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The 19 Best Board Shorts | 2017

We test the finest summer surf trunks in the universe

Which are the best board shorts for surfing? We decided to investigate from the very many on the market this summer.

But before we get on to the shorts themselves, let’s talk about you.

Because you can tell much about a man by the way he wears his board shorts, apparently.

At one end of the spectrum lies the circa 2002 below-the-knee baggy, standard issue of the WSL security guard/homies outside 7/11 in white singlets. Almost as if the Bermuda short has bred with the Thailand full moon party parachute material juggling pant, and had a surfwear branded lovechild. This type of boardshort wearer may wear them all day, for aquatic activity or not, and will almost certainly have tribal tattoos.

At the opposite end, representing peak hipster, is the circa 2011 Byron Bay sailcloth hotpant.(I actually had a pair of Rhythm boardies in 2012 that were so stiff and tight that I’d occasionally miss waves by not being able to go from sitting on me board to lying down quick enough. Not my finest hour.) This type of boardshort wearer may also hang in them all day, accessorised with a wide brimmed felt hat, a string ankle friendship bracelet thingy and squiggly tatts.

“Think long and very, very hard about pairing boardies with a short sleeved rash vest, unless, of course, it’s a Pipemasters jersey and your heat is about to start”

Today, in the main we find ourselves somewhere betwixt the two, although certainly leaning much closer to the latter than the former. Today, short-ish, reasonably tight-ish are pretty much the norm, while the below the knee, John-John-when-he-was-8 cut is largely chortled at. And sure, you could hang in them all day, but you could also change out of them after surfing, into a walk short… Just a thought.

Fashions change of course, but the ultimate goal of the boardshort, its raison d’etre, does not.

The job of the boardshort is to not hinder your shred, while not rubbing your tackle, while preserving your modesty. If they can look kinda cool at the same time, well hey, that’s ticking boxes for me.

Some brands are chasing textile tech and mention things like lasers, allegedly used in production, while others couldn’t give two hoots about ‘welded’ seams and the like, and are more about fit, pattern and very possibly about recycling coconut husks or plastic bottles.

Some have things like side pockets and elasticated waists, features usually associated with volleyball. Side pockets and elasticated waists were very much the subject of scorn not so very long ago, whereas today your chances of surfing with them, and not being heckled, are great.

In terms of rashes, rubs, chafes and irritations — while perhaps not as important as contracting venereal disease at some point in order to get closer to your art (chlamydia is the best* one to get) — they are also something of a rite of passage.

I mean if you haven’t had one, you need to get one, just to have experienced it. You gotta do your time.

But then move on and avoid them at all costs, all the time.

All the brands seems to talk about 4-way stretch, which seems to be the standard. Bear in mind stretch itself is a relatively vague term, even if they bung on a emphatic prefix (“ultra-” “super-” “fully the sickest-” etc).

It goes without saying, in terms of promoting better shred, the more stretch the better.

Billabong’s campaign claims “Life’s better in boardshorts” which it very definitely is, except when your chap has 3rd degree velcro burns on both the shaft and face and your sack/inner thigh looks like it’s done a couple of rounds with an orbital sander.

Then life is actually real fucken shitty.

Also, please think long and very, very hard about pairing boardies with a short sleeved rash vest (unless of course, it’s a Pipemasters (/Chopes/Fiji) jersey and your heat is about to start).

Behold the very finest 19 pairs of boardshorts for summer 2017. We don’t recommend buying each and all of them, but say 3 pairs should do both you — and the surf industry — right.

Austerity is so last year.

