Surfing is one of the most exhilarating sports out there, but can also be very uncomfortable if you’re not geared up with the proper rash guard. Whether you aim to surf like Kahanamoku or you just try your luck at the waves every other summer, you need to be prepared and protected. Rash guards help protect us from any type of abrasion, including salt water, movement, and surfboard. They also do an amazing job at protecting our bodies from the dangerous UV rays.
Sometimes referred to as wet suits, rash guards are common. With so many out there, it only makes sense that it’s difficult to choose the right one. There are different materials, thicknesses, and features to think about. The prices can also vary greatly depending on what kind you get. We’ll walk you through everything, step-by-step.
How to Choose a Rash Guard for Surfers – Buying Guide
Do you easily sweat or get sunburned? Are you surfing in Hawaii or Alaska? These are the kind of questions you’ve got to ask yourself before you set out to go shopping for a rash guard. Let’s go through some of the key points together.
Are You Looking for Comfort, Protection, or Nice Tan Lines?
With a variety of different coverage and protection options, it can be hard to know what to look for. So, here’s some information that will help you to shop smart.
For the Ultimate Coverage: Go with a Full Body Rash Guard
With the cut of a full-body wet suit, this type of rash guard can be worn alone or even under a wet suit. They’re ideal for surfing in colder climates, but are also popular in sunny climates because of their UV protection.
As one might assume, compared to tanks or short-sleeve rash guards, the full-body rash guard comes with the most coverage in terms of protection. They’ll protect your armpits and nipples from rashes, but also keep you protected from the UV rays.
In cold environments, you can lose a lot of body heat from your extremities, so it’s important to look for a full-coverage rash guard. They do, however, slightly restrict freedom of movement.
Shorts: If You’re Looking for the Best Protection Against Chafing
If you’re not too keen on wearing a restricting full-body rash guard, you might want to look into rash guard shorts. They are usually worn under wet suits or board shorts, but can very well be worn alone. They should be tight to avoid any extra material moving with you as you surf.
Typically made with flat lock seams, they are a great way to prevent chafing. Board shorts, after all, are loose, so they’re not the best at offering protection. Sand gets into them, and they bunch up against surfboards. And then there’s that feeling of walking around when you’re sticky with sea water, and your thighs are rubbing against each other. Rash guard shorts protect against all of that.
Stay Cool and Steer Clear from a Farmer’s Tan: Choose a Tank
Tank rash guards are perfect for hot and sunny days, when over-heating is a growing concern. Going sleeveless, of course, means lots of flexibility and a greater range of movement while you’re riding the waves.
Compared to a full body rash guard or a long sleeve rash guard, a tank will minimize any restriction, but leave you with less protection. If you have sensitive armpits like a lot of surfers, you’ll need more coverage than this.
Beat the Heat with Short Sleeve Rash Guards
Unlike tanks, short sleeve rash guards will protect your armpits and still keep you cool on a hot day. Great for extra insulation under a wet suit, they’re also ideal to wear alone in warmer waters.
Long Sleeve Rash Guards For More Protection: Good for Chilly Waters
Optimal for protection against cooler temperatures, long sleeve rash guards will help keep you insulated and warm. Covering more surface area, they’ll also provide more protection against the sun. Feel free to wear these even in warm temperatures, but unless you’re constantly in and out of the water, you’re definitely going to feel the heat.
One-Piece Rash Guards for Mobility–and They Don’t Bunch up
There are also popular one-piece rash guards that don’t actually cover the legs. Basically, they look like one-piece bathing suits. These are typically worn in warmer climates, either alone or under wet suits to prevent chafing and to keep you protected from the sun.
They come in long-, short-, and no-sleeve varieties. They’re similar to the rash guard shirts–but you never have to worry about them bunching up. However, they are, of course, kind of a pain to get in and out of. We recommend getting one with a zipper.
Choose a Material that Suits Your Needs
Different rash guard materials have a lot of different things to offer. We’re going to talk about each one, so you can choose wisely.
Nylon-Spandex for Stretch
The most flexible material in the rash guard market, a nylon-spandex blend is a favorite among surfers. When you buy a nylon-spandex blend rash guard, it’s important that you choose one that fits quite tight. Otherwise, it might start feeling loose down the road, as nylon-spandex rash guards often stretch over time.
Nylon-spandex is quick drying, but offers a snug, breathable fit.
Control Your Sweat with Polyester
If you experience hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), or if you’re like most people and just don’t like to feel sticky with sweat, you’ll want to find a rash guard made of polyester.
