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Board Shorts vs Swim Trunks: What’s The Difference?

Last Updated: June 15, 2022

If you are looking for a perfect pair of swimwear, two options are board shorts and swim trunks. Some people consider them the same product since they are both suitable for water and beach activities, but there are many differences between them. 

Although both board shorts and swim trunks are ideal for water-based activities, they offer different functionalities, styles, and comfort levels. 

To help you decide which of these two types of swimwear is best, we’ve compiled a comprehensive comparison guide for you. Read on to find the differences between board shorts vs swim trunks.  

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 Board Shorts Vs Swim Trunks Overview

Board ShortsSwim Trunks
Good air circulation

– Less comfortable due to fitted waistband

– Best for activities like wakeboarding and surfing

– Popular with skaters and MMA fighters

– Unisex style

– Typical length just above the knee

– Price range from $40 to $200
Better air circulation due to mesh lining

– More comfort and flexibility due to elastic waistband

– Best for activities such as swimming and beach volleyball

– Popular with athletes and swimmers

– Mainly designed for men

– Various lengths available 

– Price range from $20 to $150

Board Shorts Vs Swim Trunks

What Are Board Shorts?

As the name indicates, board shorts are shorts designed especially for surfers. Manufacturers created them considering the needs of surfers, offering them a longer option that provided coverage and protection.

The length of the board shorts protects the surfer’s legs from wax on the board. The shorts allow them to stand and maneuver their surfing board without slipping.

Due to their practicality and easy-breezy comfort, board shorts gained popularity among surfers. They reached the peak of their fame when Elvis wore a pair of board shorts in Blue Hawaii in 1961. 


What Are Swim Trunks? 

Swim trunks are also ideal for other water activities. The usual swim trunk materials are polyester, spandex, and nylon. Their quick-drying characteristics make them a favorite among skaters and beach lovers.

If you are looking for something that is water ready and can dry quickly once you’re on land, swim trunks are the best pick for you. 

Apart from water activities, you can also use this comfortable, loose-fitting garment for boxing, field, and track events. Sometimes referred to as “trunk hose,” these were meant to replace the bulkier swimwear that was heavy and hot.

Further, adding pockets to swim trunks has significantly improved their convenience and style. And due to the ease and freedom of movement that swim trunks offer during water activities, they have quickly become famous worldwide.  


How Are Board Shorts And Swim Trunks Different?

Besides being shorter than board shorts, swim trunks are also made for more recreational activities such as swimming and beach fun. Board shorts, on the other hand, are often used in more intense sports such as surfing because of their more structured style.

Below, we’ll dive into the finer details to see how these two swimwear options differ. 


Board Shorts

Board shorts have a longer inseam, making them much longer than swim trunks. The length of the board shorts is usually at the knee or below the knee to protect surfers from thrashing waves, surfboards, and sand. 

This also ensures that surf wax (wax to keep the rider from falling off the surfboard) stays off your leg. 

Swim Trunks

Most individuals prefer a medium-length swim trunk, usually mid-thigh length. These will almost always have an inseam of between 6 and 8 inches. You can wear swim trunks for any casual outdoor activity. They will offer you comfort and mobility while making you feel confident. 


When it comes to comfort and style, fabric plays a huge role. That is why 

You must ensure you buy board shorts and swim trunks from only high-quality clothing brands

Board Shorts

Meant to be quick-drying and ideal for surfers and beach lovers, board shorts usually come in nylon and polyester material. This makes them durable and tear-resistant despite being lightweight and comfortable. 

Swim Trunks

Most swim trunks are made from lightweight materials, so they quickly dry once you are out of the water. 

Many people prefer swim trunks made with synthetic materials like spandex, recycled polyester, and nylon as they are water-repellent and dry quickly. 

Cotton swim trunks become heavy once wet, restricting your movement, so it is best to avoid this material.


Board Shorts

The waist of board shorts isn’t elastic like the waist of many swim trunks. The waistband of the board shorts is more rigid and has a velcro fly at the front. 

Additionally, the waistband features a lace-up for a double fail-safe design and to ensure that the shorts stay on your body while surfing. 

Swim Trunks

These days, most swim trunks resemble board shorts. But, swim trunks feature elastic waistbands, which provide more comfort and help hold them in place. 

To make the most of beach activities, ensure you wear comfortable clothing. Swim trunks are the best option. 

Remember that elastic is not biodegradable, so it is harmful to nature. So when buying swimwear, look for eco-friendly brands


Board Shorts

Nowadays, skinny shorts are trending, but sensible pairs of shorts should also be stylish. They need to be able to protect your legs from sunburn and powerful waves.

Some board shorts can also feature double-bonded butt and welded seams, making them even better. Because they are versatile, you can use them as casual wear too, not just when you’re playing sports. 

Swim Trunks

Swim trunks offer you more style options than board shorts. Although you can get swim trunks in solid colors, the preferred style is bright colors with printed designs. 


In Conclusion

Overall, both board shorts and swim trunks are great for enjoying a beach day or surfing. Although, you need to consider two factors while choosing between these two products—the reason you are buying them and the style you prefer.

If you are not comfortable with very short shorts, you can opt for board shorts.

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