Buying sunglasses for sailing: Guide to sunnies for sailors

Feb 28, 2019 BY AWE365 Team

Thinking of buying sunglasses for sailing? This guide to sunnies for sailors tells you what to look out for and why it is worth splashing out on the right shades.

Guide to buying sunglasses for sailing Flickr CC image from Yarmouth UK by BasL

Buying sunglasses for sailing

I’ve always worn cheap sunnies – £7 ($10) from your local garage! I’d lose them, break them, scratch them and go through more pairs than I care to admit.

But I recently experienced proper sailing sunnies for the first time. I now see the value of buying sunglasses for sailing rather than just any old shades.

Choosing proper sailing sunglasses is crucial. With the amount of time you spend on the water, it’s vital to take care of your vision. Plus there are many other features that make sailors sunnies better then any old sunglasses.

Guide to sunnies for sailors

Having just bought a pair, here’s a few key factors to consider when you buy sunglasses for sailing:

Guide to sunnies for sailors Flickr CC image from IOW UK by Martin Hesketh

Polarization and UV protection

Water reflects bright light and creates a lot of glare. A solid pair of glasses must block 100% of harmful UV rays and offer polarization. This is probably the most important tip in this guide to sunnies for sailors.

Sunglasses that do not block UVA and UVB are potentially more dangerous than no glasses at all. They encourage the eyes to stay open, allowing dangerous UV rays to penetrate the eye’s retina.

People who spend leisure time sailing are more susceptible to damage caused by direct and reflected light. So make sure your shades provide adequate protection.

Filtering short wave blue light

A recent development in the eye protection industry has been reducing shortwave blue light. This is not dangerous for the eyes but is thought to make your eyes tire more quickly.

Guide to sunnies for sailors - try Spy Happy Lens

Long wave blue light is linked with happiness and staying alert. A few brands have cottoned on to this, such as SPY who’ve introduced their Happy Lens range. I have tried them and I noticed less eye fatigue after a day in the sun. 

Prescription sunglasses vs contact lenses

If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses you’ll need to consider how you’ll maintain your vision when sailing. You can either get prescription sunglasses or wear contact lenses.

Contacts are not the best when water is around and some people have additional issues in salty maritime conditions. If you go the contact lens route it is recommended to use daily contacts that are disposable just in case you lose one.

The alternative is to have pair of sunglasses made to your prescription. Opticians offer this for their sunglasses but these are often not suited to sailing. It’s also not always possible for them to cut a prescription lens to fit sunnies for sailors.

Guide to buying sunglasses for sailing Flickr CC image from Waikiki Hawaii by Colin Davis Studio

Some of the biggest brands in the sunglasses industry offer models that take prescription lenses. If you need help with your vision then shop around when buying sunglasses for sailing as some brands offer prescription options.

Water repellent (hydrophobic) lens

There is nothing more annoying than a big water droplet 1 inch in front of your eye. So with errant waves and plenty of spray around it’s worth looking for a pair of specs with lenses that repel water.  Maybe someday, sunglasses with come with windshield wipers?


How annoying is it to mess around a lens that has fogged up? Sometimes you are working hard on a boat so look for lenses that are treated with anti-fogging to avoid steaming up.


Sometimes sunglasses will end up in the water. With this in mind some brands, such as Waves make floating sunglasses for sailing and other watersports.

Guide to sunnies for sailors Flickr CC image from Phuket thailand by Phuketian S


If you don’t have sunnies for sailors that float then then next best thing is straps to stop them falling off. Many sailing sunglasses come equipped with straps but you have to remember to use them.

Style of sailing sunglasses

When buying sunglasses for sailing you need to consider the design. Wrap around and others sunnies that sit close to the face help to avoid water/spray getting in and stop side glare. This is good for contact lens wearers, but they are more likely to fog up.

Other sailors sunnies are more open. This enables more ventilation which helps avoid fogging. On the downside you are more likely to experience glare and to get water in the eye.


Consider how your sunglasses will hold up if heavy uncle Bob accidentally sits on them. But also you need to be sure that your money is well spent.

Review of The Edge Sunglasses by Cab9 Best action sport sunnies

A good pair of sunglasses should last several years – not just this season. Look for materials that don’t rust, replaceable lenses, and spring-loaded hinges.

Also look at glasses that are made to be abused. We reviewed the Edge sunglasses by Cab9 which are incredibly robust. They would probably survive uncle bob…


It is my duty in this guide to sunnies for sailors to let you know that no sunglasses are scratchproof. However, some are more resistant to scratches than others.

When dealing with salt water spray it is very easy to end up wiping your shades on your t-shirt. But the salty water could abrade the lens. So look for lenses that have been treated with one of the may scratch resistant coatings.

Guide to buying sunglasses for sailing Flickr CC image from IOW UK by Martin Hesketh


In general, you will get what you pay for when buying sunglasses for sailing. Some higher-end sunnies offer a warranty that will protect your investment from general defects. 


At the end of the day you still want to look good in your sailing sunglasses. You’ll want to wear them when having a drink in port after a day out sailing. So the final tip in this guide to sunnies for sailors is to pick a style that you like!


Sailing, Yacht Charter
Eyewear (Goggles, Glasses, Lenses), sunglasses

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