Whether you’re an advanced surfer that shreds weekend waves or a true beginner just making your first venture into the sport, a good rash guard will keep you protected from the elements and on the water longer. We’ve compiled the top 10 best rash guards to give you the best protection possible!

Rash guards provide a host of benefits, chief among them being that they prevent your skin from chafing by wicking away excess moisture. Several rash guards also come with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating that helps protect your skin from harmful rays. Many of the rash guards we’ve chosen have a UPF rating of 50 or higher, which is considered the best possible protection. These garments filter out 98% of harmful UV rays keeping you safe and lobster skin free.

We’ve also chosen a few rash guards that can be used throughout seasonal shifts in weather, providing some warmth in chillier temps and extra protection against wind. There’s no need to “rash-onalize” this decision, pick your favorite from below and hit the water!

For more of our top surfing gear recommendations, check out the Best Rash Guards for Women

 

Quick Answer - The Best Rash Guards

  1. O’Neill Hybrid Sun Tank Top
  2. Hyperflex Lycra Short Sleeve
  3. O’Neill Basic Skins
  4. O’Neill Thermo-X
  5. O’Neill Premium Skins Ozone
  6. Xcel ThreadX Short Sleeve
  7. Xcel Wind/Water Breaker Jacket
  8. Billabong Die Cut Loose Fit Short Sleeve
  9. Xcel Ventiprene 2mm Surf Jacket

 

Comparison Table - Best Rash Guards

PictureNameFitCutBoardshorts ConnectorQuick DryingPriceRating
O’Neill Hybrid Sun Tank TopSleevelessSlimYesYes$4.9
Hyperflex Lycra Short SleeveRelaxedShort SleeveYesYes$4.8
O’Neill Basic SkinsAthleticShort SleeveYesYes$4.7
O’Neill Thermo-XAthleticShort SleeveYesYes$4.6
O’Neill Premium Skins OzoneAthleticLong Sleeve w/ HoodYesYes$4.55
Xcel ThreadX Short SleeveRelaxedShort SleeveNoYes$4.5
Xcel Wind/Water Breaker JacketRelaxedLong Sleeve w/ HoodNoYes$$$4.45
Billabong Die Cut Loose Fit Short SleeveRelaxedShort SleeveNoYes$4.4
Xcel Relaxed FitRelaxedLong SleeveNoYes$4.3
Xcel Ventiprene 2mm Surf JacketRelaxedLong Sleeve w/ HoodNoYes$$$4.2
PictureNameFitCutBoardshorts ConnectorQuick DryingPriceRating

 

Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Rash Guard for Surfing

O’Neill Hybrid Sun Tank Top

Specs
  • Cut: Slim
  • Fit: Sleeveless
  • Boardshorts Connector: Yes
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • UPF 50 Protects Against Heat Fatigue
  • 5 oz. Total Weight Keeps You Feeling Light
  • “Overlock” Stitching Creates Durable Seams

BEST FOR: FLEXIBILITY AND FULL ARM MOBILITY

If you’re a summer surfer who likes to show off his guns without being encumbered by silly things like “sleeves”, then this is your go-to rash guard. Made of a quick-drying fabric, the Hybrid Sun Tank wicks away moisture and is rated to 50 UPF, keeping you protected from the harsh sun.

It also sports 4-way stretch technology, meaning that the fabric will stretch and recover (return to original shape) both width and lengthwise. This means that all your surfing shenanigans and crazy moves won’t be wearing out this tank anytime soon. You know the saying, “Sun’s out, guns out!”

Hyperflex Lycra Short Sleeve

Specs
  • Cut: Short Sleeve
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Boardshorts Connector: Yes
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • Comes In 2 Different Colors
  • Offers Some UV Protection
  • “Flatlock” Stitching Creates Durable Seams

BEST FOR: RESISTING JELLYFISH AND SEA LICE

So what the heck is Lycra? I’m glad you asked! It’s basically just a brand name for spandex and offers the same 4-way stretch properties that we explained above.

That said, the Lycra Short Sleeve from Hyperflex is an outstanding choice when you need to keep the jellies and sea lice at bay while also keeping your skin protected from board rash. It’s a super durable top that’s designed to fit loose, but if you want to layer it beneath a wetsuit then you should go down one size.

It also sports an elastic boardshorts loop, allowing you to connect the two to prevent your top from riding up while on the water.

O’Neill Basic Skins

Specs
  • Cut: Short Sleeve
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Boardshorts Connector: Yes
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • 5 Different Color Options
  • Comfortable Yet Durable Construction
  • 6 oz. Total Weight Keeps You Feeling Light

BEST FOR: WARM WATER SURFERS NEEDING SUN PROTECTION

There’s nothing basic about the Basic Skins rash guard. Sporting a UPF rating of 50+, this garment is highly recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and protects against sun fatigue.

