When Can You Wear Board Shorts? What to Know

As the sun beats down on a pristine beach, waves lazily lapping at the shore, amidst the panorama of sunbathers and beach umbrellas, you spot them—those knee-length shorts worn by surfers, swimmers, and sun-seekers alike. You’ve seen them everywhere, from bustling coastal towns to serene resort poolsides, and you can’t help but wonder: is it really okay to wear board shorts for nearly occasion?

Board shorts originated within the vibrant surfing communities, and were designed to provide basic protection against chafing and UV rays. Due to how versatile they were, they have since been used in a variety of activities, ranging from other water-based activities (swimming, paddleboarding, boating) as well as worn on land as casual wear or exercise clothing. 

Keep reading on to learn what other uses there are for board shorts.

Top Situations to Wear Board Shorts For

when to wear board shorts


Board shorts have their roots deeply embedded in the world of surfing. Surfing, a sport that demands flexibility, quick-drying attire, and protection against the harsh friction of saltwater and surfboard wax, gave rise to the unique design of board shorts.

Unlike traditional swim shorts, board shorts are made of lightweight, water-resistant material that dries rapidly. Their longer length helps prevent rashes and abrasions from the surfboard, and the lack of an inner mesh lining reduces the chances of chafing.

Typically, they feature a non-elastic waist and a lace-up front, which ensures they remain securely fastened even in the most tumultuous waves. The unique combination of style, function, and comfort makes them the top choice for surfers around the globe.


While board shorts originated in the surfing community, their adaptability made them popular for general swimming purposes too. The beach or the pool often presents scenarios of transitioning between water and land frequently, and board shorts excel here due to their quick-drying capabilities.

Their design allows for unrestricted movement, making them a comfortable choice for both leisurely swimming and more intensive water workouts. Additionally, they come in a variety of styles and lengths, catering to personal preferences and offering individuals a chance to showcase their style while taking a dip.

Beach Volleyball

Beach volleyball is a sport that demands agility, quick reflexes, and a lot of movement in the sand. Here, board shorts prove to be a versatile choice. Their lightweight design ensures players don’t feel weighed down, and the breathable fabric ensures comfort even as the game heats up.

Since beach volleyball often involves dives and jumps, the stretchable nature of board shorts material allows for a full range of motion without any constraints. Moreover, like surfing, the sport is played in an environment where players transition between sweating in the sun and cooling off in the water.

The rapid drying nature of board shorts, coupled with their stylish designs, makes them a favorite among beach volleyball enthusiasts.

Casual Beachwear

How Long Are Board Shorts

Board shorts aren’t just for active pursuits. Their vibrant patterns, comfortable fit, and laid-back vibe make them a popular choice for those seeking to relax by the shore. Whether it’s lounging on a sunbed, building sandcastles, or just taking a leisurely walk along the coast, board shorts provide a blend of style and comfort.

Their quick-drying feature also means that after a spontaneous splash in the waves, you can comfortably settle back on the beach without the discomfort of soggy shorts. The variety of designs available, from tropical prints to minimalist patterns, ensures there’s a pair of board shorts to suit every beachgoer’s style.

Water Sports

Beyond surfing and swimming, the realm of water sports is vast, encompassing activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and much more. Each of these sports involves contact with water and requires attire that won’t hinder movement.

Board shorts, with their combination of water resistance, flexibility, and durability, are the go-to choice for many water sports enthusiasts. Their design ensures they stay snug even during high-speed activities like jet skiing.

Plus, for sports like paddleboarding where participants might be seated for extended periods, the flat seams and soft fabric of board shorts help prevent any discomfort or chafing.

On a Sunny Day

In our increasingly sun-conscious society, protecting one’s skin from harmful UV rays has become paramount. Board shorts, with their extended length reaching down to the knees or even lower, provide a practical solution.

While sunscreen remains essential, the fabric of the board shorts acts as a physical barrier, shielding the upper legs from direct sun exposure. This is particularly beneficial in environments where reflection from the water can intensify the sun’s effects.

High-quality board shorts often come with a UV protection rating, further enhancing their sun-shielding capability. So, while they allow wearers to enjoy the beach or pool, they also contribute to reducing the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage.

Physical Training

Fitness enthusiasts are constantly seeking versatile attire that caters to a range of activities. Enter board shorts, which have found their place not only in water-based exercises but also in various outdoor training regimens.

The lightweight and breathable nature of board shorts makes them suitable for activities like beach running, outdoor yoga, or calisthenics at a beachside park. Their stretchable fabric ensures unrestricted movement, vital for exercises involving a wide range of motion.

Moreover, the quick-drying feature comes in handy for sweat-intensive workouts, ensuring comfort throughout the training session.


