Why You Need Polarized Sunglasses for Kayaking

4-minute read

One of the most important gear items for kayakers, canoeists, paddle boarders and packrafters—that doesn’t often get a mention—is a good pair of polarized sunglasses.

man kayaking on a large lake wearing sunglasses, shoreline in the background

Sunglasses are an often-forgotten gear item for kayakers (photo courtesy of Dan Donovan)

By “good” we don’t mean the most expensive or stylish brand, but a pair that offers the right protection for your eyes and gives you the vision you want when you’re on the water.

Why Sunglasses are Important for Paddlers

Sunglasses are important for anyone who spends time outside, but especially for those—like kayakers, canoeists and paddle boarders—who are on water, snow and other highly-reflective surfaces.

Just like we opt to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, our eyes need protection, too. When we’re out paddling, we get a double-whammy of the sun’s rays—once from the sun itself and once from the sunlight’s reflection off the water back up to our face. So it’s doubly important we protect our eyes.

These UV rays are thought to contribute over time to eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. For the right protection from the sun and sun’s reflection, look for sunglasses that offer 95% UVA blocking and 99% UVB blocking.

Sunglasses also protect the eyes of paddlers by helping block wind, sand and other debris that could dry out or damage your eyes. And not only do good sunglasses protect your eyes, they also help protect the delicate skin around your eyes.

PRO TIP: Sport-type sunglasses that wrap around your eyes and face rather than sit in front of your eyes are great for paddlers. They offer even more protection.

The “Polarized” Difference

As long as sunglasses have the right levels of UV ray-blocking protection, polarized sunglasses aren’t healthier for your eyes—but they offer significant advantages for paddlers.

photo of a kayaker on the ocean, showing the difference between polarized and unpolarized sunglasses

Polarized lenses cut the haze and glare and intensify color, especially on sunny days

The biggest advantage is that the polarizing coating on the glasses is anti-reflective. Looking at the water through that polarized filter lets us see beyond the surface reflection and into the water itself. For that reason, polarized sunglasses are especially helpful for anglers. But all paddlers enjoy being able to see down into the world below the surface.

Polarized glasses also intensify colors, reduce haze and glare, and clarify details when we’re outdoors. This isn’t limited to paddling, of course, but driving, hiking, biking and other activities done outdoors, too.

Where to Buy Polarized Sunglasses

The possibilities are endless, and price varies widely. Remember, as long as the glasses block out the right amount of both UVA and UVB rays, you’re good to go. Then it’s a matter of your budget and preference.

Besides the well-known brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley, there are myriads of lesser-known and startup brands available (Just click on a couple polarized sunglass ads on any social media channel and you’ll be inundated with options!).

If you prefer prescription sunglasses, you can add a polarizing coating as an option.

Older Paddlers: Polarized Bifocal Sunglasses

For mid-age and older paddlers who need readers for maps and other close-up work, look for polarized bifocal sunglasses. They’re out there, too, although harder to find unless you go online.

Here’s one list of recommended bifocal sunglasses priced from $14 to $169. Again, make sure they offer the correct amount of UV protection and the rest is up to your budget and preference.

 woman kayaking with sunglasses

(Photo courtesy of Evan Williams)

Keep Your Sunglasses out of the Water

We’ve probably ALL lost a pair of sunglasses when out on the water! Not good, especially if you’ve invested some significant cash.

The simplest way to keep them with you and out of the water is with an eyewear “retainer” or strap made of neoprene, silicone or other waterproof material. Bonus points if the strap floats, and if it’s a bright color so it’s hard to lose.

A couple brands we recommend are Chums and Croakies.

If you don’t like a band around your head, opt for sunglasses that float! There are several brands of those available, too, although it could still be tricky to retrieve them when you’re paddling on current, in wind or in wavy conditions.

Happy paddling…with your polarized sunglasses!

(Sources: opticalmasters.com, eyeluxoptometry.com, allaboutvision.com)

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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