Although surfing in Fiji looks dangerous, it's actually a fairly safe sport as long as you don't do anything too crazy. Experienced surfers keep a careful eye out for sharks, rip currents and collisions and yet often don't keep an equally careful eye on, well, their eyes. Surfing without the right protection eventually leads to two problems: pterygia and cataracts.
Pterygium, or Surfer's Eye
People who spend a lot of time surfing Fiji and other areas of the world often develop a condition known as surfer's eye, also known as a pterygium to your doctor. A pterygium is a whitish or pinkish membrane that starts in the inside corner of the eye and spreads out across the eye. If it grows large enough, it will obscure the pupil and interfere with your vision. If it gets that bad, it will require surgery to remove the membrane.
Surfer's eye is caused by sun, wind and sea spray so the best defence is a good pair of surf sunglasses that cover your eyes completely and offer 100% UV protection. If your eyes feel dry or itchy, then use lubricating eye drops to keep them moist. If a pterygium starts to grow, consult a doctor early so you can inhibit the growth before you need surgery
Many people think of cataracts as an old person's disease, but many young people get them, especially those surfing Fiji and other waters. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. They are caused by exposure to UV radiation so anyone can get them, but they are far more common among people who spend a lot of time outdoors without proper eye protection. Surfers have it worse than average because they spend a lot of time looking out into the water, and the light reflected off the waves increases their exposure to UV radiation.
Once again, the best defence is a good pair of surfer's sunglasses. When on the beach you can switch to a pair of regular sunglasses, but always wear eye protection rated for 100% UV protection.
Stay safe when surfing in Fiji! Invest in a good pair of surf sunglasses and keep your vision clear for decades to come.