Polyester is known for its use in a process called sweat wicking. This means that the rash guard will take body sweat off your skin and push it through the fabric to the exterior of the rash guard. Though not as flexible and stretchy as nylon-spandex, it is breathable and perfect for really hot days.
Neoprene for Thermoregulation and Cut Protection
If you’re surfing in, say, Pichilemu, you’ll need a neoprene thermal rash guard to keep you warm. The most common fabric used for thermal rash guards, neoprene ensures the best insulation.
Even in tropical areas, however, you might want a good neoprene suit. This is because waves can break over live coral, which can lacerate a surfer’s skin at the slightest contact, leaving him or her susceptible to infection. We recommend a thick neoprene, like a 4/3mm to reduce the risk of this happening.
The thickness of a thermal rash guard is measured in mm and is often displayed as two numbers; the first is around the torso and the second is around the limbs. You should, of course, choose a higher thickness for more warmth and protection.
Protect Yourself from the Sun with Neck Collars and UPF 50
One of the main benefits of a rash guard, sun protection is something that most surfers are constantly thinking about. Because of this, most have sun protection, even if not indicated specifically. However, look for at least UPF 50 to avoid sunburn and protect from UV rays (directly and reflected off the water).
If you’re like a lot of surfers, or anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun, you know all too well how painful neck sunburns can be. Some rash guards also have collars that will help protect your neck. But if you easily feel constrained, a collar might not be comfortable for you.
Stay Fresh with Antimicrobial Treatment
One of the biggest complaints regarding rash guards is that after just a couple trips to the ocean, bacteria and fungi start growing in material, leaving a fetid smell.
There are rash guards out there that are antimicrobial, which helps to reduce bacterial and fungal growth–therefore extending the life of the rash guard and keeping it smelling fresh.
Avoid Chafing with a Flat Seam
Raised seams will chafe, defeating the main purpose of wearing a rash guard in the first place. To avoid chafing, check that the seam is flat against the material.
Top 10 Rash Guards for Surfers to Buy Online
So, now that you know what to look out for when shopping for rash guards, here are our top 10 favorites to give you a head start!
10. Speedo Men’s Startline Sleeveless Rash Guard
Go Ahead, Show Off Those Broad Shoulders, But You’ll be Missing Out on Protection
This sleeveless rash guard will keep you cool and feeling the breeze on a hot day. It’s not quite as tight as a typical rash guard, but consumers rave about how comfortable it is. It’s light weight, breathable, and dries quickly.
It’s got UPF 50+ protection, so it’s great for a warm day. It leaves your shoulders, arms, and armpits out, though, exposing those areas to the harmful sun. Along with sun exposure, your armpits, especially, might be irritated and get rashes. We recommend applying a slab of sunscreen on those exposed areas before heading out to the shore.
9. CharmLeaks Women’s Long Sleeve Rash Guard
Ladies, Keep the Sweat Out with a Comfortable, Double Layer Rash Guard
This tight, but not too tight, rash guard allows for full movement of your arms, while still protecting you from the sun’s harmful UV rays with UPF 50+ protection. The lining is made from polyester, while the outer shell is made from a nylon-spandex blend. Though it’s not skin tight, it is stretchy and breathable, making for a comfortable and rash-free surf.
It’s suitable to wear in warm climates, but is not quite warm enough to keep you insulated in cold waters. It dries quickly once out of the water, so you can keep it on for protection even when you’re finished surfing for the day. However, the arms run short, so if you’re a woman with long arms, you’ll be disappointed.
8. Ubestyle Lycra Full Body Rash Guard
Super Stretchy with Full Coverage
The full body design provides UV protection and defends against jelly fish, sea lice, and other sea irritants. Made out of a nylon-spandex blend, surfers love the stretch and warmth of this body guard. The added Lycra ensures a snug, body-forming fit, and the long front zipper makes changing in and out of it simple and fast, even when wet.
If you’re allergic to topical sunscreens, but still need the sun protection for a day of surfing, this is for you. However, you might want to add some sunscreen to your neck, as there is not much coverage in that area. If you choose this rash guard, avoid using the zipper aggressively or with a lot of force, as some consumers have experienced the zipper breaking.
7. Kanu Surf Women’s Keri Long-Sleeve UPF 50+ Rash Guard
For the Ladies Who Want Sun Protection and a Sweat-Free Rash Guard
Made of mostly polyester and a little spandex, this rash guard is light in weight and ideal for surfing in mild temperatures. It’s quick-drying and breathable, and will wick away your sweat so fast, you won’t even get a chance to start getting sticky. Although just 14% spandex, there is plenty of stretch to allow for mobility. It’s a somewhat tight fit, but not overwhelmingly so, compared to other rash guards. The seams are placed strategically to avoid chafing, so no worries in that area, either.
