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What Should You Wear Under Board Shorts?

A lot of factors play into consideration when deciding what to wear under board shorts. Check out the best option to wear under your board shorts according to both function and fashion.

Surfer wearing blue board shorts.

Before I tell you what to wear underneath board shorts, I need to know. Will you wear them in the water, or will you show them off just for fashion’s sake? That makes a difference.

Some shorts designed for wearing in the water have no liner for a reason. However, I’ve seen pairs that have at least a mesh “cup” under them.

Board Undershorts for Function’s Sake

Rokka&Rolla Boys' 4-Way Stretch Board Shorts Swim Trunks with Mesh Lining, UPF 50+

“Yes and no” might seem like a strange response to whether board shorts do have a liner or not. However, “yes and no” was the response that the Shorts Guide provided to this inquiry.

Usually, the board shorts made for surfing don’t have liners, and swimming trunks do. It’s up to you what you decide to wear when surfing, and some people do prefer linings or undershorts for function’s sake.

I found out mesh liners can come both attached and as a sold-separate item, so that might make life interesting for you. I also found access to a variety of compression short types – both attached and unattached made from a variety of materials.

Attached Mesh Lining

STX Memory Mesh 10 Diamond Lacrosse Mesh Stringing Piece

Source: SportStop

If it’s a mesh liner, it may never show up in public at all from underneath the short’s hemline unless you choose a style made that way. These linings provide the air circulation normally only offered when going “commando” underneath shorts meant for surfing. However, they add the advantages of extra support and private area exposure prevention whether surfing, swimming, sitting by the shore, or suntanning.

By the way, shorts made for both the male and female anatomy do have mesh lining. You might see them more often in the men’s pairs, however. Also, most people don’t probably want to sew lining to their shorts. However, I showed what the liner may look like in the above photo. 

Unattached Mesh Lining

Men Solid Sheer Boxer Brief

Source: SheIn

I didn’t think this existed at first, but it does. You can find unattached mesh lining for whatever you want to use them for. I think they could provide “private” support without the extra fabric bulk that may accompany attached swimming liners.

I’m not sure how I’d feel about having netted material scrape against my bum or thighs though, so there’s that to consider too. I might instead want the compression shorts either attached or unattached.

Attached Compression Shorts


Source: Capelle Miami

The attached compression shorts come in styles for both male and female body types and sizes. Compression shorts may provide the all-in-one solution, including security, support, comfort and breathing room.

That depends on the fabric, however. They come in a variety of materials: lycra, stretch-cotton, polyester, spandex or elastane (usually for the waste band) attached to board shorts.

Unattached Compression Shorts

P-TEX Adult Pro Cup with Compression Shorts (OneSize)

Unattached compression shorts come in a variety of styles and sizes for all body types and anatomies. I’d prefer them separate because I’ve had too many experiences with lined clothing becoming entangled. They come in a variety of stretch materials, including the cotton mixed with elastic fabric and polyester, spandex or Lycra.

Board Undershorts for Fashion’s Sake

Men's UA Shorebreak 2-in-1 Board Shorts

Source: Under Armour

Let’s face it. Some of us grow tired of wearing the same shorts and t-shirts day in and day out all summer long. When it’s time for a change, some people “mix it up” with board shorts, but I wonder. Is it a good idea to model them just for fashion’s sake on land, and what board undershorts would you wear with them?

First, the Shorts

Bermuda Suiting Set

Source: Venus

Vogue writer Steff Yotka pleads with readers to “Give Board Shorts a Chance.”

“…few fashion ideas remain strictly verboten. And yet board shorts and Bermuda shorts continue to be two of the more controversial items for women,” said Yotka in 2019.

That’s the best defense for board and Bermuda attire that I’ve heard yet. However, Steff Yotka reveals examples in her article that disappoint me. I thought she would choose “board” or “Bermuda” shorts that look more like the type usually worn for surfing or swimming to demonstrate how you can repurpose this specific style for fashion’s sake.  

At least Steff shows my favorite short style overall, and she’s given me new ways to cover my thighs and still feel both cool and confident in the summer. However, I think of the styles this writer demonstrates as culottes or dress shorts cut a little above the knee instead of below the knee—not board shorts.

I don’t normally see culottes and dress shorts that come above the knee made for dressy or business casual occasions worn in the water. That’s because they’re made specifically for fashion and not for surfing or swimming, but it does give ideas of how you might wear board shorts on land.

Now, the Underwear

Wacoal Women's Women's Body Base Shorty Panty, Black, X-Large

Steff Yotka does an excellent job describing the “board” short style, even if the examples she chose don’t seem like board shorts to me. However, this writer doesn’t mention usage of any underwear with them. I’m guessing you could wear would compression shorts, think tights or leggings, or pantyhose under them depending on if they’re for casual or dress use.

Why My Underwear Suggestions?

Hilor Women's Rash Guard Board Shorts UPF50+ Sports Capris Swim Bottom Skinny Surfing Tights Leggings Aquamarine Blue 10

What do my recommended underwear suggestions have in common? Wearing board shorts for fashion’s sake demands a seamless piece of attire underneath them if you feel like you need that extra lining.

If wearing longer underwear liners, you could layer them just a bit longer than your chosen casual board shorts. For fun, maybe wear a pair that have little ties on the ends of the legs.

Santic At Once Men Underwear Shorts

Source: Santic

When wearing co-called “board shorts” for fashion’s sake, I prefer that my undershorts or briefs layered beneath them not bulk up in my clothing, and why? I have enough ab rolls and behind cellulite. I don’t want to create “fake” bulges where I don’t have any.

That’s why. If you don’t want the undershorts to show up under the top layer, make them shorter than the board shorts you’re wearing and make sure they don’t have seams.


Source: Alo Yoga

I’ve seen a variety of men’s and women’s shorts worn with leggings, some of which you can combine with board shorts. In fact, they often show up as two-in-one pants, and they’re often designed for vigorous exercise and jogging.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any “proof” that you could wear leggings under dress shorts that reach either just above or below the knee. However, I have seen leggings and tights worn under skirts instead of pantyhose, and I’ve seen them with culottes that reach a little below the knee.  

Advantages and Disadvantages of Liners

Man surfing at the beach.

“Just like you can choose not to be wearing underwear all the time – you can not wear anything at all,” says the We Tried It experts.

Whether for function or fashion, you don’t necessarily need to wear the liners. In fact, that’s how many experienced surfers prefer to wear their board shorts. For appearance’s sake, not wearing any liner or underwear underneath board shorts will prevent unwanted undergarment “lines” from appearing through the top clothing layer.