11 Best Sunscreens for Surfers {Reef-safe}

As surfers, we spend hours and hours under the sun. And, our sun exposure is only amplified by the sun reflecting on the water. 

If you’re surfing in tropical destinations closer to the equator, the sun is even stronger. 

That’s why it’s so incredibly important to have a solid, reef safe sunscreen you can depend on. 

Not only will a good surf sunscreen keep you from a painful sunburn, but it’ll also keep your skin nice and healthy, and most importantly, prevent skin cancer.

Now, there are a lot of different sunscreens on the market- I mean a LOT. And there are just as many misconceptions about what it ACTUALLY means to be a reef safe sunscreen! 

To help you navigate through all that, I’ve rounded up the 11 best sunscreens for surfers, so you can grab a bottle (or a stick or spray) and get back to surfing. 

In a hurry? Here are the top 11 reef safe sunscreens for surfers:


1. Kokua Suncare– The overall best sunscreen for surfers

2. SurfDurt– The best barrier-style surf sunscreen

3. Reef Repair– Best biodegradable surf sunscreen

4. Salt & Stone– Best stick sunscreen for surfers

5. Manda Organic Sun Paste– Most natural and organic surf sunscreen

6. All Good Sport Sunscreen– The thickest spray on sunscreen

7. Babo Botanicals– Best spray on surf zinc sunscreen

8. Tropicsport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion– The most water resistant sunscreen for surfers

9. Blue Lizard– Most affordable surfing sun protection

10. Badger Sport Mineral sunscreen– First Protect Land + Sea certified sunscreen

11. Stream2Sea– Marine life friendly surf sunscreen

** This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Meaning, at no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission anytime you purchase any of the linked products. Thanks for your support of Gathering Waves!


How to choose the best sunscreen for surfers

Is it reef safe?

Surfing is one of those unique sports that depends 100% on the ocean, and as surfers, we should all strive to be doing more help than harm to the ocean. 

That’s why one of the most important factors in choosing sunscreen for surfers should be whether or not the sunscreen is reef safe. 

Here’s the catch though… The term “reef safe” is NOT REGULATED. So many bottles of sunscreen have “Reef safe!” written on them while they’re full of toxic chemicals that bleach the reefs. 

Honestly… if I had a $ for every sunscreen bottle I’ve seen that says “reef safe” only to flip around the bottle to find harmful, reef bleaching ingredients on the back, I’d be freakin rich.

To be fair, before a recent trip to Hawaii, I was also pretty ignorant to what it truly meant for a sunscreen to be Reef safe, and I bought into the marketing schemes. 

However,  I now actually understand what specifically qualifies as a reef safe sunscreen.

And  I’m excited to share it with my readers, and recommend some great sunscreen for surfers. 

In a nutshell: The ONLY active ingredients in sunscreen that are safe for the reefs are non-nano zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. 

Here are some of the ingredients in common sunscreens today that are harmful and toxic:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinozate
  • Octinoxate
  • Avobenzone
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Homosalate
  • Octocrylene

Not only are these common sunscreen ingredients harmful to coral reefs, but some even have endocrine-disrupting effects. 

Definitely not something you want to rub all over your body!

So to reiterate: The only safe sunscreen ingredients are non-nano Zinc-oxide & titanium dioxide.

Does it offer adequate sun protection?

The next most important factor when it comes to choosing sunscreen for surfers is if the sunscreen provides proper and adequate sun protection.

While spending hours under the sun, you really want to make sure that your sunscreen of choice truly works. SPF factor is one way to gauge it- Anything over SPF 30 provides you with 50% more sun protection, so that’s a good place to start!

Does it stay on throughout the session?

When the surf is epic, the last thing you want to worry about is getting absolutely roasted by the sun because the sets started coming in as soon as your sunscreen wore off. 

A good sunscreen for surfers needs to be built to last

You want to be protected for several hours, otherwise there is pretty much no point! 

