Board Shorts vs. Swim Trunks

Board Shorts vs. Swim Trunks

This debate has been raging since the beginning of time—okay, since the invention of swim trunks, but those are just semantics.

Which is better? Board shorts vs swim trunks

To understand that, you first need to know what separates these swimwear garments. The biggest difference between board shorts and swim trunks is in the design. Board shorts are longer and have a slimmer fit, mainly because they serve different purposes and are meant for different activities. If you want a great day at the beach, it’s important to know what you need to be wearing.

Keep reading and pick your champion.

Board Shorts: Great for Surfing and Social Gatherings

So, what are board shorts?

Board shorts are typically used by surfers to wear while they are out catching some waves, however, they can also be worn as casual wear. They are a bit longer than swim trunks because they usually come down past the knee, and are one of the most popular swimwear options out there for the beach or pool.

Out of the water, a lot of guys wear board shorts when they’re swimming or lounging around by the pool.

The biggest benefit of board shorts for surfing is that they help keep your legs from chafing against the surfboard due to their longer length. For those new to surfing, this is particularly useful to prevent irritation and provide a more comfortable experience.

Swim Trunks: Designed for Beachside & Lakeside Outings

While board shorts are great for surfing, swim trunks are made for, well…swimming.

Men’s swim trunks, and trunks designed for boys, typically fall above the knee and are designed to get wet and provide support to guys while swimming. In the water, it’s important that men’s swimwear have three features:

  1. They need to be lightweight and comfortable to wear.
  2. Men should be able to swim and move easily in them.
  3. Trunks need compression-lining so that chafing doesn’t occur.

Let’s take a closer look at the nuances between these closet-staple rivals so that you can decide which one best suits your needs.

Comparing Features: Board Shorts vs Swim Trunks

As you can see, there’s a big difference between swim trunks and board shorts. Both can get wet, sure, but both aren’t designed to be comfortable when it comes to long stretches of time in the water. Here are the three things you should consider when deciding on what to purchase, what to pack, and what to wear on your watery excursion!

1. Comfort Cues

This really comes down to personal preference and the activity you’ll be doing, but the key to distinguishing the difference between board shorts vs swim trunks is in the comfort. Although board shorts are intended for land and water use, they’re not as moisture-wicking as quality swim trunks. This could become an issue for those who plan on being in and out of the water all day—a breeding ground for chafing if you ask us.

Plus, board shorts have no interior lining for support while swimming. That’s why we strongly suggest trying a pair of breathable chafe-free trunks, especially if you’re going to be in the water a lot.

2. Durability Details

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of board shorts and swim trunks, honing in on durability and quality is crucial. Regardless of which one you go with, you should always choose a reputable retailer to make sure you get the most out of your money. Some things to consider in this category include

  • Waistbands. Board shorts usually have a tighter waistband with velcro or buttons. Quality swim trunks normally have drawstrings for easy adjustment.
  • Overall Protection. For high-impact activities, board shorts give more leg coverage since they’re longer and may offer a longer shelf life compared to trunks.
  • Material. Swim trunks, however, are specifically designed dry faster while board shorts are not. For this purpose, quality swim trunks are more durable than many board shorts.

3. Style Signifiers

When it comes to style, there are plenty of pattern and color options available for board shorts and swim trunks alike. However, choosing the right shorts really depends on other features aside from just the aesthetic.

Features of Board Shorts

  • Usually longer than swim trunks
  • Equipped with pockets for land use
  • Have a slimmer fit to avoid snags

Features of Swim Trunks

  • Shorter than board shorts
  • Can be equipped with pockets (ours are, for example)
  • Have a looser fit than board shorts

4. Fabric

For both board shorts and swim trunks, some of the same fabrics are used in their construction, just in different cuts and styles.


Board shorts are generally made from strong, smooth polyester material that is designed to be quick-drying, lightweight, and comfortable. No wonder these board shorts are becoming a staple in almost every guy’s summer wardrobe.


Sometimes, board shorts are also made out of nylon fabric that is moisture-wicking so water doesn’t soak through the fabric. This material is durable and also holds up to wear and tear from contact with a surfboard, yet is still well-adapted to use in various active watersports.

What Type of Swimwear is Best for You?

The best thing you can do to decipher between the two is to consider the circumstances. Will you be swimming or skateboarding? Going to the beach or going to grab a bite to eat? Trying out surfing or epically failing at wakeboarding?

Okay, maybe that last one is just for us.

Anyway, when choosing between board shorts vs swim trunks, think about your level of activity and personal preferences. If you’re interested in learning more about chafe-free clothing, check out our blog. Or, find a cool graphic tee or hat to pair with your shorts when you browse our collection.

By the way, do you know how to keep sand out of your pants, car, etc? We do! Check out our article all about how to keep sand where it belongs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still asking yourself “what are boardshorts?” Or, maybe you’re unclear about their differences. Regardless, you’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! If you don’t see your question below, comment and ask!

What is the difference between board shorts and a swimsuit?

The biggest difference between board shorts and swim trunks is length. Board shorts tend to be longer and have a slimmer build while swim trunks are shorter and looser for more movement.

What is the point of board shorts?

Board shorts are designed for surfers so that they have an easier time maneuvering on their surfboard without worrying about rubbing or chafing against the board. They are longer and narrower overall, and they aren’t designed to reduce moisture or dry quickly.

Do you wear anything with board shorts?

If your board shorts don’t feature any type of liner, it’s a good idea to wear briefs, athletic shorts, or another compression garment to prevent a rash from developing—or an embarrassing flashing situation.

Why are board shorts called board shorts?

Board shorts take their name from their function: surfers wear them on their board, hence board shorts. They are also called boardies, baggies, jams, and even occasionally mislabeled as swim shorts.

Are board shorts the same as swimming trunks?

No, they aren’t. Board shorts are designed to minimize rubbing and chafing on a surfboard. Swimming trunks are designed for swimming, rafting, kayaking, and other activities involving similar water sports.

Can I wear board shorts in a swimming pool?

Board shorts can be worn in a pool, sure. It’s important to select board shorts that feature compression lining and are made of quick-drying fabrics so that during breaks out of the pool you’ll be more comfortable.

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