Though your surfing may stink, there’s no excuse for looking shabby between the car park and the water. And while the right pair of board shorts won’t improve your wobbly cutback, the wrong pair will bring unnecessary attention to it.
So, frame them if you must, but it’s time to remove your 1999 below-knee board shorts from wardrobe circulation (the same goes for the so-called ‘high performance’ fluro monstrosities you were wearing in 2015). Sorry; the market’s moved on, man.
Fortunately, thanks to a welcome change of the surf brand guard, you can now get all the performance, stretch, comfort, and durability you could ask for, hidden away in a stylish package, if you know where to look. And as summer rolls around, there has never been a better time
We could go into Swiss Army Knife comparisons and boring technical details, but let’s be honest. It’s pretty simple what makes the best boardshorts?
You want a comfortable, flexible, durable and quick-drying companion that makes you feel cool both in and out of the water.
Fortunately for you, in this selection of boardshorts we’ve taken care of all that, so all you have to do is pick a pair you think looks cool (you could practically shut your eyes and point to any).
What we’re looking for when buying board shorts…
- Eco-Friendly / Sustainable – brands like Outerknown and Patagonia are the eco warrior’s board short of choice.
- High Performance – While sportswear giant Nike has previously owned the likes of Hurley and took incredible advantage of the company’s fabric technologies in the process, most pairs of board shorts from O’Neill, Ripcurl and the other brands will offer high-performance fabrics.
- Flashy – Popular with Italo Ferreira and Mason Ho, board shorts from the likes of Rip Curl, Haydenshapes, Billabong and O’Neill are for the man who believes himself capable of surfing low tide rock piles, and who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
- Stretch – If you’re surfing then 4-way stretch board shorts are the way to go.
- Anti-Chafe – If you are a man of creature comfort (and 8-hour shred sessions), you will do well to make sure your board short of choice has anti-chafe technology.
- Pockets – Most board shorts from surf brands won’t have traditional pockets, rather a key pocket or cash stash.
Outerknown is a clothing company founded by Kelly Slater, arguably the world’s greatest ever surfer, so already you know its products are going to be built for some seriously slashing cut backs. It’s built on the ethos of being as sustainable as possible and to that end, 90 per cent of its fibres are organic, recycled or regenerated and all of its boardshorts are made using these recycled fibres.
The Apex trunks may be a little more on the expensive side, but when Kelly wears them himself, you know they’re going to be worth every cent. Completely recycled and benefitting from ultralight 4-way stretch polyester, these board shorts will last you forever, dry super fast and can even pack into their own back pocket. If you’re looking for something more functional for everyday wear, try the Nomadic short. They’re a little lighter on the hip pocket.
Outerknown shorts are not the most affordable on the market, coming in at over $200, but given what the brand stands for and having Kelly behind them, we think they’re worth it.
Hurley has been designing and developing surfwear since 1979. The company was responsible for distributing Billabong in the USA during the Australian company’s early years and it wasn’t until 1999 that Hurley International was born.
Hurley focuses on comfort and fit, ensuring that their board shorts are comfortable to wear both in and out of the water. They often feature stretchy and quick-drying materials that provide freedom of movement.
The One & Only Volley 17″ boardshorts are versatile enough to be at home in the water and to double up as a regular pair of walk shorts when strolling around a beachside town. Serving up a sublime fit and being available in a variety of colours, they’re the perfect casual outfit piece.
If you want ultimate performance in your boardshorts for surfing, then the Hurly Phantom is the best boardshorts on the market. They are more expensive but they’re built better than any other boardshorts I’ve worn. They’re currently my daily drivers.
Popular Products from Hurley
Howler Brothers was founded by two friends (ironically not brothers) in Austin, Texas. They practically became brothers, however, after meeting and realising they shared many of the same interests, quickly became inseparable and launched their treasured company that boasts products created with “soul and passion”.