Do you want classic or barrier-style sunscreen?

Another factor to consider when picking sunscreen is what you want it to look like. Many zinc based sunscreens essentially go on clear, but some barrier-style zinc and mineral sunscreens will leave a pretty thick coat on your skin and protect it that way (you know, the classic lifeguard look!)

Personally, when surfing in Costa Rica or somewhere else with blaring tropical sun, I like to smear a coat of basic zinc sunscreen all over, and then put the thick, barrier-style sunscreen across the bridge of my nose.

(I also put the thick stuff on my tattoos to keep them from fading, but that’s definitely not applicable to everyone).

The 11 best sunscreens for surfers

best sunscreen for surfers

1. Kokua Suncare– The overall best sunscreen for surfers

  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: 25% Zinc Oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

This Hawaiian sunscreen is the best reef safe sunscreen on the market. 

It contains 50 SPF, 25% non nano zinc oxide, and loads of other Hawaii-grown antioxidant ingredients. 25% zinc is the highest percentage of zinc oxide you’ll find on the market- it truly doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to sun protection. 

However, the sun protection doesn’t stop with the zinc. Those 7 Hawaii grown antioxidant ingredients have their own natural sun protection as well. 

Organic noni juice, plumeria extract, spirulina, noni honey, kukui nut oil, konared hawaiian coffee fruit extract, and macadamia nut oil all come straight from volcanic, nutrient dense soils in Hawaii, where they’ve developed their own antioxidants to protect themselves- the same antioxidants that will protect us, and our skin when we use Kokua Sunscreen

By omitting beeswax from their list of ingredients, Kokua also qualifies as a vegan sunscreen- and they don’t work with ANY labs that do animal testing. 

If you’re looking for an incredible zinc surf sunscreen, why not pick one from the birthplace of surfing?

2.  SurfDurt– The best barrier-style surf sunscreen

  • SPF: 30
  • Active Ingredients: 24% zinc oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

Definition:

SurfDurt is one of the best, if not the best barrier style sunscreens on the market. 

SurfDurt was started by two female surfers who wanted a sunscreen that wasn’t oozing with toxic chemicals that destroy coral reefs (at a rate of 6 olympic-sized swimming pools per freakin drop!)

So, they set out to design a solution- and SurfDurt was born. It’s the perfect chocolate scented blend of 24% non nano zinc oxide and antioxidant rich ingredients designed to protect your skin from the sun, for longer. 

It’s barrier style, which means if it’s on and you can see it, it’s working! If it comes off, and you can’t see it on your skin, that usually means you’re not being protected and should reapply. 

3. Reef Repair– Best biodegradable surf sunscreen

  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: 25% zinc oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

If you’re looking for a more traditional, rub-in sunblock, then Reef Repair is a great option. 

This SPF 50, zinc based, broad spectrum mineral sunscreen is one of the best sunblock for surfers on the market. 

This completely biodegradable sunscreen is waterproof for up to 80 minutes, and rubs right in. 

It doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy, sticky, and it doesn’t leave a white sheen on your face either after application.

Whie it comes in a small bottle, this sunscreen is really great because a little goes a long way. 

Due to its thickness, you will not need to use much of it per session to get some proper sun coverage, and it’ll last you quite a while. 

4. Salt & Stone– Best stick sunscreen for surfers

  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: 22.5% zinc oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

This Salt & Stone stick sunscreen is awesome. It contains 22.5% zinc oxide, so it provides more than enough protection against the sun’s UVA/UVB rays. 

In addition to zinc oxide, it contains some clean, natural ingredients like Shea butter, Jojoba oil, and beeswax, and will naturally moisturize your skin. 

The stick application is super easy to use- you simply uncap it, twist the knob, and apply it smoothly on. 

Due to its natural tint, it won’t leave the same white sheen like other zinc based sunblocks, but it might stain white clothes, so be careful with that! 

