Wherever the waves take you, you’re covered.
Columbia Blue Magic ($40)
These shorts are fun and functional. The fabric is a solid color when dry, but get it wet and a pattern appears. Gimmicks aside, Columbia’s shorts were the lightest we tested. They’re also exceptionally versatile, offering excellent mobility and UPF 50 protection—a good choice for long days on the river or at the beach.
United by Blue Seabed Scallop ($68)
Three pockets give these shorts the most carrying options of the bunch. The ladder-lock drawstring keeps the waistband snug, and the eight-inch inseam hits above the knee for unrestrained movement. Sleek styling makes them ideal for hopping between the waves and the bar.
Needessentials Premium Straight Leg ($45)
Minimalists take note: Needessentials never puts logos or graphics on its apparel, focusing on technical features instead of splashy branding. One of the least expensive shorts we tested, the Premium Straight Leg features a dobby weave that creates an air barrier against your skin to reduce chafing. A self-draining zipper pocket holds keys or a bar of board wax.
Kind Designs Colorado River ($60)
If comfort is your priority, these shorts are your best bet. They were the coziest in the mix, and the soft polyester-spandex blend dries quickly and offers four-way stretch. A welded zipper pocket is well placed on the hip for prime convenience. On the feel-good side: $2 per pair goes to eco-nonprofit Western Resource Advocates.
Vissla Fathoms ($60)
Like all Vissla’s boardies, these are fashioned from a combination of coconut fiber and recycled polyester. The quick-drying, odor-resistant fabric is stretchy and supremely breathable, making the Fathoms the perfect mix of style and function.
RVCA VA Boardshorts ($55)
With color options that include designs from RVCA’s Artist Network Program, these trunks check boxes for both performance and flash. The polyester-elastane blend has a DWR treatment for water and stain resistance, and there’s a hook and loop back-pocket closure to keep valuables secure.