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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. 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.
3. 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.
4. O’Neill Hyperfreak Hydro Comp Boardshorts
If you’re tired of drawstrings between you and your surfboard, check out these O’Neill Hyperfreak Hydro Comp 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.
5. 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.
6. Hurley Men’s Phantom Block Party Board Shorts
If most board shorts feel restrictive, go with these Phantom shorts from Hurley. They boast a whopping 20 percent spandex in the fabric (the rest is polyester) 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.
7. Rip Curl Mirage Daybreak 21″ Boardshorts
These Rip Curl Mirage shorts offer a bit more coverage than most with a 21-inch outseam. This means less wax on your legs and less area for sunburns. They’re on the longer side, but a super lightweight polyester-elastane fabric ensures plenty of mobility. The waistband is very sturdy, and on the side, you’ll find a zip pocket for storage.
8. RRL Board Shorts
For a more sophisticated look, check out these RRL board shorts. Constructed using a lightweight nylon twill fabric, the shorts are inspired by vintage swim trunks with a slightly higher waist and a straight fit. However, thanks to the quick-drying nylon and an eight-inch inseam, the shorts are great for surfing and any other beach activities.