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Rash guards come in various sizes and styles, and they are made from an assortment of fabrics that vary in thickness, quality and durability. Rash guards are not used for only one specific water sport and have become growingly popular both for protection and as a desirable style of clothing. So, this raises the question, what is the best rash guard for surfing?
The reason surfers wear rash guard is to provide a degree of warmth, a level of sun protection and to protect against getting a rash. This article of clothing can be worn under a wetsuit to provide additional warmth and rash protection or sported on their own in warmer conditions.
As you begin your search for the best rash guard to meet your surfing needs you should focus on the following points:
- Size and fit for surfing
- Comfortable to wear
- Protection against the surface of your boards sand and wax residue
- Blocks harmful UV rays
- Insulation layer to keep you warmer
- Fabric and materials
- How quickly it dries
Finding a rash guard that fits you well and serves the purposes they are intended can be challenging. For this reason, we have provided reviews for our top rash guards for surfing and a buyers guide to assist your search in finding these features.
Best Rash Guard for Surfing Reviews
1. O'Neill Basic Skins Long Sleeve Rash Guard
The O’Neill Basic Skins Long Sleeve is an exceptional option for a surfing rash guard. O’Neill is a California surf company that has been around since 1952. This is a comfortable and yet durable polyester/spandex shirt that has minimal seam placement, providing excellent rash protection.
The O’Neill Basic Skins is a form fitting rash guard featuring a four way stretch that won’t shift or ride up on you while you’re surfing. The stitching is flatlock for a smooth, flat seem and comes in 9 different colors.
2. Kanu Surf Long-Sleeve Platinum Rash Guard
The Kanu Surf Platinum is a lightweight, breathable, quick dry rash guard. This shirt is a slim fit garment made from a polyester/spandex blend. The Kanu features a standing collar and a center chest logo that comes in 8 different colors.
3. Quiksilver Performer Long Sleeve Surf Tee Rash Guard
The Quiksilver Performer rash guard has a sharp design and color combinations that stand out. This rash guard shirt is made from polyester/elastane blend fabric, making it a snug fit that will stretch and breath as you surf. The Quicksilver features a stand up collar and flatlock stitching to reduce chafing.
4. DRSKIN Compression Long Sleeve Rash Guard
The DRSKIN Compression rash guard is a multi-sport product that works exceptionally well under all conditions. This rash guard features an “odd ramp sewing method” found in DRSKIN products, which has no overlapping fabric, providing exceptional elasticity. The DRSKIN is made from a polyester/spandex blend that is quick drying, durable and comfortable.
5. Platinum Sun Gradient Long Sleeve Rash Guard
The Platinum Sun Gradient rash guard is designed using breathable, high quality material that provides a tight, comfortable fit. This product features an inside silicone waistband and boardshort fastener which prevents the garment from riding up. The Platinum Sun is made from lycra spandex fabric and has a stand up collar.
Buyers Guide: Surfing Rash Guard
This buyers guide is focused on finding a rash guard that fits you and is best suited, specifically, for surfing, while providing a great look for you while you’re at the beach and on the water surfing. The following tips and suggestions should help assist you in narrowing your search to find just the right rash guard for you while you’re surfing.
Rash Guard Protection
The primary purpose of rash guard is to provide the surfer with protection from getting a rash, exposure to the sun, and retaining moisture in shirt and as a result on your skin.
Skin Protection: Surfing exposes sensitive areas of the body (armpits, neck, nipples, stomach) to being rubbed raw, due to movement causing friction between these body parts and the surfboard or sports clothing/gear (i.e. wetsuit). Rash guard is designed to protect these sensitive areas.
Sun Protection: Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is the measure found in sunscreens to communicate the level of effectiveness in protecting skin from harmful sun rays. Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a relatively newer measure designed to convey the level of protection from harmful sun rays found in protective fabrics. It is these fabrics that are used to design clothing such as rash guards for the purpose of providing a level of sun protection.
