Kayaking: It’s a Cover Up!

Sun protection for anglers.
Sun protection apparel, like UVBuff Headwear, help protect from reflection off the water and keep those doctor visits to a minimum. PHOTO CREDIT: UV Buff Headwear.

By Frank C. Akey

Okay, so this article isn’t really about some sort of conspiracy theory—at least as far as I know—but we will discuss choices in apparel for kayaking in beautiful weather. I will also make sure I use the word sunscreen a few times as well because my editor jumps on me if I forget to put some on myself!

First things first, before leaving the house, put sunscreen on your body that will be exposed to the sun—-neck, ears, nose, face, arms, etc—and reapply after getting where you are going. I call this my First Line of Defense as it is only one step into minimizing sunburn, and it can be considered a layer of clothing for our purposes for this article. Also, make sure you stay hydrated, as this will keep you sharp and less at risk of heat stroke. Now let’s take a look at what is proper apparel, with me already assuming you will be wearing your PFD and polarized sunglasses.

I see a lot of paddlers wearing shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt with a baseball cap, and that is fine for very short periods of direct sun, but when I am on the water, I am paddling and fishing for at least four hours, so I cover up a lot more than that. I wear long pants, a long sleeve fishing shirt, a broad brimmed hat, gloves, water shoes, and a buff. The pants and shirt are usually of the technical materials available today as they dry faster than cotton. I do not like cotton, as it will make you feel clammy when it gets wet, and also becomes heavier with sweat and water. The new materials wick the sweat away and dry so fast that it makes me feel fresher all day.

As for the hat, usually I am wearing a straw cowboy hat—sort of my identifier as friends know me from a distance just from my hat—but a floppy of some kind is very effective in keeping the sun off your neck and face. I also favor a lighter color in the technical materials similar to what is available from Columbia and Bass Pro Shops. But just because I wear a big hat doesn’t mean that it is all that is needed. I still wear a buff, the reason being that reflections will get under the protection of the hat—-but I tell people it is because I paddle so fast that it is to keep wind burn to a minimum. Sounds reasonable, right?

Yes, some think that gloves are overkill, but I am just trying to avoid my dermatologist as much as possible, I think seeing him once a year is enough! There are some great gloves out there—some are just for paddling, but for us anglers there are specific gloves that work wonders. I haven’t had any kind of sunburn from being out on my kayak yet. And the gloves also keep down blisters and callous on your hands from paddling.

Final piece of clothing is the shoes. A lot of my kayak angler buddies wear Crocs because they don’t absorb water, so they are always dry. Some wear water shoes, the lightweight kind that feel like socks on your feet. I sometimes wear those, but if I am going to be getting out a lot on the shoreline, I like the wading boots from World Wide Sportsman. I tuck my pants cuff into them and I have virtual coverage from head to toe. To some, this sounds like way too much to be practical, but as far as I am concerned this is the best way to enjoy a day on the water and still be able to have a friend pat you on the back tomorrow without you jumping and squealing like a little girl from the pain of sunburn. I don’t know about you, but I have enough things that can make me squeal like a…. oh, never mind.

So, take inventory of your clothes you wear when kayak fishing, and see where you might want to upgrade a little. The shirts are usually $20 to $60, and the pants about the same, so it is not a lot of money to keep from getting skin cancer. It is a great excuse to go shopping, and besides, the shirts look great with jeans too! Hope to see you on the water.