Your eyes are one of the most important organs in your body—protect them like you’d protect your brain with a helmet, your skin with sunscreen, or your extremities with proper shoes or gloves. And paddling on any body of water, where the surface reflects light, it’s extra important to keep that amplified brightness at bay—and to see everything ahead, plus sometimes below you as well. From the glare bouncing off a lake to the spray of salty ocean foam, the right pair of sunglasses will enhance your vision and protect your eyes so you can paddle just the way you want: without a worry in the world.
Features To Look For
For on-water activities, there are a few standout features to factor:
Instead of watching your favorite shades sink into the abyss below, invest in a pair of floating frames that will bob on the surface. Materials matter here—the best floating sunglasses are typically constructed from plastics, composites, polycarbonate, or bamboo, which all naturally stay afloat and will keep your glasses on the surface of the water.
Lenses That Shed Water
Keep your lenses clear even while out on the water with a hydrophobic coating on the lenses. This weakens the surface tension on the lenses, which allows excess water to drain away while the leftover water becomes tiny droplets, easily brushed away. If your sunglasses don’t come with a hydrophobic coating, you can buy a spray to apply yourself.
Protecting against humidity and fogging that occurs in low temperatures (especially when wearing sunglasses with a paddling helmet that traps heat), anti-fog coatings keep moisture from accumulating on your lenses. If your glasses don’t come with an anti-fog coating, you can also purchase a spray to apply yourself.
Look for oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that’ll protect your lenses against saltwater crystals and fingerprints—two things you might not suspect that can scratch your lenses. After using sunglasses in or around saltwater, rinse them with fresh water before wiping the lenses down.
Lenses that are polarized contain a laminated filter that only allows vertically oriented light to pass through. This helps primarily with glare, as the filter blocks horizontally oriented light, like what might bounce off the water’s surface.
Visible Light Transmission (VLT)
The VLT percentage measures the amount of light that’s transmitted through a lens. Low VLTs offer a darker tint and are more suitable for sunny environments; higher VLTs offer a lighter tint and work best in overcast or low-light environments.
This metric identifies how well the lens material disperses light, or its clarity. The higher the number, the clearer the lens. The lower the abbe value, the more likelihood of unwanted optical distortions (blurriness).