Their Deep Set Boardshorts are pretty hard to beat, especially at such a competitive price point (US$59 or A$90 per pair). As well as their signature understated patterns, the shorts boat a 7” inseam, triple-needle construction and heavy-duty pockets all made using 80% recycled materials. They’re also unlined, which is great if you’re the kind of guy who prefers to “hang loose”.
If you prefer a little contrasting pop of colour in your waistband, consider the Bruja Boardshorts instead. Coming in at the same price point but boasting a longer 8.5” inseam and mesh-drained pockets, these are great for guys who like their shorts a little longer.
Shorts go up to a 40″ waist, so it’s a good one for heavier blokes hitting the board. They also sell tees, shirts, trousers, backpacks and a whole lot more, so you can get all your kit and clobber from Howler Bros if you like your new boardshorts.
Popular Products from Howler Brothers
Rhythm set out to create an alternative label, designed by surfers and inspired by the Australian coast: by the melody of the waves, by quality materials, by elegant design, and by sustainable practices. A diverse community of surfers, musicians, travellers, and artists tapped into Australia’s unique coastal heritage.
Their line of boardshorts is fashion-forward but built for the performance of ripping on the country’s biggest breaks. Whether you’re a longboarder in Byron or a maniac at Snapper Rocks, Rhythm produces the right stuff when it comes to men’s board shorts.
The Core Trunk is the brand’s most functional short for every condition. Made with a reliable 4-way stretch it is soft and comfortable. Measuring a handy 18.5inch in length it will be suitable for those who like a longer length boardshort. If you prefer something more fancy, then the Seaside Trunk will be more up your ocean alley. At 17.5 inches, it’s better for those who like a more casual shorter boardshort.
Sizes go up to a 36″ waist, so larger blokes may struggle here.
Critical Slide Society
Starting out as a blog in Australia’s Central Coast way back in 2009, The Critical Slide Society was built on a mission to embody the heart and soul of surf culture. Crucially, these guys didn’t start as a brand but as surfers, artists, photographers, illustrators and — most importantly — friends.
This energy has carried through to their products. The Logger Boardshort is one of our favourites: with a long-but-not-too-long 15” inseam and a beautiful contrast waistband, you get all the benefits of that classic surf look without feeling as if you’ve stepped right out of the 1950s. Made from heavy-duty nylon, these are ready for the water just as soon as you are.
If you prefer patterns over block colours, take the Drip Boardshort for a spin. Boasting self-proclaimed ‘primo looks’ with the same top-drawer functionality you can expect from their entire collection, these are a no-brainer if you’re looking for modern craftsmanship with a pop of personality.
Waists go up to 38”.
Faherty Brand is a lifestyle clothing company founded by twin brothers Alex and Mike, with the goal of creating the best boardshorts out there. How? Well, they felt like boardshorts needed elevating a little and, to be honest, we can’t really disagree with them. Looking to drop the excessively long inseams and “garish” designs that had come to characterise their competitors’ products, they instead focused on a shorter, refined garment that can be worn to the beach and then straight to the bar in the evening.
Case in point is the Classic 7in Boardshort: Made from a recycled poly-cotton elastane blend, these boardshorts provide a good amount of stretch while keeping comfort and sustainability at front of mind. They sport a built-in super-soft mesh lining, a DWR coating for quick-drying, hidden back pockets, two side pockets with water drainage and even have a fresh guard treatment to help prevent odour build-up.
If you’re brave enough to go even shorter, then the Biarritz Boardshort are a must-have. Boasting a slightly bolder pattern and zip-up side pockets, these are perfect for making an elevated statement. They also go up to a 42″ waist, meaning guys of any size can get involved.
Popular Products from Faherty
Vissla was founded by Paul Naude, former head of US Operations at Billabong, in 2013. The company puts a heavy focus on producing products sustainably and promises to “represent creative freedom, a forward-thinking philosophy, and a generation of creators and innovators”.
The Long Sets boardshorts are a perfect example of this: while the 20.5” outseam may verge on the conservative side, the 4-way stretch recycled polyester blend, calliper scalloped hem pocket, and integrated key rope are all way ahead of their time.
