Fishing & Boating News

Polarized Sunglasses: Protection For Your Eyes

by: Tom Rivers,

(Friday, October 08,1999 - ) Ask any fishermen what type of boat he has, and he quickly responds with a big smile and quotes the manufacturer, model number and horsepower of his prized possession. Ask a fisherman what type of polarized sunglasses he owns, and most respond more slowly. "A fishermen will tie up $50,000 in a boat and tow rig combination," states North Carolina professional angler Marty Stone, "but he fails to invest in a $150 pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes."

For most people, sunglasses are simply a fashion statement. However for fishermen, it is a much more serious issue since so many hours are spent staring at reflected light from the sun glaring down on the water. There are many cases that show extended exposure to sunlight and it's associated glare can cause long-term damage to a person's eyes.

What is polarization and why do I need it?
As sunlight shines down on any flat surface, the rays of the sun are reflected, thus scattering the light and creating glare. This glare is most common on flat surfaces such as water or snow. Polarization filters are added to lenses to shield your eyes from the glare. "Dark, non-polarized lenses block light from the eye which causes the pupil to open more, thus letting in more light that can do more damage to the eye," explains Stone. Therein lies one of the most important aspects of polarized lenses. Polarized lenses allow light to reach the eye while eliminating the effect of glare from the water. "Polarization knocks down that glare while allowing a proper amount of light to reach the eye."

How do I choose a pair of sunglasses and how much should I spend?
Most anglers hesitate spending $100 on a pair of sunglasses that they feel are no better than the sunglasses they currently own. But when examined closely, there are great differences in the everyday, off-the-shelf sunglasses and a high quality pair of polarized lenses.

"Most sunglasses provide distorted vision due to low quality lenses and while some protection is better than none, Costa Del Mar offers a 100% optically correct lens in all of their styles. What that means is there is no distortion to your vision, no matter what part of that lens you look through," adds Stone.

Lens Types
Most manufacturers (although not all) offer three different lens types-glass, CR-39 and polycarbonate, each with their distinct advantages and disadvantages. "Glass lenses are the most scratch resistant and the most durable, however they will break if you drop them on a hard surface. CR-39 lenses are lighter and safer, because they won't break like glass, but scratch more easily than glass. Polycarbonate lenses are the most durable and the lightest, but are the easiest to scratch," explains Stone. "I use the Pro Sport model from Costa Del Mar due to the protection I receive from the wrap around lens style. I also prefer them due to their light weight."

When choosing a lens type, keep in mind the polarizing filter is sprayed onto polycarbonate lenses. This is one big difference in lens types. Most glass and CR-39 polarized lenses have the polarization filter encapsulated between outer layers in order to protect the filter from being removed or scratched. "Each time you clean a polycarbonate lens, you can remove some of the polarizing filter that was sprayed on," comments Stone. "Over time this can cause all of the polarization to be removed from the lenses, thus making your sunglasses no better than any other pair."

Lens Colors
When it comes to lens colors, each manufacturer typically offers two to six colors to choose from. Gray lenses are probably the most popular, but Sunrise (yellow) and Amber lenses are popular among sight fishermen. Stone is quick to point out that sunglasses are tools just like different types of rods. "Just like you have a different rod for flipping and pitching than for topwater fishing, different lens colors are more suitable for different conditions."

Gray lenses are probably the most popular and are probably the most versatile. "Gray lenses offer the most protection from the sun's brightness but do the least to enhance colors in the water. Amber lenses separate color a little better, while still offering a great amount of protection. Vermillion and sunrise colored lenses offer the best color separation, but allow more light penetration to the eye...around 14% - 16% for vermillion lenses and 28% for sunrise lenses compared to 8% - 12% for gray and amber lenses," says Stone. "Go with the lightest color lens you can. The more visible light the lens lets in, the more color separation you get which allows you to distinguish objects in the water better."

To go a step further in lens selection, there are considerations of ultraviolet (UV) protection. There are basically two levels of UV radiation and each can adversely affect your eyes. UVA radiation can easily damage the retina of your eye from prolonged exposure and UVB radiation has been associated with production of cataracts in the human eye. Almost all high quality sunglass manufacturers offer 100% protection from all UV radiation, but some process their lenses through a UV bath as opposed to UV filters in the lenses. Like sprayed on polarization, the UV protection applied during the batch can be removed while simply rubbing the lenses to clean them.

Another important aspect to consider in purchasing a pair of sunglasses is how they fit. "A pair of sunglasses is like a pair of shoes. If they are not comfortable and they don't fit, you will not wear them," remarks Glenn Oshima, Vice President of Sales for Costa Del Mar. "That is why we offer more style's that fit more people than other companies."

Oshima also says that all of Costa Del Mar's frames are opthalmically correct, which offers the ability for prescription eyeglass wearers to have a pair of polarized, prescription lenses placed in their favorite Costa Del Mar frame. (This service is available from providers such as Island Optics in High Point, North Carolina - 1-800-462-4121.)

'Well all that is well and good' you might say, 'but my $20 glasses have polarized lenses. What is the difference?'

The main difference is in the quality. High quality polarized sunglasses offer not only better quality lenses, but most offer much higher quality frames. This enables companies like Costa Del Mar to offer Lifetime Warranties on their frames and their lenses. Thus allowing the buyer to purchase one pair of glasses that will last 10 years versus being forced to purchase a pair of sunglasses every year because the lenses popped out or the frame cracked in those less expensive models.

"Every year I hear horror stories about someone having their eye put out by a Junebug hitting them in the eye while running down the lake at 70 miles per hour" notes Stone. "Whenever you are on the water you should be wearing some type of protective eyewear whether they are polarized sunglasses or not. Any protection is better than no protection."

So, as you can see there are many issues to consider when purchasing a pair of polarized sunglasses. There are many manufacturers that offer many models that come in many different lens types and many lens colors. One thing to remember is not only do polarized sunglasses offer lots of other benefits, but they protect one of your most valuable assets. Your eyes.