imagine.

Do not forget to cover the back of your ears, eyelids and everywhere else around your head. Trust me – you’d better want to look like a ghost under the zinc than getting sunburnt. Another thing to remember with the face zinc is not to rub your face while surfing, especially after duck diving. Generally, the zinc is harmless, but it is easy to rub off the protective layers without noticing it.

Long Hair is a great way to protect your head and neck. Probably the reason back in the day why surfers grew their hair long.


SPF+30 Lip Balm

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Lips are also susceptible to the sun – so an SPF30+ lip balm is warmly recommended.


Eye-Drops For Extra Moisturizing

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Saltwater dries your eyes, and the sun gives an extra funk to make your session sometimes a challenge to compete with. One way to keep your eyes hydrated is to use moisturizing eye-drops after and before surfing. Moisturizing eye-drops are available in most pharmacies and supermarkets.

Another way is to get a pair of surf sunglasses.


Using a wetsuit or a rashguard, t-shirt with a UV-protection is one way to protect your skin. Another way is to use proper Sunscreen on your body.

Rashguard – Suitable for super warm waters. A rashguard not only protects you from the chest rash but also the sun and the UV.

T-shirt – Surfing fashion at its best, many different t-shirts have a tremendous SPF50+ protection factor on t-shirts

Check out the SPF50+ Protection T-Shirt on AMAZON

UV-Lotion Sunscreen – Great for arms,  legs, necks and the body area. Why not the face? Although nowadays most sunscreens do not contain alcohol, a creamy matter is not as long-lasting on the face. Essential sunscreens are available on spray-on cans or tubes.

After surf

Only Aftersun will help on a situation like this
Lack of Face Sunscreen

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After your skin has soaked in the saltwater and penetrated by the sun  – the best way you can do is to take a shower and apply aftersun lotion on red or burnt spots on your skin. Moisturizers like Aloe vera or YYY will help your skin to stay hydrated and moisturized.

What Causes And How To Avoid The Eye-Sting On Water Sports?

  • Constant duck-diving through the whitewater waves
  • Alcohol-contained sunscreen on your face or arms (after application)

Rinse your hands right after applying the sunscreen to your body to minimize the chance of getting the alcohol-contained cream in your eyes. You could also use moisturizing eye-drops after and before going to the water.

There’s nothing against the whitewater sting, you could dive deeper or open your eyes later, but don’t forget about the other surfers around you!

Related Articles:

Benefits of surfing
Essential Surfing Accessories

Have fun and take care of yourself!