5 Best Board Shorts for Men: Surf’s Up this Summer

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

So you remember that terrible chafing problem last year, right? Hopefully, your friends have forgotten that you had to walk like a duck for two days.

We’re not going to let that happen again, and these are the best board shorts that look good, perform well, and don’t chafe.

Best Fit and Style
  • 4-way stretch offers a ton of flexibility for all wearing occasions
  • The fabric is made from recycled bottles, so they’re sustainable shorts
  • Built like standard shorts so you have plenty of room for you wallet and keys after a swim
Best for Big Guys
  • Elastic waist band stretches a good deal, so you’re not restricted
  • Interesting cotton blend has extra stretch properties so you can stay flexible
  • Wider leg fit than other options on this list
Best for CrossFit
  • Built with a hook and loop closure, plus drawstring for extra security
  • Zippered side pocket on the leg for storing gym pass, cards, etc.
  • Longer 10.5” inseam fit
Best for Surfing
  • 100% nylon for a vintage SoCal surf look
  • Sizes 28-40 available in 7 color options
  • Side cargo pocket is super secure for hitting the waves
Best for Tall Guys
  • Designed and worn by Kelly Slater
  • 19” outseam and 22” leg opening is long enough to fall just above the knee on tall guys and isn’t too wide
  • Fair trade certified and made from recycled materials

Hot sand. The cool wind blowing off the crashing waves. A subtle scent of seaweed and ocean foam wafting from the shore. 

A seagull drops in. Grabs your ham sandwich. Flings the top bread mustard side down on your shirt. Flies off with the good stuff. 

Yep, it’s a beach day. 

And a perfect beach day deserves a perfect pair of board shorts. So to get you covered this summer, I put together a list of the best board shorts for men right now so you can tie that drawstring and dive confidently into the waves. 

5 Best Board Shorts for Men

Best Fit and Style: Vuori Cruise

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Few brands embody the laid back Southern California lifestyle like Vuori. And their Cruise is an excellent example of how versatile, stylish, and simple a good pair of board shorts can be. 

Made with a fabric composed of recycled water bottles, Vuori has repurposed trash and turned it into something that both fits well and looks pretty great, too. Plus, if you’re a beach volleyball kind of guy, you’ll enjoy the four-way stretch capabilities of these shorts. You can dig as deep as you want for that ball—you’re not going to get any resistance from these shorts. 

I put the Vuori Cruise at the top of the list for fit and style because of the color options, scalloped leg, and slightly shortened inseam. 

The color choices are unconventional, but not necessarily attention-drawing. It’s an interesting balance: their colors don’t look out of place, but they’re unique at the same time. 

And the scalloped leg and more narrow opening make for a tailored fit that’s flattering for guys with more muscular thighs and skinny thighs alike.

What I Like

  • I like the sustainability aspect of the Cruise—less water bottles in the ocean means more fun in the waves. 

  • The more tailored fit is more flattering for my larger thighs, and I think they’d also be flattering on skinny guys’ legs, too.

  • The buttoned back pocket is helpful for your wallet when you’re hitting the boardwalk after the waves. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Not all guys will like the scalloped leg, though I think it’s cool.

What Other Reviewers Say

The Vuori Cruise is pretty near perfect on its reviews. With well over 500 reviewers, several comments mentioned getting a second pair. 

Chafing is non-existent, and the style factor is high. Most reviewers mentioned something about the fit being on point, which I can personally attest to as well.

The Verdict

If you’re in the market for a board short that’s a touch out of the ordinary, but still classic and timeless, check out the Vuori Cruise

Made with recycled water bottles, this four-way stretch short is comfortable and secure, and the tailored fit makes it the most stylish board short on this list. 

Best Fit and Style
Vuori Cruise Boardshorts

With a shorter 7" inseam, these board shorts balance style, comfort, and utility. The fabric is thick enough to give you full coverage and the pockets are perfect for stowing your precious goods while you hit the waves.

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Best for Big Guys: RVCA Elastic Swim Short

For huskier gents, getting the right pair of board shorts can be a bit tough. Or at least it was. 

The RVCA Elastic Swim Short is supremely comfortable around the waist, and the vertical line pattern has a nice slimming effect. Plus, the leg opening on these shorts is a bit wider than other options on this list, so you’re getting more room for your thighs. 

Beyond the more relaxed fit, it’s made with a cotton blend fabric, which has a lot of strength and stretch properties.

