Here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we primarily get ladies who come to stay with us for our surf and yoga camps. Why? Perhaps it’s because there are more women than men on the planet. Or maybe because women are more likely to plan and execute a girls trip than men. Or, it could be that men are just more likely to teach themselves to surf rather than get surf lessons. Whatever the reason behind this phenomenon, there is one burning question that ladies ask me time and time again: what kind of bathing suit should I be wearing to surf? Often, by the time they get here and ask me, it’s too late to rectify the fact that they have brought a bathings suit that is all wrong, and so they have to spend the rest of their surf camp in Costa Rica dealing with the many pitfalls of a bad surf bathing suit. So in an attempt to avoid this, ladies, we are going to go over the ideal bathing suit for learning to surf in Costa Rica.
Why a functional bathing suit is so important when you’re learning to surf
Surf bathing suits, in my opinion, should be in a separate category than other bathing suits, and especially the ones designed for laying poolside or on the beach. Yes, I am aware that magazines and movies will try to have us believe that girls can surf in the teensiest bikinis, and that’s theoretically true: advanced girl surfers can (and do) surf in sexy suits for photo and videos shoots — once you get to a high level of surfing, it is indeed possible. But hardly ever do you see those girls competing in those tiny bathing suits — when you’re serious about surfing, functionality is much more important than looks. I can personally attest to the fact that it is the worst to be trying to catching waves when your goodies keep popping out left and right.
When you’re learning to surf, it’s especially important to have a bathing suit that won’t come off in the most extreme of conditions. Now, of course, when you’re in the safe confines of the dressing room, how you look in your bikini seems like the top priority — you practically can see yourself catching the waves, looking good, and living the dream. I know, I’ve been there! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked a bathing suit because it’s soooo cute and I really want it, so I convince myself that it’s also functional when it’s just not. The reality is, when you’re learning to surf, you spend a lot of time in the white water — aka the “washing machine”. And let’s face it, that stringy/blingy bikini probably won’t make it through the “washing machine” — which means you’re going to be flashing people.
After time and again of purchasing a bathing suit only to learn once I get into the water that it definitely doesn’t stay on, I finally have a tactic for figuring out if there’s even a possibility that one will stay on in the “washing machine”; now, when trying the bathing suit on, I jump up and down on the spot (letting everything jiggle about), and then flail my arms and legs and dance around wildly. I know it sounds crazy, and my fellow patrons probably think I’m nuts if they can hear me (or see my feet under the change room door), but who cares!? I know that if “the goodies” stay put while I’m doing that, they will probably stay put in the water as well.
Check out Adrianne’s Tropical Tidings: Tips for Your Trip to the Tropics episode on this very topic!
What to look for when choosing a surf bathing suit
Picking your ideal surf bathing suit comes down to two main things: your body type and how much skin you want to show. More curves will probably (but not necessarily) mean that you need more fabric, and the opposite is true for fewer curves. Here is a bit of what I’ve learned so far, after having amassed an embarrassingly large bag of bathing suits — some that are now worn out because they’re so good, and others barely used because they don’t work.
The bottoms can actually be as covering or as “teensy-weensy” as you’d like, as long as it has a drawstring at the waist which allows you to you tighten the bathing suit so that it doesn’t ride up or slide down. I personally prefer the “boyshort” cut, I have tried the teensy ones that go up your bum but have found that I spend half my time picking out the wedgie that inevitably ensues. I think it may be a body type thing as I’ve seen girls wear them without any apparent issues. Also, I don’t like having strange boys lurking around me in the water, something I’ve noticed happens much more frequently when my bathing suit is skimpier — could be a coincidence — either way, it often leads to them getting in my way while I’m trying to surf, which is purpose-defeating.
There are many things to say on this subject, so here they are in bullet form:
- Bra-style straps (either the simple over-the-shoulder or racerback) or criss-cross straps are the best, and I personally like the ones that tie together rather than having a clasp, as they account for different rib sizes.
- If you have neck or upper back problems like me (or if your boobs are bigger than a C cup), try to avoid the halter, tie-at-the-neck-style bathing suits as they will exacerbate any neck tension and probably leave you with with a searing headache.
