• Last week Hurley unveiled a warm water duopoly in their Phantom Hyperweave boardshorts and Phantom Compression surf wear. Worn together or seperately, Hurley's duds are the latest in a long evolving line of boardshorts and their release gives us the excuse to look back at the way things were and the way things never should have been.

    Boardshorts would seem the most logical attire to go surfing in, however when Captain Cook first saw surfing in Hawaii the locals were going one better - they surfed naked.

    You can blame the Catholic missionaries that this excellent custom isn't still in place, in fact you can blame them for almost killing surfing off completely. When surfing was revived, around the turn of last century, neck to knee woollen tank suits were required to protect the riders' modesty.

    By the 1930s Hawaiian surfers were challenging social mores, doffing the top and exposing the nipples - the first boardshorts were born! As can be seen from the pics below of Duke Kahanamoku the favoured style was high on the waist with the belly button tucked in tight. Call 'em snug fitting, just don't bend over too far.

    (Photos Bishop Museum)

  • The photos above show how the Duke personalised his surfboards by engraving his name in the koa wood. Before long surfers would be doing a similar things with their boardshorts: customising them to create their own look and in so doing stand apart from other surfers.

    In 1987 Kirk Wilcox spoke to Greg Noll about the world's first signature boardshorts.

    And what about the striped boardshorts, how did that come about?
    There was somebody who used to surf like me – I'm trying to think who it was and I cant quite remember, it was so far back. But anyway, Bud Brown would shoot pictures...and when the stuff would come out we'd sit around at the restaurant that night, looking at proof sheets, trying to figure out who was who. And this guy kept ripping me off, saying “Hey, that's me!” So I just said “Piss on this,” went down to M.Nii's and got myself a pair of jailhouse boardshorts.

    M.Nii’s?
    Yeah, M.Nii's made my first pair. There was an old guy and his wife who lived in Makaha and made boardshorts out at their shack – it was called M.Nii's. And the big deal the time, when we could get enough scratch together, was to go to in and have M.Nii's make us up some boardshorts. Everybody got their boardshorts from M.Nii's, that was a big deal in the islands. And they made that first pair of black-and-white boardshorts.

    (Interview from 'Big Surf', 1987. Photos Billabong/John Severson, Noll Surfboards)

  • In the early-70s the surf industry was making its first forays out of the cottage with companies blossoming in Torquay, Sydney, and the Gold Coast, as well as Southern California. Product development helped distinguish the wares of each company with function becoming as critical as form. 

    The result was the first 'technical' boardshorts, which hit the beaches in the mid-70s featuring such seemingly innocuous designs - at least when viewed from 40 years hence - as velcro snap closures and side scallops. High tech indeed.

  • With the surf industry on the rise, Stubbies, more well known for work shorts and plumber's cracks, threw their hat in the ring. In the mid-70s they rolled out bargain basement surf shorts and in '77 they sponsored the world's most prestiguous surf contest, the Stubbies Surf Classic at Burleigh Heads where Peter Drouyn unveiled his man-on-man contest format.

    Shown in the photo are the '77 finalists, MR (with his famous King Kong board spray), and the winner, MP, both wearing the regulation contest duds.

    Stubbies sponsored the comp for a further ten years but the relationship became increasingly ill-fitting, the big bucks patronage of pro surfing doing little to influence the preferred attire of surfers. By 1988 Stubbies had quit surfing and gone back to the building sites.

  • By the early-80s surf wear was a byword for youth wear and with a springtide of teens behind them the surf companies boomed. The images they projected were cocksure, colourful, and bucketloads of fun.

    Below are two different expressions of this emerging attitude. At left and centre are Chappy Jennings, Paul Nielsen, and Kong ("cleverly camouflaged in his red and white star trunks") upholding the Aussie animal image, and at right is a classic shot from the Echo Beach movement centred around the "Hottest 100 yards" of Newport Beach, California. Echo Beach used prints taken straight from horse racing, the stripes, polka dots, and harlequin diamonds found on jockey silks at any racing track.

  • History Lesson: Part 1

    Modern longboarding is full of eager young aesthetes. Just watch Harrison Roach, Alex Knost, or Jared Mell work their way down the point at Noosa - one moment jiving, one moment stock-still, always self-concious. So is it contrived? Of course it is! But it's also wonderful to watch and, without getting all Happy Days on your arse, it's cool. Very cool. Fonzarelli cool.

