Select Page

As anglers, we spend a lot of time out in the elements. It is important that our gear can handle the environment and that we are prepared for changing conditions. One condition that is almost always a constant is the exposure to the sun. Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation could potentially be the biggest danger we face.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Each year, more new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. than new cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. One American dies from skin cancer every hour. Unprotected exposure to UV radiation is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.” In addition to the risk of cancer, overexposure to UV radiation can also cause premature aging, cataracts, and suppress your immune system among other health issues.

UV radiation is broken down into three different types based on wavelength. The three are UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is the most prevalent of the three as the atmosphere has little effect and most of the this radiation reaches the Earth’s surface. UVB rays still reach the surface, but in a far less amount than UVA. UVC is almost entirely absorbed in the atmosphere so the harmful effects are minimal.

Roughly half of all daytime UV radiation takes place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Being on the water increases your exposure as some of the UV rays are reflected like a mirror off of the water’s surface. Even on cloudy days you can be at risk for overexposure so you should still take precautions.

So what can we do to help protect ourselves? It is easy, cover up while you are on the water. Your protection should come from two things, clothing and sunscreen. There is a wide assortment of UV protective clothing available today. Modern fabrics are lighter and more breathable to help keep you cool while providing a barrier to UV rays. The level of protection for clothing is classified by an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The UPF measures how much UV radiation is absorbed by the fabric. As an example, an article of clothing that is rated at UPF 50 allows 1/50th of the sun’s radiation through. This means that 98% of UV radiation, both UVA and UVB, is blocked.

Sunscreen should be used on all exposed skin to provide protection against UVB radiation. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of how much exposure a person can take before being burned. So, if it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen, an SPF 15 sunscreen would increase this by 15 times or 150 minutes. The main draw back to sunscreen is that it must be reapplied throughout the day. Other options anglers have over sunscreen to protect exposed skin are gloves, neck gaiters, or solar shirts that have thumb holes and a hood built in.

One last important item is a good quality pair of sunglasses. Look for glasses that block 99 to 100% of all UV light. Darker color lenses should be used in bright conditions. Be advised, the color of the lenses does not reflect their ability to block UV light. Wrap around style frames help provide extra protection as they keep light from coming in on the sides.

For additional resources regarding overexposure to the sun and UV indexes you can consult the Center for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So while out on the water, make sure you dress for success. Wear clothing that is suitable for the conditions and provides the maximum amount of protection.

Tight lines,
Robert Brown