Rash guards have been one of the de facto forms of skin protection for the majority of water sports that include a board, such as surfing and paddle boarding. While many do not consider them absolutely necessary, you should certainly wear one. They are especially important if you are a beginner, or just learning to stand up paddle.
- Top 10 Best SUP & Surfing Rash Guards for the Money (2017 - 2018)
- What is a Rash Guard? What Does it Do?
- Where To Buy?
- Why You Need a Rash Guard
- Types of Rash Guards
- Other Considerations Before Buying
Top 10 Best SUP & Surfing Rash Guards for the Money (2017 - 2018)
What is a Rash Guard? What Does it Do?
A rash guard is an upper body garment that you wear by itself or under a wetsuit. It serves multiple purposes.
- Protection from chafing
- Sun protection
- Rash protection
- Warmth, or alternatively, light coverage
For many, a rash guard can serve as an upper garment that they can wear for stylistic purposes or just as a functional piece of clothing.
Where To Buy?
If you’re not sure where you can find a good selection of these, then let us help you out. Shops that specialize in water sports gear tend of offer some of the best brands on the market. However, you can still get good options at larger retailers, like Amazon. Here’s a list of where we suggest you start your shopping:
Why You Need a Rash Guard
While many water sports make use of the rash guards, surfers and paddle boarders use them the most. If you are in one of those categories, you should consider owning and wearing a rash guard as a necessity. Here are the most important reasons why.
Your board can rub you the wrong way
One of the original purposes of a rash guard is to protect you from the coating of your board. When you are paddling out on it, or otherwise pressed to it, the coating will definitely rub you the wrong way.
You can develop some terrible rashes from the chafing. If the board has dirt or sand stuck on it, you will rub those things into your flesh, which can make the situation worse. That rash can make for some painful times out in the water.
Because it’s way too warm for the wetsuit
Sometimes a wetsuit just is not all that comfortable. This is especially true when you have a warmer than normal day. Many people will choose to go out with their wetsuits if it is too warm, but they will not go out without a rash guard on. You need a rash guard with or without a wetsuit.
Also, the wetsuit can become irritating
Rash guards underneath a wetsuit can help to protect you from the wetsuit itself. Wetsuits can cause skin irritation and outright rashes just like your board can. Your rash guard can act as a barrier between your wetsuit and your skin.
Because the sun doesn’t play fair
You should always have some form of UV protection when out under the sun. All rash guards offer some protection from the sun. There are some rash guards that go a little further with specific SPF protection coatings. Some rash guard materials also offer more natural UV protection than others.
Because you should wear something
Even as just something to wear, a rash guard represents a stylish yet functional piece of clothing. Given all the above, it is a garment you should never find yourself without. Other benefits can come from rash guards depending on their types, quality, and materials.
Types of Rash Guards
There are two major types of rash guards. You will find those for water activities, and those for other types of sports, like martial arts. For water rash guards, there are a few subcategories as well. These are based mostly on the materials, style, and construction of the rash guard. You can also find rash guards made or marketed for specific water sports.
Rash guards can consist of any number of materials, but almost always some synthetic fiber blend or another.
Each of these materials offers benefits. You should choose whichever feels most comfortable to you. Lycra can offer superior stretching, while polyester can give a tighter fit. Neoprene can offer some insulation, while nylon and spandex can dry quicker.
All of these options are worth your while, so it is best to choose the one that you want. Many rash guards come in combinations of these fibers. So you may see “nylon-spandex,” “NylonLycra,” or other blends.
What about UPF protection?
As stated, all rash guards feature some sun protection. There are some rash guards with treated materials specifically to add extra sun protection to the garment. While on the water, you are hit with UV from the sun, as well as UV reflected off the surface of the water.
If sun represents a concern for you, and it probably should, then you will want a rash guard with UPF protection. Manufacturers achieve this protection in one of two ways. They use a tight stich that blocks out the UV, or they coat the fabric.
In either case, just know that UPF protection from your rash guard is no substitute for a good waterproof sunscreen. Rather, you should use both together to increase your overall protection.
You can help or hinder the amount of sun protection you receive by choosing a style that covers everything, or choosing a style that still leaves a lot of bare skin. Look for the UPF rating on a rash guard. That rating means the rash guard was specifically engineered and tested for blocking UV.
Do you need thermal protection?
You may come across rash guards labeled as “thermal rash guards.” This means the rash guard material, typically neoprene, has an added layer of insulation. The thicker the rash guard, the more insulation it has. For summer paddling, you probably don’t need one like this unless you’re in an area where the water (and air) is cooler in the summer than most places. Ideally, you’ll wear one with thermal protection in the cooler months of the year when its not cold enough for a wetsuit but not warm enough to go out on the water without the thermal base.
How should it fit?
Different materials offer different feels as far as stretchability, breathability, and tightness are concerned. Ideally, you want your rash guard to fit tightly for most water sports and activities.
The fabric will move with you and not get in the way of what you are doing. You can also opt for a looser fitting rash guard, but these tend to work best for more casual water activities. For surfing or SUP, think snug, not loose.
What styles are available?
Do not think you only have one type of option when it comes to rash guards. They come in a variety of styles.
- Long sleeve
- Short sleeve
- Tank tops
- Monosuits (short or long sleeved)
A full monosuit or a shirt and short combination can take the place of a wetsuit for those in warmer climates. Although, you should understand the more you cover, the warmer the rash guard can feel on a warm day.
Of course, “style” also means the look of your rash guard. It is possible to find rash guards in an almost infinite amount of styles, colors, and designs. So do not think you have to sacrifice style for protection. You can have both. You can even have artwork and designs added to your rash guard.
Other Considerations Before Buying
Despite all the aforementioned information concerning rash guards, there are a few other things you may want to look out for when picking one up.
- Craftsmanship – Look at the seams and overall quality of the build.
- Construction – Check that the rash guard consists of six or more panels.
- Wicking – No matter the material of the rash guard, it should provide some water and sweat wicking.
- Drying – A good rash guard will dry quickly, and keep your skin dry as well.
As you can see, there is a lot more to rash guards than meets the eye. Higher quality does come at a higher price, but it is better to pick up a rash guard of some sort before venturing out into the water with your board.