    But lest you think longboarding has always been cool comes this blast from the forgotten past. In the 80s Okanuis treated hibiscus prints and watermelon slices as the height of boardshort fashion. If modern longboarding is John Coltrane then this mob was Plastic Bertrand.

    But hey, cool or uncool, it only matters if you think it does.

  • History Lesson: Part 2

    Just to reiterate the point above.

  • Originally a T-shirt company...actually, originally they were a record label...but anyway, by the late-80s Mambo were ensconsed in the surf industry distinguishing themselves with art-driven apparel. Mambo commissioned artists such as Richard Allen, Paul McNeil, Reg Mombassa, Jeff Raglus and many more to create wearable art, much of it infused with satire and pointed social commentary.

    The three prints below, all by Richard Allen, run the gamut of fashion, blasphemy, and corporate subversion, a holy trinity for Mambo.

    In 2000 Mambo was sold, and just as they led the surf world with fashion and art so to did they lead the way to the bargain bin. Never has there been a finer example of creative destruction, literally.

  • When it comes to boardshorts form must equal function and function must equal form. What I'm talking about is a happy balance between comfort and style, and I raise the definition here because some boardshorts swing the pendulum too far one way.

    Neoprene boardshorts were wonderful to surf in, they didn't catch, didn't chaff, didn't flap about. Never mind the modern marketing spiel, with neoprene boardies it really did feel like you were wearing nothing. It was the closest thing to pre-missionary Hawaiian surfing without getting arrested.

    Neoprene boardshorts were extremely popular for a few months around 1990, yet by 1991 they were all but gone. There's no big secret to their egress; in the same way cycling lycra is laughed at now, neoprene boardies were laughed at then. For all their comfort, those neoprene nut-huggers had no style.

  • Just like surfboards, the length of boardshorts waxes and wanes - short this decade, long the next. The pendulum swings back and forth, or up and down as it is.

    Throughout the 1990s hem length of boardshorts dropped and dropped till the turn of the century when they reached their nadir an inch or so below the knee. It was the inverse of what the Duke sported back in the 1930s: high waist and hem back then had turned into a waist so low the snail trail was revealed and hems that turned thighs milky white.

  • In the late-50s Greg Noll got a bunch of jailhouse boardshorts sewn up so he wouldn't be mistaken for another surfer. In 2005 Andy Irons paddled out in his Rising Sun boardshorts and no-one confused him for anyone else.

    It was the year after Irons had won his third consecutive world title and cemented his rivalry with Kelly Slater as one of the sports' greatest. It was also the year many of Irons' most iconic moments were photographed: the shoulder shrug at the end of his winning wave of the Quiksilver Pro Japan; the 'gunfire claim' at Teahupoo; and the shot below taken by Brian Bielman at Pipeline for Irons' signature boardshorts. Already popular, Iron's Rising Sun boardshorts became a leitmotif following his untimely death in 2010.

  • In 2008 Hurley unveiled their Phantom boardshort that upped the ante on tech boardshorts with gel-infused string ties and soft stretch fabric. Just as improved neoprene made wetsuit rash became a thing of the past, so too did good fabric end the era of boardshort chaff - at least for those wearing the right duds.

    This year Hurley jointly released Phantom Hyperweave and Phantom Compression, together they represent a system that not only straddles comfort and style, but also brings in a third element: safety.

    Phantom Compression provides 'locked in' support for surfers aiming to stretch their own performance limits. Compression are like a tech heavy version of neoprene boardshorts with the saving grace of a dashing Hyperweave overlay.

    For more information visit Hurley.com

Comments

Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ... commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 3:49pm

Why is there a comment thingy on an advertisement?

surfer99's picture
surfer99's picture
surfer99 commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 6:09pm

Ummmm. This isn't an advertisement, this is surf journalism.

southey's picture
southey's picture
southey commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 4:43pm

Cool ya heels Fitz . Theres a pair in the mail ;-)

" SA's Reserve Capacity "

Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ... commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 9:30pm

Yeah surfie99, advertisement and surf journalism have gone hand in hand since Huey was a boy, Hurleys the new Patagonia :-D

If it wasn't an advertisement, surely the journalist would have put their name to it ;-)

southey's picture
southey's picture
southey commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 11:18pm

Maybe they crowd sourced it ?

