The dangers of UV damage to the eyes are now well-known and as kitesurfers we’re more exposed to the dangers than most other people. I’ve had numerous pairs of water sports sunglasses over the years and have never been fully satisfied until I decided to bite the bullet and buy a pair of LiP’s flagship Typhoon sunglasses.
In my opinion the LiP Typhoons are the best sunglasses for kitesurfing, or any other water based sport for that matter.
So I’ll share why with you in this review. If it seems biased it’s not because I’m trying to sell them. It’s because they quite simply (and literally) have opened my eyes to what an investment of a bit more money gets when it comes to all the things I ever wanted in a pair of shades for when I go out to enjoy our great sport!
So What Makes a Perfect Pair of Water Sports Sunglasses?
If you are an active adrenalin sports junkie, whether it’s kitesurfing, surfing, windsurfing, snow-sports or jumping off mountains or planes, you’ll know what I’m talking about here!
But I’ll list the key wish list I had for my ultimate kitesurfing shades:
- Retention – If you’ve splashed out cash before you splash out in the waves, there’s nothing more annoying than losing your shades halfway through a session, or at the first wipe-out. Obviously. And I’ve lost more than a few of my previous (cheap fortunately) shades to the waves. So a good retainer system is vital. But even the traditional head-strap doesn’t guarantee they won’t get washed off – something better was needed.
- Comfort/fit – They have to feel as though they’re not there. Ever had that feeling your nose is being pinched or your head’s in a vice? Or when they start chafing wherever they touch your face? Yeah me too!
- Indestructible – Maybe that’s a bit of an ask, but hey – this is my wish-list. But again I’ve had a few pairs break, either the frame or the clips that retain the strap. Not good! So I want a pair that at least won’t break when I face-plant a wave. And if the lenses could be pretty resistant to abuse that would be great. And if I’m paying more than a few quid (that’s bucks to our American/Canadian/Aussie co-dudes) I want them to stand the test of time.
- Anti-Fogging – Put together water, sweat, humid air and colder water and it’s a recipe for condensation. There’s nothing worse than suddenly feeling as though you’re looking out through a pea-souper!
- Water Repellent – When you’re pushing it and riding hard with a spray of water coming off the edge of the board, it’s frustrating as hell if the water that inevitably ends up on your shades stays there and then dries into a salty residue
- Sweat/Grease Resistant – Again a bit of an ask. But if you’re wearing shades then probably you’ll have sunscreen on as well. And that’s a winning combination when greasy sweat runs onto your lenses!
- Full UV Protection – That’s what we’re wearing them for at the end of the day.
- Clarity of Vision – I have to admit I under-rated this until I experienced the difference for myself. Cheap lenses have a tendency to distort your peripheral vision. And colour and contrast matter here too.
- Big Wide Lenses – This isn’t to make a fashion statement – I want shades that cover my eyes completely but also give me a wide field of view so that I don’t see life through a window, if you know what I mean.
- Cool Looking! – I know, I know. But any kitesurfer that tells you looking cool isn’t important is lying! Look at how we swarm around the person standing on the beach with a camera. Or how many GoPros get sold to kitesurfers.
Who are LiP
Firstly the name – it refers to the top, breaking part of a wave – why not!
The company was formed in 2012 in Boracay, a wind sports mecca in the Philippines. The founders Li Chen and Dirk Michielsen, both fanatical kitesurfers/windsurfers whose day jobs were in the eyewear industry, were very aware of the risks of UV to the eyes. They were frustrated by the lack of quality sunglasses available to meet the needs of water sports enthusiasts. So they set out to create the best quality sunglasses designed to meet the extreme needs of their fellow watermen and women.
Their focus from day one was to design sunglasses that offered the best quality in terms of UV protection, combined with the unique needs of the watersports community.
And that I believe is what makes the brand unique – they’re designed by people who know exactly what you and I need, because they do it too.
LiP sunglasses are now worn by numerous athletes, including kitesurfing pros Lewis Crathern and Sam Medysky.
LiP Typhoon – The Overview
The Typhoon is the flagship of the LiP water glasses range. The main features are as follows:
- The frames are constructed from Swiss TR90. This is a nylon based material whose specific qualities make it virtually unbreakable. It’s very flexible and returns to its original shape.
- There’s soft TPU padding on the inside of the frames at every point they meet the face. This is directly moulded to the frame so it won’t detach.
- Patented “Vortex” anti-fogging vents at the bottom and top of the lenses – creates airflow as soon as you move to clear fogging.
- Japanese stainless steel hinge screws to give complete anti-corrosion.
- Range of colour choices including contrasting TPU lining material.
- UV400 – 100% UV protection
- Polycarbonate or Polyamide (on rose gold lenses) – guaranteed shatterproof and lightweight.
- Manufactured by ZEISS – the best lenses in the world for clarity and precision.
- Direct injected polarization layer – guaranteed not to break down or delaminate, directly injected internally in the lens.
