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Enjoying warm water is a highlight of any summer, but you’ll need a pair of trusty board shorts to do so. Luckily, board shorts have quietly become more high-tech than ever.
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 ultra-stretchy, high-performance fabrics, slim 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 — 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?
There are a lot of board shorts out there, but not all of them are worthy of your summer plans. Here are eight of our favorites, including vintage-inspired trunks for surfing to high-performance board shorts for beach workouts.
Editor’s Pick: Outerknown Apex Trunks
Best Hybrid Board Shorts: Patagonia Baggies
Most Versatile: Vuori Infinity Boardshort
Best for Surfing: Quiksilver Original Scallop Boardshorts
Vintage Style: Birdwell 311 Nylon Boardshorts
Best Long Board Shorts: Patagonia Wavefarer Boardshorts
Premium Stretch: Hurley Phantom Tailgate Boardshort
Sustainable Pick: Vissla Solid Sets Boardshort
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.
Best Hybrid Board Shorts
The Patagonia Baggies might be the most versatile bottoms in menswear. 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.
With four-way stretch, a 8.5-inch inseam, and a quick-drying polyester-elastane build, these Vuori Infinity board shorts are built for performance in and out of the water. They also have some nice convenience features too, like a zip pocket on the leg and a comfortable neoprene waistband. Plus, more than half the fabric is recycled, which is always a plus.
Best for Surfing
For these Original Scallop board shorts, Quiksilver took a classic look from their archives and modernized it with cutting edge features like a “DryFlight” water-repellent coating that makes the shorts dry almost immediately. They’re also extremely stretchy, minimal, and well-fitting, which has earned them a spot in our go-to rotation of surfing board shorts.
5. Birdwell 311 Nylon Boardshorts
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.
Best Long Board Shorts
If you like some extra coverage from your board shorts, check out these Wavefarer trunks from Patagonia. With a 19-inch outseam, you get plenty of material to protect your skin from wax, sand, or rocks. As with everything from Patagonia, you also get top-notch durability and eco-friendly materials.
Hurley’s Phantom line has been a staple in high-performance board shorts for years. Examples like these Phantom Tailgates deliver incredible stretch and lightness thanks to spandex-heavy polyester-blend fabric. This makes them an excellent choice for high-performance surfing or other activities that require maximum range of motion.
8. Vissla Solid Sets Boardshort
Vissla uses upcycled coconut husks to make their “Cocotex” fabric, which is used in these fast-drying, stretchy Solid Sets board shorts. The coconut also happens to fight odor — great if you want to wear your board shorts around after a workout or surf.
Board Shorts Buying Guide
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).