 

(Photography by Youri Barnyard)

Globe Spray 18″

 

Dry 151g  //  Wet 365g  //  After 15 mins 320g

€64.95

Globe’s Spray 18″ trunk comes with all the thoroughly contemporary styling you’ve come to expect from the brand, in a cut and fit that feels tickety-boo to me. My actual fave of fave pair of trunks in the last five years was the Globe Strange Rumblings limited edition, essentially coz they look cool and feel epic. Similar to those, the Spray 18″ have no real tech features to report, no science to impart. They look good, and sit just so. Yes they have a velcro fly, and no, there’s no safety flap of lycra to keep said lycra away from your wiener, so, technically, there is a chance you could sustain a pecker contusion. So what? Life’s full of uncertainty, fraught with risk. As they say, you gotta break eggs to make omelette, and as they don’t say but should, sometimes you have to risk (a very slight chance of) pecker rub to lead a fun-filled, meaningful existence.

 

“Sometimes you have to risk (a very slight chance of) pecker rub to lead a fun-filled, meaningful existence”

Globe Lygon 16.5″ Poolshort

 

Dry 155g  //  Wet 313g  //  After 15 mins 265g

€55

The Lygone 16.5″ are the only boardies in this review that aren’t boardies. They’re actually pool shorts, and they’re epic. Youri and I joked that these are what the Marseille chavs would rock with one of those little over the shoulder mini man bags where you keep your phone and your hash and cigs and maybe flick knife. He’s from Marseille, so he should know. Ridiculously comfy and easy to wear, which sounds silly, but they are. You could shred low tide, slip into a white loafer, drink a can of Red Stripe, toot a bifter, have a hit of swingball, showing off just the right amount of lower quad all the while. I’m keeping these, and planning on doing all of the above (except the bifter, loafers and swingball).


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Hurley JJF 3 Maps Elite 20″

 

Dry 162g  //  Wet 267g  //  After 15 mins 232g

€100

Reassuringly simple in terms of design, the JJF Maps Elite 3 from Hurley are a different cut to most of what’s on the market, with a wider waistband and thus a fit that sits higher on your hips and stays there, presumably the functional fit of choice of the world’s best surfer. Featuring a very low key key pocket on the side, an island/nautical inspired print, fetching double red stripe and the JJF sailboat signature logo, they look pretty different from everything else out there too. Hurley are also the only brand to quantify ‘stretch’ giving these 60% rating, which sounds like a lot, and feels like a lot when you’ve got em on. While it’s pretty hard to say for sure, these feel like the most rugged in terms of construction, the most built to last. Given that they have the JJF yacht logo, the only reason I didn’t wear these on Sunday’s sailing regatta (see Patagonia review, below) was I figured the brighter Patagucci colourway might help the authorities locate my body, after exhaustive sea and air searches, thus saving the French taxpayer a bit of money. My worries were unfounded. With all the performance spec you’d expect from a Hurley top line/JJF signature trunk, they also weighing in with a hefty 86% recycled polyester, giving them very solid eco-credentials too. A most excellent boardshort.

 

 

Hurley Phantom HyperWeave Motion Stripe 18″

 

Dry 159g  //  Wet 326g  //  After 15 mins 272g

€100

Like the JJF Maps Elite 3, the Hyperweave Motion Stripe are also conspicuously different in terms of cut and fit from pretty much everything out there, but for totally different reasons. With no fly opening, the waist band is crazy stretchy, and feels ridiculously comfy, you’ll step into them like a gym short. First thing you’ll notice when you’ve got em on is how ridiculously light they are, you kinda have to keep looking down to remind yourself that you aren’t nekkid. There’s a different spandex material panel on the outer leg (the Motion Stripe), giving amazing lateral stretch while maintaining a slim fit profile. I found this colourway pretty groovy too, it’ll make your pins looked tanned on an overcast day, which is important. Given the outstanding performance and the overall sporty feel to these, you’d quite happily shred or go to yoga in them, looking sharp AF all the while.

O’Neill Hyperfreak 20″

Dry 145g //  Wet 244g // After 15 mins 211g

€79.99

O’Neill are bringing mighty, mighty impressive drying numbers with the Hyperfreak, living up to the performance hyperbole, so to speak. The second quickest drying trunk in the test, even their wet weight than most trunks after a period drying.  The overall design is pretty classic, with a simple side key pocket, no outside leg seam, a basic waistband and regular, 20″ leg. There’s no gimmicks, great leaps forward or patented design features to speak of, just a very well performing, beautifully basic surf trunk. I didn’t do the Jack O’Neill paddle out the other day, but if I had, I would’ve worn these, and I would’ve been comfier than a princess without a pea.

