If you surf, kitesurf or wing foil, paddle board, kayak, wakeboard, wakesurf, or waterski, chances are you’re exposed to nasty sun rays, salt water spraying, and sun glare for hours.
Most of us watersports addicts know that the combination of sun rays, salt water, and harsh wind in your face can dry out your eyes and lead to nasty eye sunburns.
Worse, the UV radiation from the sun over time damages the eye and can cause early cataracts as well as more serious retinal problems such as macular degeneration.
The glare from the water, and riding toward a low-hitting sun, make things even worse.
Wearing sunglasses for watersports reduces your eyes’ exposure to the UV rays and water splash. However, most sunglasses don’t work well for watersports, mainly due to:
- Wipeouts: your glasses may get ripped off your face or worse, break on your face on hard impact
- Fog: the second main concern, fog will quickly blur your vision and mess up your kiting or wakesurfing session
- Vision clarity: when you want to throw an off-the-lip, floater, or backside spin, you need to clearly see where you are relative to the wave, wake, rocks, etc.
Spoiler alert: I found all these things in the LIP Typhoon, the Surge, and the Flo – depending on the water sport I do and the conditions I do it in. Read on for the whole lowdown.
Which sunglasses for surfing?
The first thing we look for in surfing sunglasses is the ability to withstand impact and stick to your head across duck dives and wipeouts.
Surfers spend the biggest part of their sessions paddling across and under incoming waves.
When a wave is coming in and you dive under it, the sunglasses gets pressed on your face. This should not be painful or uncomfortable.
Likewise, it a closeout set breaks on you, the shades should stay on your face through the whitewater tumbling and shaking.
Which sunglasses for kitesurfing?
When kitesurfing, your face is out of the water most of the time – aside for occasional crashes. The biggest issue for sunglasses is water spray and fog.
While a confirmed rider who doesn’t do any hardcode freestyle could even ride with normal sunglasses, you likely want the freedom to do big tricks or ride waves. For this, a loss-proof retention system is essential.
Another key characteristic of good kitesurfing sunglasses is vision clarity in the sun as you need to be able to clearly see the waves, rocks, buoys, floating debris, other kites, etc.
Which sunglasses for wakeboarding / wakesurfing?
As you might expect, the first requirement for wakeboard and wakesurf sunglasses is impact strength. The glasses must be able to withstand high speed crashes and keep your face safe in such situations.
Like other watersports, wakeboarding sunglasses should be spray and fog resistant, and provide clear vision without depth issues so you can read the wake/wave when cutting across and doing flips or tail slides.
Sunglasses for paddleboarding
While flat water paddle boarding can be done with normal sunglasses, wave SUP (stand up paddle) involves frequent falls in the water and ongoing water spraying.
Unless you SUP in large waves (which is akin to surfing), the requirements for SUP sunglasses are generally not as demanding as for other watersports.
You need sunglasses with quality lenses that protect you from sun glare, won’t fog up, and either float on water or come with a good retention system.
Glasses with polarized lenses with UV 400, glare-free vision, and sufficient frame curvature are your best choice.
Sunglasses for kayaking
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When kayaking, you sit low on the water. If riding In seawater or rough whitewater, you get a lot of spraying – salt water being the hardest on your eyes.
The most important requirements for kayaking is UV 400 fog-free & splash-resistant glasses with hydrophobic coating to keep water off the lenses.
Obviously, if you kayak over the rapids you’ll also want a bulletproof retention system.
The best glasses I’ve found for water sports: LIP Typhoon
Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of sunglasses for my watersports. While some worked OK for quiet SUP or kitesurf sessions, they all had fogging and water spraying issues that quickly made them uncomfortable, altering my vision clarity and somewhat ruining my sessions.
Some were just uncomfortable, while others didn’t last long – either broke or fell off never to be found.
Then I found the LIP Typhoons and I haven’t looked back since. The best part is that I also use them for “rougher” watersports including ocean surfing and wakeboarding/wakesurfing.
Here’s the deal about these sunglasses:
The Typhoon frame is made from Grilamid TR90, a highly flexible and resistant Swiss-developed nylon thermoplastic.
