Your genitals will thank you for this: What works (and doesn't) in a boardie
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 16 July, 2016 - Why are surfers such whiners in recent decades? Can’t we all deal with a little ball rash in summer? Talk to those 1970s dudes who lived in a pair of thick, canvas short-shorts all summer. Those board shorts were made to last but rubbed many a man raw after a couple of hours.
Compare the high-thighed board shorts of yesteryear to today’s high-tech offerings and you can see just how far boardies have come in the past few decades. Some, like Billabong and O’Neill’s top-shelf offerings mirror high-end wetsuit designs and cost upward of $120.
But considering the way rash can ruin a lengthy session, boardies actually are important. Not as exciting as getting a new board, or even a new wetsuit, board shorts are an important piece of surf equipment. There are reasons boardshorts rub you. So hang on. Read on. We will explore why board shorts work and review several new board shorts from many makers...
Boardshorts of the seventies: Super stylish and super sturdy © Katin
Also, you can take the below crash course in board shorts to learn about material, seams, waistband, fit, fly and more work to keep you comfortable and loose during the warmer months.
Stop and think if you’re a canvas man or a super-light hydrophobic-treated polyester material kinda guy. Traditional surf short material (cotton blends) hang differently than lighter quick-dry material, so the shorts will look different. If you’re choosing boardies for poolside BBQs and just hanging, you wont need high-end performance material. But for a 12-day boat trip, you'll want something that's light-weight, hydrophobic and quick-dry. Also be sure the material breathes a bit so you stay comfortable. Conserned about plastic pollution? Many companies now offer recycled and upcycled materials.
Seams come in standard, finished, welded, taped and fused. The less seam there is to rub against your waterlogged thigh, the less likely you are to get a rash. There are ways to make a boardshort’s seams minimal. So why don’t all boardies have high-end welded seams? it’s just a matter of cost. The more high-tech welded the seam, the more it costs to produce. Not everyone wants to spend for a top-end trunk just to hang out for a poolside sausage sizzle.
This is obvious, but a short that’s too big will pleat at the waist and expose your ass during duck dives and wipeouts. A too-tight trunk will not close properly and will increase the chances of you spilling over the waistband, or simply 'muffin top.'
The knee-dragger shorts from years ago, stylish by 2004 standards but a bit too heavy on material for today's high-performance lot © ASP/Pierre Tostee
Originally designed so you could take your wax with you into the lineup, the pocket has evolved quite a bit. They can be external or internal. And fastened with either a high-end waterproof zipper, velcro, a button or nothing. Do you like a side pocket or a back pocket? It’s actually pretty important. Some sit squarely on one buttock while others are off to the side, which helps when sitting on your board. Most have a key leash inside them. Check the length of the key leash. if it’s too long, the key can poke you. Some shorts come with goodies like wax combs, bottle openers and fin keys. Lastly and most importantly, make sure there’s a proper drain hole for water to exit.
Fly and Laces
Comes in velcro, zipper, buttons or none. For surfing all day, the less obstruction you have between your board and body, the less the short fly will rub you. Boardshorts with buttons or zippers are better suited for poolside and beach days rather than surfing all day. Laces come in flat or round construction and some have silicon dots melted onto them to help keep them tied. Many swear that some kind of silicone treatment on flat laces have the best hold.
A good fit will sit on your hips. In the fitting room you can tug on the short to mimic a wipeout or duck dive. See if they stay in the same place or slide down. Some high-tech boardies have specialised waistbands to keep the shorts on your hips as you move through all the positions that surfing requires: paddling-to-sitting or sitting-to-standing or even getting sucked over the falls.
Shorts range in length from 14’ to 22”. This is measured from the waist to the where the shorts fall around the knees. A 15” short will sit well above your knee and not protect the skin on your thighs when transitioning from sitting to paddling positions. Conversely a 22” out seam will protect you during that motion and will fall around the knees when standing. But you run the risk of the material getting caught on your knees when you go to stand up.
So dig into the below guide. None of the brands represented in the below section paid to be listed here. So all reviews are our honest editorial take on what each model has to offer.
The Burnside Boardshort
US Price: $59 & Weblink
The Burnside Boardshort is a no-nonsense, cool patterned boardie. The back pocket has a solid strip of velcro closure and features one of the most solid drain hole designs we’ve seen. All critical seams are triple stitched and the waistband has a soft interior cotton material - good to help keep them fitted to your waist. The material is 4-way stretch poly/spandex blend.
