The Best Surfing Swimsuits That Stand Up Against the Waves
You're gliding into a glassy wave, swaddled in the swell that's carrying you down the line. It's nothing but you and the ocean, and her force is fierce. There's something inexplicably empowering about it all, using nothing but the power of a positive mind — trusting of and consciously grounded in your body — to ride that wave, literally and figuratively. It's emboldening and revitalizing.
And then you feel the ocean breeze on your salty skin, and… you realize you're topless.
That's what happens when you don't suit up properly. While there's an array of beautiful swimsuits, rash guards, and wetsuits for women to shop, all too many of them sacrifice function for fantasy (or tan lines). There's a gamut of technicalities to consider when you're hunting for a surfing swimsuit — from the cut and fabric to the thickness and UV protection to the stretch and sealing.
"I want to know that what I have on me is going to last me in the surf, and it's going to be the last thing I think about… I don't want to be pulling up my swimwear when I'm trying to make it out past a bunch of set waves. Just that minute of trying to hold onto your bottoms is going to be the difference of making it out back before the next set comes." (Related: Watch Rebel Wilson Ride Waves Like a Total Pro In Her First Surf Lesson)
Meador's wetsuit designs for Roxy ultimately helped shape the entire women's wetsuit market. Before she got into design work, women's wetsuits were basic and black, perhaps "with a hibiscus flower or something pink," she recalls. She set out to craft options that would hold up in the water, last a long time and, overall, support women's surf journeys. (Also read: Textured Waves Is Using Instagram to Diversify the Surfing World)
"I really tried to make wetsuits into superhero suits — because when I wear a wetsuit, I feel like a true superhero," she says.
Launching her own line granted her the flexibility and freedom to design in more conscious and creative ways and push boundaries. After all, surf suits are specific — you can't just toss on a watersport wetsuit.
"Triathletes, for example, have different types of wetsuits and, generally, their wetsuits aren't great for surfing, as much as they may be really comfortable," explains Meador. Beyond factors including temperature control, mobility, and durability that's largely specific to surf suits, the bells and whistles (think: zippers, wires, and ties) on many non-surf-specific swimwear can be uncomfortable, unreliable, and, at times, even risky. (Related: How to Safety Dive Into Open-Water Swimming)
You also want to consider all of the conditions when choosing your surfing swimsuit — from the water temperature and the UV index to the size of the board you're riding. For example, if you're riding a long board, which tends to be wider and sits on the water (opposed to a short board that is more narrow and sits under the water), you may want more coverage, says Meador. (Related: Leighton Meester Says Surfing Is Basically Her Only Form of Exercise)
"Get invested in who and what you're supporting," she adds. "It's about communication, transparency and intention. We all have an opportunity to ask for more sustainability and, with that demand, comes supply." (See: How to Shop for Sustainable Activewear)
So, with so many features to consider, how do you know what to surf gear to shop? "Get a couple surfing bathing suits," advises Meador. "Just like I would have a different board for riding different conditions, I have different surfing bathing suits for what I want to do."
To get you started, here 20 of some of the sweetest surf swimsuits on the market, from surf bikinis and long-sleeve surfing swimsuits to rash guards and full-on wetsuits.
Best No-Frills Two-Piece: September the Line Mason Top Eco Rib and Bottoms
When it comes to surf tops, racerback and sports bra-styles with thicker bands are ideal over unsupportive string bikinis that can have uncomfortable and dicey ties. The same goes for side-tie bottoms, which are conveniently adjustable but that can get in the way or become loose in the water. And, while Brazilian bottoms aren't very protective, Meador warns that fuller bottoms can fill up with water.
That's why she recommends these middle-of-the-range "soft and simple" bottoms with this full-coverage top from September's limited-edition Kassia Surf collaboration. This surf bikini is the perfect combination of a full-coverage top and high-waisted bottoms. The suit is stripped of seams. Instead, it focuses on fit, functionality and flattery thanks to an eco ribbed fabric, lined with recycled Italian nylon made from ghost fishing nets (fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned in the ocean) and plastic from the world's oceans and landfills.
