How to Choose the Best Rash Guard for Open Water Swimming

Author: Indie Bornhoft

Hello ocean child, 

We have some questions for you:

  • Do you consider yourself an open water swimmer?
  • Does your heart skip a beat at the mention of sub tropical water temperatures?
  • Do you actively seek out bodies of water wherever you travel?
  • Do you always have a towel poncho in the back of your car?
  • Do you never go anywhere without your waterproof bag?
  • Does the mere scent of waterside air make your skin tingle?
  • And are you constantly on the hunt for more open water swimming gear?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, then you my friend are an open water swimming fanatic. 

The good news is, you've found your people. Come join us as we speak your language and introduce you to your next revolutionary piece of open water swimming gear: the rashguard.

Woman wearing a rashguard looking out to sea


Women standing in the sea wearing a Vivida Women of the Sea rashguard

What is a rash guard?

A rash guard, rashguard or rash vest, is a close fitting top designed to protect the skin from unwanted abrasions or rashes while swimming, surfing or participating in any other water sport activities. 

Painful rashes and cuts occur when the skin is being irritated by repetitive movements such as paddling when open water swimming, or from grazing against a surfboard.

Rash guards are usually worn under a wetsuit or, in warmer climes, alone with a pair of bikini bottoms or trunks. They can also be worn over a swimsuit or bikini top for an extra layer of warm, support and protection.

The more you swim, the more likely you are to need a rashguard. Ah ha, suddenly the humble rash guard becomes an essential when swimming outdoors!


Why do I need a rash guard?

A rashguard does a plethora of things:

  • Protects the skin from the sun's harmful UV rays that many open water swimmers are exposed to out in the raw elements
  • Rash guards can also be layered under wetsuits to prevent chafing and nasty rashes caused by surf wax and sand
  • Add an additional layer of warmth that a swimming costume does not do
  • Make you feel more covered that wearing a bikini alone, especially when doing dynamic sports like open water swimming where bikinis have been known to slip at crucial moments
  • They look awesome and are dead practical. Complete your beach look, nothing says laid-back cool like an open water swimming rash guard

What types of rash guard are there?

Rash guards come in many different shapes and sizes. You should choose one that fits your body type and is functional for the sport you have chosen. For instance, for open water swimming the best rash guard would be one that allows a full range of movement to support the overhead strokes.

There are different rash guard options; short sleeved, long sleeved, thermal rash guards, and UV 50+ rash guards. They usually come in a very simple long-sleeved t-shirt style shape.

For open water swimming we suggest the best rash guard type would be one that doesn’t decrease mobility and fits you well but not too tightly across areas like under the armpits or over the chest to avoid restricting the lungs.


Woman wearing a rashguard on the beach

When would I wear a rash guard?

A rashguard can be worn on many occasions:

  • When you want more coverage and modesty than just a bikini during your cold water swims, as your bust/chest, arms and tummy will be covered
  • When you are open water swimming on sunny days and you want to protect your skin from the UVA/UVB rays from the sun
  • When you want to keep your muscles/body extra toasty when your pounding up and down during your open water swim, a rashguard will give you an extra layer of warmth than a swimming costume or trunks alone
  • You can wear rashguards on quick open water dips or on lengthy open water swims that demand more physicality

Benefits of wearing a rash guard for open water swimming

If you're thinking about taking the first steps on your cold water swimming journey, you'll soon discover there are so many benefits to cold water swimming. But, for your first few swims you might be tempted to fling on your trusty old swimming costume as a habit. Attempt to resit the urge and try out the powers of a rashguard - we promise you won’t regret it. Your rash guard can provide you with a few simple benefits:

  • They offer greater skin protection from sea salt, sweat, water algae and the harshest elements. You’re exposing your skin to varied waterways when open water swimming. Some days it might be salt water, some days it might be eco ponds, and others it may be fresh water. Let your rashguard bear the brunt of that, rather than your precious skin.
  • They provide greater support whilst you're open water swimming. Some will hold you tighter than others, and the right level of compression for water sport is paramount, especially swimming, as you are trying to remain as buoyant as possible.
  • They add an extra layer of warmth, as open water swimming is, more often than not, quite cold. Rashguards can typically lock in more heat than a regular swimming costume. Especially if there are winds on the shores of wherever you are swimming, the shoulder and arm coverage will work wonders in crosswinds, face winds and any kind of sea breeze.
  • A bright or patterned rashguard or costume can make you more visible to others when you’re swimming. This is a big tick for the safety criteria. Stay seen!