Carefully crafted by legendary wetsuit manufacturer O’Neill, the Basic Skins delivers a high-quality product at an affordable price. It also offers superior breathability meaning you won’t overheat when the sun is blistering down on your back.

O’Neill has also smartly crafted a minimal seam design, meaning that you don’t have to worry about irritation or rashes on the inside of your garment.

O’Neill Thermo-X

Specs
  • Cut: Short Sleeve
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Boardshorts Connector: Yes
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • Odor Resistant Design Eliminates Saltwater Funk
  • Super Low Neck Line Doesn’t Interfere With Wetsuit
  • Provides Maximum Insulation And Minimal Water Absorption

BEST FOR: SLIGHTLY CHILLY DAYS

Even in summer, the water can prove cooler than we’d prefer, which is exactly why O’Neill crafted the Thermo-X. Designed for days when the water proves chilly, but much too warm for a wetsuit, this rash guard will keep your mind off the elements and on your surf game!

It can also be used for days when the water is warm, but the air is chilly. Oh nature, how fickle you can be sometimes.

O’Neill Premium Skins Ozone

Specs
  • Cut: Long Sleeve w/ Hood
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Boardshorts Connector: Yes
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • Comes In 2 Colors
  • Breathable Fabric Prevents Chafing
  • 6 oz. Total Weight Keeps You Feeling Light

BEST FOR: EYE PROTECTION ON BRIGHT DAYS

Super light with ergonomic design, the Premium Skins Ozone rash guard is built to withstand the harshest conditions. It boasts a UPF rating of 50 and paired with its long sleeve styling, it’ll be sure to keep you covered all day.

The most unique feature is its built-in hood with sun visor, making sure that the sun stays out of your field of vision as you tackle all kinds of waves. The hood also features ear holes so you’re still able to hear what’s happening around you. Bonus points: the extra neck coverage will ensure you stay fully covered and will appeal to those with sensitive skin.

Xcel ThreadX Short Sleeve

Specs
  • Cut: Short Sleeve
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Boardshorts Connector: No
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • Built-In Bacteria And Odor Control
  • UPF 20 Rating Blocks 95% Of UV Rays
  • High-Quality Materials Won’t Pill Or Fade

BEST FOR: CASUAL USE AND WEARING AFTER SURFING

If you’re the type of guy that prefers a casual look and multi-functional garments, then the Xcel ThreadX is your best bet. Designed to be a performance piece of clothing both in and out of the water, you’ll have no problem hitting some afternoon surf before hanging out with your buddies – all without needing to change.

The secret sauce for this rash guard is its thoughtfully engineered microfibers that help regulate your core temp. Hot days have nothing on you now! And you get to look cool while wearing – double whammy.

Xcel Wind/Water Breaker Jacket

Specs
  • Cut: Long Sleeve w/ Hood
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Boardshorts Connector: No
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • Drawstring Cinch Hood
  • Two Front Hand Pockets Keep You Warmer
  • Plush Inner Lining (to keep your core extra warm)

BEST FOR: WIND PROTECTION

Tested and approved by the Hawaiin Water Patrol, the Xcel Wind/Water Breaker Jacket is a fantastic choice for those who surf in less than ideal conditions.

This jacket is coated in polyurethane and sports an inner plush lining to keep you warm even in the harshest conditions. The heavy duty front zip helps keep the wind from treating you like a sail.

Perhaps the coolest thing about this rash guard is its front chest zip pocket, letting you store anything you may need to keep handy for a fun-filled day in the surf.

Billabong Die Cut Loose Fit Short Sleeve

Specs
  • Cut: Short Sleeve
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Boardshorts Connector: No
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • “Heathered” Style Is A Classic Look
  • 6 oz. Total Weight Keeps You Feeling Light
  • Long Lasting Design Keeps You In The Sun Longer

BEST FOR: SHORT SLEEVE RELAXED FIT

Sometimes you just need a casual rash guard that gets the job done without feeling like your swim shirt is painted on your body. We totally get that. Classic surf tailor Billabong has just the rash guard to satisfy your needs.

The Die Cut Loose Fit Short Sleeve fits just like your favorite tee but also sneaks in moisture-wicking technology to keep your skin from chafing. Considered one of the top short sleeve rash guards at an amazing value, the Die Cut Loose Fit rocks a casual crew neck and keeps you covered by boasting a 50 UPF rating.

Xcel Relaxed Fit

Specs
  • Cut: Long Sleeve
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Boardshorts Connector: No
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • 4-Way Stretch Offers Superior Mobility
  • Comfortable Yet Durable Construction
  • UPF 50 Means You Can Say Goodbye To Heat Fatigue

BEST FOR: LONG SLEEVE RELAXED FIT

If you’re someone who has sensitive skin and needs more coverage than your average short sleeve rash guard, then the Xcel Relaxed Fit Long Sleeve is your best choice! Its sleek all-black design with a simple black stripe across the chest gives a casual yet cool style.

