On March 15, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, a plan to make daylight saving time permanent and do away with the twice-annual ritual of resetting our clocks every fall and spring. The decision has created a new political division in this country—not between Republicans and Democrats, but between early birds and night owls. Like many good debates, it has at its heart a simple and polarizing question, in this case: Would you rather have more sunshine in the morning or the evening?
At Outside, the SPA has our editors pondering oh so many questions. Will this legislation spark the country’s next political fight? Will eliminating the time change disrupt our outdoor routines? Are morning laps on the ski slope a thing of the past?
Do you support or oppose the Sunshine Protection Act and why?
Alex Heard (editorial director): Is it selfish of me to say that, because I’m a night owl—I often stay up very late reading online newspapers and watching cable news—I don’t care if a permanent shift to daylight saving time negatively affects hyperactive weirdos who like to get up super early and do outdoor stuff? If so, I’m sorry, but I will not be denied my Truth. I’m in favor of more light at the end of the day, always, a fact that dates back to being traumatized by getting up in the dark as a kid. In ninth grade I had to report in the dark for an algebra class in a time slot called Zero Hour—as opposed to First Period, which it came in front. We started at 7:45! Jesus!
Micah Abrams (vice president, adventure sports): I’m agnostic on whether we make daylight saving time permanent or we repeal it permanently, just gimme a permanent solution. Willfully giving ourselves jet lag twice a year, with none of the benefits of travel, was a dumb idea before I had a kid. Now? It’s a catastrophe. Bed time? Totally chaotic for a week after each change. Mornings? A week of being late for school, either because we overslept or because we woke up so early that we fell back asleep and then overslept. And don’t get me started about school drop-off—a physical bottleneck crammed with cars driven by similarly sleep-deprived and tardy parents who are definitely going to miss their first meeting of the day. This is madness. We have the technology. Pick a damn time and stick to it.
Jonathan Beverly (senior running editor): For much of the year I’m a morning runner, or as Alex says, “a hyperactive weirdo who likes to get up super early and do outdoor stuff.” So I celebrate the reclaiming of morning light in the fall. And, as much as I sympathize with the struggles of parents of young children like Micah dealing with the admittedly difficult transition, I appreciate that daylight saving time moves the sunrise later in summer, allowing me to run before the heat without having to get up an hour earlier. As for afternoon light, DST or not, it’s going to be dark when we get off work in December anyway; I’ll take June evenings that are light until nine over sunsets occurring a bit later on a winter afternoon.
Will Taylor (Gear Director): I have severely mixed feelings about the SPA. Ever since I can remember, I hated the end of daylight saving time—along with the cold, it seemed like an unjust one-two punch of seasonal depression heading into winter—and felt joyous every time it went away in the spring. That said, I was living in California in 2018 when a ballot measure to permanently adopt daylight saving time was introduced. As a dedicated surfing dawn patroller, I voted against it. By my math, which is clearly more accurate than Micah’s, there was simply not enough time to surf and get to work on time—and the waves in California are almost always better in the morning. Now that I have children and no longer live near the ocean, I find the pendulum swinging back the other way. As Micah noted, those transitions are horrid for kids and their parents. And plus, I exercise in the middle of the day now anyway—I am a dad and have very little free time.
How could the SPA influence your own pursuit of your favorite outdoor activities?
Alex: I like to take walks after work. When DST goes away, I have to walk in the dark, which I don’t like as much as walking in glorious light. I am not a mushroom. I need those rays, even the weak winter variety.
Micah: I know I’m supposed to say the additional daylight hour gives me more time to climb a mountain or get in a ride after work, but who am I kidding? All that extra hour means is that I make dinner while it’s still light out. No, permanent daylight savings time would benefit my outdoor pursuits because the added hour of morning darkness makes it easier for me to sneak out of my house without waking my wife and child. If I can get to the car without anyone noticing, I can have the trail or my local surf break all to myself for a solid hour before the world joins me. Is hiking or surfing enhanced by doing it in the pitch black? Of course not—it’s way harder and infinitely more dangerous, but that’s a small price to pay for simply being able to do it at all.
Jonathan: SPA will mean no “fall back” in November. It will make November and March like midwinter: dark and cold up to the time to start work. I’ll be forced to either bundle up and run with a headlamp—which, frankly, I find too hard to make happen on a daily basis—or to switch to afternoon runs, which are always iffier to schedule. And don’t argue that the additional afternoon light will benefit me, as when I do switch for the coldest winter months, I run at midday when the temperatures are highest. Sorry, Micah, you’ll have to get better at sneaking out.
Will: It’s plenty sunny at noon no matter the time of year, so I’m less worried about this than I would have been in my pre-dad life. I do mourn the loss of dawn patrols for those who enjoy it, though. It is a sacred time. Also, it will be very dark for a long time when the moms and dads of the world will be getting up if we have permanent daylight saving time—like, no light from that great orb in the sky until after eight in many places. I imagine that will not be totally healthy for people’s psyches. But maybe some light for a midwinter evening walk will make up for it? I’m not sure.
What impact could the SPA have on a specific outdoor activity or area of the outdoor industry?
Alex: I think it will be good for the Nordic Walking in the Afternoon branch of our industry, right? Increased sales of clickety-clack walking poles for enthusiastic nerds?
Micah: The SPA would turn parents who have gone from participating in the sports they love to hectoring their kids about the sports they love back into participants in the sports they love. This should drive a meaningful increase in equipment purchases when we realize that we’re definitely not out of shape and rusty, but rather it’s the fault of our old outdoor gear. These purchases will increase the bottom lines of retailers and manufacturers, resulting in hiring sprees that drive job creation and double-digit growth of the nation’s GDP, eradicating income inequality and climate change in the process. Or maybe it won’t—I’m no economist. But, at a minimum, our kids will be grateful that we finally shut up about how rad we used to get.
Jonathan: By reducing the time of year when morning running is pleasant and safe, thousands of runners will either stop running in the fall or become less consistent. Some will drift away from the sport; others will stagnate or get injured. They’ll stop buying running shoes, stop racing, lose their focus, their confidence, and their health. Or they’ll deal with it and carry on. The sun rises, the sun sets, regardless of what our clocks say when it does.
Will: Headlamp sales to early risers are going to go through the roof. I think we’ll see a bump in bike lights too, for both serious riders and those that are commuting. Unfortunately, surfing in the dark is a nonstarter. You can surf in twilight, or even by the light of the full moon, but not in total darkness. So maybe Yeti will see a bump in insulated mugs as grumpy Californians stand on the beach drinking coffee and bitching about how much light they used to enjoy. You know Micah will be there.