An ever-present topic among sun-seekers and ocean-lovers
The sun, especially the subject of sun protection, has always been a delicate issue for me, if not an ever-present dilemma. With a family history of skin cancer I found myself especially at risk of developing skin cancer. At the same time, there is also this side of me that loves the sun, the sensation and smell of summer in the form of sun rays on the warm skin. Feeling like recharging my batteries lying in the sun and soaking up its warmth and energy.
This dilemma of the impending risk sun exposure brings along and the love for sunshine and being outside at the same time made me write my Master Thesis on the very topic of "Sun Protection Behavior and Skin Cancer Awareness Among Surfers". Being outside, highly exposed to solar radiation, surfers need to take special care of their skin health to prevent skin cancer and UV-related diseases.
Apart from appearance motives, perceived barriers play an important role within this context. Using sunscreen or putting on a wetsuit or rash guard before going surfing may be annoying for one or the other surfer, the greasy feeling on your skin or itchiness in your eyes, the time consuming procedure of getting into your protective clothing.
During the last summers when I was working in France I experienced the negligent and unreasonable behavior some people or surfers show when it comes to sun protection.
Who doesn't like a nice tan?
Unfortunately, beauty ideals like looking sun-kissed, bronzed and tanned are still shaping our society and therefore our attitude towards sun. Tanned is automatically seen as a healthy skin color. Pale is out. At least in our latitudes and Western culture.
"Tomorrow the sunburn will be gone and you'll have a tan."
Even if it is considered uncool or unsexy to wear a hat on the beach, in the best case even when surfing in the peak solar radiation time around noon. Fortunately, wide-brimmed traveller hats are supposed to be hip this season ;) Meanwhile, we also bought them for ourselves, besides the ear plugs it is now my second favorite surfing accessory.
So, what can you do to protect yourself while having fun surfing at the same time?
Here is a little sun protection checklist:
- apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going to the water (at least SPF 30)
- when tide and wave conditions allow it, avoid peak solar radiation from 10 am to 4 pm
- wear a wetsuit or lycra to protect your skin from sun exposure
- wear a hat when surfing during peak solar radiation from 10 am to 4 pm to protect your head and sensitive facial skin
- reapply sunscreen regularly
- observe your skin and changes in structure or color of your moles
- attend the preventive skin cancer screening at your dermatologist
Sun protection & sustainability
In the shelves of pharmacies and drug stores a huge variety of sunscreens and lotions can be found nowadays. Many of them contain harmful substances like parabens. Try to make sure to use sustainable, waterproof and coral reef-safe products with mineral UV filters. Personally, I always use SWOX SPF 50 sunscreen and the beige zinc for surfing. Check out SWOX Surfers´ Sun Protection for more information.
Stay safe in the sun!