If catching warm-water waves is your MO, then a pair of board shorts is all but necessary. The warm-water staple short provides coverage and protection in the water without adding unnecessary warmth or bulk.
In 2021, classic nylon designs are still popular, but many of today’s brands also offer more performance-oriented options as well. Look for quick-drying fabric with four-way stretch, laser-cut details and stitch-free seams. But before you head to the nearest break, make sure you’ve got a suitable pair of board shorts fit for late-season swells.
Best Overall Board Shorts: Birdwell Beach Britches 311 Board Shorts
These iconic board shorts feature Birdwell's tough double-layered SurfNyl nylon fabric. They come with a button fly, adjustable nylon drawstring waist, snap back pocket with a key loop and top-notch triple-stitch construction throughout. After wearing for many seasons, these only get better.
Best Upgrade Board Shorts: Outerknown Apex Hybrid Trunks by Kelly Slater
Making waves as one of the most eco-friendly board shorts out there, these are built with 100 percent recycled polyester. They're quick-drying, packable, and lightweight — so they're a solid choice for any trip. If you want a more performance-minded option, check out the normal Apex Trunks — one of the most advanced options with four-way stretch and welded seams — for $145.
Best Affordable Board Shorts: Uniqlo Swim Active Shorts
You can't do much better for a lower price with these shorts. Per Uniqlo's M.O., these have a pared-back and minimal aesthetic. The all-nylon shell makes them durable and lightweight, while the mesh lining allows them to dry quickly. They also come with an elasticated drawstring waist, on-seam hand pockets and a rear flap pocket with a key loop and drainage eyelet.
Quiksilver Highline Kaimana Boardshorts
Quiksilver's best-selling boardshorts come with a grip of tech that make them ideal for the beach. DryFlight water-repellent coating allows them to dry quickly, recycled materials combine for four-way stretch and a convenient water-draining pocket carries your goods while a bungee loop hangs onto your keys.
Mollusk Scallop Trunks
Mollusk's Scallop Trunks lie on the minimal end of the board short spectrum with just a single flap pocket placed at the back thigh. Made with 65-35 cotton-nylon blend, they're soft and lightweight. Plus, they come with a velcro fly and drawstring waist.
Patagonia Stretch Wavefarer Shorts
These nylon board shorts are made using 95 percent nylon (65 percent of which is recycled nylon) and 5 percent spandex for added comfort and mobility. They have a quick-drying DWR finish, a contoured waistband and a self-draining back pocket. For ease of packing, these shorts pack into a zippered hip pocket.
Vans Surf Trunk 3
These quick-drying polyester shorts feature 4-way stretch, taped seams and an adjustable low-profile buckle. What’s more, a loop tab at the center front allows you to connect them to your wetsuit.
Faherty Classic Board Short
Made with recycled materials, the poly-cotton-elastane blend combines durability with comfort and stretch. They're coated with water-shedding DWR coating and come equipped with sly on-seam pockets, a welted zippered rear pocket and drainage holes throughout.
Pilgrim Surf + Supply Ballard 19 Stretch Board Short
These lightweight shorts from Pilgrim Surf + Supply are mighty comfortable in and out of the water thanks to its two-way stretch fabric which is made from 67 percent nylon, 14 percent polyurethane for stretch and 9 percent cotton. They come with a button fly, an adjustable drawstring waist and quick-draining mesh pockets.
Copper Bottom Swim Eric Trunk
These quick-drying trunks are made from lightweight French polyamide, and have an elasticated waistband and mesh lining with four-way stretch. The design features a 5-inch inseam and double-needle stitching throughout.