- De-centred 8-base curvature to give complete peripheral vision without distortion normally caused by wrap-around lenses.
- ZEISS Ri-Pel/Tri-Pel coating on both surfaces – Oleophobic, hydrophobic and scratch resistant.
- Range of base colours to suit different light conditions or preferences.
- Easily replaceable with range of spare lenses available – to cater for different conditions/preferences.
- RX prescription lenses available with a range of options including photocromic. RX range are made of high quality NXTTM material as ZEISS can’t cater for high magnification on 8 base curvature.
Retention System –
- Removable clip-on adjustable leash with toggle adjuster to tighten round head.
- Leash clips on to latex necklace to guarantee they won’t get lost.
Size – Uni-sex one size.
- Frame width 142mm
- Temple length 124mm.
- Lens width 70mm
- Lens depth 41mm
- Bridge Width 15mm
Returns Policy – 30 day money-back guarantee as long as unused.
Guarantee – 3 year warranty against manufacturer defects of frames, lenses or retention system. (1 year on RX prescription lenses)
- £165 – 195
- US$218 – 228
- €185 – 192
- (All except Rose Gold lenses are lower price).
- RX prescription lenses available at extra cost.
What’s in the Box –
- The shades
- Clip-on safety-leash and silicone necklace
- Microfibre bag/cloth
- Instruction manual
As I said. I’ve had numerous water sports sunglasses since I started windsurfing and then onto kitesurfing. I’ve tried to get away with cheaper versions for years, resigning myself to replacing them regularly when they scratch, break or get lost.
My Typhoons tick every box on my wish-list. The frames are super comfortable and flex to grip without feeling like they’re squeezing my head.
And the clarity through the wide wrap around lenses is unbelievable! And importantly, the water splashes just roll off the inside and outside.
After a dunking in the sea there is occasionally a bit of condensation in the corners, but as soon as you start moving even slightly the venting system works and they clear.
I’ve had more than my fair share of wipe-outs, including face first into waves, and they just stay in place, as long as you have the toggle on the leash reasonably tight. But the thin leash doesn’t feel as though it’s pulling the glasses into my face, which I’ve experienced before with the traditional elastic head-straps you get on other brands.
I absolutely love the retention system, although because they fit so well they’ve never actually come off my head (famous last words!) but I know that if they do the leash will stop them disappearing into the big blue salty.
And they’ve stood the test of time. You have to look after the lenses on these babies. But that means simply keeping to the advice LiP give you not to wipe the lenses before you’ve washed them in fresh water, and then to only use the microfiber cloth they give you. I always have a bottle of water in my kite bag anyway.
I’ve used them for 2 years now, a major record for me, and the comfort, purity of vision and confidence that I won’t lose them have made them a great investment. I was previously taking 2 spare pairs of cheap shades with me when I went to sunny destinations, but now I know I don’t need to. And wouldn’t want to.
I’ve followed the simple care guidelines and the lenses are as clear and good as the day I got them.
Quite honestly, I wouldn’t want to compromise the quality of vision, comfort and style that my Typhoons have given me.
In terms of colour, I opted for the methane/brown, mainly because I kitesurf predominately in the UK with annual holidays to sunnier places, and they suit the conditions. But I’m considering getting a spare pair of blue lenses for when I go abroad and for sunnier days in the UK – I’m happy to do that because I’m so confident I’ll be keeping them for years to come.
And unlike some brands of water sports sunglasses they’re cool enough to wear off the water too, although it’s worth checking out LiP’s “Urban Collection” of everyday shades – very stylish!
Pros and Cons
-Clarity of Vision in any conditions due to top quality ZEISS lenses and manufacture processes
-Hydrophobic and Oleophobic coating actually works
-Bomb-proof retention system
-100% UV protection
-Robust frames and lenses
-Value – they’re not cheap but you get what you pay for and they’re more effective than pricier competition
-30 day returns policy – so you get to try them for size and comfort
-3 year warranty against manufacturer defects
-Free shipping to most destinations with fulfillment centres in UK, USA and Taiwan
-Price – It is an investment but you get what you pay for.
-Care – you’ll want to look after your investment and it takes a small effort to clean them after use.
Lower Cost Options
If you don’t want to stretch the budget to a pair of Typhoons, there is a lower cost option. Their “Surge” range of water glasses offer a lot of the main features of the Typhoon range, with a few less refinements. I’ve tried out the Surge glasses and personally felt that the Typhoons were worth the difference. But at half the price the Surge would definitely be my next choice over and above any other brand out there. For a comparison, head over to my review of the Surge range from LiP.
The Typhoons are definitely my number one choice for water sport sunglasses. There simply isn’t another pair on the market that meet all the criteria. And whilst it is an investment, you can’t replace your eyesight.
If you can’t afford the price tag, then the Surge range would be the only other choice worth looking at in my humble opinion.
I’ve tried most of the cheaper options over the years and can honestly say the compromise in quality and all round experience just isn’t worth it.
But if you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments box below.