Saturday, 12 August 2006 18:50

Teach Proper Sun Sense

If you were to look at the possible occupational hazards in your career as a sea kayak instructor probably the biggest hazard would be the sun.

Photo Credit Dan Klein

Nobody is completely safe from the sun. The risk of skin cancer today is much greater then it was 20 years ago. That is because we are exposed to more ultraviolet rays due to the thinning of the protective layer of ozone around the earth is becoming thinner due to pollution.

Over time, exposure to these UV rays can cause skin cancer.

The harmfull effects of UV damage can be magnified when you are out on the water because the surface of water reflects UV rays causing you to get double the amount of UV on your skin.

The most dangerous time of the day to be out in the sun is between 11am and 4pm. That is when the suns rays are the strongest.

When out paddling make sure that you wear a good paddling jacket to block the UV light. If it is to hot to wear a paddling jacket, there are lot of really good UV protectent clothing on the market. These fabrics are made from a special material and are tightly woven to provide the same level of sun protection as SPF 30-50.

When on the water, always wear a hat. Studies have shown that the majority of cancers happen on the face and neck and these areas need extra protection. Wear a hat with a wide brim that covers your face, ears and neck. It seems so simple but next time you are out, watch how many people don’t wear one, you will be amazed.

{josquote} As an instructor, it is very important that you always set a good example in regards to proper sun sense.{/josquote}Wear sunscreen. Make sure that you purchase sunscreen with the term “broad spectrum” on the label. That way you will know it will block out as much as possible. Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of +15 or even better, +30-45. For best protection, it must be applied at least 20 min before going out in the sun as it needs to be absorbed into your skin for it to work properly. Reapply every 2 hours or more often if you are in the water quite a bit as it can wash off.

Wear sunglasses when you are on the water. Your eyes are very sensitive to UV light so it is extremely important that you look after yourself properly and wear sunglasses with full UVB protection.

There are two different schools of thought around wearing dark sunglasses when teaching. One school says that they can be very intimidating when your students can’t see your eyes so you shouldn’t be wearing them when you teach, the other school of thought is that the sun can damage your eyes just like they can damage your skin so they should be worn.

I see the arguments for both schools of thought but I personally believe that it is more important to look after yourself. After all, your personal health can be at stake. I find that a good compromise is to talk to your students at the beginning of the class and explain the importance of sun sense and wearing sun glasses on the water. If I need to talk to a student up close or about something more serious in nature, I make sure that try to remove as many barriers in my communication by removing my glasses so they can see my eyes.

As an instructor, it is very important that you always set a good example in regards to proper sun sense. Always wear your hat and make sure that you encourage your students to wear sun screen as well as reapply it throughout the day.

To help keep both you and your students safe in the sun, follow these simple steps:

  • Slip on clothes made of a close-weave fabric that covers the neck, arms and legs.
  • Slap on a wide brim hat that covers the face, neck and ears.
  • Slop on a Sun Protection Factor 30+ water resistant sunscreen.

Finally, keep an eye on yourself. Check yourself over on a regular bases and report and changes to your doctor. There is an excellent article here by the Canadian Cancer Society on the early detection of non-melanoma skin cancer. You can read it here.

Related Gear Reviews:
Bare Sunguard Long Sleeved Shirt

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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