Most people take their eyesight for granted. In surfing, it is used for so much, from seeing a set come in to seeing the perfect line down the face of a killer wave.
A lot of what we feel in our surfing bones starts with what we see through our eyes.
Surfer's eye is a real issue, and as the hoary old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best protection against surfer’s eye is a good pair of sunglasses!
You don’t have to be at the beach to need a good pair of shades, everyday use is important.
We’ve looked (pun intended) into the best surfer sunglasses to protect you from the harmful UV rays while staying cool and stylish so you can keep your eyes clear and bright to help you find the best waves possible!
Our Favorite Picks
#1 Ray-Ban Wayfarer
#2 Maui Jim Peahi
#3 Ray-Ban Aviator
The Top 9
#1 Classic: Ray-Ban Wayfarer
The Ray-Ban Wayfarer is a classic for a reason. The universally recognized silhouette brings both style, superior optics, and durability to the table, which is why it is our top pick for the best surfing sunglasses.
The lenses are made from a durable, high quality glass that provides sharp, bright colors with a range of available tints as well as the ability to accept prescription lenses.
The UV protection is top notch, protecting against 100% of the UV rays the sun has to throw at you.
The frames are a super durable lightweight nylon that can take a beating and still look great. The frames also come in three sizes to fit a range of head sizes for both men and women.
We also like that there are a plethora of lens and frame combinations to suit any taste, meaning you can rock whichever pair makes you feel cool. These are a versatile, stylish, durable pair of surf shades that will last you for years to come!
#2 Maui Jim Peahi
The Maui Jim Peahi provide excellent performance in a sportier silhouette.
These wrap around glasses block UV and glare from all angles while enhances colors for solid color clarity and contrast.
We also really like the durable and scratch resistant lenses. Maui Jim calls out their glass lenses as 20% thinner than conventional glass for light weight performance and comfort.
The comfort is important, as these are glasses that you can wear for extended periods with no issues. Also, these shades don’t sacrifice durability at all.
The lenses are particularly scratch resistant along with very durable frames. Although only 4 color options are given, they are classics that should work for most personal styles.
For a sportier, high performance look, these are the glasses for you!
#3 Ray-Ban Aviator
I definitely feel the need for these classic aviator glasses.
Whether you are Maverick or surfing at Maverick’s, these will never go out of style. Ray-Ban purports that these glasses have been around since 1937, and we are not ones to argue.
The comfortable metal frames and litany of lens choices can satiate even the hungriest fashionista.
However, these glasses have been around so long because they really perform.
They offer great optics, great comfort, and great durability along with absolute UV protection.
Choose between the three sizes that fits you best, and you will rock these like Tom cruise climbing in to an F14 Tomcat.
#4 Maui Jim Baby Beach
The Maui Jm Baby Beach are an excellent update to the original aviators above.
While still holding on to the oversized metal frames, they round out the lens shape and add a cross bar for a more modern style.
The other big difference is the switch from glass lenses to polycarbonate/glass hybrid for excellent impact and scratch resistance and advanced optics.
We also like that the metal frames are made from titanium for lightweight performance.
Although these glasses are a little more on the spendy side, they are definitely worth it!
#5 SPY Optic Helm Wayfarer
While the Baby Beach put a new spin on the aviators, the Helm Wayfarers from SPY put a new spin on the wayfarer.
The Helm puts a little more detail into the topline and nose bridge for a slightly sportier vibe, but why they standout is the enhancements for durability.
The lenses are polycarbonate and shatterproof and the frames are as durable as anything.
Spy says that these shades can take anything you throw at them, and we believe them.
The optics are great as well, making these a solid choice at a decent price.
#6 Oakley Men's OO9013 Frogskins
Oakley Frogskins are another classic look from the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The clear frames especially get our nostalgia flowing.
However, the Frogskins still perform as well or better than any newer shades.
The UV protection is there as well as Oakley’s world-famous patented optics.
We like the durability and flexibility of their thermoplastic injection frames and the scratch resistance of their plutonite lenses.
With lots of size and color options, you can’t go wrong with Oakley’s Frogskins.
#7 Oakley Gascan
Oakley Gascan shades offer aggressively wrapped frames and squared lenses for a fierce look.
Oakley touts a curved lens that offers unparalleled peripheral vision and unmatched optics.
The lightweight frames are also specially designed to minimize pressure and enhance comfort with a special 3 point fit system.
As with all Oakley glasses, the plutonite lenses also block 100% of all bands of UV light for the protection you would expect.
Check out the size and color options and you will the great range that will cater to any need.
These are great glasses and at a great price point!
