The debate is on: should we wear sunglasses when wakeboarding? And if so, what are the best sunglasses out there for our favorite action watersport?
As a big watersports enthusiast, over the years I’ve tried quite a few pair of technical sunglasses supposedly designed for actual riding. When it comes to wakeboarding, I had sort of given up after losing or breaking a few pairs, and discarding a few more because they hindered my sight and ruined my riding experience.
Then I found the Lip Typhoon watersports glasses, and my wakeboarding life changed. These high-end sports shades are simply the greatest thing for me: fantastic vision (thank you Zeiss lenses), reliable impact resistance (faceplant-proof), fog-free experience (it works), and a truly loss-proof attachment system.
But first, is wearing sunglasses for wakeboarding really a good idea? If so, can you use cheap goggles to protect your eye from water and impact? Important questions I had for myself as I was looking for ways to protect my eyes from both the sun and from wipeout impact.
Should you wear sunglasses for wakeboarding?
As a wakeboarder, if you’re like me, you’re torn between the anxiety of your eyes getting damaged from exposure to the sun and saltwater, and the convenience and freedom of riding without wearing sunglasses.
Yet, as we all know the combination of sun rays, salty water, and harsh wind in your face when wakeboarding can quickly dry out your eyes, leading to nasty eye sunburns.
The UV radiation from the sun damages the eye and causes early cataracts and even more serious retinal problems such as macular degeneration. The glare from the water, and riding toward a low-hitting sun, make things even worse.
Wearing sunglasses for wakeboarding will obviously reduce your eyes’ exposure to the UV rays and water splash. But what about impact in hard wipeouts?
Wakeboarding: wiping out with sunglasses
Many wakeboarders are aware that hitting the water face first when riding at 20mph and up can result in serious eye injuries e.g. detached retina.
However, many riders are wary of wearing sunglasses when riding because they fear that, in case of faceplant, the sunglasses will get embedded into their face, or break apart with pieces getting into their eye as their face hits the water.
Indeed, most sunglasses can potentially do a lot more harm to your face and eyes than just the impact on water.
Some wakeboarders choose to use sports goggles. While these seem to offer some protection for the eyes, these are generally very uncomfortable, suck down on your eyes and give you tunnel vision.
Like me, you may have experienced the unpleasant feeling of them fogging up and getting all splashed up, blinding your vision. Or them getting ripped off your face or down your neck after a wipeout.
Cheap goggles (e.g. swim goggles from Wal-Mart) can also be dangerous as their lenses are more likely to blow out or shatter from the pressure and get into your eye.
Features that good wakeboarding sunglasses should have
In light of the above caveats, are there any sunglasses suitable for wakeboarding? The following are the features I was looking for when doing my research.
- Impact-resistant: probably the most important point. We need glasses that will NOT shatter on impact. Both frames and lenses need to be strong and withstand hard pounding when during a nasty faceplant.
- Loss-proof: wakeboarding sunglasses should stay on your head even in a bad fall through secure strapping. If they do come off, they should either stay on your body, or float in the water (less practical).
- Fog-free & splash-resistant: wakeboarding glasses should have a good air and water flow system to combat fogging and keep water out of your face. Ventilation is particularly important in colder water but typically comes at the cost of a looser fitting frame – and thus less effective sun protection. The lenses should also have hydrophobic coating to help water glide off the lenses.
- Vision clarity: when riding, we need a wide vision range for being able to see in all directions. Also, the overwhelming amount of blue colors can make it very hard to notice subtle details on the water, especially at high speeds. Good wakeboarding sunglasses should help improve this.
- Strong protection from the sun: a vital aspect of course. Wakeboarding glasses should provide UV 400 and glare-free vision, typically through polarized lenses. Frame curvature also plays a critical role: the greater the curvature, the lower the likelihood that UVA and UVB rays will sneak into your eyes.
- Style: not much to say here other than it’s all about personal preference. I for one don’t like the goggle look!
The best glasses I’ve found for wakeboarding: LIP Typhoon
Armed with the above list, I tried a bunch of different watersports sunglasses. I finally found what I was looking for in the Lip Typhoon. These sunglasses give me unparalleled vision when wakeboarding, and have bullet-proof impact resistance. They also have the best retainer system I’ve seen so far.