O’Neill For The Ocean 18″

Dry 151g  //  Wet 304g  //  After 15 mins 230g

€69.99

Made with 30% recycled polyester, the For The Ocean trunk are part of O’Neill’s Blue series, but what impressed me most about these first was the colourway. They look epic, with a vaguely Thomas Campbell-esque pattern, no? A conspicuously less tech trunk than the Hyperfreak, the For The Ocean is coming in on the more analog vibe space, for the waverider who has a Moleskin, a fountain pen, possibly digs singlefins almost certainly resin tints. The Hyperdry material used in the FTO’s (concentrate, as this is a touch confusing), while not as quick drying as the Hyperfreak (which doesn’t have it), still came in with very, very respectable numbers, like, actually really, really impressive, making these a beautifully negotiated road map for peace between form and function.

 

 Patagonia Scallop Hem Wavefarer 18″

Dry 133g // Wet 279g  // After 15 mins 219g

€65

I was expecting big things from Patagonia trunks (this was the first time I’d slipped a pair over my bum cheeks) and was in no way disappointed. Quite the opposite, in fact. But hang on, let’s step back and make a broader philosophical observation about the brand. I’ve watched Cowspiracy, a few things on Netflix about palm oil, Leo DiCaprio’s After The Flood and thought, as perhaps you have, ‘We’re all fucked’. It’s easy to get disheartened, to become overwhelmed by the seemingly lost cause of keeping planet Earth blue and green. But every now and then, something comes along and gives you a glimmer of hope, a sliver of optimism, makes you think, ‘You know what, we might just make it.’ Patagonia give me hope, and, as I’ve very recently learned, make fucking awesome board shorts. With 38% recycled nylon, SPF 50 sun protection and Fair Trade sewing (as the entire Patagonia boardshort and swimwear range is), these things are doing it on so many levels. Have a peep at the drying time and weights. Lord have mercy.

 

Patagonia Stretch Hydro Planing 21″

 

Dry 107g  //  Wet 250g  //  After 15mins 172g

€100

The longest short in the test, which normally would set me at odds with them, and in a colour that I previously thought was (and should remain) the sole preserve of the Dutch football team, as soon as I put these on I simultaneously fell in love with them while hemorrhaging faith in my own value set, suddenly bringing into question ever assumption I’d ever had about the world we live in. Look at those stats. Look again. The lightest shorts in the test (despite being the longest, btw), the drying time is absolute bonkers. Then a series of aquatic activities ensued that over the course of 24 hours that only furthered my affection for the Patagonia Stretch Hydroplaning 21″, since I was wearing them throughout. I had a surf in the morning, on a perfect, magical 1ft low tide sandbar. Then I went SUPing down the river through the woods at high tide. The next day I participated in a sailing regatta with the Union Natique de Capbreton (we came third). I can honestly say after five hours on a boat in rough-ish seas off Les Landes, and a day after a surf/SUP biathlon, with a night of moderate to heavy drinking in between, my tackle and upper thighs were actually in better condition than before. Oh did I mention they’re made from 100% recycled polyester? They even self-store in the back pocket, which is genius. The outstanding multi purpose trunk for the mindful, eco conscious surfer.

“They even self-store in the back pocket, which is genius. The outstanding multi purpose trunk for the mindful, eco conscious surfer”


 

Quiksilver Crypt Scallop 18″

Dry 158g  //  Wet 306g  // After 15 mins 253g

€69.99

A devilishly good trunk from Quik, featuring their own iconic scallop hem, 4-way stretch, neo fly closure, Dry Flight water repellent coating, Diamond Deluxe low friction fabric. The Crypt Scallop 18″ is the modern marriage of classic retro styling with tomorrow’s tech; 80’s-ish from far, 21st century under closer scrutiny. The black upper and floral lower leg is another hat tip to surf prints of yesteryear, as surfing, ever unthreatened in its inherent masculinity, continues sport’s closest (only?) association with the reproductive organs of plants.