- If you have to go with halter straps, make sure that the triangles don’t move on the string that ties around your ribs.
- Regardless of the style, thicker straps are always better, especially if you are in the C cup + range.
- When in doubt (and if you can’t seem to find a bathing suit top that works), you can never go wrong with a good ol’ sports bra.
There are actually some great one-pieces out there, provided that keep everything in (try my dressing room test, I swear it’s fun!). I used to rock a Speedo swimmer’s one-piece, not super sexy, I know, but extremely functional. In fact, I once had a friend tell me: “Adrianne, it’s just so cool that you don’t care about what you look like!” I’m still trying to figure out if that was a compliment or an insult…
Spandex or nylon is ideal, and thicker is better (nipple rash is indeed a thing). I have had a few bathing suits in my day that don’t have that internal mesh lining in them, one bathing suit in particular that was reversible so it had the actual bathing suit fabric on both sides, and it was amazing because it didn’t take in sand (which is very annoying). That’s an issue with the mesh lining, especially with bathing suit tops that have openings for removable padding. I have personally learned to stay away from light, primarily white or cream colored bathing suits as a) they may become see-through in the water, and b) they get discolored real fast from sand, wax, etc.
Rashguards are another thing that we get asked about, as the ladies (and gents) wonder if they should purchase and bring their own rashguard. At Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we provide rashguards for our guests. We actually insist that everyone wear a rashguard, as it serves the dual purpose of providing rash and sun protection. Now, if you are coming down for a surf and yoga camp and/or you think that your time spent surfing here is just the beginning of a burgeoning surf career, then definitely look into bringing your own — it can come in useful for a number of other activities aside from surfing (SUPing, kayaking, snorkeling, etc.). And girls, wearing a rashguard means that all is not lost if your bathing suit top doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped.
As for shorts, I personally don’t like wearing them while surfing as I find that they cause rashes on the inner thighs, probably the salt water/tight fabric combo. I’ve never tried wearing guys’ board shorts — they must work, or what else would guys do? — so that’s another option if you’re looking for more coverage. If you would like to wear shorts I can personally recommend spandex yoga shorts, preferably made of a fabric that doesn’t soak in water. I have even seen rashguard pants gaining popularity as of late, to me they just look like spandex pants but I guess they are made with the same fabric as rashguard tops. If your skin rashes really easily (it usually tends to happen among fairer-skinned people) and you are surfing every day for a week or two, rashguard pants are probably a worthwhile investment.
What to avoid in a surf bathing suit
- Strapless bathing suit tops: you will literally spend your entire session having to pull up your top and adjust yourself; not even an exaggeration.
- Tops with any type of metal on them (especially on the front): when you lay on your board, it will dig into your body uncomfortably and potentially bruise you.
- Underwire: unless absolutely necessary, avoid it at all costs, again, when you’re laying on the board, the wire has a tendency to dig in or poke you, which is as uncomfortable as it sounds.
- Anything with meshy/ruchey/crocheted or otherwise textured fabric: avoid it, it will most likely become full of wax and probably sand as well.
Surf bathing suit recommendations
Brands I have tried
Brands that look solid
Final words on choosing and caring for your surf bathing suit
If you find a good swimsuit that works well for surfing, take good care of it — not unlike you would a child or favorite pet! For many of us, swimsuits that work for surfing are hard to come by: I’ve had some of my best bathing suits for over six years. Here are a few last tips…
- Sometimes it’s hard to fork over the dough, but spending a little more on a swimsuit that will last you longer and will work better for you is often worth it.
- Remember to always rinse your swimsuit thoroughly after taking it into salt water, not only will it start to smell after a few days if you don’t, but the salt water will actually slowly disintegrate it.
- If you’re in the tropics, avoid hanging your bathing suit directly in the sun for any extended periods of time as it will fade very quickly.
- Hand wash! With a mild soap! Never, under any circumstances, use the dryer!
Looking for a place to learn to surf or perfect your surfing skills? Look no further. Bodhi Surf + Yoga is THE place to disconnect and unwind, learn some skills, make new connections, and awaken your purpose. Check out our weekly surf and yoga camps and learn more about why people choose Bodhi.