Check out the Typhoon here on LIP’s website
As mentioned, impact strength and vision are for me the two single most important factors in a pair of wakeboarding glasses.
The Typhoon frame is made from Grilamid TR90, a highly flexible and resistant Swiss-developed nylon thermoplastic. This means during a heaving wipeout, the frame will flex without snapping, and will spread the force of the shock around the eye.
The frame is also padded with soft TPU rubber all around the frame, which acts like a cushion and softens the impact. This, along with the high flex, helped save the eye of a Typhoon owner when his face hit a foil hardly.
Besides the frame’s quality, the lenses themselves also play a crucial role in impact protection. The Typhoon comes with high-quality Zeiss lenses that use impact-resistant polycarbonate or polyamide material guaranteed not to shatter on impact. In contrast, lenses made of mineral glass or CR-39 as found in many sunglasses will likely shatter into pieces under a hard shock.
The customer who had the bad foiling wipeout came out with bruises and cuts around his eye but suffered no eye injury despite the foil or mast hitting his face very hard. His LIP Typhoons were not even damaged by the shock and he could continue to use them. To me, that’s unheard of…
Loss-proof attachment system
The next thing that retained my attention in the Lip Typhoon is its unique 2-stage leash and necklace mechanism. The first stage is an adjustable cord that you cinch at the back of your head to keep the sunglasses tight when wakeboarding.
The second stage is a silicon necklace that goes around your neck and is attached to the leash part of the (first-stage) cord. If you have a bad wipeout and the glasses get pulled off your face despite the cord, they just hang from the necklace.
Check out the Typhoon here on LIP’s website
This setup is awesome, it’s pretty much a guarantee against losing the glasses, even in case of a strong impact when riding fast.
Fog and splash-free
Impact, check. Attachment, check. Next up on my priority list is vision clarity and comfort (defogging, splash resistance).
LIP’s sunglasses (the Typhoon and its non-Zeiss little brother the Surge) have a special patented venting system that involves small channels cut into the frame and rim, and cutouts in the lenses themselves (top and bottom).
This results in super-effective defogging when the lenses get fogged up. When wakeboarding with these glasses I never have to pause to take them off (and spit onto the lenses).
The small cutouts around the lenses also means the water drains very well.
The typhoons also have hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings on both the inner and outer lens surfaces, so the water really beads off the lenses when sprayed (e.g. from the wake boat).
The Typhoons give me an amazingly clear vision and a wide peripheral range when riding behind a boat. The premium Europe-made lenses from Zeiss maximize contrast by filtering out blue light, so I’m able to see details in/on the water that I can’t see with the naked eye.
Check out the Typhoon color options here on LIP’s website
The injected polarization layer on the lenses eliminates the glare from water reflection, further reducing strain on the eyes. In my case, this is particularly noticeable when I go wakeboarding late afternoons when the glare on the water is really high.
The Typhoons have an 8-base (wrap-around) curvature that closely follows the contours of the face, which helps offer excellent peripheral vision and minimal gaps for stray UV or water to penetrate into the eyes.
As far as I’m concerned, these glasses feel super comfortable and really stick to my face thanks to the wrapping shape and wide rubber-padded arm tips that tuck behind my ears. They typically won’t budge from my face even when slapped hard onto the water after a failed trick.
All in all, the LIP Typhoons are the best sunglasses I’ve found for wakeboarding, they check all the boxes for me. They offer very high-quality frame and lenses, admittedly at a relatively high price. But for me, they’re worth every penny as I’m confident they give me the best eye protection I can get when riding hard behind a boat.
The Surge are a more affordable version of the Typhoon with many of the same features – same quality frames, same secure retainer mechanism, same ventilation system- but with non-Zeiss lenses, hence a slightly less stunning vision.
See the Surge color options here on LIP’s website
The Typhoon (and Surge) can be worn all day. If you wear them in salt water, however, make sure you wash them down afterward. If you not, the salt can start eating away at the lens coatings, and you risk scraping the lenses and hydrophobic coating when wiping the lenses them with the microfiber bag – this would impact the ability of water to “bead” and run off the lenses, thereby increasing water “spotting” on the lens.
Another selling point that finished convincing me to try the LIP is the unusual 3-year warranty.