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When it comes to surfing, protecting yourself from the sun is paramount. The best sunscreen is obviously a must, but there’s more you can do to stay safe from the sun’s harmful rays. A rashguard, also spelled rash guard, will help add an extra layer of sun protection. And since the wax on the board and wet sand can chafe your skin, a rashguard will also help stave off chafing and irritation while surfing.
At a glance, a rashguard looks a lot like a t-shirt. And while you could theoretically wear a t-shirt to protect yourself in the water, there are substantial downsides to this. Cotton retains a lot of water, meaning your shirt will weigh you down. Rashguards are made from synthetic or semi-synthetic materials that are fast-drying and perform better in the water. Rashguards also typically have a more form-fitting cut for protection compared with looser-fitting t-shirts.
Rashguards aren’t just popular for days in the sun and water. They’re also frequently worn by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu martial artists. While the sun isn’t a concern for this typically indoor sport, jiujiteiros wear rashguards to protect themselves from the chafing that comes from this close-contact sport. Though there are specialized Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) rashguards, many jiujiteiros wear surfing rashguards for grappling.
How To Choose a Rashguard
Rashguards come in long-sleeve and short-sleeve styles, and they’re available in form-fitting compression styles as well as slightly looser fits. A form-fitting rashguard will be more protective and is less likely to get snagged or pulled, but it may be less comfortable for some wearers. Likewise, long sleeves are more protective, but short sleeves can be more comfortable for warm-weather surfing. When shopping for rashguards for surfing, you’ll likely also want one that offers UPF protection (UPF is the clothing equivalent of SPF, which is used for sunscreen and cosmetic products).
In addition to the sleeves, some rashguards come with extra protection in the form of mock-neck collars and hoods, while others have more casual crewneck styles. A collared rashguard can be helpful if you’re kayaking or doing an activity where you want to prevent chafing from a life vest. Like with sleeves, the kind you choose mostly comes down to personal preference and the balance you want to strike between comfort and protection.
If you’re buying a rashguard for jiu-jitsu, you may also want to factor in whether you’re doing gi jiu-jitsu, in which case you may opt for a short sleeve to wear under the gi (or no rashguard at all), or no-gi jiu-jitsu, in which case you may opt for a more protective long-sleeve. In either case, these are just preferences; plenty of no-gi jiujiterios wear short-sleeves, and there are gi jiujiteiros who wear long-sleeves.
For our roundup, we’ve focused primarily on options that are designed with surfing and watersports in mind. That said, several of these options will be well-suited to BJJ.
1. O’Neill Men’s 50+ UPF Rash Guard
O’Neill is an excellent surf and ocean-based brand and their rash guard is made from polyester and spandex, providing a snug fit and flexibility through the arms. It’s more of a long-sleeved shirt than a wet suit, which is ideal for hot summer days in the water. For winter temperatures, a wet suit is definitely the way to go. But for summer waves, O’Neill’s Basic Skin rash guard is really a second skin — meant to let you glide easily into that next wave and let your skin breathe at the same time. It will dry quickly when you’re done and be ready to go after a rinse for your next bout with the waves.
2. Hurley Men’s Long-Sleeved Pro Rashguard
This Hurley rash guard is a well-fitted, long-sleeved shirt that will perform well in the summer heat. A blend of 92% polyester and 8% spandex makes it stretchy, flexible and durable. Handwash only for this stylish shirt. Wear it out to the beach, outside playing sports or for a swim at the pool. Hurley is another great surf brand that won’t let you down when the waves get gnarly.
3. Kanu Surf Platinum
Kanu Surf’s rash guard has 50 UV to pick up the slack where sunscreen comes short. It is long-sleeved and made from a polyester-spandex mix which makes it equally stretchy and form-fitting. It handles the elements well and won’t rip or fall apart after use. It dries quickly and can be used for any summer outdoor activity. Reviewers say sizes run small and although you want a tight fit, make sure it fits correctly and stretches through the shoulders.
4. VISSLA Twisted Long-Sleeve Rashguard
Vissla’s swimwear isn’t overly technical looking, meaning it can easily take you from your board to brunch. This long-sleeve option has a subtle logo at the front, the long sleeves are fitted in the cuffs but slightly looser in the body, combining protection with a casual look. It’s made from a 88% polyester/12% spandex blend, with UPF 50 protection.
5. Billabong Men’s Eclipse Long Sleeve Rashguard
A hood is a great addition to a rash guard because it offers extra protection for your neck and face. There’s a small pocket for stashing your sunglasses (when you’re not on the board, of course) and a thumb loop to securely hold the sleeves in place. The rashguard also provides UPF 50 sun protection. Unlike most sun shirts, which are primarily polyester, this option is actually a 70% Lyocell / 30% Polyester blend. Lyocell is a plant-derived fabric that’s more eco-friendly than rayon.
6. Volcom UPF 50 Rashguard
If you’d rather have a looser-fitting rashguard that’s similar to a t-shirt, pick up this option from Volcom. Like others on this list, it has 50+ UV protection and is made from a blend of polyester and elastane. It has a logo at the chest and the back.
7. RVCA S/S Rashguard
For a more classic option, RVCA’s short sleeve rashguard has a form-fitting design on the sleeves and waist. The sleeves are also longer than the average t-shirt, extending below the triceps for more protection. The shirt’s raglan sleeves allow for more comfortable movement. As for style, it comes in a range of colors and features RVCA’s logo on the chest. The shirt is made from 88% polyamide and 12% elastane.
8. Nike Men’s UPF 40+
This swim shirt from Nike is looser than a rash guard but still an option for your summer adventures. Best for days playing football at the beach or by the pool, this shirt will protect you from the sun as well as keep you cool. It’s not as form-fitting as others, but it’ll still offer protection. It dries quickly and is a great shirt for a day outdoors in the sun.
9. Patagonia Men’s Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
This unique swim shirt can be used for a day on the water or as a cool-fitting shirt on the trails. With 50+ UPF protection, Patagonia has made a shirt made from 100% recycled materials. It’s a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt, super durable and offers ample protection from the elements out on the water or on a long run in the desert. A versatile shirt, it will come in handy all summer long.
10. TSLA Men’s UPF 50 Rashguard
This rash guard has a lot of stretch and will keep you protected from the elements during a long day in the sun. With 50 UPF protection, you’ll be able to enjoy the summer days for longer. It comes in a dozen colors to choose from and will stay tight on your body during surf sessions, long swims, or while body surfing.
11. Patagonia Men’s RO Long Sleeved Top
This swim rash guard is similar to the hoody on this list but with a tighter fit. Best for surfing and swimming in the ocean, this long-sleeved shirt will keep you protected from the sun and sand. With 85% recycled polyester and 15% spandex, four-way stretch through the seams, and 50+ UPF protection, this is a great option for your summer in the sun.
12. EZRUN Sun Protection Swim Shirt
The Ezrun swim shirt is an excellent choice to add to your list of summer gear. It’s lightweight, dries quickly and will keep your back and neck protected from harmful rays, but don’t forget to apply the sunscreen. Made from 100% polyester with 50 SPF sun protection, this shirt has a unique construction: it dries fast and won’t cling to you like most rash guards. This is a great shirt for swimming, surfing, fishing, or hanging out in the sun.