Sun Care


Basic Facts:

Protecting the skin from sun exposure and sun damage is a significant concern for all surfers and snowboarders, or at least it should be. As Andy Irons once said, “You don’t want to be 20 and look 40.” Not wanting to look old . wrinkles and sun spots . is a major motivation for applying sun block before each go-out, but truly the most important concern for applying sun block should be to prevent skin cancer.

It is not a pleasant experience to have major chunks of your cheek or ear cut out to remove the skin cancer, not to mention the time out of the water or off the mountain to heal from the skin cancer surgery. If the cancer goes undetected or untreated, it can also metastasize into other major organs and become fatal.

So whether motivated by vanity or good common sense, it should become an automatic part of the routine to apply a broad spectrum product with both UVA and UVB protection that is waterproof, and offers high protection (at least 30 SPF). This should be done each and every time before paddling out or hitting the slopes.

Dermatologists recommend applying a generous amount of sun block to the exposed body parts (face, neck, ears, hands, etc..) at least thirty minutes before going in the sun to allow the skin to absorb the product. If you are boarding or surfing all day, especially in the tropics, it is important to reapply the sun block two to three times throughout the day. In addition, if you are surfing in a warm water location, it is highly recommended that you wear a long sleeve rash guard for full upper body protection.

Also keep in mind that the sun’s ultra violet rays are strongest (most damaging) between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, so planning surf sessions before or after this window of the sun’s harmful rays will lessen the damaging effects of sun exposure. Note that even dawn patrollers should wear sun block, however, as damage can occur with minimal exposure to the sun.

Recommended Product:

The following sun block products have been created by surfers for surfers, and are particularly good because they are extremely waterproof and do not sting the eyes after contact with the water:

  • Doc Martin’s of Maui: www.docmartinsmaui.com
  • Headhunter Sun Care: www.headhuntersurf.com
  • Zinka Sunscreen: www.zinka.com

Water Conditions

A major concern for surfers, particularly for those of us living in more populated urban areas, is the contamination of the water quality as a result of “urban runoff.” Following a significant rainfall, large amounts of toxic waste from septic tanks, lawns, gutters, streets and hillsides run into the storm drain system, and dump directly out into the ocean; yes, right into the coast waters where we surf.

Extensive testing and water quality monitoring show major elevated bacterial levels following a rain storm (not to mention that nasty trash and debris), and public heath officials recommend staying out of the water for at least 72 hours following the rainy period.

Many surfers do not follow these guidelines as, unfortunately, surf conditions are often very good following a storm (sandbars, swell, offshore winds), and many will surf time and time again without feeling the ill effects of the poor water quality.

However, one bout of a bacterial infection and the very unpleasant symptoms that result from the infections including skin rashes, sinus infections, intestinal infections and more, which can last for weeks, will usually deter a surfer from paddling out immediately following a rain. Another concern for surfers following a significant rainfall is to avoid surfing at a river mouth spot where there is fresh fish and debris pouring in from the creek or river.

It is a common fact that sharks will congregate at a breeched river mouth to feed immediately following a downpour or storm, so it is recommended to avoid these breaks at such times. Finally, as mentioned in other parts of the site, it is always recommended that you monitor the break each time you are about to paddle out to determine the day’s conditions; the size of the waves, the direction and pull of the currents, rip tides, and any other hazardous elements that may present themselves.

Do not try to surf in waves beyond your ability. It is not safe for you or the other surfers in the line up. Push yourself but also know your limit. So, what happens if you do paddle out in conditions beyond your ability and experience a life-threatening hold down or a broken leash in monster surf? Well that, too, is a right of passage for almost every surfer. A major hold down will mess with your head for sure, but mental wellness is the key to getting your confidence and your big wave game back.

Important links:

  • www.surfrider.org
  • www.healthebay.org
  • www.lapublichealth.org
  • www.sbprojectcleanwater.org
  • www.ventura.org/envhealth/programs/ocean/