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Boardcave’s Rash Guard Buying Guide

Here’s another interesting piece of clothing for avid surfers like you and me, rash guards. Here we answer simple questions like what a rash guard is, how are they different from other types of swimwear, and when and why should we use them.

What is a rash guard?

A rash guard is a type of swimwear that somewhat sits between a wetsuit and a swim shirt. It’s form-fitting and is usually made from polyester, spandex, neoprene, and nylon, almost resembling the materials found in wetsuits.

Also referred to as a rashie, rashys, or rash vest, it gets its name from one of its basic functions: to protect surfers against rashes from rubbing their body against the waxed surface of the surfboard.

When to wear a rash guard?

Generally, rash guards are worn when the weather is too warm to wear a wetsuit. The fabrics are more breathable compared to wetsuits which are designed to trap body heat. With roots going back to surfers in Australia, it has also gained popularity among non-surfers since these also protect against the sun with the best rash guards made with UPF 50 fabric.

If you’re planning to do some serious surfing, then wearing a rash guard is the best option. While a swim shirt also offers UPF and also provides protection against rashes, swim shirts are loose-fitting and create more drag when surfing.

Why wear a rash guard?

Is it absolutely necessary to wear a rash guard when surfing? The answer is no. It does not make you a better surfer, but if you consider the many benefits of using a rash guard, you might want to reconsider.

Rash protection

As its name implies, rash guards were designed to protect surfers against rashes from sliding on their boards. While the wax is necessary to give maximum traction while surfing, it also makes your board’s surface rough to the skin. Coming in contact with the wax causes abrasion and irritates your skin.

Sun protection

While having water on your skin may feel cool and soothing, you can’t escape the fact that the sun is also constantly bearing down on your skin. Sunscreens do provide all the sun protection you’ll ever need, but it needs constant reapplying.

Generally, swimwear clothing comes with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). The UPF rating indicates that the clothing is made of materials that prevent harmful sun rays from reaching your skin. A UPF 50 rating means that only 1 out of every 50 sun rays will pass through the clothing.

Better fit

There are no set rules when it comes to which type of clothing you should wear when surfing. It is perfectly fine to wear a swim shirt, rash guard, or swim bare. But when it comes to wearing a swim shirt and a rash guard, rash guards are the clothing of choice since they are considered a piece of more dedicated surfing equipment.

Things to consider when buying rash guards

Rash guards are more than simple pieces of swimwear. These too serve a specific purpose, and more importantly, these were initially developed by surfers for surfers. With rash guards coming in various styles and materials, we hope that the information below can give you a good idea of what to consider when buying rash guards.


Rash guards are made from a combination of materials, mostly synthetic fibers. These include neoprene, nylon-spandex, Lycra, and polyester. Depending on which materials are used, each offers different levels of comfort, warmth, stretch, and breathability.

· Neoprene – a material that is commonly used in wetsuits is a material that offers insulation and stretch. These are perfect for surfing in cold waters, offering protection against heat loss while maintaining optimum flexibility.

· Lycra – is highly stretchable, breathable, and quick drying—ensuring optimum freedom of movement.

· Nylon-spandex – this offers you some of the best qualities you can find in a rash guard; stretch, breathability, quick-drying, and a tight fit.

· Polyester – this provides breathability and moisture-wicking. It transfers moisture from your skin to the fabric while quickly drying it out.


This is often overlooked, with most of us checking how the material feels and looks. But checking this all-important small detail can also determine the quality of work that has been done on the rash guard. Rash guards with overlock seams can irritate the skin. Be sure to look for rash guards with flat-locked seams to prevent chafing or rashes.

How does it fit

Again, this is a matter of preference and depends on what type of water activity you would be doing. A skin-tight rash guard is ideal for those planning to do intense activities (diving, surfing). This discourages loose-fitting clothing, which may cause drag or impede your movements. A loose-fitting rash guard is certainly more comfortable for casual forays to the beach or the swimming pool.


