Performance (or stretchy) boardshorts have been all the rage the last decade or so, adding to the tech battle between surf brands that has been going strong in the wetsuit category for decades. For some it’s a bit of a mind fvck trying to figure out which ones are best for you, or if you even need some to surf in compared to ‘regular’ boardshorts, and to be honest I think most brands are de-tech’ing a lot of their trunks to be more broader ranged in functional use.

Given that today even a brand’s mid-tier performance trunks are great you’d be forgiven for thinking most brands could get away without a proper tech run trunk program. BUT without these brands pushing the tech/innovation, etc forward those mid-tier ones would never reach the level they are at now. And while I’m harping on about mid-tier, we’re here for the top of the class.

We generally split up our Buyers Guide for boardshorts between tech and ‘regular’, but given the difference between top line tech and run of the mill boardshorts are negligible at best we figured we’d lump it all into one buyers guide for boardshorts. And that’s what we got right here, it’s lengthy with 15 pairs to choose from, and they run from $250 for Outerknown to $70 for needessentials – should have everyone covered.

We’ve picked these boardshorts based on a few factors –
*Stretch/tech – its still important, don’t want your nuts falling out mid-surf
*Price – given current economic climate, we all need to be smarter with our cash
*Brand Rep – history shows the reliable brands always show up.
*Fashion – do like the look of them. A subjective point at best, so what we picked might not vibe for you, but it’s what we think is the best for the wide ranging tastes of the consumer out there these days…

And lastly, I’ve worn, played with or destroyed all these trunks below, or a variation of them. Time to dig in below –




Buy Now

“Kelly Slater’s signature performance surf trunk made from 100% post-consumer waste, like plastic water bottles. Developed and tested by the 11x World Champion and sustainably engineered for maximum performance.”

The Apex trunks from Outerknown are awesome, but way to expensive and the pricing won’t change until they get a proper distribution set up happening in Aus. The Apex trunks haven’t changed much since the first iteration dropped a few years ago, but I believe they have changed up the amount of recycled materials that go into making these. And that’s amazing. From a looks/performance angle tho, not much has had too. These were epic when they dropped, and they are still epic now (just $$$)

Rip Curl

Mirage Activate


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“The Mirage Activate Ultimate is the latest in Rip Curl technical boardie’s. Featuring a built in compression liner with body mapping silicon grip that creates posture alignment to recover quicker and perform at a higher level. Fused with an ultra lightweight aerotech outer shell enabling you to surf stronger for longer. These epic trunks are also fitted with a DWR coating for quick-drying post-surf comfort. Plus high hip zip pocket. Last but not least, four-way stretch for uninhibited high performance.

Had a bunch of people reach out asking about these. All questions I’ve answered with a ‘yes’. I can’t stress enough how good these shorts are IF you’re a beaten crab like me who needs all the help you can get. My body is pretty torched, I’ve had 4 hip ops so i think I’m qualified to tell you if they ‘work’ or not. Things I noticed? There is a big difference surfing in these and other brands, from how my hips/lower back feel to how more ‘on’ I feel in the water from the get-go. No more needing 3/4 of a surf to get warmed up. These are the trunks of the year, for performance, in my opinion. But at $200, it’s a big hit to the wallet.


Phantom Alpha


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“Made with all-new Phantom fabric that has more stretch and durability than ever before, the Phantom Alpha Hurley Mens Boardshort focuses on quality so you can challenge the waves with full confidence.”

It’s nice to see Hurley really digging back into surf and product innovation like the Hurley of old. These new Phantom trunks continue the history of Phantom and are loaded with tech and fancy materials that are Bluesign certified. Welded seams, 4 way stretch with C0 DWR (a big plus for DWR and enviro fans – C0 DWR repels water without expelling harmful flurocarbons.) and a patented fly system.

I haven’t tried these particular iterations of the Hurley Phantom trunks, but every other pair minus one were pretty damn good in my books. The fly system on these looks similar to the fly/waistband on the Hyperweave Phantoms from about 5/6 years ago. One thing to note though – these run on a performance fit so I would suggest trying them on in person vs shopping online, unless you already your size/fit. That said, I reckon these are worth a solid look if you’re chasing something at the top end of the trunks tree.




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“These lightweight, high-performance surf trunks feature streamlined four-way stretch, recycled polyester and a contoured waistband designed to keep your trunks in place even when the surf’s as heavy as it gets. Outseam is 19″. Made in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory.”

These are a pair of super well thought out boardshorts. Amazing fabric, great cut, environmental considerations. If you consider the high performance of these things, they should be up there with your first thought when wanting to buy a new pair of shred shorts. While these may seem familiar from years gone by, there have been some changes made from the earlier pair we reviewed a year or two ago (read that review here).

