We take a good look at 2017s top offering of high-performance boardshorts
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 11 June, 2017 - Because boardshorts hug some of the most sensitive skin on the body, it’s important to understand what you can do to prevent things like chafed legs and ballrash when surfing. For this reason we ran through the design features of 13 new shorts for the 2017 season to see what’s available to the consumer and at what price.
We examined seems for softness and stretch while the fly panels were checked for stiff edges that could potentially chafe. Materials were investigated and noted for their stretch, weight and water repellent qualities.
The boardies we looked at range in price from $50 to $150. One big surprise is that we found some lower-priced boardies performed as well as expensive performance shorts. So it pays to do your homework before buying a pair for your summer surf trip.
Also consider the type of short you need before you make your purchase. Are you surfing for hours day-in-day-out or are you poolside at a sausage sizzle? You won’t need a $150 pair of shorts to flip burgers and knock back Coronas. But if you’re jumping on a boat to get lost in the Mentawais and surf for eight hours a day, you’ll need soft, light, stretchy, minimal seam shorts to make it through the trip without chafing.
*Note: None if the companies listed paid to be included in this feature
Below, the full live review of the above boardshorts:
Why are seams and material important?
When sitting out the back waiting for a wave, board shorts will be forced up against the wearer’s crotch. Moving from sitting to prone paddling position and having wet material rubbing repeatedly against one’s nether regions often leads to rash.
The most common irritation is on the inner thigh along the main seem in the short’s crotch design. For this reason many brands are using lighter material, flatter seems (or no seams) and stretchier fabric and thread.
Where the four panels of the short are joined by seems at the apex of the crotch, if the stitching is stiff, it’s easy to develop ball rash after only a few hours in salt water. Likewise a stiff fly panel with lots of material like velcro will rub you wrong in the lineup.
Body Glove Leaf Ericson $48
In a nutshell: Affordable high-performance short with special attention to waistband and material. The shorts are comfortable and non-chafing despite not having super-high-end welded seams. Body Glove's waistband design is ingenious.
Body Glove’s Vapor line of boardies like the Leif Ericson use a hydrophobic 4-way stretch, quick dry material that we found to be a good balance between being lightweight yet still solid enough to hang on your leg without getting blown around like some of the super-lightweight options out there. The seams, while not welded or taped, are a flat lock stitched with stretchy thread that lays flat against the skin and are quite comfortable. We liked the simple non-velcro fly with lycra panel and laces that run through the waistband. So when you lace up at the fly the waistband tightens as well. Very helpful when you’re two weeks into a desert dirt surf trip miles away from the nearest Chipotle and loose an inch on your waistband. These boardies use a back mesh pocket design with key loop.
Superbrand Toy Boardshort $69
In a Nutshell: Stylistically strong with many features found in higher-priced board shorts. Sidepocket has innovative perforation and aqua zipper.
Superbrand’s high-performance boardie features lightweight 4-way stretch material that’s 90% Polyester/10% Spandex. Pretty standard. But what sets it apart from other value-priced-high-performance shorts is the welded inseam and the finished leg opening typically found on $100+ boardies. The fly has no velcro and very little material making it comfortable and non-chafing. The waistband is a heavier, softer material to help keep the shorts secure on your hips. Side pocket has an aqua-phobic zipper and perforated material that allows quicker water drain.
Reef Fields Boardshort $58
In a nutshell: A basic boardie that scores points for its material blend that looks vintage yet performs like a modern boardie.
Reef′s signature short in their Surfari boardshorts collection. These boardies have a vintage cotton look to them but feature a technical 60% polyester, 36% cotton and 4% lycra blend. The material is not super hydrophobic but it is light and comfortable. Reef boasts a brushed twill interior waistband which we found to be more solid and sit better on the hips than boardies with the same material thickness carried through the waistband. While the seams on this short would not be confused with a high-end welded seam, the finished seam lays flat with no rough edges. The lycra fly is breathable with one small tab of velcro to keep it secure. The back pocket is external, meaning no obtrusions on the interior of the short next to your body.
VISSLA Sunda Land Boardshort $69
In a nutshell: This short scores for innovative upcycled material and solid, triple-stitched seams that lay flat against your skin and its cool vintage fabric design but loses points for being stiff in the fly closure.
These shorts use material made from discarded husks of coconuts that would ordinarily end up in a landfill. The coconut byproduct is blended with polyester to create a moderate 4-way stretch hydrophobic material (50% recycled Polyester / 38% Coconut / 12% Spandex.) Two tabs of velcro hold the rather stiff fly design secure. VISSLA’s rear pocket design is solid and closes more securely than many other velcro closure units out there. The fabric pattern comes from the historic Hoffman California fabric vaults.
QUIKSILVER New Wave Highline $150
In a nutshell: Super high-performance premium boardies that scored well in terms of material and design. Definate boat trip contender. The only drawback is that the welded seams feel stiff.
The New Wave High 19" board shorts are Quik’s premium high-performance trunk. They feature 4-way stretch material that we found to be one of the stretchiest in the batch of boardies we tested. Seams are welded so there’s no stitching to chafe your skin, however the bond at these seams feels stiff and less stretchy than elsewhere on the shorts. The fly is one of the most minimal we’ve seen with velcro only at the waistband. Laces are round and light and elastic for solid tie-off. The waistband is a heavier fabric with punch holes to lighten the overall weight of the shorts. Rear pocket is super slim and unobtrusive with aqua seal zipper.
