Health News

Sun a hazard for charter boat captains

It was a time when many kids spent more time under the sun than in front of the television; baking to a golden tan was a priority; and suntan lotion was more available than sunblock.

Now, some in a generation of outdoors enthusiasts born in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, are paying for their naivety related to extended exposure to the sun.

For some, white bumps and brown blotches have charred their forearms; various chunks of skin have been surgically removed from protruding body parts such as noses and ears; and their necks looks as though they'd been sanded by a carpenter.

Covering up? Not really an option if you want to look bronzed at the beach. Slapping on sunblock? Don't be a sissy.

"Up until my 30s, it was kind of sissy if you put sunscreen on," Capt. Thom Smith, a local fishing guide, said. "It's laughable now. I've never been the macho type, but it was kind of a macho attitude that all the guys seemed to have."

Fortunately, we can all learn from them, and skin-care technology and awareness of ultraviolet sun rays has advanced.

Many captains, in particular, use a variety of techniques to ensure that they won't be scheduled for surgery at the dermatologists. Capt. Rock Gross of ???? has made applying sunblock his morning routine, along with brushing his teeth. Gross spends about 1,750 hours a year under the sun. That's why you'll find him greased like a frying pan.

"You've got to put it on first thing in the morning," Gross said, "and you can't just put it on once. You have to re-apply throughout the day."

Bradley Abrams, D.O., of Abrams Dermatology in Sarasota, echoed Gross's statement. Some sunscreen products claim to be waterproof. Abrams said that no matter what sunscreen labels claim, sunscreen is going to come off when wet.

"My recommendation is you apply constantly," said Abrams. "People get a false sense of security thinking it's waterproof. Don't believe them."

There also are various lines of clothing designed to repel harmful sun rays. Abrams said that any covering, including a Bimini top in a boat, helps. But the clothing that is most effective in blocking the sun is tightly-woven. Abrams recommended "Sun Precautions" clothing line (, which he said is woven tightly, yet is lightweight.

"The Mad Snooker," Capt. Dave Pomerleau, of ????, recommended white, long-sleeve Columbia sport shirts, wide-bill straw hats, a scarf, and white, full-length pants. Of course, Pomerleau has avoided sunburn altogether. He only fishes at night.

Furthermore, the amount of protection necessary also depends on the fairness of one's skin. People with light skin must take extra precautions under the sun. But that doesn't mean those who tan easily should lower their guard.

Sun rays can ricochet like a bullet fired in a steel-walled room. They're known to reflect off the water and off sunglasses. "Then you get sort of a double-dosage," Abrams said.

Gross said he's received helpful tips from the times he guided dermatologists during fishing trips.

"The theory of one of them was we're on the same latitude as Saudi Arabia," Gross said. "And look at the way they dress. You don't see them in T-shirts. They're covered from head to toe."

Capt. Mike Myers often does just that. Constantly under the sun as he grew up in Florida, Myers began to notice small, white bumps on his arms. Aside from the normal sun-reflecting attire, he'll cover his face with a Spider-man-like scarf and will wear clothing glove to boot. The face covering is an effective covering for sun rays that reflect off the water.

"That's what happens after 30 years in the sun," he said.

Although there are more options for those who care about their skin health, not much has changed. Ironically, some wear less clothing and sunblock in an effort to be tanned and beautiful. However, after decades of exposure, lying under the sun has an opposite effect.

"Stupidity doesn't pay off," Smith said. "And that's exactly what happened."