 

 

“Surfing, ever-unthreatened in its inherent masculinity, continues sport’s closest and only association with the reproductive organs of plants”

 

Quiksilver New Wave Highline 19″

 

Dry 141g  //  Wet 228g  //  After 15 mins 176g

€159.99

First of all, shit me. These things are next level, featuring more tech and innovation than, well any item of clothing that starts at the waist and ends above the knee. Quik’s New Wave Highline 19″ blew (almost) everyone out of the fucken water on the dry test. I mean they’d want to, for a hundred and sixty bucks, though. But if you’re going on a boat trip and can in no way afford any chafe fuckups, get these. They’re pricey, but seriously, you want to nause a 3 grand Ment’s trip quibbling over a 70 extra bucks worth of trunk? I don’t. The most top of the range boardshorts on the market by some way.

 

Roark Savage 19″

Dry 146g  //  Wet 273g  //  After 15 mins 236g

€90

A top spec piece of trunkage from Roark, who are relative newcomers on to the boardshort scene. Gotta be honest, I wasn’t overly familiar with their oeuvre, so I read on the website, “Roark is the revival of the spontaneous spirit of adventurism and storytelling in the form of a man. He is a bar-brawling adventurer that disappears into Mexico for 6 months camping, only to surface in Paris drinking Bordeaux with a model.” Kinnel! Whether you’ve ever bar brawled (technically illegal, btw), done six months camping in Mex (not recommended, here’s why) drunk Bordeaux in Paris with male models — or not — you’ll surely dig these trunks. The Savage boast a very respectable drying time, super comfy cut and fit, and a pretty fricken cool print.

Roark Baagh Scallop

Dry 166g  //  Wet 409g  //  After 15 mins 324g

€80

Stripes and surf trunks have been happy bedfellows since Da Bull, probably before, and Roark’s Baagh (Tiger) are continuing that proud tradition. My interest already piqued by the fighting, Mex and model bants, I read on, only to learn that the Roark logo is “derived from the hobo hieroglyphics of the depression era, a lexicon of symbols that passed on information to the legions of train hoppers about the towns along the tracks. Some symbols stood for such things as “town with alcohol, you will be cursed here, or women available“.  The Roark “Safe Camp” moniker is inspired by the Hobo Code for ” a safe place to camp” while on the road.” I’ll say this; anything sporting a logo that would please the likes of Woodie Guthrie, Cisco, Sonny and Leadbelly, is more than alright with me.

 

RVCA Fade Elastic 17″

 

Dry 295g  //  Wet 582g // After 15mins 400g

RVCA’s Fade 17″ Elastic are essentially the polar opposite of tech trunk, with no noticeable save the planet credentials, either. Boasting an elasticated waist, side pockets and a simple drawstring, they fit pretty tight and are kinda short. My wife said, “ooh I like them.” (I hadn’t asked). They’re pretty awesome for logging on a stinking hot day, and you could easily towel off, throw on a short sleeved shirt/set of thongs and eat tempeh burgers washed down with craft beer at the pop up art show afterwards. I know I have. Somehow RVCA have simultaneously put themselves into the artist/creator/hipster vibe space, and the mixed martial arts choke cunts out vibespace, been tarnished by neither, and have come off absolutely winning.

 

“Somehow RVCA have simultaneously put themselves into the artist/creator/hipster vibe space, and the mixed martial arts choke cunts out vibespace, and have been tarnished by neither”

 

Vans Check Yourself

 

Dry 157g  //  Wet 353g  //  After 15 mins 221g

£45

Seems like Vans aren’t trying to reinvent the boardshort, what they are doing is offering classic Vans styling in an affordable trunk, for fans of the brand. By looks of things, gazing pavement-ward around most of the western world and beyond, that’s pretty much all of us. The Check Yourself Bo are a relatively basic, highly effective, totes affordable boardshort that should help you get closer to your inner Gudang. Surf the shit out of them, use and abuse em until your heart’s content. And if you do happen to forget them on the bus in early September, ok be appropriately angry at yourself, but it’s certainly no cause for self harm.