Best Sports Bikini: RVCA Wavelength Zip Top and High-Rise Bikini Bottom
Surfing in a bikini is an art. It's not easy making sure that the thing stays on your body when you're catching waves. That's why it's important to have a bikini that's designed for doing the damn thing — like RVCA's wavelength zip top and matching high-rise bottoms. The top's high-scoop neckline and mesh racerback offers both support and breathability. And the bottoms sit comfortably high on the waist and fit more like booty shorts than a typical bikini, so it won't ride up while you ride. Plus it's tie-dye.
Best Land-to-Ocean Workout Option: Vitamin A Swim's Sienna Tank and Nova Bike Shorts
Imagine if you could take your comfiest yoga outfit and go surfing in it. What if I told you that you could? Vitamin A Swim's Sienna tank and Nova bike shorts are basically a water-wearable sports bra and shorts. So you can literally go from a yoga class straight to a surf session without changing your getup. And in case you need an extra push to pull the trigger on these; Vitamin A's items are plant-based, made from the castor bean (which is replacing fossil fuels).
Grooviest Two-Piece: Skatie Rosie Top and Scarlette Bottom in Haleiwa
This Skatie two-piece (which you can mix and match with different styles and patterns) features a fun floral print all while protecting you from the elements. The long-sleeved crop top was made with catching waves in mind; its high neckline and seamless band means it fits comfortably and won't go pinching in places you don't want it to.
The high-rise bottoms are no different in that they hug you without squeezing or synching your skin. They're a tad cheeky but offer moderate coverage so you can feel completely confident when you're riding — whether whitewash or green waves.
Most Unassuming Amazon Find: Honlyps Monokini
Who isn't buying anything and everything on Amazon these days? That's where I found this totally unassuming one-piece that I've been wearing in the surf. I wear it on its own or under a long-sleeved rash guard when I want extra protection from the sun. (See: These Are the 19 Best Swimsuits On Amazon — and They're All Under $40)
Though cheaper, it's rather thick and fits like a soft and buttery second skin — so it doesn't budge when I'm popping up. Even though it's a high-cut suit with a cheeky bottom, I never find myself pulling it out from between my legs like I do with other swimsuits. And, thanks to a sportier scoop-neck with wider straps, the top doesn't slip off my shoulders, either.
Best Shorts-Style Bikini Bottoms: Sloactive High-Waisted Yulex Surf Shorts
If you're tired of picking wedgies when you're surfing, you need Sloactive's retro-cut Yulex surf shorts. They're high-waisted with a corrosion-free metallic zip at the back and an elastic waistband, so they fit nice and neatly. Slim binding at the edges also keep them from rolling up. And, despite the fact that most women's athletic wear forgets pockets, these surf shorts have a back pocket with a key loop and drain hole. Genius. (Related: Celeb-Loved Spanx Brand Makes Flattering Swimwear, Too)
Best High-Neck Surf Bikini: Left On Friday Hi Dive Top
A great way to ensure no nip slips happen while you pop up? Going for a surf bikini cut all the way up to your collarbone. Enter: The Hi Dive top from active swimwear brand Left On Friday. Pair the top with any of their bottoms — go for the classic bikini-style Wear To bottom (Buy It, $85, leftonfriday.com) or the (shown) high-rise Hi Tide bottom (Buy It, $85, leftonfriday.com) you know won't slide down — to build your perfect set. All their suits are made from their "Smoothing Dream Fabric" from Italy, which is made to be super soft, compressive (both wet and dry), and snag resistant to boot.
Best No-Nonsense Bikini Top: Athleta Scoop Bikini Top
If you thought spaghetti-strap surf bikinis weren't for you due to a lack of support, allow this Athleta bikini top to urge you to reconsider. Made specifically for D-DD cups, this bikini top is sure to provide enough coverage and support, and boasts clean seams so you won't chafe. (Don't worry, if you're a A-C cup size, Athleta made a scoop bikini top for you, too.) You can rest easy knowing this is made with Athleta's recycled H₂:ECO fabric, and will stand up to surfing, SUPing, and any other water sports you want to tackle. (Just mix and match with any of Athleta's active swim bottoms for a full set.)
