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The 12 Best Board Shorts to Buy Now

Board shorts and swim trunks are not the same.

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If catching waves (or even being strewn beachside) 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. Plus, the right pair proves stylish — as much a short for lounging on land as they are for riding waves.

What to Look for

In 2022, classic nylon designs are still popular, but many of today’s brands also offer more performance-oriented options as well. Look for pairs made from quick-drying fabrics with four-way stretch, laser-cut details and stitch-free seams. Pairs with intricate detailing or a dozen pockets might be practical for towing gear or showing off before you get in the water, but you want simplicity above all else.

It's also important to pick a pair with a sturdy waistband. There's nothing worse than losing your bottoms because of a particularly rough wave. Look for velcro and laces.

Board Shorts vs Swim Trunks

Board shorts and swim trunks... they're both bottoms you wear in the water. How could they be that different? Think of it this way: Board shorts are for water sports — surfing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and so on and so forth. Board shorts are typically longer to protect your legs (surf wax is sticky), and their waistbands can withstand tougher tugs. Plus, most board shorts come without mesh liners and other extraneous add-ons.

Swim trunks, on the other hand, emphasize style, and put performance features on the back burner, if they're addressed at all. They're for leisurely laps in your backyard pool or plunging into a posh hotel's hot tub. While you could wear them interchangeably, you shouldn't.

The Best Board Shorts for Summer 2022

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      Best Overall Board Shorts
      311 Nylon Board Shorts
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      Birdwell

      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
      Ballard 19 Board Short
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      Pilgrim

      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.

      Best Affordable Board Shorts
      Santa Cruz Solid 2.0 Boardshorts
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      O'Neill

      For just about $30 bucks, you can't the classic O'Neill Santa Cruz 2.0 Boardshorts. They're basic, yes, but you don't need much more than what these offer. They come in 19 colors, have a surf-tie front, a sueded, soft exterior and a stretchy fit. Plus, they're finished with a water repellent DWR treatment.

      Wavefarer Boardshorts
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      Patagonia

      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.

      Ennis Boardshort
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      Saturdays

      Manhattan surf shop Saturdays makes high-quality apparel and accessories for wave-loving city folk. Their color-blocked Ennis Boardshort is proof: It'll look good in or out of the water, features a double welted nylon construction, boasts a snap pocket on the back and comes equipped with a non-stretch drawstring cord waist.

      Bruno Board Short
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      Reef

      If you’re not into the whole shorter inseam deal on your boardshorts, opt for an 18” length or above that keeps you covered no matter what you’re doing. This 20” option from Reef keeps it classic with a longer length, retro color blocking and woven tape on the sides that provide just a little bit of old-school flair. The polyester-spandex fabric blends stretches and flexes with you, so there’ll be no worrying about having to constantly adjust in the water.

      The Nautilus Boardshort
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      Fair Harbor

      Fair Harbor makes its boardshorts from recycled water bottles. But they balanced that recycled polyester with spandex so that these stretch, giving you full mobility in and out of the water. At the waist, there's a drawstring, and the shorts themselves are DWR-coated for quick drying after a dip.

      Classic Boardshort
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      Faherty

      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.

      Original Arch Boardshorts
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      Quiksilver

      Quik re-released their heritage style boardshort this week with some decidedly modern upgrades: new two button closures, and fabric made of hemp and recycled plastic bottles. Hempstretch fabric is ultra-strong, with four-way stretch built in for maximum mobility in the water (and out). The DryFlight water-repellant coating keeps things lighter and less water-logged, and the classic 18” length is great for anyone looking for a little more coverage.

      Scallop Trunks
      Mollusk

      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.

      Block Boardshort
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      Florence Marine X

      John John Florence’s eponymous brand is known for making comfortable, functional boardshorts that you just can’t take off, and the Block is its 'Jordan 1’, so to speak: the first product the brand ever made and John John's go-to short. Featuring four-way stretch, super soft quick-dry fabric treated with DWR and durable, triple needle construction, the Block is made to move with you. If you’re only going to get one pair of boardshorts this summer, get these.

      Fenton Boardshort
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      Prana

      Available in four colors and two inseams (7 or 9 inches), Prana's Fenton Boardshorts are an easy option for whatever it is you do in the water. They have a faux fly with a gusset, velcro closure and drawstring, plus a zipper pocket for carrying smaller items on shore.

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