There is an undeniable case for wearing eyewear while kiteboarding. It’s not just about protecting your eyes from UV rays; we also have to contend with wind, sea-spray, airborne insects, and glare.
The model of watershades that you choose should be based on an assessment of the genre of kiteboarding that you specialise in, the strength of the wind, the water conditions, and the prevailing weather conditions. The first two considerations relate more to frame choice and the last two considerations are more relevant to lens choice. We look into all of these factors below.
We offer 3 watershades models: (1) Flo, (2) Typhoon and (3) Surge. In general, the Flo is suited to light wind kiteboarding or foiling in calm waters with little to no current whereas the Surge and Typhoon are recommended for windy conditions and choppy water or where there is a current. Although the Flo floats, they might be difficult to retrieve when they fall off in a wipeout where there is a strong current or if there are white caps or crashing waves.
CHOOSING A FRAME
If the wind is 8 knots or over or there are white caps on the water’s surface, we recommend the Surge or Typhoon as both these models were specifically designed for kitesurfing in average to strong conditions. Spotting floating sunglasses can be difficult if there is any chop or white water, especially if it takes you a minute or so to regain your orientation and reconnect with your board.
If you’re learning or just finding your way in kiteboarding, you’ll also benefit from the double vortex anti-fogging ventilation that both the Surge and Typhoon incorporate. In the early stages of kiteboarding, you tend to spend a lot of time in (as opposed to ‘on’) the water. Being stationary in the water and breathing heavily as you struggle with your kit is a primary cause of lens logging, particularly if the water is cold and the air above is humid. In such conditions, venting will help clear the lens logging once you start moving again.
In anything more than a few feet of swell, and especially where you are going to encounter white-water, we strongly recommend that you choose the Surge or Typhoon as both these models are designed with a failsafe retention system which incorporates an adjustable chord leash that attaches to the temples of the sunglasses, which itself is attached to a silicone necklace.
This system is guaranteed to keep you attached to your watershades, even if you end up in the washing machine. If you’ve ever been caught inside, you’ll know that the forces unleashed can be tremendous and very often disorientating. It will be virtually impossible to find floating sunglasses in bubbling frothy water, especially if it takes you a minute or so to regain your orientation and reconnect with your board.
FREESTYLE & PARK
You options are more open when it comes to freestyle and park riding. Unless there is a fast flowing current (an example being Hood River in Oregon), or if there are waves and/or chop, then any one of our 3 watershades will be suitable.
Freestylers often take a tumble as they are practising and honing their skills. If you’re likely to wipeout frequently, we would suggest you err on the side of caution and go with the Typhoon or Surge. This will save you the hassle of picking up your Flo watershades from the surface each time you come a cropper.
One other point is about spotting your landings. In midday sunny conditions, polarised lenses tend to see through the water’s surface and this can sometimes mean it is difficult to judge your landing. The Flo has two options of non-polarised lenses which helps address this issue.
Foiling wipeouts can be intense and incredibly rapid, particularly if anything in the water gets in the way (like a shark or big fish) and for this reason we strongly recommend that the best option is the Typhoon as this model offers the best impact protection with shock absorbing TPU rubber surrounding the frame. This is even more the case if you are racing because you’ll be moving at very high speeds. Crashes can catapult you into the water and this can also quickly put a distance between you and sunglasses if they are not tethered to you.
If however, you like to foil in light wind flat water days, then any of our watershades will be suitable. Just bear in mind that wipeouts occur and if you’re wearing the Flo without a retainer leash, then it may take a little time to relocate them in the water if they fall off in the crash.
Once you have chosen the frame most suitable for the discipline of kiteboarding that you normally engage in, consider next the lenses that are ideal for the weather conditions that you expect to experience. You can follow the broad guidelines detailed below for choosing the right lenses for the right weather conditions, but it is important to remember that not everyone percieves light in the same way, so ultimately the choice boils down to comfort and your personal preferences:
TYPHOON, SURGE & FLO
The smoke (grey) lenses for the Surge & Typhoon offer a neutral tone, and are both category 3 polarised lenses. If you like a natural representation of colours, then this is the lens for you.
