The best sunscreen for surfing

Sliding off your board, white gloopy streaks, washing off as soon as you get in the sea, misting up your contact lenses… these are just some of the joys of surfing wearing sunscreen.

And then what do you do… come in from a great surf session to reapply your sunscreen, or stay out there and suffer the pain of sunburn later? It’s not necessarily a bad dilemma to face (as opposed to will I need to wear a hood and gloves this morning, even though it’s only November – good old British weather) but nevertheless it’s frustrating, so finding a great sunscreen that does what it’s supposed to is like gold dust. It can make the difference between a good and a great surf trip – after all no-one wants to miss a great surf day because they’re too sunburnt from the day before.

So after years of research, and various ridiculous sunburn marks, we have devised the Mellow Waves definitive guide to what sunscreen is best for surfing…

Coppertone Sport pump spray SPF 30

In our opinion, the king of waterproof suncreams. I found this by accident in a corner shop in San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, and it’s been my sunscreen of choice ever since. It’s not gloopy or greasy, goes on like a dream, even on wet and salty skin, and it stays put. In fact their whole sport range is brilliant.


Boots Soltan Active Ultra Resistant stick SPF50

I first used this little gem in Morocco and now it stays permanently in my boardbag. It’s great for small areas like the face, ears and back of the hands. I wouldn’t usually bother with the rest of the Soltan range, but this little stick is a real gem. Most importantly, it doesn’t mist up contact lenses and it doesn’t sting if you’re already a bit on the frazzled side.

And best of all, the stick is small enough to fit in board short pockets so you can top up your sunscreen without paddling in, which is always a bonus!


Zinc, or any baby bum cream

Most people know about zinc, you can buy it in a myriad of colours, and it does a great job of providing total sun protection for sensitive areas.

In an emergency, or if you’re completely skint, one of the best physical sun blocks I’ve used is Panalito, or any baby bum cream with zinc in it, such as sudocrem. Check the percentage of zinc, but anything over 9-10% will do a good job.

In Nicaragua, this is what all the locals use, it costs a fraction of the price of surfer’s zinc, usually contains less harsh chemicals, and does the job just as well. It’s also great for sunburn, healing tattoos, eczema, spots, heat rash and a range of other skin conditions.


Ocean Potion Wetskin Tech Water sport sunblock SPF50
Another really good sunblock as long as you apply it before you get in the water or once you’ve dried off again.


We’d love to know about other brilliant sun creams for surfing, so let us know which sunscreen you swear by in the comments below.

Author: Amy Lambert

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  1. Aloe Gator SP40+ Ultra Waterproof 8 hour

    Used it extensively surfing in France and Barbados and it works a treat. Nice on the skin, goes a long way and is really waterproof. Make sure you get the 8 hour one as the 80 minute one looks very similar!

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  2. Aloe Gator Gel 40+SPF. Just used it in Jan 16. 2 weeks in Gurubebila, Welligama, Dikwella. 30-35 degrees, sunshine and water should be enough to toast my skin. I’m pretty fair hair and pasty. I did not burn once. Cant recommend this more highly. Rob

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    • Thanks for the recommendation Rob, will check it out. How was your trip? I lived Sri Lanka!

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      • Hi Amy,

        Thanks for your message. Sri Lanka was wonderful. Beautiful people, scenery and food. Nice mellow trip. I’ll be going back tho maybe not Weligama due to the 250 room hotel being built..

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  3. surfers-shield, I bought it last summer in Portugal. It’s a zinc based protection, lasts hours in the water. i used it recently in indo and worked amazing, not a sunburn, and it’s natural and coming in an aluminium can is also nuture friendly

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    • Cool, thanks Luca, we’ll check it out

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