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The 18 Best Board Shorts for Summer 2022

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.

How to Pick the Right Length

When buying a pair of board shorts, you've probably inspected their inseam — aka how long they are. What's the difference between a 5-inch, 7-inch and 10-inch inseam? Five-inch shorts are the most ambitious of the bunch. This length is typically reserved for swim trunks because you don’t need protection from waxy boards or rough waves. For most men, this short will sit smack dab in the center of your hip and knee. High enough to be breezy yet low enough to ensure you aren't revealing too much. A 7-inch short will hang further down, essentially just above the knee. On most bodies, there will still be a little thigh showing, but this is the short short for men who don't like short shorts.

Most board shorts, though, are between 9 inches and 11 inches. Nine will be right at or slightly above the bend of the knee, meaning little to no real thigh exposure. This length will rarely, if ever, hit beyond the knee on anybody, even if you're all torso. Anything beyond 9, though, is long. You’ll find 10-inch board shorts aplenty, and that’s sort of the point, because, again, they’re designed to protect your legs.

Simply put: 5-inch shorts are too short for board shorts; 7-inch shorts are the sweet spot for landside wear; 9-inch shorts are the sweet spot; 10-inch shorts (and beyond) are a more classic fit.

Board shorts are mostly measured via their outseam though. As far as the difference between an inseam and an outseam, think of it this way: The inseam accounts for the length between the crotch and bottom hem. The outseam measures from the top edge of the waistband to the bottom hem. An average board short outseam is 18 inches. An average inseam is 7-9 inches.

The Best Board Shorts for Summer 2022

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      Best Overall Board Shorts
      Birdwell 311 Nylon Board Shorts
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      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.

      • Length: 17-21 inches (Outseam)
      Best Upgrade Board Shorts
      Outerknown Apex Trunks By Kelly Slater
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      “The Apex Trunk from Outerknown is Kelly Slater’s signature board short. While the price — the solid black colorway costs $125 — is far greater than traditional trunks, the features and performance follow suit. These aren’t your traditional trunks, and that’s a good thing.

      These board shorts are lightweight, flexible and breathable. Because they feature bonded, stitch-free seams, they eliminate chances of seam-chafing, something bound to happen while living in your trunks on a surf trip or long weekend. The slimmed-down construction also allows these to be packed into their back pocket for travel, an efficient way to bring your trunks anywhere. On top of the well-thought-out design, the Apex Trunks fit into Outerknown’s sustainable ethos of ethical manufacturing and responsible materials.” — John Zientek, Senior Editor

      • Length: 19 inches (Outseam)

      Read our full review here.

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

      • Length: 19 inches (Outseam)
      Best Board Shorts for Surfing
      Rip Curl Mirage MF1 Ultimate Boardshorts
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      Measuring out to a 20-inch outseam, Rip Curl’s Mirage MF Ultimate boardshorts are competition-level. In fact, they were made from three-time world champion surfer, Mick Fanning. They’re DWR treated, soft (and inseam-free) so you won’t chafe and come with both a lockable drawcord waist and a rash-resistant mesh liner.

      • Length: 20 inches (Outseam)
      Patagonia Wavefarer Boardshorts
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      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.

      • Length: 19 inches (Outseam)
      Quiksilver Original Arch Boardshorts
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      Quik re-released their heritage style board short 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-repellent coating keeps things lighter and less water-logged, and the classic 18-inch length is great for anyone looking for a little more coverage.

      • Length: 18 inches (Outseam)
      Vans Skewed Checkerboard Board Shorts
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      Vans’ iconic checkerboard print is probably most commonly seen on the brand’s classic Slip-Ons. However, it looks good on these boardshorts, which the brand calls Pale Banana. They’re made from 90 percent polyester and 10 percent elastane for four-way stretch, but these aren’t flimsy or puncture-prone by any means. They’re heftier than most stretch bottoms, but they won’t weigh you down in the water.

      • Length: 18 inches (Ousteam)
      Katin Kehei Trunk
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      Featuring an all-over floral island print, Katin’s Kehei Trunks are made with a mix of cotton, nylon and spandex. Cotton serves as the base, while nylon lends durability and spandex improves the short’s comfortability. These do, unlike most others, have a snap fly closure instead of velcro, The classic four-eyelet drawstring closure remains, though, keeping the classic surfer look intact.

      • Length: 17 inches (Outseam)
      Reef Stryker Board Short
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      If you’re not into the whole shorter inseam deal on your boardshorts, opt for an 18-inch outseam or longer that keeps you covered no matter what you’re doing. This 20-inch option from Reef keeps it classic with a longer length, retro pattern blocking and a tipped drawcord that provides just a little bit of old-school flair. The polyester-cotton-spandex fabric stretches and flexes with you, so there’ll be no worrying about having to constantly adjust in the water.

      • Length: 20 inches (Outseam)
      Billabong Kamea Jungle D Bah Airlite Boardshorts
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      There are few names more synonymous with surfing than Billabong — OK, maybe Quiksilver and Rip Curl — but the brand hasn’t become stale or stagnant. The Kamea Jungle D Bah Airlite Boardshorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, feature omni-directional stretch and are coated with DWR. They’re designed to have as few seams as possible to reduce chafing and drag while the waist comes with an adjustable drawcord. Best of all, there’s art on both sides by Kamea Hadar, a Hawaii-based artist furthering the traditions of his native island.

      • Length: 19 inches (Outseam)
      Saturdays Ennis Boardshort
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      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.

      • Length: 5.5 inches (Inseam)
      Prana Fenton Boardshort
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      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.

      • Length: 7-9 inches (Inseam)
      Pilgrim Ballard 19 Board Short
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      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.

      • Length: 19 inches (Outseam)
      Fair Harbor The Nautilus Boardshort
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      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.

      • Length: 8 inches (Inseam)
      Vissla Solid Sets Boardshort
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      These shorts came on the recommendation of a reader, who commented on this story as Surfchatter. We trust our audience has good taste, so we checked them out. And they’re quite nice. Vissla makes a number of styles in a wide range of colors, each of which employs four-way stretch and sustainable fabrics. This pair, dubbed The Solid Sets Boardshort, is made from coconut, cotton, spandex and recycled polyester fibers. There’s a scalloped hem, an integrated key rope and a back pocket.

      • Length: 18.5 inches (Outseam)
      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.

      • Length: 6.5 inches (Inseam)
      Faherty Classic Boardshort
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      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.

      • Length: 7 inches (Inseam)
      Florence Marine X Block Boardshort
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      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.

      • Length: 17.5 inches (Outseam)
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