6 Best Surf Sunscreen Choices For 2021

by Asia Kaczmarczyk
Best surf sunscreen

So, you’re on the hunt for the best surf sunscreen? Good! It’s about time us salt-washed water babies started taking skin health seriously. Some studies have it that surfers are up to three times as likely to develop melanoma. You don’t have to be a doc to know that ain’t good. What’s more, who wants to have that on their mind as they paddle out into the crystal-clear reefs of Sri Lanka or gaze down the sunsets of the Baja California? Nope. Us neither.

Thankfully, help is at hand. Yep, there are lots of ways boardies can cut the chance of skin damage and make their riding all the safer. They include wearing decent SPF rash vests and getting up for the dawnie instead of hitting the waves midday (five coffees for me, please!). On top of that, choosing the right sun protection is absolute key…

There are some corkers on the market today. This guide runs through some of the very best surf sunscreen products out there. It’s got ones that champion their eco credentials, some that are great if you’re the sort that smudge your sunscreen on the pop up, and options with that all-important zinc infusion. Let’s get started…

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What surf sunscreens are here?

Suntribe All Natural Zinc Sunscreen *our all-round top surf sunscreen for 2021!

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £14.99

Suntribe All Natural Zinc Sunscreen is the bees knees. It’s got pretty much all the features you could want out of your H20 skin protector. The best component is in the name: Zinc. That’s in the ingredients list of virtually all the best surf sunscreens out there. It’s great at fending of UV. It’s also all-mineral based and natural. Better yet, the one here is non-nano zinc. That means the individual particles of zinc are simply too small to absorb into your skin so you shouldn’t have to worry about extra irritation and whatnot.

Suntribe clearly had surfers on their mind when they designed this product. They’ve enlisted WSL pedigree Tim Latte from Sweden to be part of their team, along with stay kiteboarders and sailors. But we don’t need no A-listers to tell us it works. We’ve had this bad boy on a month-long trip to the Canaries last year and it was fantastico. It lasted two of us for 28 days of surfing straight. We also loved that it’s not just about stopping the burn. Suntribe comes with coconut oil and beeswax to moisturise as you surf. Our skin felt da bomb after sessions. Which is a change.

As if that’s still not enough, this product is made 100% eco friendly with ocean safety in mind. It’s all-natural ingredients, so worry not on those Sri Lankan corals or those Aussie reefs.

  • Non-nano zinc oxide protection – the best out there!
  • Lasts ages
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Lovely tin packaging
  • We left ours a couple of months and it didn’t look too good.
  • Only 30 SPF, but apply right and you’re good to go

Fuka Eri

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £20

Okay, so there’s a hefty price tag with the Fuka Eri. But by golly are them some enticing features. Before we get into why it’s unquestionably one of the best surf sunscreens out there, let’s talk eco credentials. There are more reef-safe, non-paraben products cramming this market than you can shake a coralstone at. We’re yet to find one that’s quite as environmentally clued in as Fuka Eri…

The whole thing is void of chemical ingredients. There’s not a single hydrocarbon chain or whatnot in the mix, just jojoba seeds, parkii butter, and cocoa to name just three of the all-natural additions. On top of that, the formula is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. It’s reef safe and fine to use in any water environment. Green-conscious surfers eat your heart’s out.

Fuka Eri is developed by surfers who lived in the wave mecca that is Bali. That means you can rest assured it’s got the toughness for long sessions – we know there can be lots of smudging on the Bingin reefs, ay. They’ve gone for a non-nano zinc active core, which gives an enviable 50 SPF. It’s fast becoming our go-to choice.

  • Really eco-friendly
  • No chemical ingredients at all
  • Vegan
  • It can dry out fast, so it’s usually only good for one surf trip
  • Some people don’t like the colour it makes on the skin

The Zinka Zinc Nosecoat

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £12.28

If zinc is what you’re after, and we think that the majority of surfers should be, then Zinka is a company you’ll want to know about. They’ve been crafting no-nonsense screens aimed specifically at water sporters and surfers for more than 30 years. They bill themselves as the “original action sports sunscreen company” and, with a base in sun-splashed Southern California, we think they know a thing or two about keeping the rays off.

They’ve got a whole series of sunblocks on offer, but the one we can’t help but return to is this small, pocket-sized tube of goodness. It’s heavy on the zinc, so it tends to push away the rays harder than other products that prioritize blending in. That makes it a cracking choice for midsummer surfers in sunny corners of the UK, like Cornwall, but also a fantastic option for surf trips to tropical spots like Sri Lanka or Costa Rica.

