What Measures Should I Take To Prevent Sunburn While Paddling?



If you’re planning a day of paddling under the sun, protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is crucial. Sunburn can not only ruin the experience, but also pose serious health risks. So, what steps should you take to ensure you stay sunburn-free while paddling? From applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing to seeking shade and staying hydrated, this article will provide you with essential tips and tricks to enjoy your paddling adventures safely under the sun.

What Measures Should I Take To Prevent Sunburn While Paddling?

Choosing the right clothing and gear

Wear long-sleeved shirts

When it comes to protecting your skin from harmful UV rays while paddling, one of the simplest and most effective measures you can take is to wear long-sleeved shirts. Long sleeves provide an additional barrier between your skin and the sun, reducing the risk of sunburn. Look for shirts made of lightweight and breathable fabrics to ensure comfort during your paddling sessions.

Opt for breathable and lightweight fabrics

In addition to long sleeves, choosing clothing made of breathable and lightweight fabrics is crucial for staying comfortable and cool while out on the water. Fabrics such as nylon, polyester, and spandex are excellent choices as they allow air to circulate, keeping you dry and preventing overheating. These fabrics also wick away sweat, helping you stay comfortable even during intense paddling sessions.

Consider wearing a hat with a wide brim

To provide additional protection for your face and neck, it’s a good idea to wear a hat with a wide brim. A hat with a brim of at least three inches will help shield your face, neck, and ears from the sun’s harmful rays. Look for hats made of breathable materials and consider opting for a hat with a chin strap to ensure it stays securely on your head, even in windy conditions.

Wear sunglasses with UV protection

Your eyes are just as susceptible to sun damage as your skin, so investing in a pair of sunglasses with UV protection is essential. Look for sunglasses that block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays to ensure your eyes are adequately shielded from harmful radiation. Polarized sunglasses are an excellent choice for paddling as they reduce glare from the water, allowing for improved visibility.

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Use a water-resistant sunscreen

No matter how well you protect your skin with clothing and accessories, it’s still essential to use sunscreen. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, ideally 30 or higher. Water-resistant sunscreen is a must for paddlers, as it will provide protection even when you’re splashed or immersed in water. Apply the sunscreen liberally and make sure to cover all exposed areas, including your face, ears, and the back of your neck.

Timing your paddling sessions wisely

Avoid peak sun hours

To minimize your risk of sunburn, it’s crucial to avoid paddling during the peak sun hours, typically between 10 am and 4 pm. During these hours, the sun’s rays are the strongest, and the risk of sunburn is significantly higher. Instead, try planning your paddling sessions for the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense. Not only will this reduce your risk of sunburn, but you’ll also likely experience cooler temperatures and fewer crowds on the water.

Take breaks in shaded areas

Even if you carefully time your paddling sessions, it’s important to remember that prolonged exposure to the sun can still lead to sunburn. To minimize this risk, take regular breaks in shaded areas. Look for trees, cliffs, or other natural sources of shade along your paddling route. Use these areas as opportunities to rest, rehydrate, and give your skin a break from direct sunlight. Taking frequent breaks in shaded areas can make a significant difference in preventing sunburn and heat-related illnesses.

What Measures Should I Take To Prevent Sunburn While Paddling?

Finding shade on the water

Look for natural sources of shade

When paddling on open water, such as lakes or rivers, finding shade can be a challenge. However, it’s not impossible. Look for natural sources of shade, such as overhanging trees, rock formations, or even bridges. Take advantage of these shaded areas to rest, enjoy the scenery, and protect your skin from the sun’s rays. Just be mindful of any potential hazards or obstacles that may be present in these shaded spots.

Use an umbrella or sunshade

If you’re looking for a more portable solution to create your shade on the water, consider bringing along an umbrella or sunshade. There are specially designed umbrellas and sunshades specifically for outdoor activities like paddling. These can be easily attached to your kayak or canoe, providing you with immediate shade whenever needed. Just make sure to secure it properly to prevent any accidents or loss of equipment in the water.

Applying sunscreen correctly

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF

Selecting the right sunscreen is crucial for protecting your skin from sunburn while paddling. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, choose a sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 or higher. This will provide adequate protection for extended periods of sun exposure.

Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before paddling

To ensure optimal protection, it’s important to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you start paddling. This allows the sunscreen to fully absorb into your skin and start providing the intended protection. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen, making sure to cover all exposed areas of your body, paying extra attention to areas that are often missed, such as the back of your neck, ears, and tops of your feet.

Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours

Sunscreen is not a one-time application. To maintain its effectiveness, it’s necessary to reapply sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you’re sweating heavily or spending a lot of time in the water. Even if a sunscreen claims to be water-resistant, it can still lose its effectiveness over time. Always carry extra sunscreen with you and make reapplication a regular part of your paddling routine.

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Don’t forget to cover commonly missed areas

When applying sunscreen, it’s easy to overlook certain areas that are prone to sunburn. Don’t forget to cover commonly missed areas like the tops of your feet, the back of your hands, the back of your neck, and your ears. These areas are often exposed to direct sunlight during paddling and can easily become burnt if not adequately protected.

Consider using lip balm with SPF

While focusing on protecting your skin, it’s essential not to forget about your lips. Lips are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and can become dry and chapped when exposed to prolonged sun exposure. To avoid this, consider using a lip balm with SPF. Look for a lip balm that provides broad-spectrum protection and has a high SPF. Apply lip balm generously and reapply as needed throughout your paddling session.

What Measures Should I Take To Prevent Sunburn While Paddling?

