How to Choose the Best Rashguard for Surfing

Aloha fellow surfer, 

Is it a beautiful sunny day, with substantial lines of swell rolling in? 

Is your board freshly waxed?

Is your leash secured tightly and ready to go?

Then you’re probably almost ready to get in the water and go surfing. But, you need your rash guard!

Not sure how or what to choose?

Good news - you found us! We’re going to help you make the selection as easy as sliding onto a 4 footer on a freshly waxed longboard. 


Woman walking with surfboard wearing rashguard and bikini bottoms

What is a rashguard?

A rashguard, rash guard or rash vest is a close fitting top designed for surfing, swimming, or any water sport or beach side activity. It can be worn under the wetsuit, alone or with a pair of bikini bottoms or trunks, to protect the skin from unwanted abrasions or rashes from scratchy sand and board wax. 

Painful rashes and cuts occur when the skin is being irritated by repetitive movements such as paddling when surfing, or having your chest exposed on the board with just a bikini or bare chest. The more you surf, the more likely you are to need a rashguard. The more reps of a paddle stroke you do the worse it can get. The more time spent lying face down on a sticky surfboard the more likely you are to enjoy the benefits of a rashguard for surfing. Ah ha, suddenly the humble rashguard becomes married to the sport of surfing.

Two women holding surfboards wearing rashguards

Why do I need a rashguard when surfing?

A rashguard is a guardian angel for a surfer:

  • Rashguards protect the skin from the sun's harmful UV rays that many open water surfers are exposed to out in the raw elements, especially when lying face down paddling
  • Rashguards can also be layered under wetsuits to prevent chafing and nasty rashes caused by surf wax and sand
  • Add an additional layer of warmth in the surf that a swimming costume does not give a surfer
  • They make you feel more covered that wearing a bikini alone when shredding, especially when doing dynamic sports like surfing where bikinis have been known to slip at crucial moments like in the pop up, or after a particularly high energy wipe out (unless it's a Vivida stay-put bikini, of course!)
  • They look awesome when you pop up and shred. Enough said.
Two women wearing white surf rash guards

What types of rashguards are there?

Rashguards 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 surfing the best rash guard would be one that allows a full range of movement overhead to support the overhead paddle strokes, allows you to twist through your obliques when searching for waves in a seated position, holds you in place and doesn’t move around, especially in big swell.

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

For surfing we suggest the best rashguard type would be one that doesn’t decrease your overhead mobility and fits you well but not too tightly, for areas like under the armpits or over the chest to restrict the lungs.

Surfing is pretty damn aerobic as it is, we don’t want any piece of surf clothing to be too restrictive and make it any more gassy.

Woman on the beach wearing a surf rash vest

When would I wear a rashguard during my surf?

A rashguard would be a benefit to any surf clothing range, pre, during and post surf. 

You can wear it for a pre-surf warm up session, wear it walking or doing pre-surf yoga, wear it when you’re paddling out, popping-up and high-fiving your surf buddies after your session. 

It’s also super nice if you have to travel away from the surf spot still in your surf kit, as rash vests don’t sit as heavy on the skin as wetsuits but give you more elemental protection than a bikini alone. So your sunset walks back home with your board underarm will be sweetly accompanied by the mighty rashguard.

Woman wearing a surf rash guard shown from the back and the front

Benefits of wearing a rashguard when surfing

Your surf rashguard can give you so many delicious benefits, here are some:

  • They protect your skin from sea salt, sweat, water algae and the harshest elements when you’re exposing your skin to varied waterways when surfing. Some days it might be intense white water spray, some say it might be clean salt water peelers, and others it may be fresh water at your local wave pool. Have a rashguard that responds with you when you’re surfing, not against you.
  • They provide support whilst you're surfing and some will hold you tighter than others. Compression for water sports is paramount, especially surfing as you are trying to be as dynamic and fast moving as possible and you don’t want anything standing in the way of that.
  • They add a layer of warmth as the nature of the surfing beast is that it can be, at times, cold. Rashguards can give you more heat than a regular swimming costume. Especially if the winds comes in when you’re surfing (fingers crossed for offshore), the shoulder and arm coverage will work wonders in breezes
  • A bright or patterned costume can help you stay seen when you’re swimming. This is a big tick for the safety criteria. Stay seen, then folks are less likely to drop in on you or crash into you after a messy set
Woman wearing a surf rash vest walking a dog on the beach

    What makes a good rashguard for surfing? 

    The best rashguards are ideally made from sustainable materials that don’t contribute to damaging the ocean. 

    We are the ocean. Let's protect it.

    Find one 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 for your surfs. 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 or press up pop-up position.

    You 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 rashguards will also have quick drying fabrics to ensure your rashguard 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 drop in on that big set!

    Woman wearing a surf rash guard on the beach

    Choose the Vivida Women of the Sea Rashguard

    Vivida has created the dream sustainable surf 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 surfing 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 back and cropped style, you'll likely be the only person in the sea wearing something so unique in design.

    Woman wearing a white surf rash vest with a surf board on the beach

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

    • Its sustainably made of recycled, post-consumer 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 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 Kelly Slater, 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 surf 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 surf. It also means it pairs really well with any high-waisted bikini bottom.
    • 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 surfing frequently, especially when travelling

    Woman paddling out on a surfboard wearing a surf rash guard

    How to wear Vivida's Women of the Sea Rashguard

    It comes in three cool colours;

    ​​You won’t find any rashguards that look as striking in the water as these bold and natural hues. 

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

    Pair it with the matching Women of the Sea High-Waisted Bikini Bottom or an alternative Vivida bottom for mix and match style. Or you can even wear it under the Ladies Linda shorty wetsuit for an extra thermal layer when you’re surfing.

    So there you have it, our guide to help you choose the best rashguard for surfing.

    Take pictures of your plunges, and find your Women of the Sea spirit in the salty surf.


    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.