If you want something a bit bolder, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better alternative than the Canopy 16.5” Boardshort. A little shorter and a lot louder, these are great if you want all the benefits of their classic boardshorts but with a statement look thrown in.
The brand is also famed for its industry-leading wetsuits, so if you’re looking to spend a while in the water we’d recommend looking at those too. Wetsuit in the surf, boardshorts for the beach and bar, Easy.
Beware, waists top out at 38”.
Saturdays NYC was founded in 2009 in SoHo, NYC by three friends and is one of those shamelessly ‘cool’ brands. It produces all the usual menswear essentials but with an unrelenting focus on high-quality garment construction, with manufacturing split between Portugal and the US. The company has physical stores in the US, Japan and Australia and used to be called Saturdays Surf NYC before canning that name to conquer a market far beyond the now-iconic boardshorts that they started out making.
The Ennis Boardshort employs a two-tone colour design across four variations, making them an easy-to-wear, everyday pair of summer shorts that can double up for swimming when you just want to take a relaxing dip. A buttoned pocket on the rear with built-in drainage holes keeps your valuables safe while the front drawcord keeps the shorts hugged tightly to your body.
If you want something a little different, try the All Terrain Stretch Boardshort, which co-founder Morgan Collett shamelessly called “the best boardshort [they’ve] ever made”. With a 4-way stretch, a 7” inseam, and a 3-needle cover stitch detail, these are a new classic in the world of boardshorts.
Saturdays has just released a wicked collab collection with Quiksilver; two giants of the boardshorts world coming together is well worth checking out.
O’Neill has been a dominant force within the surfwear industry ever since it was founded in 1952, constantly developing new fabric technologies and manufacturing techniques to offer surfers some of the best clothing out there. It really is a — if not the — pioneer of the space, and deserves every ounce of respect we can throw on its name.
The Hyperfreak boardshorts claim to be some of the company’s best ever, offering the ‘goldilocks’ amount of stretch, quick-drying, anti-rash properties and, best of all, they’re made from totally sustainable recycled materials. The 20” leg length is perfect for anyone chasing that classic surf look and, interestingly they boast a welded construction that does away with a pesky in-seam altogether, reducing the chance of chafe to almost zero.
If you’re looking for something that’s a little farther out, try the Hyperfreak Heat Stripe boardshorts; it’s just like the previous entry but a lot bolder thanks to its unique colour patterning across the middle of the short. Priced at a very reasonable A$80, these are perfect for anyone taking to the water for the very first time.
Popular Products from O'Neill
The ultimate Aussie surfing brand, Quiksilver was founded down under in 1969 but has since moved its headquarters to Huntington Beach, California. The company is regarded as one of the foremost surfwear and board sports companies in the world, being a prominent favourite among skaters and snowboarders, too.
The Highline Kaimana 16″ boardshorts use a Repreve 4-way stretch fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and benefit from a DryFlight water-repellent coating that helps them dry in the blink of an eye. A generous elasticated drawcord, zip-up pocket and a cord to tie your keys to boot, and you’ve got a perfect pair of boardies.
If you want to keep things classic, try the Original Scallop 18” board shorts which hark back to the brand’s earliest days and designs but bring them screaming into the twenty-first century with all the technological innovations featured in the Highlines. Waist sizes only go up to a 38”, but the bright colours and iconic contrast stitching make it all worthwhile.
Volcom started life in 1991 after two friends went snowboarding in Tahoe, USA and decided to start a clothing line for women. The company soon expanded its offerings to include guys too, and then even further to design clothing and accessories for other board sports. Volcom currently sponsors a long list of surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders around the world.
The Lido Solid Mod 20″ boardshorts may look simplistic, but don’t let this deceive you: they treasure performance above all else. The four-way stretch material is made using Repreve recycled fibres, and Volcom’s own Cinch Fly technology makes an appearance, providing an effective closure without velcro or a zipper. A 20″ length keeps you fully protected and DWR coating allows for quick drying.