With it being so small, this is a great sunscreen to slide in your pockets, board bag, or wherever, and it won’t take up too much space and you’ll have it readily accessible. 

If you like the sound of the brand, but aren’t too keen on stick sunscreens, Salt & Stone also makes 30 and 50 SPF bottled sunscreens.

5. Manda Organic Sun Paste– Most natural and organic surf sunscreen

  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: 20% Non-nano zinc oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

Manda Organic Sun Paste is one of the best zinc surf sunscreens out there. 

This paste protects you from the sun by sitting on top of the skin, and creating a physical, visible layer between yourself and the sun’s rays. 

You can apply it as lightly or as heavily as you want, and have some control over how much sun protection you’ll receive. 

Manda cares about the environment too- in addition to this sunscreen being completely organic and reef friendly- its packaging is also made from bamboo, and can be upcycled and used to store things like headphones, coins, surf wax, or whatever you’d like. 

With ingredients like cocoa, coconut, and cinnamon, this sunscreen smells amazing, and you won’t be left feeling oily, or smelling like chemicals after application. 

Surfers have reported this sunscreen staying on for 2,3+ hour sessions.

This sunscreen is best for people who want a reef friendly, organic sunblock that will sit on top of the skin. 

6. All Good Sport Sunscreen– The thickest spray on surf sunscreen

  • SPF: 30
  • Active Ingredients: 14% zinc oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

If you’re looking for a nice reef safe spray sunscreen, the All Good Sport Sunscreen spray is great. 

It’s specifically designed for watersports, and stays on longer in the water than other sunscreens. If you’re looking for marathon sessions, you might want to go for another sunscreen, or pair this one with some heavy surf mud that’ll sit on top of it.

In addition to non nano zinc oxide, All Good Sport Sunscreen has some other great stuff in it. 

It’s #1 inactive ingredient is aloe: meaning this sunscreen will soothe your skin just as much as it protects it from the sun. 

Some other good ingredients include organic green tea, rose hips, and buriti oil: all designed to repair damaged skin- which is great news for surfers getting hours upon hours of sun exposure! 

Even though this is a spray-on sunscreen, it’s still made with zinc- and it will need to be rubbed in a little even after spraying it on. 

Overall, if you’re looking for a fragrance free, reef safe sunscreen for your face when surfing, you really can’t go wrong with this one. 

Plus, the nozzle locks when it’s not in use so it won’t ooze zinc sunscreen all over your car, board bag, clothes, phone, wallet, and everything else you care about in your life…

7. Babo Botanicals– Best spray on surf zinc sunscreen

  • SPF: 30
  • Active Ingredients: 12% Zinc Oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

Babo Botanicals is another winning spray zinc sunscreen for surfers that makes the list. This 12% zinc oxide derived mineral sunscreen is specifically designed for sensitive skin, non greasy, and lightweight. 

But just because it’s lightweight and non greasy doesn’t mean it’s not heavy duty- this stuff does not come off in the water.

In addition to zinc oxide, it’s got some great, all natural inactive ingredients like aloe, calendula, and sunflower oil- all ingredients that will nourish and rehydrate your skin after long days under the sun. 

This sunscreen is vegan, organic, and hypoallergenic- it’s safe for babies and just about anyone else.

While it’s a spray sunscreen, like other zinc spray sunscreens on this list it still needs to be rubbed in. And once it is, you’re good and golden to hit the waves! 

8. Tropicsport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion-The most water resistant sunscreen for surfers

  • SPF: 30
  • Active Ingredients: 4.5% titanium dioxide, 8.7% zinc oxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

Tropicsport is another of the best waterproof sunscreens for surfers out there. 

The product itself is completely reef safe, and the packaging is also completely non toxic and recyclable. That’s pretty unique from other sunscreen brands, and a pretty big endorsement to purchase it vs other reef safe sunscreens that might not have recyclable packaging. 

Like all other zinc based sunscreens, it’s likely to leave a little bit of a white sheen after applying- but most people say that this sunscreen goes on much clearer than other zinc sunblocks. 

