The Best Boardshorts That Combine Style and Function

Enjoy the water this year with these best trunks

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When the temperatures rise and beach season is on the horizon, intrepid travelers know the season of boardshorts is here. These active-focused pieces of apparel are a go-to for surfing, paddling, swimming, and lounging poolside. The best boardshorts come with stretch fabric to avoid an over-baggy fit and allow freedom of movement, provide protection from the sun and the surfboard, and dry quickly when they wet out.

And the absolute best ones also deliver the style to make them at home in any sort of warm-weather travel, with ample pockets and smart designs to avoid chafing. From swimming-focused boardshorts with neoprene linings to those optimized for surfing, these are the best boardshorts of 2022.

Best Overall: Howler Brothers Stretch Bruja Boardshorts

Howler Brothers Stretch Bruja Boardshorts

Moosejaw

What We Like
  • Stretchy

  • Stylish

What We Don't Like
  • Not available in solid colors

Boasting a slightly retro tropical print theme (in two colorways), the Stretch Bruja Boardshorts from Howler Brothers improves on their staple Bruja Boardshorts by adding a touch of spandex to the fabric to optimize freedom of movement you need to execute a variety of aquatic sports. A contoured self-lined waistband pairs with a drawstring-and-Velcro closure for a seamless fit, and the 19-inch outseam hits just above the knee, providing protection without hindering movement. The fabric dries quickly, and the back-flap pocket includes a drainage grommet. You also get travel-friendly front pockets with mesh draining.

Sizes: 28 to 40 inches | Fabric: Cotton, polyester, and spandex | Inseam: 8.5 inches | Outseam: 19 inches

Best Budget: O’Neill Hyperfreak Boardshorts

O’Neill Hyperfreak Boardshorts

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Available in five colors and sizes up to 44 inches

  • Anti-rash tech

  • Zippered side pocket for security

What We Don't Like
  • A lack of additional pockets may frustrate some everyday-carry enthusiasts

The classically-designed Hyperfreak Boardshorts from O’Neill are constructed with 11 percent elastane to provide optimal stretch, along with O’Neill Hyperdry tech to fend off water. But even if the shorts get soaked out, the polyester main fabric dries quickly. They’ve also integrated an anti-rash hyper-thread that’ll resonate with active beach-goers, and the side pocket secures with a zipper. The wide-band works with a four-loop lace closure for an assured, comfortable fit.

Sizes: 28 to 44 inches | Fabric: Polyester and elastane | Outseam: 19 inches

Best Style: Quicksilver Surfsilk 19-Inch Boardshorts

Quicksilver Surfsilk 19-Inch Boardshorts

Quicksilver

What We Like
  • A variety of color options

  • Optimal fit

What We Don't Like
  • More pockets would be nice

Optimal style can be subjective, which is why the Quicksilver Surfsilk Boardshorts rise to the fore—they come in 12 different color options, each one a fashion-forward tri-colored pattern and a slim, performance-oriented fit that’s sure to turn heads. Constructed from recycled plastic water bottles, the Surfsilk fabric provides comfort on the inside, along with a durable outer that’s been treated with a plant-based hydrophobic coating to shrug off moisture. A four-way stretch ensures freedom of movement, and a key bungee cord sits in the inside pocket.

Sizes: 28 to 40 inches | Fabric: Polyester and elastane | Outseam: 19 inches

Best Splurge: Outerknown Apex Hybrid Trunks by Kelly Slater

Outerknown Apex Hybrid Trunks by Kelly Slater

Outerknown

What We Like
  • Versatile

  • Made from post-consumer waste

What We Don't Like
  • No stretch

The next generation of the Apex Trucks from Outerknown, the Apex Hybrid is equally at home in the water or on the open road, making them a worthy travel-friendly investment. The Apex's have lightweight, durable, 100 percent polyester fabric with Quick Dry tech that wicks moisture to diffuse water and allow the boardshorts to dry quickly. Mesh-lined hand pockets drain easily, and the zippered back pocket includes a bungee key loop, while internally taped seams amp the comfort levels and help avoid chafe.

Sizes: 28 to 38 inches | Fabric: Polyester | Inseam: 9 inches | Outseam: 19 inches

Best for Fishing: Tormenter 4x4 “Side to” Boardshorts

Tormenter 4x4 “Side to” Boardshorts

Amazon

What We Like
  • Loads of pockets

  • SPF protection

What We Don't Like
  • The graphics may be too bold for some

Tormenter really packs in the angling-specific features in their 4x4 “Side to” Boardshorts, including eight-way stretch technology that provides a more streamlined fit without encumbering your movement. SPF-35 treatment should help fend off the damages of the sun, and a special microfiber thread on the inside avoids leg chafing. You also get four pockets with flap closures, three secured by Velcro, and one with a no-snag zipper, making it easy to haul all your fishing essentials.

