An Australian summer is just about to hit, which means blazing sun, tanned bodies and cool evening seabreezes. You know what’s not cool though, kids? Melanoma. As a certified freckle-face ginger, I’m always fighting to enjoy summertime with the fear of sunburn. To help offset the sting, I’ve lathered more lotions on my skin over the years than a veteran proctologist has put gel on his fingers. On top of that, I’ve tried hats, rash vests, zincs and more. During a recent trip to Bali, I took on a bunch of paraphernalia to test, in a bid to find out what really is the best sun protection for surfing. Here are the some of the scorchers.


Hurley Pro Light Long Sleeve Rash Vest

Let’s face it. Surfing in a rashie is superior to surfing in a nipple-chafing, saggy baggy t-shirt any day of the week. You’re looser, freer, more covered up and get to look like a Tour De France legend bombing down a mountain run. Most brands have great options. This one by Hurley is my current pick, with small logos, a good fit and race stripes on the wrist to make your hand jives look faster.

Xcel Scout Wetsuit Jacket

If you’re wanting a bit of extra cushion against board bumps, then a long sleeve wetsuit jacket can offer good sun protection. However, in the tropics you won’t want to sweat it out. The Scout by Xcel has perforated neoprene to keep things a bit cooler. It also has a handy pocket in the back for holding extra sun cream. The fit on the one I tested is what I’d call ‘medium-thin’ where I’m a ‘medium-thick’. So, if you’re not as buff (ahem, chubby) as me, it should do you a treat. Otherwise, maybe step up a size from your regular so it doesn’t ride up and give you that sunburn line between boardies and vest.


Billabong Surf Cap

I’ll be honest. No matter what kind of surf hat you wear in the surf, you’re going to look like a bit of a dill. Still, I’d rather face my inner kook than the pointy end of an oncologist’s scalpel. This surf cap by Billabong is one of the better options. The fixture on it is super comfy, it has some extra sun protection for your ears and the peak is a good size without being too long (and therefore disrupting your barrel threading peripheral vision). 

Dakine Indo Surf Hat

If you’re going to look like a SUP foiler instead of a surfer, you may as well go the whole hog. This Indo Surf Hat by Dakine not only has a bucket brim, but has a full legionnaire neck mullet that unfurls down the back. If the mullet is a bit much, you can take it off. This thing fits great, is comfy and sits securely on your head. The only drawback for me was that it’s double lined at the top, which meant I was fairly baking using it during midday in Bali. It did however get the massive thumbs up from my grumpy tradie mate Graylo, who loved that this protected his bald noggin and neck at the same time. That’s Graylo getting his shred on in the hat and Xcel Scout vest below.

Dakine Storm Hybrid Vest With Hood

Seems like Dakine are the brand more than happy to sacrifice steez for all out function. This vest/hood is for those wanting to go into full sun protection Power Ranger mode. Despite its gimp-like appearance, the thing is functionally brilliant. The fit is spot on, the perforated neoprene offers great board bump padding, the white top end helps keep you cool and the peak size is perfect. Like the Xcel Scout vest, this hybrid also has a handy zip pocket in the back for extra items, like Pocari Sweat bottles, or energems.


Sun Bum Sunscreen

Growing up, I used to swear by Banana Boat Black Label as the best sun protection for surfing. However, that was before I became a bit more conscious about the chemicals they put in a lot of suncreams out there. Bad for you. Bad for reefs. Going the full swing to hippy land, I then tried Soleo, but it was greasy and simply didn’t work. A great in-between option I found is Sun Bum. It works, smells good, and is free of the worst nasties found in other options out there.

Feel Good Inc. Sticky Zinc

Right. So in my mind the very best zinc for surfing is actually the Ella Bache zinc. But, it’s suuuuuper expensive ($48AUD for 30ml). Given I go through the stuff like a Ronald goes through Big Macs, an almost-as-good but much more reasonably priced option is Feel Good’s Sticky Zinc ($29.95 for 50ml). Jake ‘Snake’ Pato is behind the brand, so it’s good to know a surfer has had serious input in how it works. My top pick, unless you’re willing to drop gold for bronze.

That’s it for now. The best sun protection for surfing I’ve been able to find so far. If you know of better options, hit us up via email. Alternatively, if you’ve got other surf based product you’re thinking about buying we have buyers guides and product reviews over here, and here. First up though, it’s Spring – a good time to check out our Springsuits Buyers Guide.