What makes a good rash guard?

The best rash guards are ideally made from sustainable materials that don’t contribute to damaging the environment that we adore, and that we want to enjoy while open water swimming and nature bathing.

Find rashguard that is made of high quality materials, but make sure the materials are flexible and malleable in order to not limit your range of movement too much when open water swimming. You want a rashguard that moves and flows with the shape of your body and doesn’t restrict your shoulders in the overhead paddle motion.

You also want a rashguard that has a layer of UV protection, because remember the sun's harmful UV rays can still burn your skin through layers of clothing. Specifically if the clothing is wet, white in colour or goes see through when soaked.

The best rash guards will also have quick drying fabrics to ensure it wicks away water upon exiting the water most effectively.

Finally, a good rashguard is one you feel and look confident and amazing in. Get a shape, colour, size and design that sets your heart on fire and take the plunge into the water!

Woman swimming in the sea wearing a Vivida Women of the Sea Rashguard

Choose the Vivida Women of the Sea Rashguard

Vivida has created the dream eco-friendly rashguard. Vivida's Women of the Sea Rashguard is revolutionary in design and performance. It is quite simply the most stylish and dynamic rashguard on the open water swimming gear market.
It's a feminine fusion of performance and stylish details. The clue is in the name. The Women of the Sea rashguard delivers maximum manoeuvrability so you are never choosing fashion over function.
Featuring a peek-a-boo and cropped style you will be the only person in the sea wearing something so unique in design.


What features make the Vivida Women of the Sea rashguard so good?

  • It's sustainably made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The recycling process transforms the bottles into soft, usable threads, which are then blended with high-quality spandex for increased stretch and shape retention. Not to mention it will arrive in home-compostable plant based packaging.
  • Materials are; 80% Recycled Polyester 20% Elastane. This ensures a perfect fit and a rashguard that stays put in the toughest of conditions, while retaining its shape throughout countless open water adventures.
  • It has 4-way stretch & shape retention for no limits on your range of movement. Watch out Olympics, we’re coming for you!
  • It protects you as well as the planet. The entire rashguard is made of UPF 50+ fabric. So you can be protected from the sun whilst you’re swimming.
  • The totally unique peek-a-boo back detailing is stunning and you’ll get tons of compliments on your choice of swim style.
  • The main reason that makes the Women of the Sea rashguard so good is the cropped fit with light compression. The cropped fit is A) totally unique to Vivida and B) features light compression so you will feel locked in, and ready to swim.
  • The blend of materials make the Vivida Women of the Sea rashguard totally rapid drying. The quick dry feature of the rashguard is so handy especially if you’re swimming frequently in open water.

Woman wearing a rashguard on the beach

How to wear Vivida's Women of the Sea rashguard

​You won’t find any rash guards that look as striking in the water as the bold hues of the Vivida Women of the Sea Rashgaurd.

Pair it with the matching Women of the Sea High-Waisted Bikini Bottom to fuller waist coverage, or an alternative Vivida bikini bottom for mix and match style. We particularly love wearing it under the ladies Linda shorty wetsuit for an extra thermal layer.

This is a close fitting style, we recommend that you size up if you are between sizes.


So there you have it, our guide to help you choose the best rash guard for open water swimming.

Take pictures of your plunges, and find your Women of the Sea spirit!


Indie Bornhoft is a personal trainer and watersports coach, who encourages her clients to make movement their mantra. She has coached every ability in wakeboarding, paddleboarding, SUP fitness, and windsurfing for over ten years, and is highly qualified in all disciplines. Discover more about her drive to just keep moving and be inspired to connect to the raw power of body & spirit through fitness.