One addition is the anchor stitching on the backside of the waist band. This is most likely there to help anchor the waistband closure system and avoid any twisting of the waist band given the design of it. Something perhaps learned from Hurleys hyperweave back in the day. There’s also a new colour, above, which is pretty rad imo. Real nice.


Highline Pro


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“The Highline Series features our patented Highlite fabric. Engineered with micro-perforated sections to compliment our iconic silhouettes and to reduce weight while enhancing stretch, comfort, breathability, and most of all, performance. You’ll feel the difference in the water.”

Quiksilver have made some huge progress on their trunks (and wetsuits) over the last few years and it’s been noticeable with an increase of visibility of their products out in the water. Tip of the hat to the Pubes for his design skills on getting these two categories popping again.

The Highline from Quiksilver is their pinnacle performance boardshort at the moment. They have 4 way stretch fabric, are made from recycled plastic bottles and have a plant-based hydrophobic coating.This update to the Highline Pro looks like it’s fixed some of the issues that the original pair had – mainly structure and drape – which I imagine the re-introduction of triple stitched panels and waistband will help immensely. And if that’s the case, these could be top two trunks on the market. Digging the subtle red running down the leg too.


F1 Airtex Gamma


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“The Florence Marine X F1 Burgee Cordura® Boardshort is an extra durable 4-way stretch trunk. Tested extensively on the North Shore of Oahu by founder, John Florence and our crew of Test Pilots, this short immediately became a trusted tool in heavy water.”

I’ve become a huge fan of Cordura trunks over the last few years thanks to Rip Curl and Roark, and with all trunks available in the Florence line I still think these will be your best bet. Especially if you’re one of those guys who uses one pair until they die, cross countries on them and bounce of reef in them – these will continue to hold up over all the beatings you give them.

These are a great option for those who want a performance short but with some environmental considerations. You get recycled materials that are CW0 treated and you get 4-way stretch Cordura material and all the other bells and whistles you’d expect from one of the best teams in boardshort development. At $120 these provide a lot of value in my opinion.




Buy Now

“Building on our bullet proof Boatman Series of boardshorts, the new Boatman 2.0 has been upgraded with a super durable, but ultra light, 4-way stretch Cordura fabric. Tested in the world’s heaviest reef breaks, and on the most skilled boatmen and surfers the world over, Roark stands by it’s Lifetime Guarantee on every pair. The Boatman 2.0 exceeds the demands for any abrasive situation in the surf without sacrificing mobility or performance.”

I put a pair of Boatman boardshorts through a solid thrashing during a 10 day boat trip through the Ments, wearing them all day, every day and every surf. These are comfortable to surf in, and laze around in. They dried quick, could deal with a flogging and keep on keeping on. You are buying these if you’re on the road for months at a time, need trunks that will handle a flogging but can also pull double duty as normal shorts, if needed.


Logger Heatmap


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“Your ultimate go-to boardshort for both in and out of the water. From 2 foot to 10 foot, beach breaks or summer breaks, this trunk has you covered.”

Up front declaration, I haven’t worn these. But I love the look of them, I dig what Rivvia is doing and these – on paper – look pretty good. I say that with confidence as the guy who designed these has been designing trunks for a couple of decades and has introduced some innovations that trunks of today still use. So, we should be good…

What are you getting with the Rivvia Logger Heat Map trunks?
Most of the bells & whistles you expect in boardshorts these days – 4 way stretch, quick dry and some environmental considerations. They look nice/interesting and seem to hang well off the hips. Will report back soon with a review.


High Seas


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“Our most performance 4-way stretch boardshort to date, made to shred the High Seas. This super comfortable fabric is derived from a sustainable blend of recycled polyester Repreve and coconut fibers. Expertly constructed with laser cut holes at side panels, laser cut welded bottom hem and a welded inseam.”

I like what Vissla are doing, in and out of the water. You should buy more of their stuff to keep them growing and able to re-invest into shapers, surfers and grass roots events. Start with these boardshorts – $100 – made from Repreve and Cocotex they come with a tethered waistband, 4 way stretch and a DWR coating that 100% PFC and Fluorocarbon-free. Hard to fault Vissla, the more I look the more I get psyched on what they’re doing. Their new U-Zip suits (with Axxe) are possibly the best entry system on the market, so I think these trunks will definitely hold up to what you throw at them. And they’re black, black is awesome in trunks.


Void Wishing


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“Born from the creative mind of Shaun Manners, this collection is a small glimpse into his artistic brain. Collaborating closely with Craig, Dane and Austyn, Shaun personally represents every element of this signature collection. From the artwork and graphics to the colours, fabrics and fits. The collection is a direct testament to Former’s rider owned and operated model.”