Sizes: 28 to 42 inches | Fabric: Polyester and spandex | Inseam: 10 inches

Best for Swimming: Driftline Wetsuit Boardshort

Driftline Wetsuit Boardshort

Driftline

What We Like
  • Neoprene lining adds support and warmth

  • Comfortable fit

  • Zippered side pocket

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in black

  • Some can find the fit a bit tight

Serious swimmers know the value of choosing a pair of boardshorts that will keep everything secure…down there while you’re moving on the open water. Driftline Drifties employs a 0.5-millimeter neoprene lining that provides comfort, protection, and just a touch of compression and warmth. Laser-cut venting holes combine with a quick-drying outer to avoid any sort of water log, and the zippered side pocket includes a key loop. The drawstrings are also streamlined to avoid clutter, and the athletic fit ensures that nothing will get in the way.

Sizes: 30 to 38 inches | Fabric: Polyester, spandex, neoprene, nylon | Inseam: 7.6 to 10 inches | Outseam: 14.7 to 19 inches

Best for Surfing: Outerknown Apex Trunks by Kelly Slater

Outerknown Apex Trunks by Kelly Slater

Outerknown

What We Like
  • Very performance-oriented

  • Crafted from four-way stretch recycled polyester

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Think of the Apex Trunks from pro surfer, Kelly Slater’s Outerknown brand more as an investment in performance-oriented gear and less as just another pair of boardshorts, and you should recover from any initial sticker shock. Designed by Slater himself after his many years dominating the surf world, they use an ultralight four-way stretch recycled polyester fabric for maximum mobility, stitch-free welded seams, and a smooth inside fly to remove any chafe.

The rear seam is double-bonded for added strength, and they dry quickly to minimize water absorption. These trunks also get the little things right, including laser-cut details at the side seam and a bonded back pocket with a secure zipper and an internal bungee key loop. The Apex Trunks may not make you surf like Slater, but they sure won’t stand in your way. And when you’re ready to hit the road, the Apex Trunks pack into its own back pocket.

Sizes: 28 to 32 inches | Fabric: Polyester, spandex | Outseam: 19 inches

Most Durable: Vans Sidebar 18-Inch Boardshorts

Vans Sidebar 18-Inch Boardshorts

Vans

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Stylish

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

Most boardshorts come with a touch of stretch. But the Vans Sidebar Boardshorts take stretch to the next level with premium four-way Sturdy Stretch, which also amps the durability. This pairs with a fast-drying polyester main fabric ready for season-long abuse, and tie-dye insert panels on the sides. An invisible zipper hides a pocket on the right thigh, and a traditional tie at the waist provides a chafe-free fit.

Sizes: 28 to 40 inches | Fabric: Polyester, elastane | Outseam: 18 inches

Best Anti-Chafe: Saxx Betawave Boardshorts

Saxx Betawave Boardshorts

Saxx

What We Like
  • Unparalleled support down there

  • Three inseam sizes

What We Don't Like
  • A bit expensive

Like the underwear made by Saxx, the Betawave Boardshorts use the brand’s revolutionary 3D hammock-shaped pouch that does a stellar job of keeping your boys in place, making chafe next to impossible. The moisture-wicking liner also includes reversed stitching, placing the flatter, softer side of the seams against the body, and a nine-panel construction to create full support around the legs.

Overall the fit is fairly athletic, and a choice of three inseams provides plenty of options, whether you want to show more leg or get more coverage. The fixed waist comes with anti-roll tech to boost the performance factor. Four-way stretch allows for freedom of movement, and a host of pockets—a rear patch pocket, twin hand pockets, and a stash pocket on the leg–provide plenty of storage options.

Sizes: 28 to 40 Inches | Fabric: Polyester, elastane | Inseam: 5, 7, 9 inches | Outseam: 15, 17, 19 inches

Best Eco-Friendly: Patagonia Stretch Hydropeak Boardshorts

Patagonia Stretch Hydropeak Boardshorts

REI

What We Like
  • Performance-oriented

  • DWR treated

What We Don't Like
  • Needs more pockets

Patagonia is an avowed friend of Mother Earth, and their Stretch Hydropeak Boardshorts demonstrates their long-held commitment to the environment. It uses bluesign-certified recycled polyester fiber sourced from plastic bottles, reducing the CO2 emissions by 59 percent. Plus, 87 percent of the boardshorts have been Fair Trade Certified sewn. But they also perform admirably.