If you prefer a statement pattern, then the Shaken Stirred Stoney is what you’re looking for: a touch shorter than the Lidos and boasting a ‘buttery soft’ feel, these are the kind of shorts that look just as good on the beach as they do in the bar a couple of hours later.
Team riders include Australia, Jack Robinson.
Billabong is a brand synonymous with surfing culture. Hailing from Burleigh Heads, Queensland, its founder Gordon Merchant managed to achieve mainstream success through various marketing campaigns and sponsorship deals, backed up by his triple-stitching manufacturing process used in early pairs of boardshorts. They became popular with surfers and quickly found a home across the whole of Australia.
The Sundays Pro boardshorts are a midlength short at 19″ and are one of the more popular pairs within Billabong’s lineup. They’re available in a range of colours and designs and, being part of the company’s ‘Pro’ family of products, are designed to offer optimum performance by way of minimal seams. A micro-repellant coating helps to wick away sweat from your skin and to help them dry quicker.
If you want a slightly edgier look with all the same classic construction benefits, try the Prism Airlite boardshorts with their genuinely striking geometric pattern. Going up to 40” waist and priced at A$99, you’ll struggle to find a more iconic Aussie brand at such a competitive price point.
Popular Products from Billabong
Last but far from least, while Patagonia may be primarily known for its outdoor hiking gear, it also has its fingers in the surf apparel pie. Like with its outdoor gear, surf clothing also utilises recycled materials and other sustainable production methods all the way along its supply chain, which only boosts its B-Corporation credentials.
The Stretch Hydropeak boardshorts are made from a lightweight material with a DWR coating to keep you nimble on your feet and prevent them from soaking up water that weighs you down. A curved waistband design lets them contour to the body’s natural lines while a rear pocket has an integrated key hook and zipper pull, making them super handy for when you’re transitioning straight from the car to the surf.
If security at the waist is of primary importance to you — which, if you’re hitting the “world’s best waves” on which these shorts have apparently been tested — you definitely should be, then look no further than the Hydrolock boardshorts. With a 19” leg, you get that classic look with all the technological and sustainable benefits of Patagonia’s magic touch.
Haydenshapes is a surfboard, wetsuit and ready-to-wear brand founded in 1997 by Hayden Cox in Sydney, Australia. Known for its contemporary and high-end take on surf-ready design, the Haydenshapes brand has become synonymous with multi-faceted design inspired by but not limited to surfboard with a sustainability-led future focus.
The Full Rotation Boardshorts are their tried and tested classic. While A$200 might seem a little steep for a single pair of shorts, the high-end design is what really sets these apart from competitor brands. Haydenshapes takes cues from some of the most cutting-edge brands in the world of high fashion and finds a way to weave them into performance-led surfwear with all the mod-cons you’d expect.
If you want to make a seaside statement, then try the Full Rotation Seascape variation. It boasts all the same design details as its tarmac predecessor — a nylon-spandex blend for lightweight and mobile waterproofing, laser cut drain holes, twisted side seams, etc — but throws in a bright and bold design that will have you turning heads all shred long.
Founded in partnership with 2X World Champion surfer and Olympian, John Florence — regarded by some as one of the most influential and iconic athletes of his generation — Florence aims to bring precision-led, performance-first design not just to the world of surf but to the world of outdoor endurance more widely.
If you like a classic, understated look and board shorts that will fare just as well on land and craft as they will in the water, then try the F1 Cordura Utility boardshorts. Built using durable triple-needle construction and boasting 4-way stretch fabrics, a plethora of pockets and a handy plier pocket to keep your tools of choice close at hand, these are branded as their “most functional short ever” for good reason.
If you’re looking to make more of a splash, try the F1 Pro Hawaii Camo Boardshort. Going up to a 44” waist, making it perfect for the larger lads out there, it not only boasts many of the same technical aspects as the Utility variant — 4-way stretch, quick-dry fabrics, scalloped hems for easier movement, you name it— but a portion of all proceeds to to the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, helping those affected by Maui’s unprecedented wildfires. You get to look good and do good too.