Protecting your eyes and face

Wear polarized sunglasses

Protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays is equally important as protecting your skin. Invest in a pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses, as they not only provide UV protection but also reduce glare from the water. This allows for improved visibility while paddling, ensuring you can see any potential obstacles or hazards clearly. Make sure your sunglasses fit well and have a wrap-around design to provide maximum coverage for your eyes.

Apply sunscreen to your face and neck

Your face and neck are often exposed to direct sunlight during paddling, making them vulnerable to sunburn. Apply sunscreen generously to your face and neck, making sure to cover every part, including your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. Take extra care around the delicate skin around your eyes and lips. Consider using a sunscreen specially formulated for the face, as it tends to be less greasy and won’t irritate your eyes.

Use a face mask or neck gaiter

Another way to protect your face and neck from the sun’s rays is by wearing a face mask or neck gaiter. These accessories not only provide additional sun protection but also help to keep you cool and prevent windburn. Look for options made of lightweight and breathable materials that offer UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) for maximum sun protection. Choose a design that is comfortable to wear and won’t interfere with your paddling movements.

Staying hydrated

Bring enough water

Staying hydrated is essential while paddling, especially in sunny and hot conditions. Make sure to bring enough water with you to keep yourself hydrated throughout your paddling session. Aim to drink at least 8 ounces of water every 30 minutes to replenish fluids lost through sweating. Investing in a hydration system, such as a hydration bladder or water bottle with a straw, can make it easier to drink water while on the water.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine

While it may be tempting to enjoy a cold beer or a cup of coffee while paddling, it’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both alcohol and caffeine can increase dehydration and impair your judgment and coordination, making paddling more dangerous. Stick to water or electrolyte-rich drinks to keep yourself properly hydrated and to maintain optimal physical and mental performance while on the water.

Optimizing your kayak setup

Position your seat strategically

To reduce direct sun exposure while paddling, position your kayak seat strategically. Optimize the placement of your seat to provide some shade for your upper body, such as your shoulders and torso. Experiment with different seat adjustments until you find a position that gives you the maximum shade without sacrificing comfort or paddling efficiency. Keep in mind that your seat position may vary depending on the design and features of your kayak.

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Install a kayak sun shade or canopy

For additional protection from the sun’s rays, consider installing a kayak sun shade or canopy. These accessories can be attached to your kayak and provide a larger shaded area, covering a significant portion of your body. Look for a sun shade or canopy that is lightweight, easy to install and remove, and adjustable to fit different types of kayaks. This can be a game-changer for long paddling trips or in particularly sunny and hot conditions.

Using additional sun protection

Consider using a rash guard or wetsuit

If you’re looking for extra sun protection, particularly for your arms and legs, consider wearing a rash guard or wetsuit while paddling. Rash guards are typically made of lightweight and quick-drying materials that offer UPF protection, shielding your skin from the sun. Wetsuits are also a great option as they provide full-body coverage and help regulate body temperature in both cold and warm water conditions.

Use a sunscreen stick for easy application on sensitive areas

Applying sunscreen to sensitive areas, such as your nose, ears, and lips, can be a bit tricky. To make the process easier, consider using a sunscreen stick. These sticks are compact, easy to apply, and allow for precise application on small and sensitive areas. Look for a sunscreen stick with high SPF and broad-spectrum protection to ensure maximum coverage.

Apply aloe vera or after-sun lotion to soothe sunburns

Despite taking all the necessary precautions, sunburn can still happen. If you find yourself with a sunburn after a paddling session, it’s essential to take immediate action to soothe your skin. Apply aloe vera gel or after-sun lotion to the affected areas to provide relief and promote healing. These products can help reduce inflammation, hydrate your skin, and prevent peeling. Remember to drink plenty of water and avoid further sun exposure until your skin has fully healed.

Being aware of reflective surfaces

Take extra precautions on the water’s surface

It’s important to be aware of reflective surfaces, especially when paddling on open water. The sun’s rays can reflect off the water’s surface, intensifying their effects. To protect yourself from this additional exposure, take extra precautions. Wear sunglasses with polarized lenses to reduce glare, use sunscreen with a high SPF, and seek shade whenever possible. Being mindful of reflective surfaces can help minimize your risk of sunburn and other sun-related issues.

Protect yourself from sun reflecting off sand or snow

Reflective surfaces are not limited to the water; they can also be found on sand or snow. If you’re paddling near sandy beaches or in snowy regions, be aware of the sun reflecting off these surfaces. The sun’s rays can bounce back, leading to increased sun exposure and a higher risk of sunburn. Take additional measures to protect yourself, such as wearing sunglasses, using sunscreen diligently, and seeking shade whenever possible. Be proactive in minimizing the effects of reflected sunlight to keep your skin safe.

Recognizing the signs of sunburn

Know the symptoms of sunburn

Even with all the preventative measures in place, it’s essential to recognize the early signs of sunburn. This way, you can take immediate action to prevent further damage. Symptoms of sunburn include redness, pain or tenderness, swelling, blisters, and peeling of the skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a clear indication that your skin has been overexposed to the sun’s rays. Take prompt action to cool and soothe the affected area.

Take immediate action if sunburned

If you find yourself with sunburn after a paddling session, it’s important to take immediate action to alleviate discomfort and promote healing. Get out of the sun and into a shaded area as soon as possible. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and apply cool compresses or take cool showers to cool down your body temperature. Avoid any further sun exposure until your skin has healed, and consider consulting a healthcare professional if your sunburn is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or chills.

By following these measures and taking necessary precautions, you can enjoy your paddling adventures to the fullest while minimizing the risk of sunburn and other sun-related issues. Remember, prevention is key, and protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays should always be a top priority. Stay safe, stay protected, and have a fantastic time out on the water!