#8 VonZipper Elmore
With a little bit more square lens than the traditional Wayfarer, the VonZipper Elmore provides an alternative look that fits square heads a little bit better.
Some of the color options are also the least expensive glasses in our top picks, providing great value for your money.
We also like the metal detail around the temple and the stainless-steel hinges.
The polycarbonate lenses provide good impact and scratch resistance while maintaining excellent optics. For something a little bit different, these are a great option.
#9 Spy Optic Dirk
The Spy Optic Dirk sunglasses are a great compromise style between wrapped and classic silhouettes, perfectly threading the needle of style and sport with a really nice, chunky style.
The 100% UV protection is a must, so the Dirk hits the mark there, but they also provide excellent peripheral UV coverage.
With durable composite frames (which Spy calls virtually indestructible) and impact/scratch resistant lenses these are meant to last for a really long time.
Although the color options are not overwhelming, there are plenty of choices to fit most tastes.
If you want something simple and tough looking, the Dirk is for you!
Why You NEED Sunglasses At The Beach
The beach can be murder on your eyes, so you absolutely need sunglasses for a trip to the beach. Sunglasses can help alleviate three big problems; glare, UV rays, and blowing sand.
The easiest to explain, obviously, is blowing sand. Having something between your eyes and any windswept beach helps keep the gritty sand out of your eyes, always a big win.
As we mentioned before, UV rays are harmful to your eyes and are the main culprit behind surfer’s eye, a condition that can affect anyone that spends a lot of time outside, even in cloud cover. Surfer’s eye is a growth of a pink fleshy tissue on your eyeball.
It’s not cancer, but it is pretty gross, so wearing sunglasses that block the UV rays that cause surfer’s eye is a must. Finally, surfers and beachcombers alike can get eye fatigue and strain because of glare off the water.
Squinting is not fun, so a great pair of shades can save you some tired eyes and avoid headaches. Whenever you are at the beach, we highly recommend wearing your surf shades!
Criteria To Consider When Buying
This is just a note to keep in mind when you are buying on amazon or anywhere else on the web. Sunglasses are really easy to knock off, so make sure you are buying from a reputable seller who only sells the genuine article! Even under the same listing on amazon different sellers will be listed for different colors. If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is! So, buy from the source company, but anything listed as prime and anything fulfilled by amazon means you are good to go as well.
Type of Use
How are you going to use your surfer sunglasses? Are you going to wear them while strolling on the boardwalk and sitting at a café? Are you going to drop them on the sand as you sprint out to catch a perfect swell? Both are legit, but they generally mean different things. If you are using them while active on the beach, we like polycarbonate lenses and a more wrap around style for greater protection. If you are on the boardwalk style is king so we like the classic silhouettes and cool new looks. That doesn’t mean you can’t cross over. In truth, though, most glasses will work in most situations, so how you feel about them is the most important!
The two main criteria for materials are how they feel on your head and durability. The main frame materials are either metal or various types of plastic. Metal frames can provide plenty of strength but may feel heavier on your ears or nose. Plastics are light weight but can crack much more easily. Materials also greatly impact the feel of your glasses. Consider the tension of the material around your head and whether it rubs or is irritating or exerts too much pressure on your temples. Rubber tips on the arms can help keep the glasses in place too but might pull on your hair. This really comes down to personal preference, so make sure know what you want!
Lens Quality directly affects the optics and color clarity of your shades. Precision cut glass provides the best optical clarity, though for most it will be hard to tell the difference between glass optics and polycarbonate optics. For color, different lens colors provide different color spectrum performance in different light conditions. Generally, a grey lens will give the best performance in all light conditions, and we prefer polarized lenses for the best color performance and UV protection.
Lens strength comes down to two things, scratch resistance and impact/crack resistance. Most of our top nine call out some form of scratch resistance to keep your surf sunglasses safe around the grit of the sand. Impact resistance helps keep your lenses from shattering or cracking when you inevitably drop them or throw something on top of your surf bag before realizing you left you left your surf sunglasses in the outside pocket. Polycarbonate lenses are especially scratch resistant while providing superior impact resistance and optics.
Final Verdict - Which Should I Buy?
We said it before, but we’ll say it again. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer is a classic for a reason. We love the style and performance combined to give you a go to pair of surf shades in any conditions.
The nylon frames are lightweight and durable for extended wear, and you can get them in so many awesome colors that you might need more than one pair.
Ray-Ban has a reputation for great optics, and that reputation is built on the Wayfarer’s performance over decades.
The combination of UV protection, style, and durability makes the Ray-Ban Wayfarer our top pick for the best surf sunglasses!
OUR #1 PICK - Ray-Ban Wayfarer