8 Ways to Prevent Sunburns for the Boating Season

8 Ways to Prevent Sunburns for the Boating Season Jun 3, 2024
Kid having sunburn applied to his back at the beach by his parent

Sunburn is a common but often overlooked risk for boating enthusiasts, whose prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to serious skin damage. The combination of direct sunlight, reflective water surfaces, and the refreshing breeze can create a deceptive environment where the skin burns more quickly than expected. As summer approaches and more people take to the water, it’s crucial to understand and implement effective sunburn prevention strategies to ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience. Whether you’re a seasoned boater or a weekend paddler, protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is essential to maintain your health and maximize your time on the water.


As an avid boater, sunburns are a major risk when out on the water for long periods of time. These are (in most cases) easy to treat, but all are preventable. Getting a tan or some Vitamin D can be perfectly healthy from the sun, but getting severely burned is not.

The Ultra-Violet rays from the sun photographed by NASA.
The Ultra-Violet rays from the sun photographed by NASA.

My family has been boating for years and I am still amazed at the number of enthusiasts who, year after year, go unprotected in the sun and end up with a burn. Eventually, all the years of prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays may damage the skin; for example, the loss of the skin’s elasticity (skin takes on a leathery appearance) or difference in skin pigmentation (blotches on the skin). In some cases, skin cancer can occur. Sunburns, in most cases, are first-degree burns but can go to the second degree.


1st Degree Burn: appears red and is painful

2nd Degree Burn: appears red, is painful and blisters

3rd Degree Burn: appears black or charred in colour, sometimes with no pain

Whether it’s a first or second-degree burn the most important first aid step is to get rid of the heat source by immersing the area in cool water or applying cool, wet compresses on burns to the back or chest. Never break blisters. Blisters protect the new skin being formed; by breaking the blister you end up with an open wound susceptible to shock and infection. Due to the severity of a third-degree burn, immediately cover the area with a dry, sterile dressing and seek medical attention.

The most important part of first aid is prevention. Here are a few tips to reduce your risk of burns:

  • Use sunblock (no less than SPF 15). Re-apply as needed and after swimming. Do not apply near the eyes.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and T-shirts.
  • Try not to say in the sun too long during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Make sure children re-apply after any swims.Remember to reapply every two hours, after swimming, or when sweating excessively, as protection diminishes over time.
  • Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun to allow proper absorption. Aim for an amount that could fill a shot glass to cover an average adult’s body.
  • Remember commonly neglected areas like your lips, hair part, tops of ears and feet, and the backs of your legs. Additionally, use a lip balm with at least SPF 15.
  • Protect your eyes as well from the harmful sun by wearing UV lenses in your sunglasses.

By taking proactive steps to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, you can enjoy all the pleasures of boating without the painful and potentially serious consequences of sunburn. Remember to reapply sunscreen regularly, wear protective clothing, and seek shade whenever possible. Staying hydrated and being mindful of the time spent in direct sunlight are also key factors in sunburn prevention. With these simple yet effective measures, you can ensure a safe, fun, and sunburn-free boating experience. So, set sail with confidence, knowing that you’ve taken the necessary precautions to protect your skin and your health.

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