As an avid boater and angler, sunglasses for me have always been a tool, a way to cut down the glare on the water and get a clearer picture of what lurks beneath.
But until recently, I never cared about more than the frames and whether they were polarized. Then, in a classic case of middle-age creep, I started bringing a pair of drugstore cheaters on board so I could see the tag end of monofilament to tie a knot or read the data on an electronics display without squinting. It all came to a head this fall while looking for a new pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses online, when I clicked on the box that read “add Rx lenses.” And I have to say, getting shades with prescription lenses has been a game-changer.
“We all have that same dynamic as we get older,” says John Sanchez, VP of Global Product Strategy for sunglasses-maker Costa Del Mar. “Pretty soon, you’re sitting on the water saying, ‘What’s happened to me?’”
What Sanchez was trying to tell me was, I’m not alone. He’s seen prescription sunglasses go from less than 5 percent of total sunglasses sales to 25 to 30 percent. Here are a few reasons why.
I started wearing regular prescription glasses only a few years ago, first for reading or driving at night. Now I wear them all day long, and they not only help prevent eyestrain, but I also feel less tired. Switching to Rx sunglasses does the same thing on the water.
“Prescription lenses kind of squint for you,” Sanchez says.
When you’re not straining when trying to do routine tasks on the water, such as tying knots, reading charts, surveying your surroundings, or seeing the next channel marker, your day gets much easier.
Because recreational boats often have decks made of white fiberglass, the sun’s rays come at you from above and bounce off the boat and back up at you. Having quality polarized lenses such as Costa’s 580s eliminates a lot of the harmful UV rays that can damage the eyes. Not having to constantly take them off to see things, or swap them out with a pair of regular glasses that offer no glare protection, is that much better for your eyes.
I should add that my eye doctor recommended prescription sunglasses for another reason: preventing pterygium, a condition commonly known as “surfer’s eye.” He noticed my eyes had started to yellow a bit around the edges and show more blood vessels. He said that was due to a lifetime of exposure to the sun and wind on the water. Wearing sunglasses all the time while outdoors can prevent surfer’s eye from worsening to the point of discomfort or blurred vision.
Some people would say the solution is not to opt for an expensive prescription but to buy a sunglasses version of drugstore cheaters. This may be well and good, but with a brand like Costa, you can get a version of its lenses to match your exact prescription.
“If you buy a Costa Rx, you will get back an authentic 580 lens made in our lab,” Sanchez says.
This is important to note because some sunglasses-makers provide only their frames, and a third-party source will make the prescription lens, so you lose some of the unique properties that make certain brands’ regular polarized lenses so good.
In my case, with a prescription for progressive lenses, this proved particularly important. I sent my prescription to Costa along with my minus value, pupil distance and preferred frame shape, and its lab technicians custom-made them to fit my specifications. And I have to say, they’re totally worth it now that I wear them every day.
When it comes to utilizing prescription polarized sunglasses on board, I have seen the light.