Best Board Shorts 2018: Complete Reviews with Comparisons
Comfortable, practical, tough, and above all, great looking—these are only a few qualities that the best board shorts have to offer.
Now, is it really any surprise that the humble boardshorts have become one of the classic pieces of summer wear since its invention in the 1950s?
Designed back then as a practical piece of clothing to be worn by the new generation of surfers, today, boardshorts have evolved into a summer, beachside classic.
There is a wide range of board shorts designs and styles available on the market, and in this article, we’re going to take a deep dive review of five of the best ones.
Top 5 Board Shorts Reviews
1. O’Neill Loaded Hybrid Boardshorts
We will kick off the list with this classic style boardshorts from O’Neill featuring a blend of timeless styling with a number of very useful and practical features. Could they be the best pair of shorts for you?
These boardshorts feature a 21-inch outseam, which put them in the middle ground in terms of length. For most people, these boardshorts’ leg will end right above the knee. The material used in the construction is a blend of Polyester (89%) and Elastane (11%).
These shorts have two side pockets that are zipper-sealed. They are machine-washable and available in 14 different colors including solid black, military green, asphalt heather, and solid navy.
What's to like about the O’Neill Loaded Hybrid Boardshorts
Described as a hybrid style, these pair of boardshorts boasts a clean line on the cut of the leg that combines well with the belt loops and button closure for quite a formal looking design. This, in turn, is offset by the material blend, which contains 11% Elastane and 89% Polyester.
This is the highest percentage of Elastane found in any pair of shorts on the list. This combination makes these boardshorts extra stretchy and well-suited for physical activities such as swimming and boarding.
What's not to like about the O’Neill Loaded Hybrid Boardshorts
Those pockets are simply not going to be to everyone’s taste. On the one hand, it is useful that the pockets can be closed with zippers. It will, after all, help you to store your belongings securely.
On the other, since they are side pockets, you may be drawn to put your hands in them, which is difficult if they are zipped up! There is also the danger of painfully snagging your skin on the zipper teeth every now and then.
2. Hurley’s One and Only Boardshorts
Our next entry hails all the way from Hurleys. It is the first boardshorts design on the list to boast a full 22-inch outseam, which is what is considered to be the traditional short length when it comes to boardshorts.
As mentioned, these boardshorts have an outseam that measures 22 inches. That is going to place the end of the shorts either over or below the knee on most men. These shorts have a 100% polyester construction that is brushed to a super suede finish. They have a fixed waistband with a drawstring closure and a single pocket stitched into the rear of the shorts.
What's to like about the Hurley’s One and Only Boardshorts
We really like the super suede finish that has been applied to these shorts. It gives a real premium touch to what otherwise could be seen as a somewhat simple design. The 100% polyester construction also means that they are hard-wearing and quick-drying, which are two great features to see in these type of shorts.
The 22-inch outseam is also great, especially if you are looking for a more traditional cut of boardshorts. Style-wise, the black contrasting waistband cord looks great, especially on the lighter colored shorts.
What's not to like about the Hurley’s One and Only Boardshorts
Only having one pocket does mean that these shorts are not the most practical design, especially with regards to everyday wear. They are only available in five colors too, which are jade, cyan, fountain blue, neon green, and of course, black. If you don’t like the color scheme Hurley is using here, you may not find a color among the range you do like, given how limited it is.
The material does suffer for the lack of elastane in as much as it does not stretch too well. That shouldn’t affect normal swimming, but surfing may be a bit harder.
3. Rip Curl All Time Boardshorts
Rip Curl has a reputation for producing high-quality yet understated designs of board shorts. They are very much keeping within that remit here, with a series of short designs that are visually appealing without being gaudy.
These boardshorts have a 20-inch outseam, so will sit slightly above the knee. They have a scalloped cut to the legs and a solid waistband with a secure drawstring closure. They are machine-washable and have a 100% polyester construction.
The material’s surface has been brushed and treated to resemble the smoothness and rich texture of suede. They have only one pocket, located on the front of the leg, that is sealed with a button. They are available in six different colors.
What's to like about the Rip Curl All Time Boardshorts
We do like the fact that this style of short gives the impression of being a premium, designer pair of boardshorts without the premium price tag. This is most evident in the so-called “buttersuede” finish to the external fabric. This feels extremely soft and gives a very premium finish and appearance to the shorts.
The 100% polyester construction means that beneath that lovely finish, these boardshorts are not only tough and hard-wearing but also and quick-drying. The style itself, the striped colors, is attractive without being too eye-catching. This is certainly a high-end design that should be able to blend in among a range of situations and locations.