Highlights: Cool pocket design: solid velcro closure and solid drainage system in place. Patterns are modelled after the Burnside Surfboard and are very bold. This boardie is a good balance of style and surf-all-day function.
The Fling Boardshort
US Price: $59 & Weblink
The Fling Boardshort has a standard lace fly with no velcro, button or zipper attachment. The Fling has the same pocket design as the Burnside, but is fitted as a side pocket.
Highlights: Very comfortable, reasonably priced board short with a cool design based on the SUPERbrand Fling surfboard model.
New Wave High 19" Boardshorts
Quik’s premium performance board shorts as worn and endorsed by Jeremy Flores. The New Wave High 19" board shorts feature 4-way stretch material everywhere, including in the leg panel to ensure you can enjoy lightweight flexibility throughout - a good design idea since many high-performance boardies are hemmed at the leg and can restrict motion. The cinch tie closure with lock draw cord design is complemented by a short fly with lycra gusset.
Highlights include: Heat welded zip-up back pocket and seams which mean there are minimal places for the New Wave to chae you. The waist band is solid but not bulky and has a patterned neoprene belt area.
Stomp Cracked Scallop 18 "- Boardshort Men
Two-way stretch classically styled do-anything boardies from Quik. The company draws on its board shorts heritage for this pair that’s suited best for barbecues and hanging out. The inside seams are finished and tucked without any excess bulk. You could probably surf in them all day and not get a rash, but they aren’t the super-lightweight high-tech boardies you’d take on a boat trip. That said, they are reasonably priced and stylish.
Highlights include: Cotton-polyester stretch for comfort; Fly with short bellows Lycra and flat cord clamping, but the main draw is the classic styling.
O’Neill Hyperfreak Hydro Boardshort $120
Very elastic 4-way stretch super high-end boardies with welded seams that mimic the look of O’Neill wetsuit’s ‘Superseams’. Everything about this short is super tech and performance oriented, from the silicon grip drawcord and hyper flow cooling waistband to the hydrophobic properties of the hyper stretch material. Technically, this was the most sophisticated of all the board shorts we received. Turning these trunks inside out we found a super simple, unbroken pattern with no areas to chaff.r If you are uber-fussy about wearing super-technical gear, these boardies would be a good choice.
Highlights Include: Minimal seam construction, but where there are seams you’ll find them taped and minimal, like a wetsuit.
Patagonia Men’s Stretch Hydro Planing Boardshorts
Patagonia’s high-end offering is the lightest of all the board shorts we sampled. The seams are barely noticeable because they are fully glued. The waistband is the same in thickness and material as the rest of the short, which is unusual compared to most of the offerings from other companies which went with a more bulky, secure waistband system. Overall this boardie is super simple: seams, construction, pocket, fly - none have any extraneous material or features. If you like a paired-down approach to equipment, this short will suit.
Highlights Include: 100% recycled and quick-drying polyester with added water repellent and 50+ UPF sun protection. Bonus: The pattern is based on a pattern from Gerry Lopez surfboards.
RVCA Kala Boardshorts $69
US Price: $69 & Weblink
These are Kala Alexander’s signature trunks made from a 4-way stretch material with small, raised bumps on the inside. The premise is that the bumps ensure that only a little bit of material comes in contact with your skin, therefore reducing the potential of rash. Consequently the material is heavier than the uber-light polyester blends on offer for other board shorts which means it drapes nicely and won’t expose your thigh when you get blown out of the tube at Pipeline. Seams are triple stitched and the overall feeling of this boardie is that it’s really tough and built well. It has a zipper fly instead of velcro, which is a bit unusual.
Highlights: Solid, well-built boardshort best suited for those times when a walk-short is too much and lightweight boardies are too little. A portion of the proceeds of the Kala Trunks benefit the Mauli Oli Foundation.
RVCA: Splice Boardshorts
US Price: $62.00 & Weblink
The RVCA Splice Trunks are their performance 4-way stretch shorts done with triple needle stitching and a patch designed back pocket that closes with both a zipper and velcro. Solid, secure waistband and piping trim down the outer leg add a classic styling vibe to this short.
Highlights: Inside seams, while not invisible, are tucked away so as not to chaffe. Plus, the material is light and quick dry. A good performance short for this price point.
Volcom Macaw Mod Boardshorts
Looks like your basic boardie but the Macaw has a few minor design tweaks that set it apart. The side seam between the front and back panels bends in rather than going straight down, so the shorts flex a bit more. The waistband features a secured two-toned lace up. There’s no velcro or zipper or extra material along the fly. The material is made with Volcom’s Repreve Recycled Stretch Fabric which boasts a water repellent finish for faster drying times.
