How To Buy Boardshorts

In warm climates, boardshorts can be worn day in and day out almost as a uniform. For the surfer, diver, paddler, or other water enthusiast, boardshorts fill both athletic and lifestyle roles. On some Caribbean islands, nice boardshorts and a collared shirt pass as formalwear. Before you pick up a pair for your next trip to paradise, be sure to read through this guide on how to buy boardshorts.

Stylish and functional, a good pair of boardshorts will work in all kinds of summer scenarios.


Materials: Most boardshorts are made of polyester because it’s smooth, durable, and dries fast. But that’s not the only material you’ll see on boardshorts at the beach.

Stretchy: Many nicer boardshorts blend polyester with between 2 and 15 percent spandex to add stretch. Stretchy boardshorts are nice because they don’t restrict movement, which is handy when you’re smacking a lip or wedging yourself into a low-volume play boat.

Embossed fabric:  By creating tiny bumps in fabric, the embossing process reduces skin contact with the garment by as much as 30 percent, leading to fewer surf rashes. Quicksilver pioneered this technology, which they call Diamond Dobby. Other companies have caught on and embossed fabric can now be found in a few lines.

Recycled PET: Many boardshorts are made of polyester created from recycled PET, the same plastic used to make soda bottles. This also happens to be one of the plastics that litter most every corner of the ocean. Every little bit helps.


Pockets: Most boardshorts have at least one pocket, commonly front-and center on one thigh secured with a Velcro closure. Some brands manage to cleverly add more pockets despite the fact that space is usually limited. Velcro closures are pretty common in boardshorts pockets, although occasionally zippers are thrown in the mix. Make sure zippers are plastic and that they don’t get anywhere near the skin. Some boardshorts have a key attachment point inside the pocket. Use at your own risk.

Style: Boardshorts come in every color of the rainbow in bright prints from Rasta styling to beach scenes and a whole lot more. Find something that suits your personal preferences and go for it. Feeling bold? Bright colors are safe on the beach. Or, go with the classic black boardshort that is always in style and never looks dirty.

Fit:  Boardshorts should fit securely around the waist, which is easy. Buy the same size you would for jeans (so long as you don’t let your underwear hang out). If you do rock the saggy-pant style and still want to stay in your boardshorts, use a tape measure to determine the circumference of your waist where most people wear their pants. Order shorts in that number.

Drying Time: Polyester boardshorts will dry more quickly than cotton or other materials and can usually be hung up to dry in a short time.

Closure: Most boardshorts use a string tie closure, a Velcro closure, or both. Some designs will use buttons, which many surfers avoid as they can cause a pressure point when lying on a board.

For longevity’s sake, watch out for any metal part on board shorts, especially if you live in the tropics or use them for surfing or other ocean sports. Saltwater wrecks havoc on metal and many pairs of boardshorts have zippers and other metal fittings locked for all eternity by rust and corrosion.

Final Note: Every surfer knows about rash. No bueno. While no garment can promise complete relief from surf rash, things to avoid are rough seams in the crotch and zippers and Velcro closures that could contact the skin.