It runs a bit big, so some consumers have had to exchange it for a size down. The quality of the material, though, is no doubt durable and functional for surfers.
6. O’Neill Men’s Premium Skins UPF 50+ Shorts
They’ll Keep You Comfortable, Sun Protected, and Chafe Free
From a popular brand in surfing, these rash guard shorts are a surfer’s dream. If you’re like a lot of men, you’ve probably experienced shorts falling a little once you’re in the water, but these will keep everything covered and in place. They’ve got a tight, but comfortable fit, and the flat lock seams keep chafing from occurring.
Like most rash guards, these too, have UPF 50+ protection. These rash guard shorts are suitable to wear alone, but most men prefer to wear them under a wet suit. If you’re a man who isn’t comfortable with tight-fitting or revealing shorts, we recommend wearing them under a wet suit before hitting the waves.
5. Sanabul Essentials Short Sleeve Compression Rash Guard
Antimicrobial Treated Material: Excellent Quality at a Reasonable Price
This rash guard is antimicrobial treated to help reduce bacterial and fungal growth, leaving you feeling and smelling fresh (even after multiple uses). It’s made with four-way stretch material, allowing for a snug fit without limiting mobility.
It’s also got UPF 50, so it’s great for those who want to stay cool on a hot day, but also protected from the sun. Not having to worry about funky smells or durability, customers rave about the quality of this rash guard. Be careful when washing this rash guard though, as a few reviews have indicated that the color bleeds.
4. Sbart Women’s Long Sleeve Rash Guard
Wear it as a Shirt While Surfing and as a Dress for Later
This versatile rash guard is very popular among women surfers. It’s made of 82% nylon and 18% spandex, providing a light weight, stretchy, and breathable rash guard. Like most rash guards, it comes with UPF 50+ protection, but hand washing is recommended to extend the longevity. It has a snug, but comfortable fit. It’s slightly bulky, so you’ll find it difficult to wear under a wet suit; we recommend wearing it as is.
The design is where this rash guard really stands out. The length is adjustable by just pulling the cords on the side. This way, when you’re finished surfing, you can wear it as a dress while you lounge around the beach and still be protected from the sun.
3. AXESEA Women’s Long Sleeve One Piece Rash Guard
No Chafing and Easy to Get In and Out Of
This colorful one piece rash guard is a hit with surfers. The back zipper makes it easy to get in and out of, unlike full body suits. Its UPF 50+ protection blocks more than 98% of UV rays, and the super stretch material makes it comfortable and easy to move around in. It has flat locked seams, so you don’t have to worry about any chafing. The built-in padded bra allows you to adjust it or remove it to your liking, so you’re always comfortable.
It’s fast drying and can be washed in the washer. Unlike some rash guards, this one remains opaque even after many washes. Overall, this rash guard seems to exceed expectations in quality, comfort, and style. The arms, however, tend to run a bit long.
2. DRSKIN Long Sleeve Rash Guard
A Rash Guard that will Keep the Whole Family Sweat-Free
Made from 92% polyester and 8% spandex, this rash guard has got great elasticity, but also keeps you from soaking in your own sweat. It’s skin tight and a lot of surfers wear this rash guard under their wet suit as an additional layer for insulation. DRSKIN’s two-way air circulation fabric will keep you cool in the summer and not so cold in the winter.
This rash guard comes in sizes for both kids and adults and is available in more than 30 colors and designs. It blocks out 98.8% of harmful UV rays, so you can be a bit less worry-free on that front. However, they run a bit smaller than similar rash guards.
1. O’Neill Men’s Basic Skins Long Sleeve Rash Guard
High Quality, Chafe-free Rash Guard
This rash guard is made from a combination of polyester and spandex, meaning your sweat will be wicked away and you’ll have a lot of flexibility; don’t worry about any restriction. The seams are flat locked and minimal to provide the best rash and chafing protection. In fact, they’re so minimal, you might forget you’re even wearing a shirt at all. With that, it’s also very breathable, allowing moisture to escape quicker.
It’s suitable to wear by itself in warm weather, but you can also wear it under a wet suit for more insulation in colder weather. Consumers love the comfort of this rash guard and the UPF 50+ protection.
There you have it! Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, your body will always thank you for wearing the right type of protection while hitting the waves. Hopefully, you’re now a step further in choosing the right rash guard for you!
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