This means during a heaving wipeout, the frame will flex without snapping, and will spread the force of the shock around the eye.
The frame is also padded with soft TPU rubber all around the frame which acts like a cushion and softens the impact. This is crucial when surfing in medium size waves, especially when duck diving and wiping out.
Besides frame quality, the lenses themselves play a crucial role in impact protection. The Typhoon comes with high-quality Zeiss lenses that use impact-resistant polycarbonate or polyamide material guaranteed not to shatter on impact.
In contrast, lenses made of mineral glass or CR-39 as found in many sunglasses will likely shatter into pieces under a hard shock.
The frame and lens materials and the high flex actually helped save the eye of a rider when his face hit a foil.
The rider came out with bruises and cuts around his eye but suffered no eye injury despite the foil or mast hitting his face very hard.
His LIP Typhoons weren’t even damaged by the shock and he continued to use them!
Loss-proof attachment system
These glasses feel very secure and really stick to my face due to the wrapping shape and wide rubber-padded arm tips that tuck behind my ears.
They typically won’t budge from my face even when slapped hard onto the water after a failed trick.
That said, the Typhoons (and the Surge) have a unique 2-stage leash and necklace mechanism. The first stage is an adjustable cord that you cinch at the back of your head to keep the sunglasses tight when riding in the water.
The second stage is a silicon necklace that goes around your neck and is attached to the leash part of the (first-stage) cord.
The small cord wraps around your head and is easily tightened using the convenient push lock. This in itself makes it hard for the shades to come off unless you get a big upward push from a wave or wake crash.
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But even if you get a bad wipeout and the glasses do get pulled off your face, they’ll just hang off the silicon necklace that sits around your neck.
This setup is pretty much a guarantee against losing the glasses, including in a wipeout at high speed or a big wave crashing in front of you.
The only downside is that it is a bit of hassle to put on (and take off) the setup initially. You need to put your head through the silicon necklace, then the head cord, positioning the lock behind your head. Pushing the lock button to tighten the cord without seeing it (it’s behind your head) can be a bit hard at first.
Fog and splash-free
Next on the requirements list is vision clarity and comfort, defogging, and splash resistance.
The LIP Typhoon (and its little brother the Surge) have a special patented venting system with small channels cut into the frame and rim as well as cutouts in the lenses themselves (top and bottom).
The small cutouts around the lenses result in water draining very well. It also results in effective defogging – when kiting or paddle boarding, I rarely need to pause and take off the sunglasses to clean up the lenses.
The typhoons have hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings on both the inner and outer lens surfaces, so the water really beads off the lenses when you’re wakeboarding, wakesurfing, surfing, or kayaking.
The Typhoon really have crystal clear vision and a wide peripheral range, which is crucial for watersports.
The premium European-made Zeiss lenses maximize contrast and filter out blue light. I’m able to see details on/in the water that I don’t see with the naked eye.
The injected polarization layer on the lenses eliminates the glare from water reflection. This further reduces strain on my eyes. This is particularly noticeable for those late afternoons sessions when the glare on the water is really high.
One caveat of polarized lenses is that in certain situations, the wave appears bigger and hollower than it actually is, which can be misleading when in a bottom turn getting ready to hit the lip, or when assessing the water surface before a kite boost.
With a bit of practice, though, I got used to the slight deformation and am now comfortable riding in most conditions wearing the shades.
Solid UV protection
The Typhoon have an 8-base wrap-around curvature that closely follows the contours of the face. This contributes to the excellent peripheral vision and minimal gaps for stray UV or water to get into your eyes.
The Typhoon are super stylish, I love their looks and keep getting cool comments in the water.
Affordable sunglasses for watersports: the LIP Surge
The Lip Surge sunglasses are a more affordable version of the Typhoon – they’re priced at $105 to $168 depending on the variant. The Surge are for sure my next best choice for watersports.
Most of the things I said earlier about the Typhoon also apply to the Surge. The only difference is, the Surge doesn’t come with the high-end Zeiss lenses or Zeiss treatment. hey use good quality VIVIDE high contrast lenses.
