All about boardshorts

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A man wearing boardshorts

Boardshorts, which were originally known as Surf Trunks, later as Jams, and occasionally in British English as swim shorts, are a style of men's and, more recently, women's summerwear. These shorts were originally developed for aquatic sports, specifically for surfing. In recent years boardshorts have become a popular form of general beach wear and all-purpose summer wear.

The name "boardshorts" is based on their use in aquatic sports that use a board, such as surfing. They are also sometimes called "boardies" in slang, especially in Australia, and "baggies" in South Africa.

Boardshorts are especially popular in North America and spread beyond surfing especially as the skater punk fashion trend got underway. They are also typically worn in men's beach volleyball. They are less popular in other parts of the world, where other suit styles are preferred.


A young man wearing boardshorts

Boardshorts are designed to be quick-drying, and are generally made from strong and smooth polyester or nylon material. They are durable and hold up to wear from contact with a surfboard, yet are comfortable and light-weight. They are well-adapted to use in various active watersports.

Boardshorts do not have an elastic waist like many swim shorts do; instead they have a more rigid waistband which opens at the front, often with a velcro fly. The waistband is also held together at the front with a lace-up tie. This double fail-safe system is in order to ensure that the shorts cannot be pulled off the body by the force of the wave when a surfer is tumbled under water during a wipeout. Another common feature of authentic surfing boardshort design is a very small pocket sealed with velcro and vented with a grommet. This is designed to be a secure place to carry a car key, house key, or hotel key card while in the water. Boardshorts traditionally have no lining, unlike traditional swim shorts.

Boardies are normally longer than many shorts or form-fitting speedo styles of swimwear, and often (other than the waist) they have a loose or baggy appearance. Boardshorts are longer than normal shorts for one major reason: surfboards are covered with a layer of sticky wax, which allows the surfer to stand on the board without slipping off. However, this wax can rip leg hair off a surfer when sitting on the board waiting for waves. Long boardshorts cover the back of the leg when sitting on the board, preventing the wax from ripping at the leg hair. The length of boardshorts is also affected by fashion trends; the length can range from mid-thigh (old school) to below the knee, covering the entire knee. In the 2000s, boardshorts were often worn low in the back, exposing the top of the buttocks. Many designs of board shorts use vibrant color, striking patterns including Hawaiian floral images, and highlighted stitching; however not all boardshorts have these features.

Although the basic design for boardshorts remains largely the same, some manufacturers have taken advantage of new technology. Because surfers and other water-sports enthusiasts commonly wear boardshorts without underwear, one of the major complaints has been about the use of velcro for the fly closure which tends to entangle pubic hair. A solution that some manufactures have come up with is to use a neoprene fly, which does not allow the fly to completely open, but provides enough stretch so that the shorts can be easily pulled on and off. Pubic hair does not get caught on the neoprene fly. To remedy another common complaint, about boardshorts stitching in the inseam area which would rub directly against the wearer's skin, many manufacturers switched to a seamless design, or use welding or glue, rather than stitches. Although it is very common for boardshorts to be worn without underwear, some male wearers prefer to wear compression shorts, boxers, a jockstrap or briefs under them. Some female surfers wear a swimsuit or bikini bottom under boardshorts.

Some style of Mixed Martial Arts shorts were developed from boardshorts. Men's physique class in the National Physique Committee also uses boardshorts for onstage competition.


Some companies in the US and Australia which have specialized in creating boardshorts for surfers for many years are:

  • Body Glove (Southern California)
  • Birdwell Beach Britches (Southern California)
  • Hurley (Southern California)
  • Kanvas by Katin (Southern California)
  • Killer Dana (Southern California)
  • O'Neill (Santa Cruz, California)
  • Volcom (Southern California)
  • Billabong (Australia)
  • Quiksilver (Australia)
  • Rip Curl (Australia)
  • Ocean & Earth (Australia)

However, almost all swimsuit manufacturers and many designer brands now produce boardshorts.

There are even boardshort-specific retailers, which offer an assortment of boardshorts to the surfing and wakeboarding public.

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