Getting into the water or hitting the beach? You might choose to wear board shorts; a cool, laidback, and trendy piece of clothing that can go from the beach to a cafe. But what to wear under board shorts? Is there something to bear in mind to keep everything down there secure, safe, and out of anyone’s way?

Read What do Women Wear Under Wetsuits?

What To Wear Under Board Shorts?

The choices are endless, and will mostly depend on personal preference. But here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing what to wear under board shorts.

Speedos/Tight Swimwear

Speedos is a brand name but have become synonymous with tight-fitting swimwear that leaves little to the imagination. They are cut from the hips to the crotch to give you a lot of freedom of movement. Competitive swimmers will wear these. You will also find a lot of European gentlemen wearing these in the swimming pools and hitting the beach. Apparently they are even compulsory in French swimming pools! Tight swimwear, however, is handy to wear under board shorts as they keep everything in place, but are made for water use so they won’t fall apart easily and will dry quickly.

Regular Underwear

Regular underwear is an option, however, it tends to fall apart faster if you regularly wear it under board shorts in the ocean. The material stretches and thins out under the weight of the water. It is also not as comfortable to wear regular underwear in the water. The material sticks to your skin more and does not dry quickly.

Swim Trunks

Swim trunks are cut like shorts but usually tighter and shorter. They can come in short or long versions, above the knee, or halfway up the thigh. They are similar to Speedos in material, a blend of stretchy lycra and quick-drying polyester. We would recommend the tight swim trunks to wear under board shorts, not the loose swim trunks as this would add bulkiness (unless that’s what you want!).

Commando / Wearing Nothing!

Another popular option for what to wear under board shorts is wearing nothing at all! Some board shorts will have a mesh netting inside to provide security and modesty. This allows the wearer to go commando without having to worry about anything popping out! This is a good option if you do not plan on doing anything too active or moving around too much.

What are Board Shorts?

Board shorts were first a thing designed for surfers from brands such as Rip Curl, Billabong, Quicksilver and others. Their name refers to people using a board for activities on the water. They were often designed to be flexible, durable and quick drying to accommodate the surfer’s lifestyle. They have made their staple in male swim wear and are much preferred to the traditional speedo by wearers and onlookers alike.

Unless you are a competitive swimmer, board shorts are the choice for in water activities such as snorkeling, surfing, and diving. On the contrary, They are not particularly hydrodynamic, introducing considerable drag when trying to swim for speed, hence the speedo…

How to Chose the Right Board Shorts?

It will depend a bit on your activity and the type of shorts when deciding what to wear under board shorts.

Choosing the right style of board shorts

The main things to consider here are material, length, and features.


Materials range from more traditional fabric to quick-drying lycra materials and are often available as a hybrid, featuring the best of both worlds. Some of the very quick-drying ones are often less suitable as shorts in a non-beach environment. However, they are more prone to tearing. Durability is generally more of a choosing factor for surfers than say snorkellers and divers.


Length really comes down to preference. Some like the shorts to extend past the knee, others like them higher up on their thighs. Personally I think for any activity above the knee allows for more flexibility and motion such as swimming and surfing.


This leaves features. Do you prefer a netted inlay or want pockets with your shorts? Features don’t necessarily affect function as much. Surf shorts often come with at least one pocket with a loop to keep the surf wax and your keys. Scuba divers normally leave their keys on the boat or the shore. Another feature that I recommend spending some time on is the fly. Some feature traditional zipper and button, while most designs favor a velcro and string to tie up.

As a professional dive instructor, I trade off a fair amount of durability for a quick-drying material and minimal features. One thigh pocket suffices me. The fly, however, I am quite particular about. Velcro with a string to tie is by far the most versatile. Designer shorts don’t feature strings that go all the way around the waist, which I cannot recommend to anyone. The string should only complement the velcro and should be threaded in a proper way.

Do You Wear Underwear with Board Shorts?

As mentioned above, when determining what to wear under board shorts, regular underwear is not an ideal choice. This is mainly due to the material. Regular underwear is often made of 100% cotton which does not lend itself well to being worn wet. It stretches the material, misshaping the underwear and making it partially see-through. They also do not dry quickly and can cause wet rash.

Under the Hood

What to wear under board shorts? It will depend on your activity, personal preference and what style of short you choose. For swimming and snorkeling, I recommend shorter board shorts that are a tighter fit with a netted inlay. No need to wear anything else underneath. These are possibly the better choice for free diving as well since you want to be hydrodynamic and create the least amount of drag in the water. For scuba diving, I recommend a more relaxed design, shorts made of quick-drying material and a well-designed fly (we don’t want to lose our shorts during the dive). For maximum comfort and mobility, I recommend shorts with no inlay and wearing swim trunks underneath.