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)