What's not to like about the Rip Curl All Time Boardshorts
With a limited stretch to the fabric, they may not be the most practical in terms of physical exercise. Swimming is not going to a big issue, but surfing may be a little harder.
The single pocket is a disappointment from a practical point of view, as is the fact that it is closed and secured with only a single button. The style is certainly quite unique and understated, but it is also quite limited in options. It is essentially just color variations to the same striped design.
4. Quicksilver Men’s Manic Boardshorts
Our next product comes from Quicksilver, another manufacturer with a well-earned reputation for providing high-quality swim and surf wear. This is one of their plainer designs, but it is still packed full of useful features and design points.
These shorts boast a 22-inch outseam to sit at or just below the knee. They are made of 100% polyester and have a very secure double-closure on the waistband, being closed with a hook & loop and drawstring combination. They are hand-wash-only and are available in 11 different colors, most of which are quite bright and vibrant.
What's to like about the Quicksilver Men’s Manic Boardshorts
They are a really good, if somewhat simple, pair of boardshorts. There is nothing that really stands out as an eye-catching feature, but neither are there any glaring faults.
The double-closure on the waistband is great to see, with a hook & loop employed for a secure closure and backed up with a drawstring. There is little chance of these shorts accidentally falling off!
The design is quite plain but is available in a range of eye-catching colors. The shorts feature two very good, cargo style side pockets that are Velcro-sealed for security. The 100% polyester construction is plain but tough and quick-drying.
All in all, this is a good, if basic, pair of boardshorts.
What's not to like about the Quicksilver Men’s Manic Boardshorts
Hand-wash-only clothes always raise our hackles because, let’s face it, hand-washing clothes is a pain! Frankly, we’re not sure if this is strictly necessary, and it is probably okay to machine-wash them—don’t quote us on that though!
Other than that, there is not too much to complain about here. The design is a little basic, and that may put some people off. The color scheme is also a little vibrant and neon-looking in some of the colors, which, again, may put some people off.
5. Volcom Stretch Board Short Brief
Finally, we are going to finish up with a product from Volcom. On the surface, it is one of the simpler designs not only to make our list but also just in general boardshorts terms. There are quite a few interesting features to take in here though. Will they do enough to be the right shorts for you?
These boardshorts have a 20 inch outseam, putting them toward the shorter end in terms of shorts length. They are available in no less than 16 colors and are made of a polyester (92%) and elastane (8%) blend. They feature a drawstring closure, no mesh lining, and are machine-washable.
What's to like about the Volcom Stretch Board Short Brief
There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of this product. Yes, among those 16 styles, there are some with stand-out patterns and designs, but broadly speaking, they are very simple-looking.
If you are looking for a style that won’t stand out, which can perhaps blend into more formal situations, this could be the pair for you. Well, as formal a situation as you’ll find yourself in wearing boardshorts anyway.
The material blend in the construction is great to see. Polyester, as we’ve seen already, is a great boardshorts material as it is tough, comfortable, and dries quickly. The added elastane blend allows for a material with a little extra stretch, perfect for swimming or boarding.
What's not to like about the Volcom Stretch Board Short Brief
Having only one pocket means that they are not the most practical choice of shorts when up on dry land. The fact that the one and only pocket is so small just adds salt to that wound. You may manage to get your keys in it and maybe a few loose bills, but don’t expect much more.
The other issue is that the design is just a little dull, really. While they are well-made and have a great material blend, these are supposed to be shorts that you have fun in, and honestly, they just seem a little toned-down and workman-like to really fulfill that requirement.
So, that finishes up our deep dive into the best board shorts on the market today! Now, the problem is knowing which of the five designs that we looked at is the right one for you.
Well, in this next section, we’ll take a good look at all the features that you should bear in mind while making your decision. We will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these versatile items of clothing. After that, you should have everything you need to pick the right pair for you!
Different Types of Boardshorts
There are a few styles of boardshorts, with most falling into either the standard or retro style. The standard style has a longer, 22-inch seam and a slightly looser fit. They are best employed as surf shorts and may lack pockets or other practical features.
The retro style is often also called a hybrid style. They are made of materials that are suitable for surfing while also having more refined styling. They are, therefore, great for swimming or surfing. They are also suitable to wear during everyday situations.
Most shorts are going to be sized with a standard inch waist measurement, so simply match this with the size of pants you wear at the moment. The seam length is another consideration, being anything from 20 to 22 inches long. A traditional short will usually be about 22 inches and designed to hang on or just over the knee.
