Stab Magazine | Boardshorts: Above Or Below The Knee?

Boardshorts: Above Or Below The Knee?

Are we really still talking about this in 2019? Yes, yes we are. 

style // Mar 5, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The beginning of western surfilization was built on “surf trunks” that barely eclipsed the length of a rider’s rod.

We’re talking about the boardshorts worn by Duke, Tom Blake, and those guys in the original Endless Summer. 

Back in those days, shorts were just that. If your thighs weren’t immaculately bronzed, you simply weren’t a surfer. 

Then around the 80s, some surf-fashion renegade stopped and thought, wouldn’t it be neat if boardshorts covered the knees, and perhaps even part of the fibula?

This led to Okanui’s surf-pantaloons, as donned by older Aussie longboarders (below), which set the stage for long boardshorts to monopolize the industry between the 90s and early 2000s. (Swellnet provides an interesting boardshort history here.)

okanuigood1 0

Then around 2010, surfing returned to its above-the-knee roots; we’ve only gone shorter since. Shin-sniffers are out and 15-inch outseams are a common sight between Australia, California, Hawaii and beyond. 

Most people have made peace with this change (leading to a drastic increase in male thigh tattoos), but not Stab‘s Rory Parker, who takes painstaking care to cover his knees as if it was commanded by Allah.

Below, Rory makes the case for a little extra fabric while Michael Ciaramella defends the status quo.

Jabs are thrown. Tears are shed. This is the dumbest debate you’ll read today!


Greg Noll wore em high and fly.


Ever since boardshorts turned into shants for a brief period in the mid-90s, companies have been trying to bring back the three-inch inseam. It’s no surprise – a large part of fashion is recycling bad ideas in the hopes that they will eventually stick. Now it’s happening again. Trunks are creeping north of the knee, hems are being scalloped, and I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT!

There is a very narrow range for proper boardshort length and it always involves covering up your fucking knees. 

billabong long


You can go shorter if you’re a Eurotrash kiteboarder, a woman, or a trunk-legged big wave legend. But the sight of grown men cavorting about with their gangly chicken legs on display makes me want to retch. If you think you look good, or that they’re somehow more functional, I’d love nothing more than twenty minutes in a dimly lit shed with a length of rubber hose to teach you the error of your ways.

Short shorts scream narrow shoulders, surf lessons, and shopping trips to the mall. Tiny inseams lead to knee rash, exposed genitals, and chafing down the length of your shaft. They pair with resumes that feature ‘Instagram influencer,’ retro boards that ride like dogshit, and mongo-pushing your skateboard down the Santa Monica Promenade.

Short shorts are like mustaches in that they’ve only ever looked good on one man. And that man is a young Tom Selleck.

 tom selleck magnum pi c10102247


It’s impossible to deny the truth in many of your claims.

Short shorts do occasionally coincide with knee rash, Influencerism, and the odd tip-slip. You’re also correct that on the wrong sort of thighs (ones made of brittle bird bones and a scarcity of flesh), a 15-inch outseam is an embarrassing sight.

But there are levels to this issue, and while I do not condone more than half of a ham exposed, I’d argue there’s nothing wrong with – and in fact very much right with – clipping your boardies above the knee.

First, there’s the optics. Long boardshorts reek of the flat-brimmed-trucker-hat wearing, white-socks-up-to-the-knees rocking, tattoos-all-over-their-neck-having Santa Cruz dirtbag.

It’s either that or a total virgin. Someone who has literally never had sex.


Exhibit A

Next, despite your cursory accusations, above-the-knee cuts do have performance advantages. Namely that they don’t get stuck on your fucking knee when trying to stand up or do a turn, which is real problem that can lead to severe awkwardness, akin to getting your leash looped around your foot, or back in the day when back-zip suits were a thing and you’d get the string stuck under your hand on the takeoff, resulting in a faceplant.

Below-the-knee boardies are a disgrace to fashion and function. They are for incels and meth heads.

I should have expected nothing less from a self-proclaimed high-performance longboarder.


I remember watching you cut off the bottom half of your boardshorts on our last trip to Oahu. “Look at fucking Daisy Duke over here,” I thought. “Add an elastic waistband and a pair of mesh panties and he’d be the pride and joy of the Jersey shore.”

You looked nearly as cool as the Biebs, Mike. Strutting down the beach with your waxed torso, this is what you look like! This is you:


Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe the reason you go too short is based on the fact that it’s hard to find boardshorts in the boy’s section of Tilly’s. If a pair of normal boardies hung midway down my calves I might overreact and hack them to bits as well. It’s not your fault you’re built like a shaved sea otter. It’s just a cross you’re forced to bear.

But let me ask you this- if shorter is better due to “performance advantages,” why not hack off even more? Rock a pair of speedos, or whatever they call those lycra shorts Brazilians love so much.

You’ll zip through the water drag-free, fly through the air like spinner dolphin. Put that baby bird you call a penis on display. Sure, you’ll look like a total fucking goon, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. After all, it’s all about performance, right?  


Ricardo Toledo knows what’s up. 


Man, I haven’t been this roasted since the third grade, when Alex Giannetti convinced all my classmates I was gay.

Apparently the correct answer to, “Who understands you best: boys or girls?” was not “boys.”

But Alex taught me a lesson that day. Two, actually.

First that homophobia is a grotesque societal plague which should be culled at its source (Holy Bible!), and second that getting knocked down (or in my more permanent case, being short) grants you the unique ability to take out your opponents’ knees.

This is precisely what I intend to do with you, assuming I actually find your knees, what with the abundance of fabric restricting their visibility.

You say long shorts are better, but tell me a single respectable surfer who wears them in 2019.

You cant! You won’t. They don’t exist.

While I’m happy to applaud your cutting lyricism and have a laugh at my own expense, the only people actually in your corner are you and a few 40-year-old tryhards, most of whom are from Santa Cruz, plus a few Floridians and also Chris Ward.

Are those the type of people with whom you wish to align? Because I can assure you no one else is rocking those hideous shin-sniffers on the day-to-day.

In fact, no one remotely attuned to modern culture would be caught dead in below-the-knee trunks until at least 2025, when they will inevitably come back en vogue via the natural laws of fashion you’ve established above.

Will I wear the shocking sea capris when that fateful day comes?

Maybe. Probably. But I really hope not.


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