Friday, April 24, 2009

EYE TECH: Sunglasses for Performance Boating

Go into any outdoor, sporting goods, or even the corner gas station, and chances are you will see all kinds of sunglasses arranged on the counters and on display racks. Although sunglasses are usually sold like fashion accessories, with a big focus on style, they are much more important than that - and even could be said to perform as a medical device. Why? That's because sunglasses are essentially designed to protect your eyes from possible damage as a result of over exposure to the harmful rays of the sun, as well as other sources of intense light. When you're out on the water, a quality pair of sunglasses will make a big difference...not only in the long-term health of your eyes, but in overall vision and safety.

So - how do you select a pair of sunglasses that will suit your needs? There are some basic ways that sunglasses help protect your eyes, so keeping these facts in mind will help ensure that you've made the right choice.

First, Polarizing sunglasses provide you with basic protection from sun glare. Polarizing sunglasses are especially popular with boaters, because the water reflects back a great deal of sun, which makes it hard to see and tires the eyes out. The glare can be distracting and dangerous, since it can make some objects (logs in the water, rocks and even other boats) hard to see.

Secondly, a good pair of sunglasses protect your retinas from light that is too intense, and which, over time, causes the iris to become less effective--almost "shutting down." This is why the body has a natural reaction to "squint" when exposed to light that is too bright. This can be hard on your retinas, and can even lead to permanent damage.

Third, a quality pair of sunglasses protect your corneas from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Over exposure to the sun's Ultraviolet rays can lead to a number of serious eye conditions and diseases, so always look for a sticker or tag that guarantees a good degree of UV protection.

Last of all, depending on how they are tinted, some sunglasses will filter out or enhance certain specific frequencies of light. Sunglasses which do this can enhance the contrast between the lights, shades and colors--and sometimes make objects easier to see, or appear sharper to the human eye.

So there's more to picking out the right pair of sunglasses than just good looks. While a great looking pair of sunglasses like some Oakleys, or the billet-type examples pictured here - Grix (top) and and Gatorz (bottom) - can cost a couple of hundred bucks, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for solid protection. Another thing you might want to invest in is a lanyard, to keep the glasses around your neck. Last year, at the dock, I had taken off a pair of sunglasses and momentarily hooked them into the front "v" of my shirt. Of course, as soon as I bent over to untie a line, they fell right out and into the water. They did not cost a lot, and I didn't feel like jumping in to recover them, but that was the first and last time that happened. The next pair were attached to a lanyard.

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