How Tight Should a Rash Guard Be?

Man on a rash guard riding a wave

It's all fun and games until your chest gets all messed up. If you're new to the wonders of surfing, odds are you are trying to figure out all that you need before you head out on a wave. One crucial thing to ask is, "how tight should a rash guard be?"

How Tight Should a Rash Guard Be?

Rash guards protect your body from abrasions when you are out on the water. People commonly wear them when surfing, but you can wear them wherever you want to. However, they were designed for surfers to protect their chests from the rough grip of the surfboard.

Now, how tight should a rash guard be is really up to the wearer. Rash guards typically come in two fits, loose and regular/clingy. Both have their benefits and may give you a different experience, but in reality, it is all up to you and what you like more.

If you don't even know what you prefer yet, it might be a good idea to know what's available, what the difference is, and how the fit of a rash guard can affect your performance.

What Does a Rash Guard Do?

People wearing rash guard

Image via unplash

As previously mentioned, a rash guard is meant to keep your chest and upper body from abrasions. A surfboard typically has a rough coating on the top. This design helps give your bare feet some traction. However, laying down and finding one's self thrown around can often lead to your chest and arms receiving a brush burn or worse.

That rash guard will make sure that your arms, chest, and stomach are safe. The shirt is also made out of material that won't tear, regardless of how much torture it gets from the waves.

But how tight should a rash guard be? Well, everyone has their tastes and odds are you will see a myriad of different styles out on the water. Some will improve your performance more than others will.

Rash Guard Fits

How tight should a rash guard be depends on your body size and comfort level. In general, there are two fits you can choose from when picking out a surfing shirt -- loose-fitting or the regular/clingy fit.

Now the loose fit may feel more comfortable because it will feel like you are wearing a t-shirt. However, if you fall in the water, it may also feel like you are swimming in a t-shirt. It's not as heavy or cumbersome, but you will find yourself left with excess material.

On the other hand, a clingy, more performance-fit shirt will be tighter around your chest, arms, and stomach. Some people may not like that feeling, but the fact that it will stretch and move with your body is nice, especially when you get out on the water and are having to move around a lot.

However, buying a guard that is too tight can be detrimental to your performance. You do not want something that is going to limit your movement in any way. That can lead to a dangerous situation if you find yourself thrown from your board by a wave.

Be sure to try on a bunch of different styles and fits until you find one that suits you perfectly.

Should you even wear one?

Man wearing a black and red rash guard

Image via unplash

Yes. Rash guards are incredibly important when you are surfing unless you want a chest that looks like Freddy Krueger's face. Rash guards may seem like an annoyance, especially in the hot summer sun, but they help out more than you think.

Not only does a rash shirt help with the surface of your board, but it can also protect your upper body if you wind up between a wave and the surf. That sand is often filled with stones, shells, and who knows what else.

Your rash guard provides a barrier between your skin and any sharp object you may rub against.

These guards can also help out when it comes to keeping sunburn down to a minimum. Sunscreen is a good idea, but wearing a rash guard also puts a barrier between you and the sun.

How to Find the Perfect Fit

Knowing how tight a should a rash guard be is a big question when finding the best one for you. But it is not the only thing you should be looking at.

To find the best rash guard for you, there are some things you should be paying attention to.

Stitching

Fabric and material

Sleeve length

Best Rash Guards

Going out and finding one that fits you the best is always the best option. However, not everyone has the luxury of time on their side. Sometimes it is just easier to have an example of a good product and go from there.

Well, here are two examples for you to start or end your search for your next rash guard. Now, that is not to say that these are perfect examples of how tight should a rash guard be, but they are pretty close. The best thing you can do is try them on and see how they are.

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Looking for the best stitch? This is precisely it. The O'Neill rash guard features a four-way stretch and is made from a polyester/spandex blend. The stitching here starts at the collar, then splits off at the top of the chest to go down the length of the sleeve.


This unique stitch gives you a complete range of motion without any restrictions. Plus it has UPF 50+ sun protection is pretty great.


The O'Neill rash guard is a form-fitting, performance shirt so you will get a tighter fit here but not quite compression. Breathable, durable, and lightweight. Perfect for surfing.

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The long sleeve, attractive Huge Sp​​orts rash guard is made for ultimate performance. The build is 80 percent nylon and 20 percent spandex, for maximum durability and protection, while staying lightweight. The two-way stretch fabric stabilizes your muscles with compression to prevent fatigue or energy loss.


UPF 50+ protects your entire upper body from sun damage. The fit style is compression, giving you very tight, second-skin feel. But with a Raglan stitching, you still retain a complete range of movement.


The unique asymmetric design is weirdly attractive and sets you out among the rest. If that isn't enough, 4.4 out of 5 stars certainly is. And with the full range of designs and colors, you're sure to find one that fits your style.

Radical, Dude!

Man wearing a black rash guard

Image via unplash

Rash guards are an essential part of surfing, and knowing how right should a rash guard can save you a lot of headaches and bodily pain. However, one fit will not be the same for everyone. Some like the looser fits more than others, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, no matter what you like, stay away from unisex fits. Every body shape is different, and the universal fits are never good.

Other than that, the best idea is to experiment with different styles until you find one you like.

Have you started looking already, or are you still looking? Let us know your answer to how tight should a rash guard be. We want to know!

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