Surfers spend an inordinate amount of time on the water fully exposed to the abrasive elements of the sun, salt, and sea. Hours, days, weeks, and years of exposure accumulate on the body like the inner rings of a tree denoting age. With the supercharged, harsh rays of the sun constantly bombarding the Earth’s surface, it’s only a matter of time before the elements get the better of the body in the form of a nice, skin searing sunburn. Like the regret of having sampled a hot sauce too caliente for ones taste buds, the burn lingers on in agonizing perpetuity. It seems as though there’s not enough Banana Boat Aloe Vera in the world to ease the incessant, sizzling pain. Determined never to endure yet another painful sunburn, turn their skin into a wrinkly “alligator suitcase”, or worse yet develop life sapping skin cancer; surfers turn to the only special sauce they know of worth marinating in – “sunblock”! Sunblock provides surfers a sliding scale of SPF protection from the sun’s harsh UVA & UVB rays which means more time in the water scoring waves and less time having your face burned off. It also comes in a variety of colors (see Zinka) and aromas such as Coppertone’s infamous cocoa butter, whose nostalgic smell might just lull a surfer back to a time of childhood innocence and wanderlust summers spent surfing all day without a care in the world.
Surfers these days are pretty savvy when it comes to ensuring their overall sun protection. You might even say that they have become a bit of lotion elitists on par with the discerning smugness of a wine connoisseur. Just as every seasoned surfer seems to have a strong opinion of their favorite shaper, clothing brand, surf wax, or surf video; so now, they too have their favorite brand of sunblock. Armed with a growing list of high end, boutiquey sunblock brands that make Coppertone’s baby want to cry and soil her drawers in shame, surfers now have a legitimate selection of core surf industry produced sunblocks to choose from like Headhunter, Bullfrog, Shiseido, Watermans, & Vertra. With so many options popping up in surf shops and online, it is not uncommon to hear surfers debating and constrapulating the effectiveness of the active ingredients in each product as if they themselves were qualified chemists tossing around words like “oxybenzone” this and 5-parts “titanium dioxide” that. It’s all a bit too much nonsense to bear really. On the other hand, if we could somehow parlay some of this knowledge of sunblock to our visiting tourists, then perhaps we could manage to avoid the unsightly “2 for 1” Red Lobster Special, coming to a beach near you next summer!!
When it comes to sunblock, the only requirement to make it work is to apply it and allow it time to soak in. Seems simple enough in theory, but alas, even the most mundane tasks are often botched like a saggy boob job. Seeking to hit the surf like a thoroughbred racehorse out of the gates in 2 seconds flat, surfers tend to get preoccupied with other more pressing issues like mindsurfing the incoming set waves as they frantically fumble to change in public. More often than not, surfers forget to apply sunblock altogether or pull a half-assed “Messy Marvin” slathering sunblock on their face and body with no rhyme or reason let alone giving it time to soak in. This leads to an oil slick of sunblock upon their first duckdive and relieves their skin of necessary protection like an early season rain cleanses the streets. Sometimes the more audacious surfers will take alternative approaches such as swabbing gobs of zinc oxide sunblock under their eyes much like a NFL wide receiver would or in eccentric patterns all over their face like a Zulu tribesman on the hunt. If a surfer is really scared of the sun (i.e. – pasty white) or just happens to be on week 2 of an Indo Boat Trip, one might find them sporting the “Casper the Ghost” look whereby their face is fully caked in zinc oxide, oft resembling a mixture of Bram Stoker’s Dracula meets Binky the Clown’s- “Intro, to Face Painting 101”. These various variations are laughable for sure, but in the end it’s up to every individual surfer to fend for their skin. What method may work for one skin type may not work for the next. Lube it, lather it, “borrow it” if you have to. Your skin will thank you in 30 years!