Spandex adds four-way stretch, which affords a streamlined fit, and the 4.1-ounce fabric dries quickly and has been treated with DWR for water repellency.  Rather than using a multi-piece waistband, Patagonia uses a fusing tech that removes a fabric layer to let the suit conform to your hips, and they reduce chafing by moving the inseam forward. Bonus: The right-seat back pocket comes with a plastic zipper with an internal key loop and pull cord, and the suit can be packed into it.

Sizes: 28 to 40 inches | Fabric: Polyester, spandex | Outseam: 18 inches

Final Verdict

With ample stretch for freedom of movement and a durable polyester outer shell that dries quickly, the Howler Brothers Stretch Bruja Boardshort (view at Huckberry) delivers the fit you need and the style and sophistication you want. The 19-inch outseam hits just above the knee, and two hand pockets along with a back-flip pocket with a drainage grommet lets you haul your kit.

But if you’re engaging in high-octane active pursuits, the Saxx Betawave Boardshorts (view at Backcountry) provides chafe-free protection via the 3D hammock-shaped pouch in the lining, along with wicking tech, odor protection, and a nine-panel construction for an optimal fit. The outer shell sheds water and dries easily, and an array of pockets makes the boardshorts very travel-friendly.

What to Look for in Boardshorts

Fit

You want a pair of boardshorts that fit comfortably—and tightly—around the waist, and thankfully most brands now offer products in waist measurements (rather than using small/medium/large designations) to help you find the perfect size, with attachments methods like tie strings and Velcro flys to make sure everything stays in place. The other key metric is the overall length of the shorts themselves; products with 18-inch outseams drop just above the knees to provide cover without hindering your movement, while others lean into smaller outseams that expose more of your thigh, or baggier ones that drop below the knee. If performance is a must, consider those that include stretch panels or fabric with four-way stretch, which allows the shorts to fit a touch snugger, and won’t get in your way while swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, or fishing.

Lining

Some boardshorts come without an inner lining, which frees things up and provides a more streamlined overall fit. But those trunks can also lead to chafing, a real possibility when you factor in higher-energy sports and saltwater. Others use a variety of stretchy synthetic lining, typically made of tightly woven mesh or another breathable fabric that protects your boys without overheating. More advanced boardshorts also add more structured liners, using fabrics similar to wet suits to add compressional support and warmth.

Material

Most boardshorts come in a mixture of fabrics—often including durable polyester, comfortable cotton, and various fabrics that provide stretch to encourage free, unencumbered movement. Avoid all-cotton products as the fabric takes a long time to dry, and isn’t as strong as synthetics. Also look for boardshorts that are quick-drying, to make it easy to transition from the beach or pool to town.

DWR

Yes, all boardshorts are designed to get wet. But most also come with DWR treatment—a coating on the outer fabric that shrugs off water. This means that it takes a while for the shorts to become entirely wet—especially if you’re engaging in a sport that doesn’t have you fully submerged in water. This expands the product’s shelf life and also lets you wear the boardshorts as a pair of travel shorts.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are boardshorts the same as swimming trunks?

    Think of boardshorts as the elder sibling of swimming trunks. They are more-sport oriented, typically with a longer inseam than swimsuits to provide a degree of protection from surfboards, with a tighter-fitting waistband, a Velcro-fly, and string-tie combo to keep things in place, and more performance-oriented features like four-way stretch and ample pockets. And unlike some swimming trunks, boardshorts can be worn as casual travel wear.

  • What do I wear underneath boardshorts?

    If you go with a pair of boardshorts without a lining, you can wear them as-is, though some may want to opt for an additional layer for better support and to fend off chafing. Options include compression shorts, a brief-style swimsuit, or boxer-brief-style underwear.

  • Does DWR matter if the shorts are meant to get wet?

    DWR repellency means that the boardshorts' outer layer is treated to repel water—obviously a feature that’s not terribly vital if you’re swimming or engaging in activities that have you fully submerged in water. But DWR does make a difference when surfing, fishing, paddleboarding, and enjoying other aquatic activities, keeping the boardshorts dry and light. DWR also allows boardshorts to function well as a non-aquatic casual option akin to regular shorts.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Borchelt has been rating, reviewing, and testing outdoor and travel gear for decades, including such boardshort-centric sports as swimming, scuba diving, and paddling. Each product was evaluated based on its key features, overall fit, durability, and price.

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