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Those long-awaited days of summer are finally here. And that means longer days, and perhaps best of all, warmer temperatures to ride in. Though you may be tempted to ditch all those trappings of pre-season riding – wetsuit johns and jackets, neoprene booties, etc – there remains some truly useful gear that will make your summer ride more enjoyable. Here are three of the best bets….
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Boardshorts obviously have the coolness factor, but they’re also just plain comfortable in summer’s heat. Your legs are exposed, and the material is lightweight and dries easily. The catch? On longer rides, those seams that hold them together, as well as just the movement of the material itself, can chafe the more delicate parts of your anatomy. Just ask one of the many journalists who went on a press trip from Key West to Key Largo back in the early days. After hours of salt and bouncing across the waves, which in turn slid many behinds across vinyl seats, many of said journalists were walking a little gingerly that evening in the hotel. One (I’ll protect your identity CP) was even seen rummaging the gift shop for a large jar of Vaseline before Day Two. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty.
Which is why neoprene-lined board shorts make so much sense for summer. On the exterior, they have all the style of traditional board shorts, with their loose and long cut. But hidden on the inside, out of sight, is a thin neoprene liner. The neoprene hugs those aforementioned parts and keep them snug and secure. It also provides a nice, comfy liner against the skin, one that protects from rubbing and chafe, even gives a little compression for those sore muscles. Heck, pair some with a neo top and you can even push back the wetsuit season a few more weeks.
Lycra Top, aka “The Rash Guard”
Lycra tops came into fashion in the early ‘90s, worn under wetsuit johns to ward off some irritation from the suit itself, or to add a little bit of warmth on days when riders didn’t want to wear a wetsuit jacket. Later, they were frequently paired with boardshorts to add a little more warmth.
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Today, riders just as often wear a lycra top to provide added sun protection. If that’s your goal, choose a long-sleeve version for maximum protection. Many manufacturers will also advertise a sun protection factor, allowing you to compare styles.
Believe it or not, these versatile garments can also help you remain cool. Even in the heat of summer, the thin material rarely will overheat. Take a dunk and a wet rashguard against the skin will even provide some evaporative cooling.
Eye protection is worn far too infrequently on personal watercraft. And it’s not that hard to see why. Once blasted with the first shot of spray, eyewear often becomes a spotty mess as the water dries into numerous spots on your lenses. The biggest concern, however, is likely having a pair of pricey shades sent to the bottom. Plenty of us, myself included, know the pain of having a pair ripped off your face in the wind, never to be seen again.
Still, eye protection should be a given when riding a PWC. Just as it is on your skin, the sun is brutal on your eyes. It also, obviously, can make it hard to see, forcing you to squint and limiting your view later in the day. And then there’s the constant assault of wind, that aforementioned spray, bugs, and other assorted things that may be whipped through the air and into your eyes.
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So back to that issue of how to keep that eye protection on your face. Goggles are one obvious answer. They stay in place thanks to a wide strap. There are even slimmer, lower-profile styles that look a little more streamlined should you object to the goggle look.
If you prefer sunglasses, add a retaining strap to keep them, goggle-style, attached to your head. It’s not foolproof, but barring any serious wipeouts, should do the job.
Don’t like either solution? Check out Bomber sunglasses. Their claim to fame? Lose them and they don’t sink, but rather float on the surface. Just pick a bright color so they’ll be easier to spot.
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