Let’s talk about rash guards. They look like short sleeve bathing suits (kind of) and they sound like the sort of thing to bring with you to some of the shadier sides of a foreign country, but these short sleeve bathing suits are actually an important part of any ocean-sport kit. Whether you’re heading out for a bit of surfing, jet-skiing, snorkeling, or whatever, rash guards will come in handy.
What Exactly Are Rash Guards?
These are body-covers that are designed to perform the varied functions of providing protection from the sun, providing us with warmth, as well as preventing the development of rashes from friction with a wetsuit.
Here’s a rundown of what they’re about:
They are suitable for wearing underneath a wetsuit for their warmth and rash protection properties alone, although you can step out in just your rash guard if the weather outside is warm enough.
They can be worn in addition to modest swimwear for additional coverage if you’re looking for protection from warm eyes as well.
These short sleeve bathing suits are usually made out of nylon, polyester, spandex, or neoprene.
Even though this might not always be stated in product descriptions, all rash guards provide us with a modicum of UV protection.
Thermal Rash Guards
These are a class of rash guards specifically geared towards providing warmth in cold water. If you’ve been a frontier-woman from the 1800s in a past life, then you’ll have heard of thermal underwear. This is a bit like that, only that this is for the open water and not your bed-chamber.
Here’s what they’re about:
They are frequently used in ocean sports and aqua-aerobics in places where the water is simply too cold for bare skin but still too warm for a wetsuit.
When looking at the product descriptions, the term ‘thermal’ is interchangeable with ‘thermo-‘. They both refer to the heat-providing or retaining qualities of the thick, insulating fabrics the rash guards are made out of.
Neoprene is the most commonplace thermal rash guard material due to its exceptional heat-retention capabilities.
The ‘millimeter’ (mm) designation you’ll find in product descriptions refers to the material’s thickness. The higher the number, the thicker the material, and thus it follows that it will provide more warmth. Should the description have two numbers, say 3/2 mm, the first number will be in reference to the rash guard’s torso thickness while the second will be in relation to its limb and sides thickness.
Short Sleeve Bathing Suits and General Sun Protection
There are rash guards available providing specifically for protection from the sun, usually preferred by surfers. These may be worn under a wetsuit to protect against wetsuit irritation or to guard against surfboard rash, which we hear is a real pressing concern in certain communities.
A bit more general info on rash guards:
Regular rash guards will be lightweight affairs made to fit you snugly (somewhat tight-fitting). You can choose to go for looser fitting rash guards as well, by buying a size or so upwards or looking for a surf shirt instead.
You can get them in both long sleeve and short sleeve cuts.
Short sleeve bathing suits will provide you with more freedom of motion, while the long sleeve versions are designed to maximize protection and support.
To prevent your rash guard from riding up, there are board shorts connectors that can be attached to them.
Surf Shirts and Tees
These are designed to provide us with protection against the sun’s harmful effects. They are exceptionally lightweight, even more so than rash guards, and fit very loosely. You wear them as you would an ordinary shirt as they’re too loose for surfing, unless you’re from Florida, in which case you can wear them to the office on Fridays.
Rash Guard Vests
For additional warmth when engaging in ocean sports, these are a handy solution. They can be worn on their own or underneath a wetsuit. Due to their lack of sleeves, they are a lot more mobile in the shoulders, which is a big plus when it comes to any athletic activity.
They will give you an added layer of warmth for your torso, although it won’t be enough for really cold water conditions. Their best purpose will be dictated by the specific material they’re made from, as follows:
LYCRA vests are relatively similar to conventional rash guards, with the obvious difference being the lack of sleeves.
Should the rash guard vest be specifically designed for warmth, look out for ‘mm’ tag in the title.
Full-Body Rash Guards
These are made from the same materials but will have the cut of full-body wetsuits. They are made use of in various ocean sports, including kayaking, water skiing, canoeing, wakeboarding, kite-surfing, windsurfing, and regular surfing. The downside with these is the relatively restricted range of motion they afford us.
Rash Guards for Every Occasion
You can find rash guarding short sleeve bathing suits in cuts suitable for anyone. Children’s rash guards, usually optimized for protection from the sun, are referred to as ‘sun suits’. For men and women, they are usually optimized for ocean sports and water aerobics. Whatever you’re looking to do, and whatever the conditions out there, you won’t have trouble finding short sleeve bathing suits perfect for your purposes.