What I Like

  • The elastic waistband is super comfortable, and will work with you if you’re the kind of guy that tends to slim down an inch or two over the course of a summer.

  • The cotton blend in the fabric lends extra strength and flexibility to the short. 

  • Larger leg opening leaves room for your thighs to breathe. 

What I Don’t Like

  • The added cotton in the short isn’t as quick drying as other full-technical fabric shorts. 

What Other Reviewers Say

There weren’t any reviews of the RVCA Elastic Swim Short online, though RVCA is a well-known and well-respected surfwear brand. Reviewers of the brand as a whole love their understated style.

The Verdict

Bigger guys need board shorts, too. And because of the slightly wider leg opening, elastic waist, and sturdy fabric, the RVCA Elastic Swim Short is the best option for larger gents.

Best for Big Guys
RVCA Barnes Elastic Swim Short

The RVCA Elastic Swim Short is supremely comfortable around the waist, and the vertical line pattern has a nice slimming effect. Plus, the leg opening on these shorts is a bit wider than other options on this list, so you’re getting more room for your thighs.

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Best for CrossFit: Anthem Athletics

I never thought I’d say this, but board shorts pair well with weighted vests that look like body armor. If you’re in the middle of a WOD, that is. 

CrossFit has a unique style to its own, and while the fitness-focused community draws most of its style-inspiration from the military, they’ve also brought in a little surfer memento with board shorts. 

And board shorts are perfect for CrossFit—they’re quick-drying, comfortable, and have secure pockets for your keys and phone. 

If you’re headed for a long AMRAP workout, you can’t go wrong with the Anthem Athletics Hyperflex shorts. They have a long inseam, so they land just above the knee for most guys (unless you’re under 5’8”, in which they’ll likely fall at your knee).  

They feature a hook and loop closure, which is secure, and the stretch fabric ensures you can get low on your squats and explode up on those box jumps.

What I Like

  • They’re made from 13% spandex, which means they’re extremely flexible—necessary for intense compound movements like burpees and box jumps.

  • There’s a zippered pocket on the right, which is super secure if you keep your keys on your during a workout.

  • The combination of the hook and loop closure, plus the drawstring, means these stay firm on your waist so you can focus on working up a sweat. 

What I Don’t Like

  • There’s only the single inseam option (9.5” up to size 34, and 10” beyond). It’s a functional length, but many in the CrossFit community prefer shorter shorts.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviews for the Anthem Athletics Hyperflex are very positive. Most reviewers love the stretchiness of these shorts, as they flex easily on intense compound movements. 

A few folks mentioned that after a year or so, the logo running down the leg started to wear off. That said, the integrity of the shorts is still there.

The Verdict

If your WOD has multiple AMRAP sets and you need as much ROM as possible, the Anthem Athletics Hyperflex shorts have the sort of flexibility and quick-dry properties you need. 

If you have no idea what those acronyms mean, and you have a headache now, I apologize. I’ve also listed four other excellent shorts that are a little more—how do I put this—relaxed. 

Best for CrossFit
Anthem Athletics Hyperflex

CrossFit has a unique style to its own, and while the fitness-focused community draws most of its style-inspiration from the military, they’ve also brought in a little surfer memento with board shorts.

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Best for Surfing: Katin Waterman

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When you hear The Beach Boys, do you immediately start singing along. Everybody’s gone surfing, surfing U.S.A—ok, I’ll stop now. 

The Katin Waterman board shorts are practically unchanged since the heyday of Southern California surfing and have the performance properties surfers need today. 

With a variety of solid nylon colors, you can find a pair of shorts that matches your board. Plus, with a 7” inseam, they fall above your knee so you can pop up easily without the wet fabric restricting your movement.

The Waterman comes with a floaty keychain, which is absolutely critical if you’re hitting the waves. Yes, they have a secure pocket, but if you’ve surfed for any length of time, you’ve come across one of those vicious waves that doesn’t seem to care how secure your pockets are.

What I Like

  • I like the simple solid color aesthetic—they’re much less flashy than most board shorts on the market.

  • The nylon fabric has a distinct advantage in the water as it glides over your skin. When you pop up on your board, your shorts won’t catch.

  • Sizes range from 28-40, so most folks can find their perfect size. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Nylon isn’t chlorine-resistant, so if you’re a frequent pool-swimmer, these aren’t the best choice (that said, if you jump into a pool from time to time, it won’t ruin these—but they’ll lose their color relatively quickly in chlorinated water). 

