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.