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How Should Board Shorts Fit?

Here's a detailed guide on the right sizing of board shorts to help you improve your fitting according to your style and preference. Having the perfect fit will not only give you security but also the maximum comfort you deserve.

Man in red board shorts holding a surf board.

Surfers usually wear board shorts, which may have longer “legs” than swimming trunks. So, how should board shorts fit?

Most wave riders look for swimming shorts that allow a balance between comfort, coverage and maneuverability. I believe you’d be fine following basic sizing information, but you can improve your fitting with advanced customizations.

Basic Sizing Information

Hurley Men's One and Only Solid 20" Board Shorts, Gym Red, 34

“It isn’t just as simple as grabbing the first cool pattern you see on the rack and calling it a day,” said GQ’s Megan Gustashaw.

Megan’s sentiment from 2016 still applies in 2022. On the other hand, you usually don’t have to overthink the process. If you’re not sure what to choose, you can start with one of three different swimsuit lengths.

These include the short, medium and long sizes. Of the three, surfers typically choose the longest ones, which measure about nine inches from the short crotch to the hem. They probably extend about mid-thigh or to just above the knee on someone with shorter legs.

Advanced Sizing Factors

Experienced surfers already have an idea of what they wore in the past. If this sounds like you, some advanced sizing factors could help you fine-tune your fit.

You may need this information more when shopping online instead of trying on clothing in person, but advanced fitting tips can benefit you no matter how or where you acquire your board shorts. This information might also help you tweak fittings you generated using online 3D software.


Billabong Boys' Tribong Lt Boardshort, Dark Blue, 29

Every brand has a different sizing chart. For instance, Billabong’s medium U.S. size medium 32 may run from 31.5-32.5 for the waist and hip. On the other hand, Hurley size 32 board shorts may run a straight 31-32. O’Neil, Patagonia and Quicksilver, Reef or Rip Curl and others all have unique sizing criteria.

Waist/Hip Circumferences

Run a tape measure around your waist around the smallest portion of it, using your belly button as a starting point. Then, measure around the widest part of your hips, which includes the largest part of your backside all the way around. Prioritize waist and hip measurements when looking for board shorts because these areas usually are larger than the rest of the legs. 

Leg Inseam

Hurley Men's Independence 17" Volley Board Short, Sequoia, Large

Even if the board shorts you picked out do fit your waist and hips, they may seem too short or tight when you try them on. To prevent this, make sure you measure your leg length. This includes calculating the “inseam” length, which extends from the shorts (or pants) crotch to the bottom hemline.

Overall Length

Overall above-the-knee lengths typically measure from 16-18 inches, and over-the-knee versions usually come in 19- to 22-inch lengths. This provides you a general frame of reference even if you may not know what inseam size the shorts are. It also shows you how long the shorts might be on you.  

Thigh Circumference

Most board shorts come in a relaxed, loose fit to fit multiple sizes while remaining snug at the waist and hip. Likewise, they have width and length proportions that typically accommodate men of standard size ranges. However, it doesn’t hurt to measure your thigh circumference as well as the inseam (inner leg length).

Additional Fitting Factors 

Material Quality

Hurley Men's Standard Phantom Fastlane Realtree 18" Board Shorts, Brown (Edge Camo), 36


Besides making sure the shorts don’t fit too loose, choosing a durable pair of board shorts will save you some embarrassment. Polyester doesn’t rip easily, for instance. Embossed fabric may cling less to the skin, so it might not “annoy” you as much, especially when in the water. Other quality surfing swimwear comes in spandex, Lycra or other elastic materials.

Secure Closure With Elastic Back

Rokka&Rolla Men's Quick Dry Drawstring Waist Beach Swim Trunks Board Shorts with Mesh Lining

I think both a drawstring and an elastic back on your board shorts provide an excellent compromise. This secure closure keeps your shorts snug without you losing them in the water and unexpectedly showing more of you than you planned. You also could try a Velcro closure with the same concept – a back elastic to provide just snug enough of a fit while making it easy for you to move.

Personal Style

Taddlee Swimwear Men Swimsuits Swim Boxer Trunks Short Board Surf Shorts Bathing(XS,Gray)

Maybe you prefer a tight-skinned swimming trunk whether on a surfboard or just swimming instead of a loose-fitting pair. That’s your decision. If so, perhaps these stretch black board shorts would offer you movement. I see one advantage. They will stay on your body easier than other swim shorts that fit too loose and may fall.

How To Try Out Shorts Online 

The 2020 Covid-19 quarantines that occurred forced some physical department stores to close. This motivated retailers to offer customers new ways to try on clothing. You can even use virtual fitting software powered by 3D technology to see what your board shorts would look like on you. 

Some of them run using photo uploads. Others operate with 3D augmented or virtual reality glasses. This technology may need some improvement. However, it could help you locate a perfect-fitting board short pair when shopping online.