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How to shop for men’s Patagonia board shorts

We are asked about these a lot, and what the difference is between the various models, so I thought I’d try to write a guide to help everyone decide which option best suits their needs! ~Jeff

Shop all of our men’s Patagonia board shorts at:

Over the past couple of years, Patagonia has both expanded and tweaked their best-selling collection of men’s board shorts. These changes are all for the better — but it can make shopping for a pair confusing. For example, the summer 2013 collection includes 8 different shorts. Eight!!

That’s a lot of choices, right? That means there are Patagonia board shorts for everyone — and really, these are all super nice, they’re the best board shorts out there — but if you want to make sure you choose the best pair for you, I’m here to help. There’s just no way to keep this short and sweet with so many to choose from, so I’ll just break down each style for you, one by one.

Four of these are brand new (Stretch Planing, Stretch Houdini, Stretch Journeyman, Light and Variable). For the other four, there are some key revisions from 2012. First, the drawcords are now tacked, instead of terminating with a plastic piece that could eventually crack. Second, the ladder lock has been angled to improve the fit range.

Patagonia has also trimmed some fabric out of the waistband tab and interface, to quicken dry times and achieve a cleaner look. All zippers are made from recycled plastic instead of materials that would slowly corrode in salt water.

Now that you’re up to speed, let’s dive into the individual styles.


Wavefarer Board Shorts

The Wavefarer is the classic 21″ Patagonia boardshort, and our best-seller by a significant margin. It’s just hard to beat such a tried-and-true, simple design that is as durable and functional as it is stylish. For summer 2013, these are available in twenty colors!

This surf staple is made with an extremely durable nylon Supplex fabric and features a hip pocket. The 2013 version adds a zipper pull to the pocket and shifts the interior key loop for improved security. $59

Minimalist Wavefarer Board Shorts

The Minimalist Wavefarer is a shorter, trimmer version of the classic Wavefarer board short. Cut from the same burly nylon with a 19″ outseam, the Minimalist is your short if you prefer an above-the-knee length, or if you’re simply not seven feet tall!

Slimmed down for 2013, after customer feedback suggested that the 2012 version was a bit too roomy for a 19″ short. Otherwise identical to the Wavefarer, with all the same features. Simple, right? $59

Stretch Wavefarer Board Shorts

Closing out the Wavefarer series, the Stretch Wavefarer adds 4% spandex to that 4.3-oz Supplex for just the right amount of stretch. Literally, this short is exactly what it sounds like: a stretch version of the 21″ Wavefarer. Predictably, it’s very popular.

In addition to the stretch nylon, Patagonia has straightened a side seam and updated the rear seat design on this particular boardshort, to increase mobility versus last year’s Stretch Wavefarer. $69

Stretch Houdini Board Shorts

OK, the Stretch Houdini is THE top of the line board short. Period. It’s also the most expensive, of course. What do you get for the money? You get a short with a mechanical stretch fabric that won’t hold water or break down over time like spandex. It has no inseam, and the seams it does have are glued and stitched.

Do you follow? This is the fast-drying, chafe-proof, long-lasting board short of your dreams. The choice of professionals. $119

Stretch Journeyman Board Shorts

Put simply, this is the one with pockets. The Stretch Journeyman swaps the zippered hip pocket for a pair of “real” pockets and a cargo pocket. The 2.8 oz 100% polyester ripstop (mechanical stretch) is also lighter than, and dries faster than, the heavier nylon in the Wavefarers.

This is the most versatile boardshort option, for surfing and fishing and hiking and even wearing to dinner. We love the khaki color pictured, with style like a casual short but all the tech you need. $79

Stretch Planing Board Shorts

At 20″ with a slimmer profile, the Stretch Planing features a similar fit as the Minimalist — but it’s made from the same superlight, quick-drying 2-day mechanical stretch polyester as the Journeyman. This is a lighter, sleeker, Wavefarer for the modern surfer.

As with the Stretch Houdini, this style has no inseam for chafing prevention; especially compared to the Houdini, this is a great price point for a super-technical pair of board shorts! $79

Paddler Board Shorts

The Paddler Board Shorts are the closest to a swim trunk, with a self-draining polyester liner for raft guides, paddlers and river rats. A customer favorite when introduced last year, the summer 2013 Paddler shorts adds a mesh gasket to the lining for improved draining.

These are the same 4.3 oz Supplex as the Wavefarers, in a 20″ outseam, with the liner and cargo-style pocket being key differences. A functional addition to Patagonia’s board short family. $69

Light and Variable Board Shorts

Perhaps the fastest-drying board short in the line — as well as the most affordable! — with a 3.5-oz polyester ripstop fabric and 18″ outseam. This is the only surf trunk in the line without a DWR finish. Stripped down and clean as can be; stuffs into its own back pocket for easy storage. You can basically live in these.

No inseam, no stretch, no button, no side pocket, no bells and whistles. As Patagonia is fond of saying: Live Simply! $49


OK, so you’ve read this far, which means you probably know a lot more about the different options than you did when you started. So… which of these is for you? Here’s a quick guide:


If you like a longer length:
Wavefarer, Stretch Wavefarer, Stretch Journeyman, Stretch Houdini

If you like a shorter length:
Minimalist Wavefarer, Light and Variable

If your primary concern is durability:
Wavefarer, Minimalist Wavefarer, Paddler

If your primary concern is fast dry time:
Stretch Journeyman, Stretch Planing, Light and Variable

If your primary concern is stretch/mobility:
Stretch Houdini, Stretch Wavefarer, Stretch Journeyman, Stretch Planing

If you want a short with no inseam:
Stretch Houdini, Stretch Planing, Light and Variable

If you want a cargo-style pocket:
Stretch Journeyman, Paddler

If you want a short with BlueSign-approved fabric:
Light and Variable, Stretch Wavefarer


Alright, that’s it — that’s literally everything I know, I have nothing else to share. Remember, we have a huge selection of Patagonia board shorts at Rock/Creek stores, and an even broader range available on if you’ve managed to fall in love with an obscure colorway we couldn’t fit in the shop. As always, our staff experts are still happy to answer your questions by phone or email if you’re still confused!

Need more? Watch this video from Patagonia about the Summer 2013 line, centered around their approach for designing and testing men’s board shorts.


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