 

Vans Era Panel

 

Dry 207g // Wet 454g // After 15 mins 314g

£55

If I had to describe how these look, I’d say handsome. They’re a very handsome, multi-purpose trunk. Vans do ‘classic’ better than anyone in surfing, and the Era Panel are just that. Side pockets make them function by land as well as by sea, and while they’re relatively weighty when wet, they never claimed otherwise. Youri wasted no time in securing these for his private collection, christened them on his Chipiron log at Cote des Basques before taking them on family hols to Sweden, Land of a Thousand Lakes, where their classic nautical styling and vaguely French colourway will surely only further his already lofty standing amongst his in-laws, as well as the general population.

 

“Vans do ‘classic’ better than anyone in surfing, and the Era Panel are just that”

 

Vissla x DaFin bodywhomper 17.5″

Dry 151g  //  Wet 291g  //  After 15 mins 245g

€65

OK, I have something of a confession to make, an interest to declare. I like all black shorts. I like DaFin swim fins. I love the word bodywhomp (and just ‘whomp’) and the activity, and I really like short shorts. So when I saw these, the very short, very black, Vissla x DaFin Bodywhomper trunks, I nearly shit. Then I learned that they were made from upcycled coconut husks, and saw the video that attested to that fact, and I had to go and sit in a dark room for a while and gather myself. A very cool, very impressive piece of trunkage indeed, at a very reasonable price. Is it just me, or are these goddam awesome?

Vissla Liquid Rollers 18.5″.

 

Dry 170g // Wet 364g // After 15 mins 309g

€69

As mentioned above Vissla are making trunks out of coconut husks, which is pretty fricken awesome. They’re also making videos like (above) which, well, gives me hope not just for a better tomorrow – but also a pretty decent rest of today. The Liquid Roller’s distinctive colourway is a collab with Hoffman Fabrics, who are synonymous with Californian textile prints and designs, and have been at it for nearly a century. While less impressive on the wet/drying stats than the x DaFin Bodywhomp trunk, nevertheless these still offered supreme ride comfort, and a ton of style, presuming you’re sufficiently emboldened by your level of ripping/leg physiology/ personality to pull them off. And by that I mean, wearing them. Obvs.

 

Volom Macaw Mod Plus 19″

 

Dry 169g  //  Wet 306g  // After 15 mins 248g
€90

These look badass to me, boasting plenty of tech without looking like hiking equipment. The Macaw Mod Plus are packing a ton of high end spec, like welded seams, cinch fly, water repellent 4 way stretch, without going crazy on the price. With no outside leg seam, the Macaw Mod Plus are basically 2 bits of material, plus waistband, and a respectable sub 250g after 15 mins on my washing line is testament to a thoroughly well conceived piece of trunkage. Looks-wise, black on grey on black is doing it for me in a big way.

 

 

Volcom Mag Vibes Stoney 19”

 

Dry 162g  //  Wet 375g  // After 15 mins 300g

€60

The Mag Vibes Stoney are a kinda basic trunk, in de rigeur 19″ length, with no velcro except on the back pocket closure, and stay ‘true to this’ by featuring a few Volcom staple quirks. The fit is nice and the stretch is everything you’ll need to perform, even on your best of days. The inside of the fly has a kind of tape measure graphic, ideal if you want to measure your dong, which, I guess is basically all of us, right? The logo is half way up the thigh instead of the standard bottom corner, while the seams that run down the hip/outside thigh have a kink. The pattern might make your eyes go funny-ish? I stared at em for ages but still couldn’t see a pod of dolphins…

“The inside of the fly has a kind of tape measure graphic, ideal if you want to measure your dong, which, I guess is basically all of us, right?”

 

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