Highlight: The fly system is ingenious as the opening keeps things in, but allows you to get in and out of the shorts quickly. This boardie has lots of little details which contribute to performance, but don’t add to the price point.
Volcom Stripey Slinger
Designed more for hanging out rather than surfing six-hour stints, the Slinger is Volcom’s all-around beach boardshort. Made with a poly-cotton 4-way stretch material, it stretches a bit more than a traditional cotton short. The waistband has a lace that extends all the way around the waist and thus ensures they will stay fitted securely on your waist.
Highlights: This 19” short also uses Volcom’s cinch fly for minimal bulk and secure closure. The continuous drawcord around the waist for fit adjustment is a cool feature.
Billabong PLATINUM X AIRLITE BOARDSHORT
US Price: $149.95 & Weblink
The most different looking of all the shorts we reviewed. Picking the X Airlite up and examining it, the first thing you notice is that it looks like a space age running short specially designed for Parko. There’s a bit of a “Tron” vibe with the neon taping along what minimal seams are on the short. Billabong says that the short is ‘anatomically mapped with multi-tiered stretch to create omni-directional movement.” Basically the theory is that the flex wielding allows for movement whilst maintaining comfort. The inside waistband has non-slip silicon arcs at the hips to keep the shorts snug. The material is extremely hydrophobic and has something called ’anti-cling’. We immersed the shorts under a faucet and water beaded off the material.
Highlights: The overall impression is that every point of detail that goes into a board short has been reworked to be lighter, stronger and faster. Top-shelf performance board short at a top-shelf price.
This mid-range short has 4-way stretch recycled fabric in a three-panel design with simplistic, refined classic surf short style. The fabric is a tight weave that’s soft to the touch with a special coating to repel water and eliminate saturation. It’s also made from shredded and recycled PET plastic so each boardie keeps about 25 bottles from ending up in the ocean or landfill. The shorts have a 19” outseam. Fly and pocket close with velcro attachments.
Highlights: Classically styled mid-range short made from recycled bottles. The seams have triple stitching, but with the three-panel design there is a lot of stitching in the short.
Rip Curl Mirage Escape Ultimate boardshorts
EU Price: €89,99 & Weblink
When looking at high-end board shorts there’s a tendency to go over board with features. The cool thing about the Mirage Escape Ultimate boardies is that the high end features: light, hydrophobic material cut and put together with welded, taped seams and a rigid welded waistband - is all presented in a very non-high tech looking package. Some of the other shorts look more suited for Olympic training than surfing.
Highlights: It’s a very simple looking boardie with a high performance build: 4-way stretch and super durability and all the high-end bells and whistles, including waterproof zip and small, intentional perforations in the material for water drainage.
Rip Curl : Mirage Aggrogame 20
Medina’s signature board short comes in 4-way stretch with material with finished seams. The material, while not the same high-end composite as Rip Curl’s Ultimate series, is light, quick-drying and soft-to-the-touch. The fly has stretch material and no zippers, velcro or buttons, and the waistband is a soft, cotton material on the inside with durable material on the outside. The side-zippered pocket blends well on the side seam.
Highlights: For the price point it’s a great performing board short. The poly-blend is exceptionally soft so even though the short has non-welded seams, you probably could surf in them all day without getting a rash.
The Lastage Fred David
Eu Price: 75€ & Weblink
Lastage is an interesting company. They are an eco startup brand from France, a country where plastic is widely used and doesn’t have the same stigma that it does in California. The brand uses both recycled bottle material and organic cotton in all their clothing. That said, it’s their patented velcro closure system that sets them apart the most. The system keeps the shorts secure and allows the waist measurements to go up or down 2 sizes - one pair will fit from size 30 - 34. The material is light and the seems are triple-stitched. The boardies are comfortable but the patented waistband velcro closure is a bit bulky.
Highlights: Making eco clothing in a region that has few brands in this area. The boardies are comfortable fit well and the patterns are very fashion forward.
US Price: $49 & Weblink
Jamie O’Brien’s signature board shorts with a heavy rasta/Island vibe in colours and pattern. As far as tech features these are pretty standard board shorts, as the price point would suggest. They do provide some added value and performance by way of flat, stretch stitching on inside seam - unlikely to chaff. The shorts are also triple stitched at the stress point seams and have a cool contrast side stripe. Other perks are a no fly system and back zippered pocket so you can secure your wallet and keys.
Highlights: Good short for the price and very comfortable despite having minimal tech features.
