I Wear my Sunglasses

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    I Wear my Sunglasses

    The water is up and river season is here! I like to do little blog bits on river gear from time to time, so I thought I would post this comentary from one of our long time dealers, Lee with The Boat People. Here you go, enjoy:

    “Few of us would ever embark on a raft trip without the safety basics – life vest, appropriate clothing for the air and water temperature, and perhaps a helmet, river knife, or unwrapping kit. We tend to think in the near future rather than off in the distance, and occasionally there is one bit of headgear we do leave in the shuttle car: sunglasses.

    Most of you wear them for rafting, and a fair percentage of kayakers and open canoe pilots do as well. But there are others among us – most notably people who wear regular prescription glasses – who often forego shaded clip-on’s or the like. Today’s lesson is about why that is a very bad idea.

    Now I’m not here to advocate for any pricey high-end eyewear purveyor. In fact, you would have a difficult time finding any consumer good with the degree of mark up from manufacturer to retailer that plastic-lens sunglasses incur. What you should know is that not wearing UV protection over your peepers may have some long term consequences. Consequences that won’t rear their ugly heads for decades to come.

    Before the days of comfortable soft contact lens, I was among the four-eyed of boaters. Between 1980 and 1988 I often wore a baseball hat or visor, but only rarely did I have dark clip-on’s snapped to my trusty coke bottles. And being in California where many Sierra streams flow westward, that meant the afternoon sun was often coming straight at me.

    Fast forward a couple decades, to a recent eye exam. It’s worth noting here by the way, that few people experience much change in their lens prescription after age 40. Yet it seemed my left eye did indeed need a new and stronger contact lens than what I was wearing in my right eye. As my ophthalmologist twiddled dials and cast unpleasantly bright lights into my wincing eyeballs, he seemed to be having trouble getting the correct combo for my left eye. He was also commenting that “something isn’t right here”. Oh dear. Glad the wifey has eye insurance through her job….
    After multiple dilating drops and no less than 80 minutes, he proclaimed with some satisfaction that the culprit had been found: the beginnings of a cataract in the innermost layer of my cornea, and I’m just in my 40s. That explained my difficulty over the last year in making out people’s faces clearly if they were more than a hundred feet or so away.

    The good doctor explained that most cataracts are the results of UV & infrared exposure or eye injury. While I did have a bonk in the left eye as a child, I believe that glare from those early raft trips is more likely the culprit. Skiers know enough to wear sunglasses, but river runners may not always consider eyewear as seriously. I’m off for surgery in a month or three, and grand time though that may be with the buzzy drugs & all, I might recommend the rest of you try to pass. Not wearing sunglasses on the river today will have little effect save the evening headache, but down the road a piece you may come to regret leaving them in the Subaru. The eye surgery industry will do just fine without our help, thank you.

    Flows will be high this Spring throughout much of the lower 48 this year, so boat with caution and may the force be with you.

    Lee Arbach, The Boat People

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