Board shorts are long, light, and cool—the perfect surfing attire for men. But they can also cause chafing, leading to red, itchy, and sore spots around the inner thighs and making those surfing expeditions uncomfortable.
Wearing something underneath your board shorts can help you to avoid these issues, but what should you wear, and what are the pros and cons of each option?
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What Can you Wear Under Board Shorts?
What you choose to wear under your board shorts will mainly come down to your personal preference, but some options offer clear benefits over others, including:
Wear Compression Shorts
Compression shorts are probably the best thing to wear under board shorts. They are made from a super-stretchy material that sticks close to the thighs and buttocks, applying pressure and leaving little room for the shorts to move around and irritate the skin.
These shorts fit like a second skin, and whether you wear board shorts or a wetsuit over them, you shouldn’t experience any chafing.
If you wear compression shorts, consider adding a cup. Most of them come with spaces to add cups and these will protect your genitals from bangs and grazes. Nothing will stop your surfing session faster than a hard knock to the crotch, whether from a rock or your board.
Compression shorts could also provide some additional support, potentially aiding athletic performance and reducing injury risk. The benefits are minimal, but they help to make them the most beneficial option overall.
Compression shorts are better because they are longer and give you a layer of protection between you and the surfboard.
Last but not least, compression shorts offer some moisture-wicking benefits, potentially reducing discomfort, chafing, and bacteria build-up.
Speedos and jammers are other good options. They seem to have fallen out of fashion somewhat in recent years, but they will deliver many of the same benefits, keeping moisture away while providing a firm fit.
Don’t Wear Wet Compression Shorts
If you do decide to wear compression shorts, be sure to remove them after getting out of the water.
These shorts are not designed to be worn when wet. The wet and warm environment will create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and that could lead to everything from bad odors and discomfort to rashes and jock itch.
Change into dry clothes as soon as you can, and if you’ve been wearing them for a long time, apply some moisturizer to protect your skin.
What Compression Shorts Should You Buy?
You can find many great compression shorts on Amazon. Both the price and quality can vary considerably, though, so do your research in advance and always check the reviews.
These jammers from Original Watermen are some of the best available right now, and if you’re looking for Speedos, we recommend checking out the official Speedo store on Amazon, where you’ll find options in all styles and sizes.
Most men who wear board shorts simply wear underwear underneath. It’s the easiest option, after all. But it’s far from the best one, as regular underwear is not designed to be waterproof or fast drying.
If it’s made from cotton, it’ll become waterlogged very quickly, weighing you down and rendering your underwear redundant.
It might help to reduce chafing, but it’s definitely not the most uncomfortable option.
Regular boxers and cotton underwear are good in a pinch, but if you have time to prepare and want the best experience possible, stick with compression shorts.
Wear Jock Straps
Jock straps offer minimal protection, but they cover sensitive areas and could protect against chafing and injuries. They’ve been around for a long time and if you play sports, there’s a good chance you have one already, making them a better option than boxer briefs to grab in a hurry.
The minimalist approach is to just wear nothing at all—no compression shorts, no boxer briefs, no jack straps, nothing!
There are some obvious benefits to this. Firstly, you don’t need to worry about bacteria-ridden and waterlogged cotton like you do when wearing underwear. It’s also cheap, and if you don’t like tight-fitting fabrics, it’s more comfortable than compression shorts.
The problem is that you will almost certainly experience chafing. You may experience discomfort, red bumps, and itchiness around your upper thighs and other sensitive areas. If you’re not going to be in the water for long, and you prefer to feel free and loose, go for it. But if you have issues with chafing or you’ll be on a busy beach and need to remove your shorts at some point, wear something underneath.
Wear Board Shorts and Swimsuits Without a Built-in-Mesh
Board shorts are not simply larger swim shorts with surf-style patterns and higher price tags. Board shorts are designed to allow for more freedom of movement, which is essential when you’re on a surfboard but much less important if you’re simply paddling around in a swimming pool.
One of the biggest differences is the inner mesh, which is nearly also included in swim shorts but is excluded in board shorts.
The mesh lining separates the wearer’s skin from the inner material of the shorts. It promotes airflow and keeps moisture away. However, this mesh lining also limits movements, and that becomes a problem once you move from the swimming pool to the surfboard.
Look for board shorts that don’t have a lining, and if you have some swim trunks instead, make sure they don’t include this feature.
What to Do About Board Short Chafing
The constant friction caused by board shorts and worsened by salt water can cause a condition known as surf rash. It’s triggered by repeated friction of soft and damaged skin and could be worsened by sand, dirt, and even surf wax. It will appear as general skin irritation, including red bumps on the skin around the groin area and the thighs.
Prevention is the best cure here, as discussed above, a pair of good compression shorts will help you with that.
If you already have surf rash, try using commercial healing creams or some petroleum jelly, and make sure you stay away from the water and from those problematic board shorts.
Staying on dry land is the best way to heal rashes and getting back in the water will just make things worse, so delay those swim/surf sessions until you’re completely healed.
In the future, you can try using balm or petroleum jelly around sensitive areas to prevent any further issues, but compression shorts will serve the same purpose.