Other than that, the Surge has the same features as the Typhoon: same advanced frame material and curved shape, patented retention system, same fog vents and water/oil/scratch-resistant coatings. Details:
- 8-Base curvature lenses (wraps around your face for a nice and snug fit)
- Polarized or non polarized polycarbonate lenses
- Hydrophobic and Oleophobic coatings
- Anti-fog coating (specific variants)
- Anti-scratch hard coating
- Leash & silicone necklace
- EVA case + microfiber bag
Both the Typhoon and Surge come with an extensive 3 year warranty.
Although the Typhoon has noticeably superior vision clarity and probably better lens durability, I’ve put the Surge through the same type of surfing, wakesurfing, and kiteboarding sessions I did for the Typhoon. The results:
- Surfing: same comfort and secure feel when duck diving and getting beat up in large sets
- Kitesurfing: little or no fog nor annoying blinding spray when cruising, stays on my face in crashes and waves
- Wakeboarding: sprayed water beads off, glasses stay on most of the time or hang off the necklace after crashes
- Kayaking (surf or whitewater): water stays off, solid sun protection
In short, the Surge are simply an affordable alternative to the Typhoon. If you’re on a budget and don’t need Zeiss-quality vision, these are a very good no-nonsense choice for watersports – surely beats everything else out there.
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Important note: with both the Typhoon and Surge, if you wear them for salt water sports, make sure you wash them down afterward. If not, the salt may start eating away at the lens coatings, and you may scrape the lenses and hydrophobic coating when wiping the lenses with the microfiber bag.
This over time can impact the ability of the water to “bead” off the lenses and lead to “water spotting” on them.
Best surf sunglasses for very small days: LIP Flo
The LIP Flo watersports sunglasses don’t come equipped with a loss-proof retainer system like the Typhoon and the Surge. However, they float on water – they are unsinkable.
As discussed earlier, the Typhoons and Surge are high-performance sunglasses suitable for action watersports like surfing, kiteboarding, and wakeboarding. However, they do require high care and should generally not be used out of the water.
The Flo, on the other hand, are best-suited for smaller surf, light wind kitesurf, and cruising or fitness SUP.
The Flo can be a cool option for mellow surfing/longboarding as long as you don’t need to duck dive. For example if . there’s a channel with no breaking waves for paddling back out to the lineup.
Unlike the Typhoon and the Surge, the Flo are designed to be worn in and out of the water. So if you want versatile watersports sunglasses, they are worth considering.
Here’s a quick comparison table between the Flo and the Typhoon or Surge:
The Flo is built with the same lightweight, flexible, and durable frame material as the Typhoon and Surge. Their frame has a lower height, however, which may be an easier fit for some people.
The Flo frame doesn’t have the Typhoon/Surge’s vent system so they are not as well-suited for duck diving into waves and handling heavy water spraying from waves and wind when kitesurfing or wakeboarding.
That said, they are great for paddling around, longboarding or foil surfing fun mellow waves, and hanging out at the beach or at the mountain.
Also note the Flo have a a Zeiss lens option for the same high-quality vision as the Typhoons.
Polarization on the Flo is optional as well – a good choice if you spend a lot of time in the water when the sun is low with strong horizontal glare.
The floatable Flo watersports shades are priced from $81 to $207, the higher end being for polarized Zeiss lenses versions with specific frame and lens colors.
If you’re a watersports freak, you really need to protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. However, you also need sunglasses that are safe in crashes, that stick to your face, and that don’t get lost if they get ripped off.
If you kitesurf, wakeboard/surf, or kayak surf, you want shades that are splash and oil resistant and ideally (a rare thing) are fog free.
You need polarization for solid UV filtering, but you also want clear vision without deformation.
For me, the LIP typhoon and its affordable sibling the Surge offer all this.
They do require care, however, and are primarily meant to be used when practicing watersports, not otherwise.
Meanwhile, the LIP Flo, while not as high-performance, are cool floating sunglasses that work well for mellow water sport and can also be worn out of the water without issues.