Tropicsport was also designed by surfers, for surfers- and it’s also 100% by JOB, which is a pretty glowing endorsement in the surfing community. 

In addition to passing the 80 minute US waterproofing test, Tropicsport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion also passed the 240 minute sunscreen test- meaning it has exceeded some of the world’s highest and strictest standards for water resistance.

9. Blue Lizard– Most affordable surfing sun protection

  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: 8% titanium dioxide & 10% zinc oxide
  • Price: $
  • Availability: Check Here

Home to the Great Barrier Reef, some pretty roasting temps and sunshine, and more surfers than kangaroos, Australia knows a thing or two about reef safe sunscreen. 

Which is probably why Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen is so, so good! 

Blue Lizard is made with all reef safe ingredients, and is extremely gentle on sensitive skin. 

Being SPF 50 and containing a powerful blend of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, this sunscreen is one of the most powerful out there, and will leave you protected throughout the whole session. 

One of the really cool things about Blue Lizard is the packaging itself- whenever it’s in the presence of harmful UV rays, the bottle and lid actually change color! While this isn’t the most useful thing ever, it’s pretty cool- and it gives you a little heads up that you should PROBABLY lather up.

10. Badger Sport Mineral Sunscreen– First Protect Land + Sea Certified sunscreen

  • SPF: 40
  • Active Ingredients: 22.5% zinc oxide
  • Price: $
  • Availability: Check Here

If you’re pretty prone to sunburn and looking to get a TON of protection from a lotion style sunscreen, you can’t go wrong with the Badger Sport Mineral sunscreen

This stuff is heavy duty. 

I’ve worn it for hours surfing in Nosara Costa Rica, and it really just stays on there. 

A few other reasons I recommend Badget:

  • It’s a women owned business
  • It’s rich in antioxidants
  • It’s one of the first ever sunscreens to be certified by Protect Land + Sea

The only real drawback of this sunscreen comes from its thickness- it definitely leaves more of a white/blue-ish sheen on your skin than other sunscreens, so if this is something that really bothers you, I’d recommend another type from this list. 

Personally, I don’t mind it and I don’t think marine life does either. 

11. Stream2Sea– Marine life friendly surf sunscreen

  • SPF: 30
  • Active Ingredients: 5.5% non nano titanium dioxide
  • Price: $$
  • Availability: Check Here

Stream2Sea is a biodegradable, non-greasy, unscented, water-resistant and reef friendly sunscreen. 

Its active ingredient is 5.5% non nano titanium dioxide, making it a good alternative to all the zinc based sunscreens if you have any sort of sensitivity to zinc. 

Additionally, the packaging of the sunblock is eco friendly- all Stream2Sea containers are made of sugarcane resin.

Another factor to consider is that this sunscreen is super thick. While it’s fairly expensive, a little goes a long way, so you’ll definitely get a lot out of the bottle.

Surf sunscreen FAQs

How can I protect my lips while surfing?

Unfortunately, lips are often overlooked while sunscreening up before a session, and they’re also a very painful spot to burn! 

You can protect your lips while surfing by either putting your sunscreen of choice on your lips as well, or by using a lip balm with SPF protection.

All Good makes an awesome mineral sunscreen lip balm. 

How expensive is sunscreen for surfers?

Reef safe sunscreen for surfers really isn’t that much more expensive than toxic, chemical sunscreens. 

Especially because zinc based sunscreen is very thick, which means a bottle will go much further. 

Generally, the best sunscreen for surfing starts at about $15, and the most expensive it’ll be  is around $30.

What is the best waterproof sunscreen for surfers?

The most waterproof sunscreen for surfers is the Tropicsport Mineral Sunscreen.

Wrapping up the best sunscreen for surfers 

That concludes my list of the best sunblock for surfers! I hope you’ve found a brand you like, or at least learned a little bit about reef safe sunscreens and how important they are.