Sexiest One-Piece: Hakuna Wear Moonlight Long-Sleeve Surf Suit
If you're looking for a suit that "fits well in all of the right places and doesn't move when [you're] surfing," but that still looks fine as hell, look to Hakuna Wear's moonlight long-sleeve surf suit, which has rave reviews. The suit marries function and style with tech mesh that's not only breathable, but also promises to accentuate "warrior curves." To kick up your confidence when you're carving into those waves. (Peep some more long-sleeve swimsuits right here.)
The suit is also UPF 50 and made of sun- and wind-protective fabric. And there's a hidden pocket and key loop so you can focus on the swell instead of the sand where you left your stuff.
Best Sustainable Swimsuit: Abysse Billie Canyon
Made in California from regenerated nylon from ghost-fishing nets that pollute the ocean, this long-sleeve one-piece suit does good and looks good. The cheeky open back adds flare without sacrificing function thanks to the high bowtie neck closure. The double-lined swimsuit is UV protective so (besides your back) you won't have to worry about anything but the waves. And it dries quickly, so you can toss on a pair of denim shorts after your surf and head straight for some après-surf with a cold coconut. (More here: How to Shop for Sustainable Activewear)
Best Long-Sleeve Two-Piece: Makarawear Jupiter Long-Sleeve Top and High-Waist Panties
No more wax rashes or sunburnt shoulders with the Makarawear's Jupiter UPF 50 long-sleeve top and matching high-waisted bottoms. This super simple yet carefully crafted classic top combines top-quality, high-tech black lycra with a back zipper so you can toss on it on and pull it off as quickly as a closeout on a big-wave kind of day. And the double-lined and double-striped black bottoms sit just above the waist so you won't lose them if you do get caught in that impact zone.
What's more, Makarawear's minimalist surf and swimsuits are handmade in Bali from durable, recycled materials with a zero-waste production formula. At the moment, 10 percent of all profits go toward a COVID-19 food bank in Bali.
Cutest Cut-Out Surf Suit: Rip Curl Surf Good Coverage Long-Sleeve One-Piece
Rip Curl's fully lined and flat-ribbed surf suit is strategically designed to protect you from the wind, sun, and sandy wipeouts, all while looking and feeling fabulous. The back is cut out as is a keyhole section of the front. Those may be for style, but the internal shelf bra and clipped back neck are for function.
Best Three-Quarter Sleeve One-Piece: Ninefoot Guadalupe
Ninefoot's Guadalupe suit offers the perfect premium fit with recycled Lycra made from plastic that pollutes the ocean. And the designers didn't skip a beat when ideating this one-piece-style rash guard. The three-quarter sleeves have a hidden pocket with a reverse zipper to stash everything you need in the surf — like your wax and the car keys you're tired of "hiding" under the hood while you're out in the water. The UPF 50 protection will keep your salty skin safe. The open back, heart-cut silhouette, and cheeky detail give this piece a gorgeously feminine feel. And you can rest assured that it was designed by surfers for surfers so it will hold up in any conditions. (Related: Moms and Runners Swear By These "Functional and Flattering" Yoga Shorts That Have Three Pockets)
Best Super Stylish Long-Sleeve Suit: GIGI C Kendall Surf Suit
GIGI C's Kendall surf suit is straight out of the '60s. The ivory one-piece features retro black flowers, shape-shifting seams, and a gold center-front locking zipper for flare and function. The polyester and spandex suit is fully lined with a high-cut leg for a flattering fit, so whether you crush your session or end up just paddling about, you'll feel fantastic doing it. (You can snag it on the brand's site as well as Free People and Verishop.)