Lastage Fisherman $75
In a nutshell: Perfect for the eco-concious surfer whose shorts keep slipping off their waist. Innovative waistband closure and forward-thinking material are pluses in this short.
The Lastage Fisherman Fred David pro model is an ecofriendly (94% recycled bottles) and technical boardie featuring Lastage’s patented closure system called “Scratch’age II”. The closure system is the most heavy-duty we’ve seen on any boardies we tested. 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 thicker than other waistbands. The recycled material is lightweight and dries fast.
Patagonia Stretch Hydro Planing Boardshort $89
In a nutshell: Fair-trade, ultra lightweight recycled polyester fabric with moderate stretch properties and minimal seam intrusion and hydrophobic properties.
The latest offering from Patagonia includes an update over last year's high performance short. This year the waistband has been improved with more heft and a better fit along with the closure system - a flat-lying fly with a rubber button and ladderlock drawstring. The shorts are a good blend of eco-ethics and performance and the short ranks as one of the better "under-$100" performance shorts. The material is so light that any rise in the seams (they're not welded) will cause minimal rubbing.
O’Neill Hyperfreak Hydro Boardshort $120
In a Nutshell: Super sophisticated with innovative material and construction and heavy attention to detail. Definitely a good boat trip choice.
Very elastic 4-way stretch super high-end boardies with welded seams that are taped on the outside. Everything about this short is super tech and performance oriented, from the lightweight and grippy drawcord and hyper flow waistband to the hydrophobic properties of the hyper-stretch material (170% Hyperfreak Stretch, not sure what that means but it’s 78% Polyester/22%Elastane). Technically, this was the most sophisticated of all the boardshorts we received. Turning these trunks inside out we found a super simple, unbroken pattern with no areas to chafe. If you are uber-fussy about wearing super-technical gear, these boardies would be the best choice.
Rhythm Julian Boardshort $68
In a Nutshell: While more of a “stylie” than performance boardie we included the Rhythm Julian because of its button fly, soft polyester material and comfortable waistband.
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 we tested that had 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.
Roark Revival Savage Boardshort €90
In a Nutshell: Smart design with comfortable, mid-tech material and seems packaged all together without looking like something from futuristic workout video.
Moderate 4-way stretch material that’s 86% recycled polyester and 14% spandex. Fabric feels soft to the touch with a fair amount of stretch without being too light and prone to leg-rise. Seams are standard and flat with thread that has a little stretch, but is not as super stretchy as some of the other boardies out there. Medium amount of material on the fly with one velcro tab. Waistband is solid and soft helping the boardies sit securely on the hips. Nice touches are the outer cord loop at the waist for keys or whatever and the finished hem on the thighs which stretches less than the rest of the boardie material thereby helping the shorts sit firmly on the wearer’s legs. Flat, larger-than-normal side pocket with welded seams and waterproof zipper.
Sen No Sen "Depression" boardie €75
In a Nutshell: Eco, high-tech, stylish boardshort with pockets should you want to wander around on land.
One of the better walkshort-boardshort hybrids available. Uses 4-way-stretch fabric (Econyl recycled fabric made in Italy) with good water repellent capabilities. Seems are minimal, stretchy and soft. The waistband keeps use of the same Econyl material but doubles it up so the shorts fit well on the hips. Four-hole tie with retro-styled cord. Fly is soft and pliable (no hard edges) with just one velcro tap at the top. In you absolutely must surf in a walk short, these would be a good choice.
Hurley Phantom Hyperweave Motion Stripe Men's 18” €100
In a nutshell: Very impressed with the waistband system and no-fly design on a very comfortable, stretchy and performance-oriented short that looks more suited for the basketball court than Cloudbreak.
The most un-obtrusive fly of any of the boardshorts we looked at because, well, there is no fly on these shorts. They’ve taken a cue from basketball shorts and done away with the fly. Moderate 4-way stretch material throughout with special ultra-stretch side panels and scalloped hem (86% recycled polyester/14% elastane). Comfortable and stretchy. As this short follows a gym-styled sport short there are lots of unfinished seams which, at the 100 euro price tag, we would expect to be welded or taped. But as we’ve discovered, the lighter and softer the material, the lighter and softer the seams.
Billabong Tribong X Lite €149
In a nutshell: Super high end boardies that have no external seams, hems or pieces to rub or chafe. Good boat trip option.
Super stretchy hydrophobic material (82% polyester/18% elastane) held together with standard welded seam setup. Water proof zipper for the side pocket which is seamless on the inside of the short. Fly closes with two high-placed velcro squares and the tie lace is standard four-hole. The waistband has grippy silicone strips at the hips to prevent it from sliding off your waist. Functional but not good if you have an excess of body hair on your hips. All said, one of the best of the shorts we sampled.
Volcom Macaw Mod Plus € 95
In a Nutshell: High-end material and seam construction that you’d expect from a near-$100 pair of boardies. Stylish and high-performance with cool, innovative lacing system. Fly feels a touch bulkier than other boardies in the same price range.
Taped and welded inseam and super light water repellent 4-way stretch fabric. The cinch fly has a unique three eyelet cinch function which might or might not work better than a four-eyelet system. We liked that the fly does not rely on velcro to close it. Despite not having the bulkiness associated with a velcro fly, there was quite a bit of stitching on the Macaw Mod Plus fly making it stiffer than other boardies in the price reange. Great back pocket design with aqua proof zipper and seam welds. The back zip pocket comes with welded eyelets for waterproofing. Liquid welding on some of the more crucial seams at the waist.