This shirt has the highest UPF rating offered (50+), meaning that it will filter out 98% of harmful UV rays and keep your skin highly protected. The relaxed fit design also keeps you feeling mobile and unencumbered to help you make the most of your surf game.

Xcel Ventiprene 2mm Surf Jacket

Specs
  • Cut: Long Sleeve w/ Hood
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Boardshorts Connector: No
  • Quick Drying: Yes
Features
  • Relaxed Fit Lets You Layer Over A Wetsuit
  • 2mm Neoprene Keeps You Warm In Cold Water
  • Reflective Accents Keep You Visible To Others Around You

BEST FOR: COLD WATER SURFING

Whether you’re surfing in cold northern waters or need an extra layer over your wetsuit for winter surfing, the Xcel Ventiprene 2mm Surf Jacket is the coolest (or should I say warmest) and most versatile rash guard on our list.

Its full front zip keeps cold winds out and its sleek ventilation system keeps you from overheating as your warm up. It also boasts two, cozy front hand pockets to keep you warm in the lineup and it’s removable hood lets you personalize it to your specific needs.

Last but not least, this surf jacket has a streamlined lower back zip pocket, letting you stash a snack or car keys within easy reach.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING RASH GUARDS

UPF RATING

A garment’s UPF rating, also known as Ultraviolet Protection Factor, helps protect your skin from harmful UV radiation and irritating sunburns. A UPF rating of 50 means that 1 out of every 50 UV rays will pass through the garment and reach your skin. To put it another way, a garment with 50 UPF will filter out 98% of harmful UV rays.

A UPF rating of 15-20 is considered “Good”, 25-35 is considered “Very Good”, and UPF 40 and above is “Excellent.” UPF below 15 isn’t advertised because it’s not considered to actually protect you. To compare, a cotton t-shirt has a UPF rating of 5.

A few other factors to consider that can also enhance your UPF rating is how dense the fabric is, what color garment you choose, and how you launder it. Denser fabrics offer slightly higher UPF due to their tight weave that helps block out UV rays. Darker colored garments tend to attract more UV rays than lighter colored ones. When choosing between similar colors, brighter hues outperform paler tones. Lastly, if you shrink a garment in the wash it can also enhance the UPF rating in the same way that a dense fabric performs.

 

FIT AND CUT

Knowing what type of fit and cut you personally prefer and which will help you the most in any given conditions are very important when deciding on which rash guard will work best for you. A lot of this depends on the surfboard you ride and your experience level. There are three types of fits and cuts that rash guards can sport.

Fit is how the rash guard will lay on you after putting it on.

  • An athletic fit means that the rash guard will fit like a second skin and can be layered beneath a wetsuit in colder conditions. Typically, a more athletic cut is better suited for colder water unless otherwise stated.
  • A slim fit means that the rash guard won’t feel painted on but will still cling to your body in a sporty fashion. These are typically suited to warmer temperatures.
  • The relaxed fit is for those who don’t like skin tight anything, but it’s also a great choice for hot days allowing ventilation to keep you cool.

The cut of a rash guard is quite simply the sleeve length.

  • Sleeveless is a great option for spring and summer surfers and many prefer it due to the feeling of enhanced arm mobility.
  • Short sleeve rash guards are best suited for summer surfing as they will keep your shoulders protected from burning but can also be a great choice for spring or fall surfers who don’t mind cooler water temps.
  • Long sleeves are best for winter, early spring, and late fall surfing as they will help keep you warmer in the cold waters. But don’t let that sway you from wearing them during summer! Long sleeves are an awesome summer choice to keep arms fully protected from harmful sunburns.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

UPF

Ultraviolet Protection Factor – see the Things to Consider section for a more in-depth explanation.

4-WAY STRETCH TECHNOLOGY

4-way stretch technology means that the fabric will stretch and recover (return to original shape) both width and lengthwise no matter how long you wear it for.

FLATLOCK STITCHING

A special stitching process that keeps the fibers low-profile to prevent chafing.

OVERLOCK STITCHING

A special stitching process that creates highly durable and incredibly strong seams.

MOISTURE WICKING

A process of removing water or sweat from your skin. This prevents chafing in addition to allowing your body to stay cool.

 

 

READ MORE

Rash Guards for Women | Surf Shorts

About The Author

A soulful southerner from Atlanta, Ga, Jonathan Dufner is an outdoor writer, adventure enthusiast, and a certified kayaking instructor. Whether hitting fresh powder on the slopes, paddling a Class IV river, or trekking into the Sahara, he carries a wide range of experience and knowledge. He has also led countless group tours into the wilderness and has taught a variety of outdoor skills clinics.

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