Best Rash Guard Onesie: Zealous Satu Lagi Spring Surfsuit
Kiss gnarly sunburns and surf rashes goodbye with Zealous' fully functional Satu Lagi Surfsuit. The front zipper makes it easy to clamber into and out of, the loop in the back makes it easy to attach to a motorbike or camper van on the ride home (to let it air out after a surf), and the keep loop in the neck is a solid spot to hang your keys or attach your hat so it doesn't go swimming off. Plus, the Zealous brand is woman-owned and dedicated to creating their clothes and suits (in Bali!) using fair production and sustainability in mind.
Best Patterned Rash Guard: Patagonia Women's Micro Swell Rash Guard
Patagonia's Fair Trade Certified-sewn rash guard boasts a high crewneck design that makes for ample coverage and 50+ UPF sun protection. It easily layers over a bikini and is super stretchy and lightweight, so it'll fit snugly no matter what's underneath. The top is made of 83 percent recycled polyester and 17 percent spandex for a quick-drying blend. Go carve some waves and then chill for a post-surf beer while your it dries out. (Related: These UPF Clothes Will Protect Your Skin During Any Outdoor Activity)
Best Rash Guard T-Shirt: prAna White Edge Wave Short-Sleeve Sun Top
Sometimes all you need is a plain old white tee — in rash guard form. And that's exactly what prAna's white edge wave sun top provides. It's the most minimalistic rash guard I've seen. No loud logos. No obnoxious prints. This one is nothing but a sweet and simple short-sleeved surf top made of a lightweight, breathable jersey and recycled polyester with UPF 50+. It'll dry quickly and won't stink like a wet dog, thanks to anti-odor Microban technology, so you can toss it on over and over again. (Although, if you do want something a tad showier, their other colors are cute and still simple.)
Best Bodysuit: The Seea Nazare Bodysuit
If you'd rather give your arms full freedom for paddling but protect your legs from sun, sand, and salt rash, consider a bodysuit that works equally well for surfing as it does for paddling or even yoga. This option from The Seea — a woman-run, sustainably minded progressive surf brand — is made from a nylon/spandex blend (with a UPF of 30+ to 50+) that's heavier weight than your usual swim suit fabric. Plus, it's stitched with no inner-thigh seams to prevent chafing.
Best Fun, Full Wetsuit: Full Wetsuit: Kassia Surf 3MM Psychedelic Full Suit
Kassia Surf — yes, as in the aforementioned surf legend Kassia Meador — is launching an upcoming surfing swimwear collection full of midline bikini-cut bottoms and bike shorts for those who want to steer clear of inner-thigh rashes. But in the meantime, you should check out her 3MM psychedelic full suit that's built for maximum warmth in colder water — particularly 48°F to 65°F. After all, as a California-bred surfer, wetsuits are Meador's specialty.
Never mind that you'll look like an intergalactic space-surfing superstar, this suit resists wind and retains heat, while the double-blind stitched, taped and glued seams, Velcro enclosures and two neck flaps keep cold water out. The infrared thermal heat lining on the torso adds warmth, and fabric knee pads and a zippered left-arm stash for keys, cash, and wax add bonus points.
Plus, all Kassia Surf products use solvent-free dyes and glues, and they're made of limestone vs. Yulex, which she argues has the best stretch quality. Kassia Surf also partners with Suga to turn old wetsuits and neoprene scraps from the BLUESIGN-certified cutting room floor into recycled yoga mats. (Related: This Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat Stands Up to the Sweatiest Downward Dog)
Best Warm Wetsuit: ROXY 5/4/3mm Syncro Chest Zip Wetsuit
Surfing swell across the seasons? Even in 46°F to 53°F water temperatures? ROXY's Syncro chest zip wetsuit is made of limestone-derived neoprene, which means that it doesn't skimp on function or flexibility. The vapor stretch on the back panel resists wind and retains heat, and the panel's infrared thermal lining turns body heat into energy to maintain warmth. Glued and blind-stitched seams keep water out, and the hood provides an added layer of warmth. All ROXY wetsuits are made with stretchy and fast-drying lycra that's UV-, chlorine- and sunscreen-resistant, so it'll last you a long time in the lineups.