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A full array of sun protection options is available to today’s anglers. – Submitted

How to enjoy the outdoors without sun damage

The harmful effects of sun exposure are one of the most important things for anglers to understand when they’re fishing Florida waters, especially in the late summer. The sunlight that drives the cycle of life in the Gulf and makes it possible to sight fish can be dangerous, even life-threatening.

Sunlight is primarily composed of infrared, visible and ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light (UV) is potentially harmful and is the wavelength that causes sunburn. What we refer to as sunburn is a form of radiation burn that results from exposure to this light, penetrating the clouds you might incorrectly assume protect you. Symptoms of overexposure in humans consist of red or reddish skin that is hot to the touch and can also include general fatigue and mild dizziness, leading to heat stroke and, with longterm exposure, even cancer. Maximizing your protection from UV light rays is important because the harmful effects of the sun are cumulative over your lifetime.

While potentially harmful, the sun is primarily an angler’s friend. If the sun is shining, there’s a good chance the weather will allow you to be on the water. If you’re looking for fish, it ensures you’ll have a better chance of finding your quarry and increases your odds of hooking up.

Many part-time fishermen and visitors from the north don’t fully appreciate the potentially harmful effects of the sun, especially in Florida and the rest of the southern regions of the northern hemisphere. The most intense exposure to the sun occurs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., prime time for exploring Florida’s fertile waters.

Modern sunscreens are rated according to their SPF, or sun protection factor. Our skin has natural SPF depending on the amount of melanin (pigment) it contains. As a rule, the darker your complexion the more melanin you have. However, no matter what your skin color, the best solution is to avoid sun damage as much as possible by applying a high-SPF sunscreen and covering the skin. Another important factor to consider, especially in Florida, is whether the sunscreen is reef safe, meaning that it doesn’t contain chemicals that harm marine life.

Fortunately, there is also high-tech clothing available to anglers that is cool, breathable and has a high UV Protective Clothing (UPF) rating. Popular brands from Patagonia and Simms offer clothing with UPF ratings ranging from 30 to 50. A rating of 50 translates to approximately 97% protection. These same companies also offer gloves to protect the hands and headgear that protects the head, ears, face and neck. Hoodies are now very popular, and models for fishermen even have thumb holes that allow the sleeves to protect the hands.

Innovations constantly come out that make these moisture-wicking fabrics more functional for anglers. Early face protection devices functioned to protect the skin but caused moisture from the breath to fog sunglasses. Now they are designed with breathing openings that virtually eliminate that problem.

One innovative company, TASC, has even harnessed the natural properties of bamboo to create a clothing line with an impressive list of natural properties. They blend the soft inner fibers of the bamboo with organic cotton to create a fabric that has anti-odor properties, a UPF of 50+, is moisture wicking, breathable, lightweight and chemical-free.

There really is no reason not to protect your skin from the sun with the array of sunscreens and clothing available today. Protect your skin – it’s not like you can buy more, and now you can do it in style. It’s even fashionable — the cool thing to do!