The Typhoon has two options for ‘methane smoke’ lenses from ZEISS: 1) Polycarbonate material, and 2) Nylon material. The former has a light transmission rate (VLT) of 11.1% and the latter 10.2%. For our Surge and Flo models, the VLT is exactly 10%.
At these VLT levels, these lenses will be able to handle strong sunlight and significant glare. However, for cloudy days and sessions when the sun is well on its way down, they may not be the ideal choice.
Both are equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
TYPHOON & SURGE
The brown base colour lenses for the Surge & Typhoon offer more enhanced colours, and are also both category 3 polarised lenses. As the base lens colour has a red/brown hue, this tends to lift or ‘pop’ all colours (but especially reds and greens). This in turn increases contrast.
The specification for the methane brown Typhoon lenses was recently upgraded from polycarbonate to nylon material. The Zeiss nylon methane brown lenses have a VLT of 15.6%. For the Surge and Flo models, the VLT is 10%.
There is a noticeable difference in the performance of the brown lenses in cloudy / darker conditions. Owing to the increased contrast afforded by brown base lenses, it is noticeably easier to see details when the light levels drop. This is not to say that the brown lenses do not function well in bright light. In fact, they perform admirably in bright conditions. Brown lenses are versatile all round lenses for all types of conditions.
As with the smoke lenses, both are equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
SURGE & FLO
The Ice Blue polycarbonate lenses for the Surge & Flo offer yet more enhanced contrast and colour perception than the brown lenses. The base colour of these lenses is rose. Our VIVIDE lens technology controls light transmission into the eye by filtering out blue light and enhancing red and green light. If your local kiteboarding environment is awash with hues of blue (e.g the Caribbean or Indian Ocean) these category 3 polarised lenses will bring the visible light back into balance.
The VLT for the Ice Blue lenses is 8.35% which is right on the lower end of a category 3 lens. It is therefore a lens suited to very bright sunny conditions. However, as with our brown lenses, there is good performance of these lenses in cloudier conditions owing to the increased contrast afforded by the lens base colour.
As with all our watershades lenses, the VIVIDE Ice Blue come equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
TYPHOON & FLO
Similar in performance to Ice Blue lenses noted above, the violet base colour of the Pacific Blue lenses by ZEISS provide enhanced contrast and vivid colour perception. Available in both the Typhoon and Flo models, the lens material is polyamide (nylon) which offers super crisp vision with an Abbe value of 52, the highest of all of our lenses.
The Pacific Blue lenses subdue the amount of blue light entering the eye and enhance the reds and greens. The blue mirror coating also reflects blue light. These category 3 polarised lenses are perfect for bright sunny conditions in environments with deep blue ocean colours like the Pacific or Atlantic.
The VLT for the these lenses is 9.95% which is also at the lower end of a category 3 lens and so are perfectly suited to bright and sunny conditions.
The Pacific Blue lenses come equipped with Zeiss’s advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
ZEISS Rose Gold polyamide (nylon) lenses have a brown base lens colour which is coupled with a rose gold mirror coating. This lens option is available only in the Typhoon.
The VLT rate for these lenses is 14.2% which while still squarely within the category 3 range, is a bit higher than many of our other watershades lenses which fall in the 8-10%. This lens is well equipped for lower light conditions and cloudy days, but may not be the ideal choice for super-bright sunny conditions.
They are equipped with Zeiss’s advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
ZEISS multilayer red lenses are category 2 polycarbonate lenses with a VLT rate of 26%. The base colour is smoke (grey). It is a true tone lens with a progressive red multilayer coating with red/yellow hues.
Available only in the Flo model, these lenses are suited to medium / low light conditions. As they are not polarised, they are not suitable for handling significant glare. They are however suitable for cloudy days with intermittent sunshine or dawn dusk sessions when glare is not a concern.
As with all our watershades lenses, these Zeiss lenses come equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.