Vapor Side Wayz
US Price: $57 & Weblink
A higher-end option to J.O.B.’s signature short, this one comes with a slight scallop side cut. Stitching is flat and stretchy and the fly has small tabs of velcro to help secure it but also a 360 drawstring waist which helps keep the fly bulk down for paddling comfort. Comes in 4-way stretch material with high-end slim, waterproof zipper for the back pocket.
Highlights: Slightly more technical version of the J.O.B. Vapor short due to the special zipper and fly features designed to stay slim and close to the short.
Vans Mixed Scallop Acid Palm
The Mixed Scallop is a good mid-priced boardie with a few performance features such as 90% polyester, 10% elastane water-resistant material (marketed as Vans’s Sturdy Stretch)
which claims to not cling. What we liked most about these boardies is that the seams are finished on the outer scallop leg and triple stitched along the inside legs. Because the material is soft, the triple stitch seam is soft. The side patch pocket has a velcro closure and old-school drain hole. The fly closure system has one small velcro tab and perforated stretch material just inside of the fly for minimal bulk.
Highlights: We liked the material and the seam construction and the old-school styling of a scallop leg and brass pocket drain hole.
Vans YUSUKE HANAI BOARDSHORT
The Yusuke Hanai Boardshort is not a high-performance surf-all-day short, unless you’ve got really tough skin. It’s a throwback boardie made from 100% nylon like the shorts of yesteryear. That said, it’s a cool looking boardshort with a block cut that offers a narrower leg and thigh opening.
Highlights: Sylish, retro nylon short with a water-resistant finish and a contrast-printed pieced panel. Not high-tech and performance oriented, but cool looking.
Rhythm Brunswick Trunk
US Price: $79 & Weblink
EU Price: €69
A retro-styled 17” outer seam retro-inspired board short with 4-way stretch material triple stitched at the seams. The waistband has a soft interior cotton material that fits snug and will help keep the shorts fitted to your waist. The standout feature of these shorts is that they were the only ones with button closures. All other shorts we examined had either velcro, zipper or nothing to secure the fly flap. The result is a short with traditional fly styling. We thought the buttons would be uncomfortable when laying on your board, but they are flat, thin, penny-sized and unobtrusive.
Highlights: Button fly, soft polyester material and comfortable waistband.
Rhythm Balloon Trunk
US Price: $75 & Weblink
EU Price: 65€
Taking a step further into retro-styling than the Brunswick Trunk, The Balloon Trunk rides high above the knee with a 15” outer seam. The traditional cotton canvas material is triple stitched with finished seams. The waistband has an inner soft cotton material with a classic lace fly. This short also uses the ‘thin penny’ button system to close the fly.
Highlights: A great board short when quick dry-times and upper knee coverage are way down on your list of priorities.
Hurley Phantom Hyperweave Boardshort
The latest in the constant evolution of Hurley’s Phantom series, the Hyperweave big difference from the other high performance boardies is the new Hyperweave waistband. The waistband is a single woven layer taken directly off a loom as a single piece. It also has these lateral stretch points that act a bit like accordion flange adapting to your movements. Hurley claim the design has 50% less bulk athan previous waistbands. Beyond the waistband the rest of the boardie is high-performance hydrophobic 4-way stretch sewn and cut in a scalloped leg pattern with welded seams.
Highlights: The most technical waistband of the shorts we examined, coupled with high-performance, stretchy, recycled polyester material make it a top performer.
Drain Pipes Boardshort
The Drain Pipes are a smart-looking short with Triple-stitched seams at stress points and folded finished seams elsewhere. It’s made with 4-Way stretch heathered material loomed from upcycled polyester and formed into a very light-lined texture. The Drain Pipes has a scalloped side seam and standard waistband. The back pocket flap secures with velcro and is solid and secure - more so than a few of the other designs out there. It's a standard boardie. More suited to beach day than high-performance boat trip.
Highlights: VISSLA offers a blend of upcycled plastic bottles and cotton in there latest line of boardshorts. In their words “converting useless products into new garments.”
Mystery Reef Boardshort
The Mystery Reef is 4-way stretch boardshort made with coconut fibers and upcycled polyester. The all over print is contrast with scallop side seam binding, waistband and pocket. The material is great: Water resistent, upcycled and made from coconuts. Could surf in these all day easily.
Highlights: What makes this short different is the innovative material construction 50% Recycled Polyester / 38% Coconut / 12% Spandex. It was very water repellent, more so than we anticipated given the light nature of the material.