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PERFORMANCE

Whether you’re going to be in the water all day, running around on the beach, or just living an active lifestyle, today’s performance boardshorts are engineered to move with you. With an emphasis put on stretch materials, freedom of movement and range of motion is a critical component. Seams are typically kept to a minimum to reduce the likelihood of chaffing. A low profile, zippered pocket is usually hidden somewhere so you can stash your wax, phone or other little valuables.

ABOVE THE KNEE

Cut above the knee, this style of boardshort allows for maximum range of motion without a lot of excess material getting in the way. Taking cues from decades of boardshort design, the above the knee trunks feature a 20-inch outseam or shorter. They offer a contemporary look while not making any sacrifices in performance.

BELOW THE KNEE

As the outseam hits 21 inches and longer, the shorts begin to creep over the kneecap. Offering more in the way of sun and environmental protection, below the knee boardshorts are a preferred style by guys like Joel Parkinson & John John Florence who needs a pair of boardshorts that can endure the rigors of multiple surf sessions in a day.

HYBRID

Jump in the water for a quick surf, then post up on the beach, and maybe even hit the bar at the end of the day. Hybrids are the boardshorts you can lounge in all day. They may not necessarily feature the super-stretch materials found in the performance category, but they are quick drying.

BRANDS SPOTLIGHT

OUR TOP BOARDSHORT PICKS

A BRIEF HISTORY

The board short we know and love today was birthed by a man that habitually wore a powder-blue jumpsuit and a woman that was a chain-smoking former Vaudeville dancer. We owe a hell of a lot to Walter and Nancy Katin. In 1960 the odd couple was stationed in Surfside, just south of Seal Beach, California. They were running a business building boat covers for the vessels in the nearby Huntington Harbor when a couple local surfers asked if they could fashion them some trunks. With the sport of surfing still in its infancy, the commercially available swim shorts of the day just weren’t cutting it. Nancy stitched together a couple pairs of prototype boardshorts using the durable canvas they had on hand. It was an immediate success. Kanvas By Katin was born. Companies like Birdwell Beach Britches soon followed suit and soon board shorts were the hippest thing in beachwear.

In 1970 upstart Australian brand, Quiksilver, exploded onto the scene with the first major innovations in boardshort design. The use of two snaps and a Velcro closure to ensure the shorts stayed on in the heaviest conditions was a huge breakthrough at the time as everything that came before was still cinched tight with cord. Quik was the first to utilize a yoked waist and scallop legs to maximize comfort and ease of movement, and were also the first to use durable, quick-drying cotton. Besides the technical advancements, the trunks were also cool, which counted for a lot. With guys like Jeff Hakman, Mark Richards and Rabbit Bartholomew all seen in the surf mags of the day rocking Quiksilver boardies, soon enough everyone had to have a pair.

Other brands, including Billabong, which was founded in 1972, got in on the action. By the start of the ’80s slanging board shorts was big business. As the ’80s wore on short inseams and neon colors gave way to longer, baggier trunks. In the early 2000s super-stretch materials were introduced by Nike-owned Hurley, and once again performance leap-frogged forward. And while the styles may have fluctuated over the years, and we’re a far cry from those original boardshorts that Walter and Nancy built over half a century ago, the goal of making a board short that looks and feels good on the beach and in the water has remained the driving motivation.