  • 25% zinc!
  • Very small and easy to carry around to different surf spots
  • Good for places with strong sun
  • Colours far too bold for some surfers
  • Easy to lose – we’ve done it a few times 🙁

Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Face Stick SPF30

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £11.99

We’re gonna’ stray a little from our usual patch to pull out the Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Face Stick. The reason we’re cautious is that this is pretty much the only chemical-based SPF we’d consider using for the face. Despite the loaded word, being chemical doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad. In fact, chemical-based stick are often smoother to roll on and can last longer – both of which are true of the Sun Bum here! What’s more, people with oily skin types and acne problems often prefer chemical options because they’re less heavy on the pores. If that’s you, read on…

What you’re doing is swapping out the classic zinc component with things like avobenzone and octisalate, which together make up 7% of the product. They’re the active ingredients, which work to absorb the UVA and UVB that beats down on the board, rather than reflect it away in the style of a mineral sunscreen.

What we love about the Sun Bum original is that it offers a chemical-based alternative to surfers who suffer from oily skin and spots without throwing in an overload of white-coat lab stuff. You get what you need to offer broad-spectrum protection for 80 minutes and then you’re onto more soothing ingredients – Vitamin E, aloe, beeswax. The product is also rated reef safe and cruelty free.

  • Good alternative for oily skin types
  • Goes on so smooth
  • Easy-carry packaging
  • 30 SPF max on the original
  • Some people flat out won’t like chem-based sunscreens

SETT Surf

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £9.00

We’ve only used the SETT stuff on one trip but we were sufficiently impressed to whack it up here with the best surf sunscreens for 2021. The main reason? There’s a generous beeswax component that means it rarely starts smudging or melting all over your face and eyes. Anyone who’d taken to the water in balmy Mexico will know that’s important, especially when you have the tonnage of Puerto Escondido shorebreaks bearing down.

But beeswax isn’t the only reason why SETT makes it here. We also found it super easy to apply. Pop the lid, poke up the tube, and it glides on like a 9″ on Waikiki. Moreover, it’s easy-peasy to pack and the design is pretty darn cool – don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it!

SPF wise it’s only 30, but you should be reapplying this regularly anyhow, and we’ve already mentioned how that’s a breeze. The key ingredient, as ever, is that zinc. We also like the inclusion of Vitamin E (good for existing sun damage) and shea butter (smoooooth). SETT also make it quite clear: This was “tested on surfers, not animals”!

  • Hardly ever runs
  • Vitamin E component helps sooth already damaged skin
  • Cool design and all that jazz
  • 30 SPF max
  • Can leave some white marks

Aloha Sun Stick SPF 50+

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £13.90 

Aloha have packed their product with so much mineral protection that it’s one of the longest lasting options on the market right now. There’s a hefty core of both non-nano zinc and titanium dioxide. That cranks up the SPF rating to a whopping 50+, which is a whole load higher than many other products on this list. The upshot? This could be the one to go for if you have sun-sensetive skin or just don’t have the discipline to paddle back out and reapply (although you should be doing that anyhow!).

Strength aside, we also love the eco features. These guys have paid very close attention to what TRULY makes a reef-safe block reef-safe. As such, they’ve ditched the oxybenzone, OD-PABA, and 3-Benzylidene camphor chemtrails in favor of 94% natural ingredients. Each stick contains 20g, which they reckon should last anything from a few weeks to a couple of months.

  • 50 SPF makes it good for sun-sensetive types
  • 96% natural ingredients
  • All mineral
  • Packaging deteriorates if it gets wet
  • Often out of stock

If you have used any other products like this and think we’ve missed something from our selection of the best surf sunscreen products on the market today, please get in touch! We always love to add more impressive UV blockers to our pieces to help keep surfers healthy.

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3 comments

Laura April 13, 2021 - 8:26 am

Hi! Thanks for this comparison! Unfortunately, as far as I know, Zinka stick is quite reef-unfriendly, on Amazon when you check the pic with ingredients (back label) you can find octocrylene, octinoxate etc. (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Zinka-Clear-Oxide-Resistant-Lotion/dp/B0093KSY60 ) but I think they’ve made also another, mineral formulation. From the 2021 newbies, I can recommend a new stick in a paper tube that is natural and has a pleasant texture – Aloha Sun Stick, got it also via Amazon and works great. Cheers!

Reply
Joe @ Surf Atlas April 13, 2021 - 1:40 pm

Yo! Thanks for the info. We do note at the bottom of the Zinka bit that it’s got octinoxate in it. We also have heared that some surfers actively look for this ingredient because of certain skin types. We’d say it’s 100% something worth double checking on the reef safety front. We also love the Aloha sunscreen – we actually recommend it in our UK version of this site but couldn’t see if it was available in the USA! We’d say it’s a good choice overall.

Reply
Laura April 13, 2021 - 8:29 am

Sorry, probably doing the research to confirm zinka’s INCI list I’ve jumped into another post, my mistake! cheers

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