The bulk of boardshorts currently on the market are made of polyester, and for two good reasons. One, it is a very tough material, making it well-suited to wear during physical activities like swimming or surfing. Secondly, it is also very quick-drying, which means that you won’t be sitting around in sopping wet shorts for too long.
The other material to keep an eye out for is elastane, which is not present in most boardshorts types. Where it is included, you will find that the shorts you buy are a little stretchier and perhaps a little better suited to be worn for physical activity.
Waist Types (Fixed or Elastic)
A fixed waist will provide a more secure fit, especially if it includes a button or hook & loop closure. An elastic waist, on the other hand, will allow for a little more give in the waist. That can make them a little more comfortable than a fixed waist, although they may not have quite the same secure fit.
As we discussed above, the seam length will dictate the length of the shorts, with 20 inches finishing just above the knee and 22 inches a little below. It really depends on your personal preference, unless you are planning on surfing in these shorts.
In that instance, you should consider buying the full length, 22-inch boardshorts as this will provide maximum protection from the sticky surfboard wax.
Depending on the purpose you wish to use these shorts for will have an impact on the features and design that will appeal to you as well. As we mentioned above, if you are looking to surf, then a longer leg length and some elastane in the construction will help to make a pair of shorts that is both protective and flexible.
On the other hand, if you are going to spend more time on land, then you may want a short with a looser cut and shorter leg, along with more attractive (or subdued) visual styling. Alternatively, you could get the best of both worlds and pick up a hybrid short. It really is in your hands!
Board Shorts FAQs
How to wear board shorts?
The joy of board shorts really does lie in their mix of flexibility and practicality. That actually makes this question a little hard to answer as the answer will, quite simply, differ from person to person.
Some people will see these shorts in the spirit in which they were invented, and use them as practical sportswear for swimming and surfing. Others will prefer to use them as comfortable summer wear on a hot day around the home or at the beach. Most people will use them as a combination of all of those, and the fact that this design can adapt to so many uses does explain their enduring popularity.
How should boardshorts fit?
Generally speaking, the fit for boardshorts will be a middle ground between Speedos and similar styles of swimming shorts and more free-flowing trunks and sports shorts. You don’t want them to be skin tight as that can make you uncomfortable, especially when swimming or surfing.
On the other hand, you don’t want them too loose as well. Why? That’s because if you do, indeed, use it for swimming or surfing, a pair of boardshorts that is too loose will add drag while you are in the water.
What is the difference between boardshorts and swim trunks?
There are two major differences between boardshorts and swim trunks: fit and style. A boardshorts will generally be a little longer and tighter-fitting than a traditional swimming trunk. However, as we pointed out above, they are not as tight-fitting as a Speedo.
Style-wise, boardshorts are a more classic and formal style of shorts than swim trunks. It would have to be an extremely laid-back bar that was happy for its patrons to visit in swimming trunks. Boardshorts, on the other hand, have the length, fit, and classic styling to blend in better when walking around on the shore, eating out, or grabbing a beer.
What are board shorts?
Boardshorts were invented back in the 1950s for surfers. They have the extra length of 20 to 22 inches outseams to protect the surfer’s legs. Surfboards are waxed all over to help with grip when standing.
This wax can become entangled with men’s leg hair when they lie prone on the board, causing a painful ripping sensation every time they stood up. Boardshorts are extended down to the knees or below the knees to protect against this.
Today, boardshorts are not the sole domain of hardcore surfers. Their blend of casual style and practical features makes them an extremely popular piece of many people’s summer wardrobe.
What to wear under board shorts?
This is a question that has been asked many times ever since boardshorts were first invented. Some people like to go nude, some will wear Speedos for swimming or traditional underpants on land, and some even go for a jock.
The truth is that there is no correct answer to this question as it really depends on personal preference. Our humble suggestion, if you are unsure, would be to simply try out your shorts with a range of underwear on (or even with none!) and see what is the most comfortable for you.
It is a genuinely hard task to pick the best item from this excellent lineup. If we are forced, though—and we are—then, the best option for us has to be item number one, which is the Hybrid Boardshorts from O’Neill.
This pair manages to combine practical design with added elastane for good flexibility. As a result, you get a boardshorts with an attractive, timeless design. You can wear it while lounging at home, while swimming in the water, lying on a surfboard, or perched on a stool at a beachside bar. For us, that level of practicality and functionality is the very definition of the useful boardshorts.