What Other Reviewers Say

There are only a few reviews at the time of writing for the Katin Waterman, but they speak to the fit and styling of these shorts. Reviewers enjoy the shorter length and the solid satin finish. If you’re a fan of vintage-style, these board shorts are the ticket.

The Verdict

The Katin Waterman has a simple, vintage aesthetic, but it has a few distinct advantages that make it ideal for surfing. 

First, it’s made with 100% nylon. In addition to being quick drying, nylon doesn’t have the same tendency to stick to skin like polyester does. So when you quickly pop up on your board, your shorts will glide with your movement, rather than sticking to your thigh. 

Second, these shorts have a distinct space and keyring for your keys (plus they come with a banana boat floaty), so if you take your keys with you into the waves, there’s three layers of protection that ensure you’ll be able to get back into your car at the end of the day.

Best for Surfing
Katin Waterman Trunk

The Katin Waterman board shorts are practically unchanged since the heyday of Southern California surfing and have the performance properties surfers need today. 

With a variety of solid nylon colors, you can find a pair of shorts that matches your board. Plus, with a 7” inseam, they fall above your knee so you can pop up easily without the wet fabric restricting your movement.

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Best for Tall Guys: Outerknown APEX

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If they’re good enough for Kelly Slater, they’re good enough for me. 

The Outerknown APEX is an eco-minded board short for serious wave pounders, but they’re especially well suited to guys over 6’ tall. Why? Well, they’re on the longer side with a 19” outseam, but they’re still fairly trim and tailored with a 22” leg opening. 

What that basically means is that these shorts are flattering for tall and lean guys. The shorts themselves have all the benefits and features you’d expect from a great pair of board shorts: secure pockets, firm fit around the waist, quick-drying capability, and a fashionable look. But they’re also made from recycled water bottles and are created with minimal water usage.

What I Like

  • There are a ton of different color and style options so you can find something that fits your vibe easily. 

  • The tailored, slimmer fit is excellent for taller guys, and there’s a wide selection of waist-sizes.

  • There’s a zippered back pocket for secure storage of any valuables when you’re out on the waves. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Though worthwhile for serious and eco-conscious swimmers, they’re expensive. 

What Other Reviewers Say

With hundreds of reviews as of writing, commenters rarely have anything negative to say. One reviewer says he’s a professional surfer and has gotten hundreds of free pairs of board shorts, but still pays for the APEX because he believes they’re just that good.

The Verdict

The Outerknown APEX has a fitting name. This is as good as the board short game gets. Of course, the highest absolute quality comes as a steep price.

Between these are the Vuori Cruise, I like Vuori because they’re half the price, have the same eco-minded principles, and are just as stylish (and the performance is nearly as good). 

But the Outerknown APEX is slightly lighter, more comfortable, and has that secure zippered pocket. If that’s worth paying over double to you, then you’ll be stoked on the Outerknown Apex.

Best for Tall Guys
Outerknown APEX Trunk

The Outerknown APEX is an eco-minded board short for serious wave pounders, but they’re especially well suited to guys over 6’ tall. Why? Well, they’re on the longer side with a 19” outseam, but they’re still fairly trim and tailored with a 22” leg opening.

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What are Board Shorts?

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Board shorts became wildly popular in the turn of the century. I grew up in Southern California, and just about everyone on the beach, from San Diego up through the central coast started wearing board shorts instead of swimming trunks. 

Board shorts get their name from their purpose: they’re meant to be worn while surfing

They’re made with similar technical fabrics as swim trunks, but the way the pockets are constructed are closer to standard shorts. 

What you get is a piece of clothing that can carry everything you need, including your keys and a credit card, but can also dive into the waves and dry quickly. 

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Most high-quality board shorts have certain security features that ensure you don’t lose anything in the waves. Serious surfers will sometimes keep their keys on them in the ocean because they have nowhere on the beach to leave their things. So when they bring out their keys, they need several failsafes so they can get back into their car at the end of the day.

Board shorts offer that sort of peace of mind. Beyond that, they also typically have longer inseams and fall closer to the knee than trunks. This was particularly in fashion during the 2000’s, but the trend is moving back toward shorter inseam lengths like 7”.

What to Wear Under Board Shorts

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Board shorts are designed to be worn with nothing underneath. You may find some pairs that come with a lining—in those cases, you should absolutely not wear anything underneath as a pair of boxers and a mesh lining never blend well. 

