Surfing Clothes

Daredevil surfer wearing a wetsuit

Whether you are a surfer or just want to sport the carefree look of one, the right surfing clothes are essential.

The Surfing Clothes Closet

What exactly is inside a surfer's closet? The basic answer would be swim trunks and flip-flops. The more detailed answer, however, reveals more than that. Surfing clothes go beyond just standard beachwear!

  • Board shorts are an essential part of any surfer's wardrobe. These lightweight, fast-drying shorts are constructed of comfortable, stretchy fabrics and typically include a pocket to hold surf essentials like a wax comb, fin key and bottle opener.
  • Wet suits are available in a wide variety of styles and designs. Some are made especially for entry-level surfers who are just getting a feel for the water. Others are particularly high-tech and suitable for more experienced surfers.
  • Rash guards serve an important purpose. They act as a barrier between the body and the surfboard, thereby preventing arm and chest rashes. They also provide protection from ultraviolet rays, decreasing the chance of sunburn.
  • Wet suit jackets are just the thing to make the brisk water a bit more comfortable. If there's a chill in the air, throw on a stretchy, warming wet suit jacket. They are designed to provide maximum flexibility without hindering movement.
  • Surf hoods feature smooth exteriors that help block the wind on a blustery day. The sun visor protects the eyes from water, while the adjustable neck strap assures a comfortable fit.
  • Booties literally mold themselves to the feet, providing just the right amount of traction without sacrificing sensitivity to the surfboard. Many are designed to simulate the feel of socks.

Beach Style for All Ages

Surf clothes are available for men, women and children. Rash guards for toddlers, for example, are readily available at most surf apparel retailers. A wide variety of designs, colors, styles and sizes also makes searching for surfing clothes a fun experience for the fashion conscious.

The Details

If you aren't familiar with surfing culture, you may not know exactly what to look for when shopping for surfing clothes. Knowing the details will help you make smart choices that will provide you with both style and function.

Board shorts

Short, long, elastic, drawstring, multicolored, solid; board shorts options almost seem endless. Designed to be worn both in and out of the water, these versatile bottoms are comfortable and functional at the same time. They dry quickly and feel lightweight. Knowing which board shorts are right for you is as simple as knowing your style preferences.

Typically, board shorts offer the following features:

  • Mesh or cargo pockets to store surfing essentials
  • Smooth fit
  • Low-rise waist
  • Micro suede lining
  • Colorful solid and printed designs

Wet Suits

You'll find a lot of variety in wet suits.

Styles include:

  • Spring suits: Also known as a shorty, the spring suit completely covers the torso. It has short sleeved arms and short legs.
  • Full suits: The full suit is also known as the steamer. As its name suggests, it covers the torso, arms and legs.
  • Long John: Bearing a resemblance to overalls, the long John covers just the torso and legs.
  • Jackets: Wet suit jackets provide substantial arm and torso coverage, but do not cover the legs.

Look for the following qualities in a wet suit:

  • Extremely stretchy, flexible material
  • Smooth, wind-resistant chest and back areas
  • Chafe-resistant neck area
  • Flat, breathable seams

Rash Guards

Rash guards are the ultimate in functional surfing clothes. They wick moisture away from the body, allowing sweat to evaporate at a faster rate. They provide a snug yet comfortable fit, and offer protection from surfboard chafing. They can also be worn underneath wet suits to prevent chafing.

Look for the following qualities in a rash guard:

  • Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF): Similar to the sun protection factor (SPF), the UPF protects the surfer from UV rays. Look for a rash guard with a UPF of at least 50. Note that as a rash guard stretches, its UPF decreases. Therefore, the right fit is essential.
  • Weight: Lightweight rash guards are often a sign of poor quality. A high-quality rash guard is at least mid-weight.

Surf Hoods

When the water is frigid, nothing protects the head and ears as well as a surf hood. This accessory is an absolute essential for the avid surfer. In addition to keeping the head warm, it also blocks the sun from the eyes, thereby averting the potential for accidents caused by excess light.

Surf hoods typically include the following features:

  • Smooth skin neoprene exterior
  • Thermal lined interior
  • Drawstring or Velcro collar to adjust the neck strap as needed


Ideal for use in cold water, surf booties provide warmth, comfort and durability. They are generally designed to mimic the feel of a sock, and the wearer should ideally be able to feel the surfboard through the bottom of the boot. Experts recommend purchasing booties one size smaller than your regular shoe size.

Bootie features include the following:

  • Split toes to promote proper balance
  • Thin, breathable bottoms
  • Flared openings to allow for easy entry
  • Top strap for extra protection

Where to Purchase

Surfing clothes are readily available at a variety of specialty retailers, including the following:

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