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Enjoying warm water is one of the best summer experiences, but you’ll need the right suit (or suits) to do so. The best board shorts are here to help.
Although often used synonymously with “swim trunks,” board shorts are more geared towards surfing and beach sports than swim trunks. The best board shorts deliver high-performance fabrics, sturdy waistbands, and ample coverage for surfing, as well as other beach sports like volleyball or running. But that’s not to say you can’t lounge in board shorts: the high-performance fabrics are often extremely comfortable too, making board shorts a great choice for napping under an umbrella or sipping a poolside cocktail.
If you want to upgrade your swimwear collection — whether for surf lessons, 20-foot Pipeline or beach volleyball — then read on. We’ve rounded up eight of the best board shorts to upgrade your summer, plus a quick buying guide for choosing the right pair.
What Are the Best Board Shorts?
Board shorts come in several varieties with differing lengths, materials, and pattern work. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you shop the best board shorts.
Length: As mentioned, board shorts should be on the long side for surfing and sports. We think an inseam around seven inches is the sweet spot, offering enough coverage without too much bulk. You can go shorter, but we don’t recommend going any less than five inches on the inseam.
Material: The best board shorts balance stretch and durability while drying quickly and keeping weight to a minimum. This is a tall order, but some brands really do pull it off with barely-there shorts that hold up against sand, rocks, and surfboard wax. Look for nylon or high-quality polyester materials, ideally with some spandex or elastane for stretch.
Waistband: The ocean has a knack for yanking off ill-fitting or poorly made shorts. High-quality, well-engineered waistbands are key when picking the best board shorts. Make sure you get the right size and look for solid grommets, drawstrings and closures.
Design: It’s always a plus when board shorts are good-looking enough to hit the hotel bar or grocery store after a day at the beach. A stylish pair is therefore a great idea — although perhaps less important than function when it comes to board shorts (leave that to your casual shorts).
1. Outerknown Apex Trunks
If they’re good enough for Kelly Slater, they’re good enough for us. These Apex trunks by Slater’s own brand, Outerknown, were developed and tested with the help of the 11-time surfing World Champion. With clever features including welded seams and a double-bonded butt, the Apex trunks have taken fantastic board shorts and made them even better. The fabric is a quick-drying blend of polyester, spandex, and elastane that lend four-way stretch for maximum mobility.
2. Hurley Phantom+ Block Party Renegade
If most board shorts feel restrictive, go with these Phantom shorts from Hurley. They boast a 12 percent spandex in the fabric (the rest is nylon) which lets you bottom-turn, carve, or cross-step without any resistance. The 18-inch outseam, which places the seam around the top of the knee, is a great length for sports and surfing. There’s also a zippered back pocket for safely stashing a key, sunscreen, or wax.
3. Patagonia Baggies Shorts
The Patagonia Baggies might be the most versatile bottoms in menswear. We recently featured them in our roundup of the best men’s shorts, but they’re also great for surfing as well as running, lounging, or grabbing a coffee in the trendiest areas. With a 100 percent nylon construction, the shorts are on the stiff side, but their namesake baggy fit provides more than enough mobility. The nylon also features a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to improve water resistance.
4. Birdwell x Herschel 311 Board Short
Birdwell is an old-school California-based surf brand that was revived a few years ago. They still feature a vintage look, but the brand’s nylon Surfnyl fabric and well-designed fit give the shorts modern usability. They’re extremely durable, meaning they’ll last through years of rubbing on surf wax, swimming in saltwater, and anything else you throw at them. Plus, Birdwell’s shorts just look great, and we’re especially big fans of this recent Herschel collaboration colorway.
5. O’Neill Hyperfreak Hydro Boardshorts
If you’re tired of drawstrings between you and your surfboard, check out these O’Neill Hyperfreak Hydro board shorts. Instead of a drawstring, the shorts use a No Tie Fly closure system that lays flat against your waist. This is much more comfortable when laying on a surfboard but still keeps the board shorts secure. The fabric, a polyester-elastane blend with a DWR coating, is high-performance with four-way stretch and effective water resistance.
6. Vuori Cruise Boardshort
With four-way stretch, a 7.5-inch inseam, and a quick-drying polyester-elastane build, these Vuori Cruise board shorts are built for performance in the water. But they’re almost as good on land too — especially with the addition of anti-odor technology. Plus, half the polyester comes from recycled plastic bottles, which is always a plus.
7. Quiksilver Originals Arch Boardshorts
Founded in 1969, Quiksilver is a storied surf brand that’s still making great gear. These new Arch boardshorts harken back to the brand’s mid-century origins with a vintage look, but they’re anything but old-fashioned. The fabric is Quiksilver’s eco-friendly HEMPSTRETCH, a performance material made up of hemp and recycled plastic bottles. They also feature a special water-repellent coating, which ensures that the shorts stay light even when wet. The shorts’ 18-inch outseam is also a good length: you can wear them like lounge-y swim trunks, or sit on a surfboard in comfort.
8. Howler Brothers Stretch Bruja Boardshorts
Like most pieces from Howler Brothers, these Bruja board shorts combine durable performance and vintage-inspired style to great effect. The shorts are made of a quick-drying cotton, recycled polyester, and spandex blend that’s both lightweight and rugged. With an 8.5-inch inseam, the shorts are ready for laying and sitting on a surfboard, but, thanks to a few stylish patterns, they’re also ready to hit a beach bar or lunch spot.
9. RVCA Eastern Boardshorts
You’ll sometimes see board shorts with a cargo pocket on one side instead of the back or front. This is ideal for surfers because you’re not sitting on the pocket while waiting for a set, and you’re not laying on a pocket while paddling. These Eastern board shorts from RVCA showcase this pocket setup, as well as a high-quality polyester-elastane fabric (with four-way stretch), a scalloped hem, and plenty of unique patterns to choose from.
10. Billabong Classic Board Short
If you want reliable performance and a classic look to match, check out these Billabong board shorts. They’re made of a lightweight polyester-elastane that’s been coated with a “Micro Repel” water repellent treatment. This treatment promises fast-drying action, which is always nice if you’re ready to drive home or pack up your trunks and don’t want a wet mess. Plus, the shorts feature a side pocket set up for maximum comfort while surfing.