How to Choose the Best Rash Guard

Rash guards are an important staple for ocean sports everywhere, but especially for surfing. Available in various fabrics, thicknesses, and styles, knowing how to choose the rash guard that will suit your needs is crucial. This article will help lay out the basics and the facts you should know as you compare products and make your decision.

What is a Rash Guard?

Rash guards provide a number of benefits to those who wear them, such as sun protection, warmth, and, of course, protection from rashes. Rashes are especially common for surfers depending on the material of their surfboard, so having the right guard can make the difference between a carefree surfing experience and a very uncomfortable one.

Some rash guards can be worn under a wet suit for added protection and warmth. Other rash guards are best worn by themselves, particularly in warmer weather. Most rash guards are made using polyester, nylon, spandex, or neoprene, and all rash guards provide at least some UV protection.

Choose the Right Fit

Size matters with rash guards, and it's important to choose something with the right fit so it can be as effective as possible. Essentially, there are two types of fits - loose-fitting or skin-tight. Selecting the proper fit isn't as much about body type as it is about what you intend to do while wearing the guard.

For surfing, as well as for other water intensive activities like swimming and diving, you'll want the snug fit of a skin-tight guard. You won't want excess fabric hindering your movements, and a skin-tight guard will move with your body. Skin-tight guards also offer more resistance, making your movements through the water more streamlined. A loose-fitting rash guard is more ideal for a day of relaxing on the beach or the boat and are just looking for sun protection. If sun protection is your goal, be sure to look for a guard with a UPF50+ rating.

Style Matters

Short sleeves or long sleeves? This will depend somewhat on the temperature. If you're in an area with a warmer climate, long sleeves will give you more sun protection, but you'll definitely be toasty unless you're spending a lot of time in the water. Short sleeve guards will protect the key areas like the back and chest while still allowing you to remain cooler on hot days.

Consider Your Fabric

Like most products, different rash guards vary in quality. It is best to exclusively choose rash guards that are made out of UPF50+ fabric. You'll ideally want to find a rash guard made from a combination of nylon and polyester with elastane - this means it will be breathable and will dry quickly.

Full Body Rash Guards

Full body rash guards are designed similarly and made of the same materials, with the main difference being that they cover the entire body like a wetsuit. They can be worn either by themselves or under a wetsuit for a variety of ocean sports. These are occasionally used for surfing, as well as other sports like kayaking, canoeing, wake boarding, windsurfing, water skiing, and kite surfing. The main downside to full body rash guards is that they may at times restrict the freedom of movement.


It may sound trivial, but it's important to know how long your rash guard will take to dry. It is actually quite an essential feature, however. It's crucial that the fabric is able to dry quickly so that your body temperature won't be affected.

The stitching of the guard is also an important detail that can easily be overlooked. You won't want any scratching or chafing to occur if you're engaging in water sports, so the key is to look for guards with flat-locked seams.

Another tip is to find a rash guard with a mock high collar that shields the back of the neck from the sun. It's easy to forget about the back of your neck when applying sunscreen, but it is one of the most sensitive and vulnerable spots when burned. A mock high collar will help prevent sunburn in this area.

Overall, rash guards are an important part of surfing for a variety of reasons. Offering protection from the sun as well as from rashes during surfing and other water sports, it is important to identify your needs and choose the right guard.

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