Sometimes things don't make sense in life. Why do people fight? Why do people with different skin colours and religions have issues sharing space and assets. But more importantly, why don't surfers care about their vision in the water as much as on the land. From an early age we were taught as kids to put our sunnies on to protect our eyes. My mum used to say that our eyes are important and 'we only get one pair' and all that. It's part of the stereotype, surfers wear shades, look cool and there is the bonus of protecting our retina at the same time. This makes sense. So why don't we do it in the water, I thought?
My younger brother has recently been told he has to wear glasses for reading and working in his computer. The doc said that some of the damage that had been done was due to surfing and having his retina burnt whilst in the water. He alluded to the fact that the ball of burning gas in space that gives us heat and light (the sun) was more dangerous to our eyes as we sit in the water for two hours a day waiting for or surfing waves. It turns out that this is called Photokeratits or 'sunburned eye' and it quite a common and real phenomenon.
This all came as a bit of a shock to me that I had not considered this before. I have a good background in snowboarding and skiing and would not contemplate for a moment attempting these activities without polarized or condition appropriate lenses. I am not what I would call an 'common-sense-free' person so why had I not run this past my grey cells before? The fact that sunlight reflects off the water as it would reflect of snow to cause a 'double trouble' type scenario just did not occur until a member of my family is diagnosed with this and now has to wear glasses.
Fearing for my own eyesight which after 25 years of surfing may be like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, I set about finding solutions on the internet machine. What I came up with was a brand of sunglasses that were made for wearing in the water. SeaSpecs. Time to get a hold of a pair, see if they work and tell you guys all about it.
First a little history about Sea Specs. Based in Florida, the story is that a now middle aged man who likes to remain unnamed, founded SeaSpecs out of a need that he saw in the market. He wanted them to be affordable for everyone and he wanted them to be super functional. He was a surfer and that's what got us interested. I contacted a lovely lady called Wendy who works at Sea Specs and she sent me a pair to try.
I actually had serious reservations about wearing these sunglasses in the sea while surfing, I was not sure about how they would be duck diving, if they would hurt, if they would stay on or be really annoying. I had some very surprising results.
As is the way when you can't wait to try something, or you purchase a new surfboard, the ocean went flat (very rare where I live) and the wind got bad. The only place that was working for about a month was a sheltered right hand point but the exit from the water was a little tricky. I was not sure I wanted to either lose the glasses there or try and pick my way through the rocky channel if they did not work and obscured my vision. I decided the most sensible idea was to wait for a good day at a medium sized beachie. So I waited for about a month and finally in a crowded head high touristy spot I whipped out my SeaSpecs, zipped up my wettie and strode to the shore-line.
You know the bellend that wears the cap in the surf? The one that reckons he is not going to fall and for some reason does not loose it in the duck dives? Well that's exactly what I felt like paddling out. There were little sneers and smiles from people, I could read their minds,they where thinking "That twat has forgotten to take his glasses off" or "Look at that kook". I did not feel cool at all. Reminding myself that I was on a scientific mission for the good of everyone, I drove these petty thoughts to the back of my mind and sat there thinking about how comfortable the glasses actually were, how weird it felt to have something on my face while sitting out the back and I also noticed an odd sensation that I could not really place at the time.
It was on my first duck dive that it happened. I came up from popping through a small insider and the glasses immediately fogged up. I mean really, so I could not see anything, I had to put them on the top of my head and naturally went to duck dive the decent size set that had appeared out of nowhere. The glasses came straight off my head and were gone in a swirl of white water. Great, I thought. What was I going to tell Wendy? Luckily Wendy and the nice folks at SeaSpecs had thought of this and made the glasses float. That part of them worked really well. As soon as the white water cleared, I found my sunnies bobbing up and down right next to me, sweet. That was pretty impressive. I was also impressed at how comfortable and secure the glasses are when you have them on. When secured properly, I could not get them to come off when duck diving, what's more they were very comfortable.
The one, pretty big draw back was however that I could not see anything through them as they kept misting up. The water where I live is cold and the air temp is warm so I was not that surprised they steamed up, I presumed they had been designed with warm water (like Florida ) in mind and resigned myself with disappointment that they could not be a viable solution. I thought I would contact Wendy and let her know how I got on to see if she had a remedy as I had tried everything that I knew.
Wendy got back to me super quickly and told me that in some conditions, water temperature versus air temperature, and oftentimes, versus body temperature the glasses could fog up and that it was easy to remedy with some good old fashioned 'Googling' of the problem. To my surprise and immediate embarrassment, there are quite a few solutions. The fix that I found worked the best was a 2 in one shampoo believe it or not. Just rub the shampoo in with a cloth until the lens has a polished sheen. This creates a waterproof layer that the water vapour can not stick to. Boom, problem solved just like that.
Note : While this solution worked for me the official word from Seaspecs is that suggests using products that are intended to prevent fogging of polarized plastic.
Test time again but now with a little more idea of what to expect. Now that I knew losing the SeaSpecs was not going to be an issue I thought I would paddle out at my favourite right hander over rocks. As it is more of a locals wave and I knew far more people there it was amazing at the amount of questions I got. What did I have on my face? Did they work? Why did I have them on?
The answers are quite honestly that the fogging was no longer and issue, the glasses did not come off again, during any duck dive and after a while I kind of forgot I was wearing them. I did remember thinking that I could see more clearly with the polarized vision and was not squinting, my vision was less harsh and everything had more definition, the same as when you wear decent sunglasses out of the water. I liked them. I wondered why I had not thought of this before.
So fast forward two months and I have to report the only problem that I have is that I keep forgetting to put them on. I have the same problem with suncream. I get to the ocean, see the sea and get so pumped that I nearly smash my face in trying to get my wetsuit on fast enough and consequently forgetting all accessories legging it to quench my thirst for waves. The problem is me and my frothy nature.
I realise that some people are just not going to put some glasses on to go surfing, but as I was one of them and now I am not there is time for everyone to change. SeaSpecs do work and I use them when I remember to. They are not expensive and very difficult to lose in the line-up. They are easy to put on and adjust in the water with a one hand fastening and loosening strap.
If protecting your eyes in the water is something that you are into then these bad boys are worthy of the hype. Get in contact with Seaspecs and snag yourself some long life eyes.