A lot of guys report chafing with their board shorts, which can ruin your beach day quickly. Trust me: raw skin and salt water make for a painful experience. 

But part of what makes all the board shorts listed above among the top five is that they don’t chafe. With flat-lock and taped seams, your chances of rubbing down under are greatly reduced, so I definitely recommend investing in quality shorts. 

If you must wear something underneath your board shorts, I would wear a pair of compression shorts. They have the same quick-drying properties as swimwear, and they’ll stay firm around your lower half so you don’t have any rubbing issues. 

How to Wear Board Shorts

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Board shorts are supremely casual, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for regular shorts. As I said, I grew up in SoCal, and far too many guys would just slap on a pair of board shorts to go run errands. Like, dude, you’re in Riverside—the ocean is 50 miles that way. 

Sure, they look cool, but only in a beachy setting. That said, when you’re in a beach town, board shorts and sandals are acceptable everywhere. 

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Board shorts pair well with the standard sun-bleached t-shirt. This is where I bust out the last of my graphic tees.

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If you’re up against an ocean breeze, throwing a woven poncho on is a classic surfer style move. When I hit the beach, I almost always bring a light hoodie with me, because you never know when the marine layer is going to roll in and dampen that hot, sunny day. 

Something like the Vuori Uluwatu Water Hoodie is perfect because it has a UPF 50 sun-block rating and keeps the wind off your shoulders. Even better, it’s quick drying, so you can actually wear it in the water if you’ve been out for a long time and want extra protection from the sun.  

How Should Board Shorts Fit?

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The most important consideration for getting the right fit on your board shorts is how they sit on your waist. 

You really don’t want them to be too loose. Because when that four-footer comes in and pins you under, you’re going to come up in waist deep water buck-naked. 

Board shorts are typically a bit longer, and often come down to your knees. The trend is increasingly moving toward shorter board shorts, though it’s really up to your comfort level how long you get your shorts. 

For reference, a 10” inseam will go to your knees. A 7” inseam will fall about two inches above your knees, but is still a fairly “classic” length. 5” inseams are in what I’d call short shorts territory. They’re not over-the-top or anything, but I’d say at the 5” mark, you should have some confidence in your thighs, because they’re going to be out there. 

How to Tie Board Shorts

Tie your board shorts just like you’d tie your shoes. If your shorts are coming untied fairly often, make a double knot—the drawstring should be long enough for you to accomplish this on any pair of shorts. 

If you’re about to hit the waves, tie your board shorts tightly. Start by cinching the two ends of the draw string together so your shorts feel snug around your waist. 

From there, make two loops (one on either string), and wrap them around one-another. Pull one loop through the other and stretch it tight, just like you would with a shoestring. Repeat this again if you want to double-knot your shorts, which I recommend for surfers, but it’s not necessary if you’re just wearing them out for a walk. 

Surf’s Up

A great pair of board shorts will be with you a long time, through many cool ocean waves, delicious boardwalk ice-creams, and hopefully more than a few fish tacos and import beers. 

The best balance of style, cost, and eco-mindedness is the Vuori Cruise. They’re my top board shorts because they’re so comfortable and look fantastic. 

Best Fit and Style
Vuori Cruise Boardshorts

With a shorter 7" inseam, these board shorts balance style, comfort, and utility. The fabric is thick enough to give you full coverage and the pockets are perfect for stowing your precious goods while you hit the waves.

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Larger guys will love the RVCA Elastic Swim Shorts, and CrossFit enthusiasts will immediately recognize the Anthem Athletics Hyperflex

If you’re old school and are looking for a slice of old surf-town style, check out the Katin Waterman trunks, and if you’re up above the 6’ mark, the Outerknown APEX is an incredible pick. 

But more importantly: which beach are you headed to?

FAQs

Why are they called board shorts?

Board shorts got their name because of their use on surf boards. They have secure pockets, unlike swim trunks, so surfers can still carry valuables with them out on the waves.

Why do board shorts not have liners?

Board shorts are meant to be worn without liners for ease of movement and comfort. High quality board shorts should not chafe your skin, so there’s no need to wear anything underneath.

Can you run in board shorts?

Yes, you can run in board shorts. However, if you’re planning on putting in several miles as a runner, investing in a pair of running shorts is a better idea, as they have certain features that are much more advantageous for runners. But if you’re planning on doing a quick mile run, board shorts will perform fine.

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