Quick Dry Fabric: Fabrics such as neoprene, lycra, polyester and nylon are typically blended to create material that is used in the design and creation of rash guards. The reason for using these fabrics is their quick drying features, which helps to reduce the chances for developing a rash. Quality designed and constructed rash guards include an antibacterial component, are moisture wicking fabric (keeps surfer cool, dry and comfortable) and enables moisture from the skin’s surface to evaporate.
Rash Guard Size and Fit
Commonly you are going to find two types of fit for rash guard shirts, either a loose or tight fit. When considering the best fit for water sports like surfing, a loose fitting article of clothing can be awkward and bulky as it shifts on your body and creates resistance. For the purposes of surfing your preference should be a tight fit, so the rash guard will move with your body and offer less resistance while you are in the water. Additionally, a tighter fit will help to minimize chafing and rubbing.
Style and Comfort
As you begin your search, you will quickly find that there is a large variety of styles to choose from in selecting a rash guard. Most manufacturers offer their shirts in both a short or long sleeve option.
Long sleeved rash guards with UPF protection will cover more of your body and thus provide greater defense from the sun’s harmful rays. A tight fitting, long sleeve rash guard will feel warmer but since you are going to be in and out of water surfing this downside should be marginal versus the additional protection you are provided.
Short sleeve rash guards will protect a surfers more delicate areas of the body while allowing them to be cooler.
Rash Guards come in a wide variety of colors and prints, allowing you sport a look that meets your individual style and taste. You will not only be able to provide yourself a level of protection but also look good doing it.
Fabric and Material
With the large number of rash guard options to choose from comes an equally wide range in quality. You should focus your search to rash guards that are made with fabrics that provide a UPF of 50+. The UPF rating of any rash guard is based either on the fabric having been treated to meet this standard or has been designed and constructed in such a way as to create a fabric that meets the measure.
Rash guards are typically made using fabrics like neoprene, lycra, spandex, polyester, and nylon. Fabrics that are breathable, quick drying and stretch with your body as it moves are preferable.
Print Design Quality
Many rash guard comes with some aqua, beachy, sun or surfing design that makes them unique. Because your shirts will be exposed to salt water, sun and conditions that can be hard on your clothing, choosing rash guards that will last is important.
We would recommend staying away from garments that have used silk screening or heat transfers to put a design on the shirt. Although less expensive, you will quickly find peeling, cracking and fading, and most likely wanting to purchase a replacement.
A better choice is to choose rash guards that have had the design secured to the garment using a process called sublimation. This printing process transfers the design to a special sheet of paper and then transferring it to the fabric. The ink is heated until it disintegrates into the fabric. This makes for a long lasting shirt design and you will never have the cracking and peeling of the cheaper shirts.
One additional point to consider: a quality rash guard will have the care instructions and size labels printed directly on the fabric. This prevents unnecessary irritation from the print cracking or peeling or from a sewn in tag.
For active water sports like surfing you will want to look for rash guards that have seams that sit flat against the material. A tight fitting rash guard hugs the skin making it necessary to avoid raised seams. Raised seams will chafe, which defeats the whole purpose of wearing rash guard to protect your skin.
An ideal garment will have flat locked seams, which is as its name implies, flat on both sides. This seam also is stretchable and provides a stylish element with both sides showing the seam thread. The benefit of a flat locked seam is that it will minimize any chaffing.
As rash guards have grown in popularity and evolved, so have the additional features they offer. Some of the extras you may want to consider during your search are:
High collar - additional sun protection
Elastic bands (sewn into the hem to keep your shirt from creeping up)
Thumb holes (covers a portion of your hands & keeps sleeves in place)
Silicone waistbands (reduces sliding)
Additional Things to Know
Rash Guard are designed to fit snuggly and come in sizes and styles for women, men, and kids.
Rash guard is not waterproof and are not designed to capture warmth in the way a wetsuit is intended.
Bright color designs, especially for children are a great way for parents to keep track of them. For adults it makes you more visible, besides looking good.
