September 28, 2023 4 min read

When it comes to aquatic sports, the rash guard or rash vest takes center stage as your essential companion. Designed to shield your skin from unwanted abrasions, the rash guard goes much further than simply protecting you as you surf, swim and beyond.

How Rash Guards Keep You in the Water, Not Out of It

Surf rash used to be an inevitable part of surfing. What begins as a mild skin abrasion can quickly escalate after repeated surf sessions. Your skin, softened by the saltwater, becomes prone to irritation due to continuous friction from your surfboard, surf wax, or wetsuit. Sand can also adhere to the board's wax, and as we paddle out to the lineup, this grit rubs and chafes against areas of contact with the body, such as the chest and legs. It's disheartening to return from a fantastic day in the water only to realize the toll it has taken on your body. Worse still, these abrasions require time away from the water to heal properly.

Prevention is often a wiser course than dealing with the aftermath, which is why rash guards become invaluable. Ensuring you can return to the water, they can also be worn underneath wetsuits to give your body added protection. 

two women on surfboard in water

Essential Sun Protection

On sunny days, it can be tempting for the tanline conscious to opt solely for a bikini. However, for extended periods on the water, it's essential to prioritize protecting our skin from the sun. Whilst I love her warming rays, I’m not as thrilled about dealing with the consequences of skin damage. Personally, I aim to maintain a youthful appearance well into my 50s and the key to achieving this is shielding ourselves from those relentless UV rays.

Apart from the obvious measure of slathering on sunscreen, one of the simplest ways to achieve this is through a protective fabric layer. Most modern rash guards are crafted from materials offering robust UPF+ protection.

Sun safeguarding becomes especially critical when engaging in water-based activities, as the reflective surface of the water amplifies and intensifies the sun's rays from all directions, increasing the risk of sunburn. It’s no fun coming away from a great session on the waves with your skin turning pink and sore - so not cute. Rash guards are the ultimate for that quick and easy sun protective layer.

Style Out on the Waves

Rash guards offer a wide array of styles, shapes, and colors, catering to every individual's preferences. Regardless of your personal taste, there's undoubtedly a suitable option for you.

From long and short sleeves to even sleeveless options, there is a variety in the level of coverage depending on what you prefer. You can opt for a high neckline for a touch of the 'Love Actually' inspired aesthetic or opt for a fitted or loose fit, depending on whether you plan to wear it beneath a wetsuit or over your bikini. Moreover, they are available in thicker or thinner materials to enhance mobility and prevent constriction of your movements.

For those who wish to make a statement in the lineup or stand out when captured by a drone during a board session, patterned rash guards are an excellent choice. On the other hand, if like me, you prefer a timeless and sophisticated look, simple block colors that never go out of style are the way to go.

The Confidence of Coverage

For gals who prefer a bit more coverage, rash guards present an elegant solution. We all have those days when we might not feel our best or be entirely body-confident, but these days shouldn’t prevent us from doing what we love.

a group of women on the beach with surfboards

For women who are blessed in the bust department, the last thing you want to worry about is unexpectedly “popping out” whilst on your board.

Rash guards can give us the confidence to go for bigger waves knowing the twins are being kept safely in place.

Others may choose to cover up due to cultural reasons and this should never hinder anyone from enjoying spending time in the water - the ocean is for everyone!

Rash guards offer a modest and appropriate response to these concerns, allowing everyone to take part in aquatic adventures without compromising their comfort.

Surfing, Yoga, Nights Out: Rash Guards for Every Occasion

Rash guards shine as exceptional partners for surfing, but their true brilliance lies in their versatility. They aren't just perfect for riding the waves; they complement a wide array of water-based activities. As diverse as the available styles are the activities they support—ranging from open water swimming, SUP, kayaking, free diving, to snorkeling, and the list goes on.

But the best rash guards can do more than serve you in the ocean. I’ve begun wearing mine to my weekly Pilates classes, where the same mobility and compression that serve me well on the waves also help keep me secure as I move through poses. Similarly, my surfer girlfriends have found uses for theirs across various activities, including yoga, hiking, and even bouldering. The more eco-conscious or fashion forward will choose rash guards that can be worn in a variety of settings.

Now, don't judge me for this one, but I've even been known to wear my rash guard on a night out. In my defense, my black cropped rash guard is indistinguishable from any other curve hugging crop top you’d see on a night out. My favorite cropped rash guards can be easily paired with high-waisted jeans for a casually chic look on date night or matched with shorts for a catch-up with girlfriends over coffee.

Author - Olivia Poglianich
Olivia Poglianich          

Content Strategist

Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the surf, watersports and outdoor adventure space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.

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