I wore a pair of Dane’s signature trunks a while back, they were good. How will these ones from man of the moment, Shaun Manners, hold up? With a 20 inch lenght on them, the poly-spandex blend with 4-way stretch will ensure they don’t get caught on your knees when surfing. Triple stitch construction on the panels for strength and durability, a bunch of custom FORMER details like aglets, etc, and available in the colour of the year – brown! (don’t know what Pantone were thinking, but this colour ruled the year)

Am digging these, they look good. Brown with hits of pink, nice panel design and overall very on point for FORMER. Thats it, am rambling now. Onto the next..


Hyperfreak HydroTech


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“More Security, No Distractions. The Hyperfreak Hydro Tech is a performance boardshort like no other, featuring our exclusive No Tie Fly closure. Hyperfreak Pro stretch, welded construction with no inseam, a laser-cut hem and welded mini zip pocket round out the innovative design. This product is made with Repreve® recycled materials.”

These look nice enough, obviously I’m a fan of black trunks, and if I’m going off previous O’Neill shorts I’ve used odds on they’re pretty good, and these have been updated this year with the new O’Neill ‘No Tie Fly’ which looks interesting to the anyone peeking it for the first time. Thoughts? It’s good, really good IF you get your size spot on – do that, and these will be very dreamy around the waist for you.

The rest of the trunks – materials, cut, fit, etc – are solid as you’d expect from O’Neill who’ve been in this game longer then most of us have been breathing. Recycled 4 way stretch with REPREVE material, quick drying, the no-tie fly we spoke about and the other thing I love is the no inseam and laser cut hem. At $100 these are amazing value – fantastic price point to sit at given all the features you get.


Dbah Airlite


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“Lighter, faster, stronger. And it’s all due to recycled water bottles. The D Bah Airlite Performance Boardshort makes your next sesh your best sesh with supreme stretch and innovative engineering. The future of surfing is here.”

Long gone are the days that Billabong are dropping $200 tech trunks, but I will say those engineered jacquard trunks were elite to surf in!.

Given how well their Airlite trunks have performed for me over the last few years, I think that at $100 these offer some great value for you, the consumer. The Airlite program from Bong is solid and you’ll get a good pair of trunks, 4 way stretch made from recycled PET plastic bottles, micro repel water repellent coating for a lightweight and quick drying fabric and an improved engineered fit.  The print is rad too, plus you might surf Ethan Ewing if you get them (probably not)




Buy Now

“Our Drylock boardshorts are the most technical shorts for surfing we make. Engineered to fit, stay on, perform, and dry fast.”

I got a first hands look at these back in Jan and was kinda scratching my head wondering if they’d be any good to surf in. Damn was I wrong. I surfed in these a bunch in the first half of the year and they were my go to trunks for a long time. That waistband was a dream! While looking like a cushy pillow, it was quite comfortable and, more importantly, secure around my hips. You also get 4-way stretch. welded seams, the welded pocket with key loop amongst other things that make these very good.

At $100 these are very good value and well worth a look if you’re open to hitting new brands. For their first time (?) doing some performance trunks, Xcel knocked it out of the park. And in all honesty, the $100 price point right now offers the best value in trunks across the market. Love it.


Yago Mod Tech


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“Designed and stitched for the Spirit Animal inside Yago Dora! He’s a Skinny Goat from Brazil that loves to fly high, in his first ever Mod-Tech Pro Trunk. Built for comfort and all around style in and out of the water.”

Being the opposite of a ‘Skinny Goat’, I’m a little worried at how these would perform for me – a chubby, cuddly non-goat. One of the few trunks here I haven’t used yet, but given previous iterations of their mod-tech program I am confident in writing that these will be a solid choice if you lean this way in your boardshorts journey.

Outside of running Yago’s name on your butt you’ll get a 19 inch outseam, 4 way strecth, Volcom’s Cinch Fly design (v/good) and at $85 they’re offering some very good value. These, on looks alone, are one of my favourite pairs out of the ones I’ve posted/talked about today.




Buy Now

“The needessentials Burgundy Ultralight Boardshort is designed as a high performance lightweight technical basic boardshort. Featuring the highest quality ultralight 360° stretch minimal absorption rapid dry fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and an 19″ leg length, these boardies sit above the knee for functional maneuverability. “

You know we’re big fans of needessentials and their play in the price point space of surf gear. From suits to boardshorts they really have you covered these days. These shorts have you covered with the majority of what you’re chasing in shorts when surfing – 4 way stretch, recycled fabric and a simple no fuss look. At $70 these are the most affordable option in our guide and are probably up there with the more expensive options in terms of performance. Review to follow…