You do not have to spend a great deal to get a quality garment. Rash guard designed for surfing are quick drying, snug fit, prevent chafing, etc. and as such may cost slightly more than those intended for general wear. Quality rash guard can be purchased starting as low as $20 to $30.
Rash guards are sometimes called a “rashie”.
Rash guards were first developed in Australia and were intended to protect surfers from chafing and developing a rash due to rubbing on a surfboard and the sticky wax or the neoprene of a wetsuit.
Rash guards are no longer worn exclusively by surfers. The popularity has grown dramatically and they are now sported by everyone from beach goers to avid sports enthusiasts. This is important to understand when you are looking for a specific use, such as surfing, because not all rash guard are designed, made or intended for all uses.
Rash guard can be worn by itself or under a wetsuit. They are worn alone typically when the weather is too warm for a wetsuit.
The use of polyester, nylon and spandex in making a rash guard results in a lightweight, quick drying, breathable, flexible, durable, antibacterial and water wicking garment.
There are garments referred to as “swim shirts”, however they are looser fitting and not intended for surfing.
Zip front rash guards are sometimes preferred as they make getting out of wet garment easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
How tight should a rash guard be for surfing?
A tight fit is best for surfing and most water sports. A rash guard that fits tight to your body is to ensure that the garment moves with your body and that there isn’t excess fabric that creates resistance. As the rash guard moves with the body it will prevent chafing when you are sliding on and off the surfboard. Additionally, a tight fit allows you to wear the rash guard under a wetsuit in colder conditions.
Will rash guard protect against the sun while I’m surfing?
This is an important feature of any rash guard. This however does not mean all rash guard are created equal by providing sun protection. We would strongly recommend purchasing a rash guard with a UPF of 50+. Also, we recommend choosing a long sleeve garment to fully cover your arms. And finally, any areas of your body that is exposed to the sun should have sunscreen. It’s a good idea to add an additional layer of protection to put on even under your rash guard.
What is the difference between “compression” and “dri-fit” rash guard?
Intended to be a second skin, compression rash guard is much more elastic, so if fits snug but stretches so it moves with your body. Often it is recommended that individuals purchase compression rash guard that is a size or two larger than they would normally wear.
Dri-fit rash guard have a looser cut and thus are more loose fitting. These shirts fit more closely to what you would normally wear in a t-shirt. They do have some stretch in the material and design but it is not comparable to the compression and thus is not skin tight or as stretchy.
What are the most important things to look for when looking to purchase a rash guard for surfing?
There are a variety of things to consider when looking to purchase a rash guard specifically for the purposes of surfing. Unfortunately, we find many instances where individuals prioritize cost and how the garment looks on them over what is most important to provide you with protection while riding the waves.
Since you have asked for the most important things to look for, let's narrow it down to the following items:
Fit: How the rash guard fits should be at the top of the list. Rash guards are designed for the purposes of fitting tight/snug. This is done for your protection from the elements. For those wanting a slightly looser fit you can go up a size from your normal shirt size, however it should still be form fitting while providing you with a comfortable fit.
Fabric and Materials: Ultimately, you want a product that is breathable and quick drying. A combination of fabrics like polyester, nylon, neoprene, lycra, spandex and elastane are what you should be looking for in your garment.
Design and Construction: Your rash guard should have quality seams as the tight fit will require stretching and stress on the materials. Also you want seams that are flat and don’t cause chaffing because they rub against your skin. You should also look for a stand up collar or mock neck. They provide an additional level of protection and represent a quality product.
UPF Sun Protection: Not only should your rash guard provide protection from rubbing and chafing from your surfboard but it should protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. A UPF rating that blocks UV rays should not be overlooked.
Taking the time to properly research and consider the rash guard you will ultimately purchase will impact your comfort and enjoyment while surfing. This article has provided you with information to guide your search and our recommendations for the best rash guard for surfing. Do your due diligence, it’s worth your time for the positive impact it will have on your surfing outings. Let us know in the comments section how your search goes and what rash guard you finally decide to purchase.
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.