A day at the beach hitting the waves is an ingrained part of the Australian lifestyle.
Unfortunately, a higher UV ray level and an increased chance of skin cancer are also a part of living Down Under, so it’s essential to practice good sun safety during every surf trip.
Here are our 10 sun safety tips for surfers to allow you to get the most out of your next trip to the beach.
1. Apply SPF 50+ reef-safe sunscreen
It is the classic sun safety tip for a reason, but what’s the best sunscreen for surfers? Search for sunscreen brands that have a reef-friendly formula, are water resistant, and have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50+ (this information can be found on the sunscreen bottle). There are all-natural sun protection options made from products like coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax.
Apply an excellent water-resistant sunscreen about 30 minutes before hitting the waves to ensure it’s had time to absorb into your skin (except for zinc-based sunscreens which work immediately).
We recommend using natural sunscreens over chemical sunscreens, as the latter can irritate your skin and can also cause damage to the ocean. A great option for surfers is to use mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide, both of which create a physical barrier that reflects UV radiation. The bonus of a zinc sunscreen is that it works immediately, so you can dive into those waves straight away.
2. Don’t forget your lips!
A big mistake that a surprising number of people make is not applying sunscreen around their lips. Along with zinc-based sunscreens, lip balm will provide extra protection for your lips. Basal cell carcinoma can appear around the lips and is, unfortunately, often mistaken as a cold sore or chapped lips. If you have any sores or patches around your lips that just don’t seem to heal, it’s best to have them looked at by a professional.
3. Or your ears, nose and neck
Like the lips, the ears and neck are often forgotten or neglected when applying good sunscreen. These body parts take as much UVA and UVB rays as your face and, therefore, need protection.
4. Wear a rashie with UV protection
While the budgie smugglers and bikini may be iconic Aussie styles, they’re not great for skin protection. All that exposed skin is vulnerable to sun damage which can have some serious consequences in the long run. Wearing a rashie provides a layer of UV protection, which will help prevent skin cancer and nasty sunburns.
5. Tanning isn’t worth it
Whether lying in the sun after a great surfing session or on the beach while others are swimming, soaking in the sun’s rays to get a tan is a terrible idea. Repeatedly sun-damaged skin is far more likely to face complications down the line. We cannot emphasise enough that tanning is one of the worst things you can do for your skin, and it ramps up your chances of getting melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and other skin cancers.
6. Wear a surf hat
Out in the surf, your face and neck are incredibly exposed to the sun if you’re not wearing any protection. A sun hat is a perfect solution, as it gives you shade from the UV rays and protects your eyes from any glare. The great news is that, nowadays, finding a quality surf hat is easier than ever with them being readily available in most surf stores.
7. Pass on good habits to your children
Surfing is a great bonding activity for you and your kids, and one that often turns into a lifelong passion. Along with passing on a love for the outdoors, teaching them good sun protection techniques will help them develop habits that will ensure they live healthy and active, but safe, lifestyles.
8. Know your risks
We need to stress that everyone, no matter their skin colour or history, is vulnerable to UV rays and can develop skin cancer. However, certain demographics are statistically at higher risk of developing melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma. These include:
- People with fair skin, eyes and hair.
- Anyone who spends a long time in the sun (for example, people who work in construction or roadworks).
- People with a family history of skin cancer.
- Those with immune system deficiencies.
- Anyone who’s had skin cancer before.
9. Know your skin and be aware of any changes
Everyone, surfer or not, should put in 15 minutes every month to perform a self-check of their skin. Best done when you’re completely undressed, many people do this before having a shower or bath. What you’re looking for is any changes or unusual marks on your skin.
For moles, we recommend using the ABCDE method to look for any suspicious symptoms, which are:
A for Asymmetry in your moles.
B for Borders that are blurred, jagged or unclear.
C for Colour changes, multiple shades of colour or unusual colours.
D for Diameter over 6mm.
E for Evolving moles, meaning any change at all.
If you notice any of the above or just anything peculiar about a mole or your skin in general, it’s always best to play it safe. Most likely, you’ll get the peace of mind of knowing everything’s okay, but in some cases, it could save your life.
10. Have annual skin checks
While self-checks are great for keeping track of your skin health and noticing changes, only a professional skin check can determine exactly what’s going on with your skin. A skin check takes only 15 minutes and performing them yearly allows your doctor to keep track of your skin health and moles. When found early, skin cancer or suspect moles can be removed without major surgery and recovery rates are high.
Book your next skin check with SunDoctors today!
Finding skin cancer early reduces the severity of the treatment and greatly increases the chances of a successful recovery. Regular skin checks are an essential process in maintaining skin health and detecting any potential issues early. The professional, friendly team at SunDoctors are here to meet your skin check needs. So, if you're due for a skin check or want something to be looked at, book your next appointment with us today.