The coolest protection

Under the Sun

Above left, Lycra rashguard, $29.50, made in Hawaii by Xcel. Left, Paddling Pants, $105 from Patagonia made of nylon, waterproofed with SealCoat, finished with water repellent. Above right, Paddling Jacket, $105 from Patagonia, made of nylon waterproofed with SealCoat, finished with water repellent. Above, Core Skin shorts, $48 from Patagonia, made of stretch polyester.

Photos by Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin

Keeping your skin safe from ultraviolet rays doesn't mean having to look like a dork

By Greg Ambrose

WHEN Emily Godinet roamed the ocean around the Ala Wai Boat Harbor like an untamed sea puppy, she never thought about protecting her fair complexion from the sun.

Hood Ornament, $28 from Patagonia, made of
ripstop nylon with straps to hold it in place.

All young Emily and her friends thought about was surfing, sailing, swimming and spending every glorious summer second in the ocean. And even if they had spared a moment to worry about how the sun was cooking their tender skin, there was nothing they could have done about it, except possibly stay indoors. Unthinkable.

Back in those dark ages, there was no sunscreen, no eye protection, no specialized ultraviolet-screening garments. Their only option was greasy, clownish zinc oxide, which immediately revealed the wearer as a buffoon.

"We were scab-nosed kids with scarred lips from sun blisters that we popped for fun," Godinet says. "I still have scars from that. Protecting ourselves from the sun wasn't even a factor, it was something that wasn't talked about or thought about."

How times have changed.

Wahine rashguard, $29.50
made in Hawaii by Xcel.

While steering her team's outrigger sailing canoe from Maui to Oahu recently, Godinet repeatedly diverted her attention from the race to yell to her daughters in the escort boat to put on their hats and slather on more sunscreen.

Her three daughters, 11, 12 and 14 years old, are reliving their mom's youth, playing in the water all summer long. But they call her captain mom because she's constantly after them to protect themselves from the sun.

In these enlightened times, moms and dermatologists fervently preach the gospel that the sun is the enemy, and try to lead their flock down the path to skin salvation.

There is a wonderful variety of ways to shield skin from the sun's searing ultraviolet rays, which mummify the skin and cause potentially lethal cancer cells to sprout.

The simplest trick is to avoid the sun when its rays are most fierce. "Surfers in our crew always surf morning or evening, never at midday. And we always paddle in the evening," Godinet says.

Core Skin shirt, $38 from Patagonia,
made of polyester tricort treated with Capilene.

For kayakers, fishermen, contest paddlers and others who are compelled to fry in the noon sun, miracle fibers can give their skin new life.

"Customers in Hawaii do all things in the water, and they want gear that they can use for each activity," said Kecia Arizumi, manager of Patagonia Haleiwa. "They want to take the same stuff fishing, paddling, sailing, whatever." So Arizumi and her staff outfit kayakers and paddlers in tops and bottoms of silkweight capilene, which reflects the sunlight and dries quickly.

Patagonia gave the crews of the traditional sailing canoes Hawai'iloa and Hokule'a serious waterproof foul-weather gear to keep them dry and warm during the long voyage to Tahiti and back last year, and along the West Coast.

Xcel Hawaii sponsored Godinet's wahine outrigger sailing crew with long-sleeved lycra tops, which also are perfect for shielding kayakers, paddlers, sailboarders and surfers from the sun's rays.

Fishermen, who are always in the sun hunting their elusive quarry, can use any combination of this gear to save themselves from the fear of frying.

And of course, all ocean lovers should lavish all exposed skin with sunscreen that won't wash off in the water. "I just discovered the most fabulous thing," Godinet enthuses. "Sunscreen for lips in a capsule that you attach to your watchband."

Wind and Spray Shirt, $105 from Patagonia, made of
breathable water-repellent, Pneumatic ripstop nylon.

She used it during the recent Hoomana'o race, and "it was the first race I didn't get blistered lips on. It was right there by my watch, and I didn't have to stop steering to reach for anything. Usually, you lick your lips or wipe your face and the sunscreen is gone."

With so much attention being paid to the skin, it's easy to forget that ultraviolet rays, wind and salt spray can fry and dry your eyes. The cornea can be sunburned, and long-term exposure to the elements causes a horror show of afflictions.

Pinguecula, pterygium, cataracts, macular degeneration and melanoma can result in disfigurement, blindness or death, but it's easy to envision a solution, optometrist Dr. Charles Holt says.

There are goggles and glasses that absorb ultraviolet light and provide protection from salt and wind for jet-skiers, water-skiers, sailors, windsurfers, paddlers, kayakers, surfers and fishermen. They also can be ground to fit the prescriptions of vision-impaired ocean athletes.

And anyone can make use of disposable contact lenses that absorb damaging solar rays and cost as little as $6 for a pair that lasts two weeks.

To top it off, the full spectrum of ocean users should take the heat off their eyes and heads with waterproof caps and visors, which shade the eyes, cut glare and keep the head and ears from sizzling. The good ones have chin straps that hang on during rugged activities such as wave riding and sailing.

"My skin is probably going to eat it, but I probably won't see it for another 20 years," Godinet says. "They say the damage is already done from small-kid times.

"It's different today. They know what the consequences are."

Second of two parts:
Yesterday: Board Shorts

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