There are two popular ways of placing designs on a rash guard; heat transfer and sublimation. Heat transfers offer a quick and convenient way of transferring designs by ironing an image on the fabric. However, these crack, fade or peel over time. Sublimations, on the other hand, use a more complicated process. Designs are transferred to the fabric by heating the ink in the image into the rash guard. It then becomes part of the fabric, so it never peels or cracks.

Types of Rash Guards

Regular Rash Guards

These are lightweight, almost similar to swim shirts in material but are generally form-fitting. Regular rash guards are quick-drying and come with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) and rash protection.

Sleeve Length/ Style

Rash guards are available in various designs; short sleeves, long sleeves, and tanks, each with a specific purpose.

· Short sleeves – protects you against rashes and the heat of the sun while covering your upper arms

· Long sleeves - all the benefits of short sleeve rash guards but keeps you warmer in cold-water conditions while also offering optimal protection against the sun

· Tanks – designed for hot and sunny days, tanks give you maximum flexibility by not restricting arm movements

Thermo Rash Guards

Thermo or thermal rash guards provide a thicker layer of protection for surfers planning to surf in cold water. Similar in purpose to wetsuits but less capable in terms of cold-water protection, thermo rash guards are ideal for surfing in cold water conditions for long periods. Not surprisingly, most thermal rash guards are made from neoprene, the material used in wetsuits.

Boardcave’s Recommended Rash Guards

A good quality rash guard can be the perfect companion for any surfer planning to hit the beach for a weekend of fun and surfing. This gives you an extra layer of protection against rashes from coming in contact with your surfboard and the sun beating down on your skin. So, after knowing all the benefits of wearing a rash guard, here are the best rash guards in the market today:

O’Neill Basic Skins 50+ S/S Rash Guard

This body-fitting rash guard comes with 50+ UPF and is made from highly stretchable materials giving you optimum protection, breathability, and flexibility.

· 50+ U.P.F. Maximum Protection

· Strategic Seam Placement

· 4-way stretch

· Rash Protection

· Performance Fit

· Reduces Fatigue from Sun Exposure

· 6oz Polyester/Spandex

· Flatlock Stitched Breathable Seams

Speedo Men’s UPF 50+ Rash Guard

The quick-drying rash guard is made from 100 percent tight-knit polyester, making it lightweight and breathable. It also comes with UPF 50+ and is designed to be loose fitting giving you a similar feel as a regular t-shirt.

· Block the Burn®: Allover UV protection blocks the sun’s harmful rays

· Lightweight and quick-drying

· Loose-fitting

· Fabric: 100% Polyester Jersey

Quicksilver Men’s All-Time Rash Guard

This snug-fitting rash guard from popular swimwear brand Quicksilver gives you UPF 50 sun protection and could be worn comfortably under a wetsuit. It is made from 92 percent polyester and 8 percent elastane, making it dry easily while providing maximum stretch.

· Snug fit

· Resistant flatlock seams, stitched close together for a flexible, soft & durable seam

· UPF 50 sun protection

· Composition 92% Polyester, 8% Elastane

Hyperflex 50/50 Polyolefin

This rash guard from Hyperflex is made from Polyolefin, a highly durable material that offers excellent insulation. It gives you protection against abrasion and harmful sun rays. It can be used independently during those scorching days at the beach or as an inner layer for a wetsuit.

· Moisture Wicking

· Superior Insulation

· Lightweight

· Durable

· No Odor Retention & Easy Care

Hurley Dri-FIT Sleeve Protection Rash Guard

Based on Nike’s Dri-FIT technology, this lightweight, quick-drying rash guard is perfect for any water activity. 4-way stretch ensures optimum flexibility and freedom of movement. It also comes with UPF 50+ protection when playing under the sun.

· Nike Dri-FIT technology

· Lightweight, quick-drying fabric

· Four way stretch

· UPF 50+

The Final Word - Rash Guard

Rash guards can be used for various sporting activities, making them a versatile piece of clothing. Their benefits go beyond surfing and other water activities. They offer sun and abrasion protection, quick-drying, insulation, and flexibility, making them perfect for anyone living an active lifestyle.