A day out on a boat, whether it’s fishing, sailing, or just cruising, requires attire that’s both comfortable and functional. Board shorts fit the bill perfectly.

When on a boat, one can expect occasional water splashes, and having attire that dries quickly is a boon. The breathable fabric ensures comfort even under the blazing sun.

For those who might decide to take a quick swim, the transition is seamless with board shorts. Additionally, the stylish designs mean you can disembark at a beachside restaurant or resort and still look perfectly in place.

Daily Life

The fashion world has always borrowed elements from functional attire, and board shorts are no exception. Their stylish designs, combined with undeniable comfort, have seen them adopted as a favorite for casual summer wear far from the shores and pools.

Paired with a casual tee or tank top, board shorts make for a laid-back outfit perfect for barbecues, summer festivals, or just a day out in the city.

The variety in designs, from bold prints to muted colors, caters to a wide range of tastes, ensuring there’s a pair suitable for almost any casual occasion.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did board shorts originate?

Board shorts, often synonymous with surf culture, have their origins in the surfing communities of Australia and Hawaii in the 1960s and 1970s.

Prior to the invention of board shorts, surfers typically wore long cotton shorts or cutoffs, which, while functional, didn’t offer optimal performance and comfort in the water. They would become heavy, chafed the skin, and took a long time to dry.

Board shorts were a game-changer. Designed specifically for the needs of surfers, these new shorts were made from lightweight, quick-drying materials that provided better flexibility and comfort when riding waves.

The absence of a mesh lining, commonly found in traditional swim trunks, reduced chafing against the surfboard. Over time, their popularity spread beyond the surfing community, becoming a mainstay of beach culture and casual summer wear worldwide.

How are board shorts different from regular shorts?

Board shorts are distinct from regular shorts in several ways:

  1. Material: Board shorts are typically made from lightweight, quick-drying, and water-resistant materials to ensure comfort in and out of the water.
  2. Design: They usually lack an inner mesh lining, which is a common feature in many swim trunks. This reduces chafing, especially when surfing.
  3. Waistband: Board shorts often have a rigid waistband with a lace-up front, rather than an elasticized waist, to ensure they stay securely in place during active water sports.
  4. Length: Typically, board shorts are longer, reaching down to the knee or even lower, offering protection against surfboard wax and rashes.
  5. Patterns & Colors: Board shorts are renowned for their vibrant and varied patterns, drawing inspiration from beach and tropical themes.

How should board shorts fit?

When it comes to the fit of board shorts:

  1. Waist: They should sit comfortably at the waist without being too tight. The lace-up front or Velcro closure allows for some adjustability.
  2. Length: Traditionally, board shorts should reach the knee or slightly below. However, personal preference plays a role, and some might opt for slightly shorter versions.
  3. Leg Opening: The shorts should allow for a full range of motion, ensuring they aren’t too tight around the thighs.
  4. Overall Fit: They should be more on the relaxed side, allowing for easy movement without being excessively baggy. This ensures comfort and avoids drag in the water.

What are board shorts made of?

Board shorts are primarily made of polyester or nylon because these materials are lightweight, durable, and quick-drying. Some modern board shorts might incorporate a blend of spandex or elastane to provide a bit of stretch, enhancing comfort and flexibility.

The choice of these materials ensures that the shorts are resistant to saltwater, chlorine, and sunlight, maintaining their color and integrity even after repeated use.

Do board shorts have pockets?

Yes, many board shorts come with pockets. These pockets are usually designed to allow water to drain out easily, often featuring mesh pocket bags or drainage holes.

Some board shorts might have a single cargo pocket on the side, while others could feature traditional side pockets and a back pocket.

For those engaging in active water sports, it’s essential to ensure that these pockets are empty to prevent drag or potential hazards.

Do I need to wear any underwear under board shorts?

Typically, board shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. The absence of an inner lining is intentional, as it reduces chafing, especially during activities like surfing. The material of board shorts is quick-drying, which makes them comfortable to wear on their own.

However, personal preference plays a role, and some individuals might choose to wear a brief style of swim underwear beneath for added support or comfort. If one decides to wear underwear, it’s essential to ensure it’s also made of quick-drying material to prevent discomfort.

Are board shorts in style?

Beyond mere functionality, clothing often serves as an expression of one’s personality, tastes, and style. Board shorts, with their plethora of designs ranging from tropical scenes to geometric patterns, offer wearers a chance to make a statement.

Designers and brands, recognizing the popularity of board shorts, have released collections that push the boundaries of traditional designs. Limited edition prints, collaborations with artists, and innovative fabrics have elevated board shorts from simple swimwear to fashion-forward attire.

For the style-conscious individual, they represent an opportunity to showcase personal flair, whether at the beach or a summer party.