" SA's Reserve Capacity "

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 9:34pm

Nothing to do with boardies but Duke was in bloody fine shape - puts everyone else here to shame including a young TC.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 9:37pm

Speaking of boardies, would anyone seriously consider paying $200 for a pair of Hurley shorts?
I mean, just to go surfing in?
Jeezus H.

Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ... commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 10:08pm

AndyM wrote: Speaking of boardies, would anyone seriously consider paying $200 for a pair of Hurley shorts?
I mean, just to go surfing in?
Jeezus H.

$200, Yikes. They are the new patagonia aren't they :))

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Monday, 14 Mar 2016 at 10:15pm

The Hurley Phantom Julian Elite board short is "Designed and tested around the unrelenting speed of Julian Wilson, the Hurley Phantom Elite Men's Boardshorts feature a responsive Livewire waistband that contracts as you move for a locked-down fit'.

Hahahaha!
All yours for only $200.

I might be a shit surfer but I get by just fine in shorts picked up for $3 from the op shop - sew up the fly where the velcro has failed and you're away for another few years.
Then again, maybe if I spent the cash I'd improve??

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 12:03am

I guess I don't need them as I don't have unrelenting speed like JW.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 11:05am

The thing is, if you surf as fast as JW and you wear ordinary shorts, the centrifugal force through turns drags your nuts out of the side of your shorts and they end up around near your bum hole - gotta spend the coin Doggy.
No-one likes having to fart their balls back out after a surf.

Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ... commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 6:02am
Purplepills's picture
Purplepills's picture
Purplepills commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 6:20am

Mambo boardies in Big W $25 dora not bad

BobC's picture
BobC's picture
BobC commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 6:42am

The best boardies ever were the Adlers and the Platts in the late sixties and early seventies. Man my Adlers got put on at 5am and taken off at Beddy By time. You could surf in them, then work in them as they dried on you, wear em out to dinner as well because they looked cool....years later they would still look Ok. Made King Gee look like crap...Bring back the Adlers tough as and looked great.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 9:28am

I used to hate how my mum used to wash and iron my boardies when I wasn't quick enough to hide them.

Do you know how embarrasing it is to walk down to the waters edge with two crisp, razor sharp creases running at 12 o'clock down each leg?

I can honestly say I've owned an example of most of those boardies, even a couple of pairs of the neoprene ones.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 10:55am

Reasonable theory behind the neoprene shorts but besides looking heinous, once you got sand inside them it was scrotal exfoliation for the rest of the session.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 9:46am

Poor ol Ash had walk to the beach in his ironed sarong

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 10:47am

Nah Udo, this was pre sarong days. But I'm pretty sure Ash used to iron his boardies himself.

Tip 42, never hang your sarong in storage, always roll and store as you would a good silk neck-tie. (Ash told me that)

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 11:05am

For some unknown reason, I purchased a pair of white boardies (can't remember the brand) before a trip to Central America back in the late 90's. Being mid-winter in Adelaide, I didn't have a chance to try 'em out before I left. To my horror, after emerging from my first surf I found that they actually turned translucent when wet - offering a clear view of the home brew kit. Unfortunately, we were in a remote part of the country by this time and surf shops were surprisingly hard to find, so it took a few weeks until I could buy some new shorts. Learnt that lesson the hard way. 

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 11:16am

Gary G will be contacting you soon Ben for the name of that surf shop.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 3:38pm

LOL! "offering a clear view of the home brew kit."

poo-man's picture
poo-man's picture
poo-man commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 10:21pm

Same thing happened to me. White looked hot on the rack and I was off to Fiji for a week with the family. Was all good until I came in from the surf at Hideaway to jump into the pool in front of all the other tourists with my wet see throughs on in front of wife and 10 year old daughter. Loved those rubber shorts back in the day though

poo-man

toneranger's picture
toneranger's picture
toneranger commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 1:04pm

Ben,that's why sluggos are so important under boardies and wetsuits

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 2:19pm

Nah, budgie smugglers:

- trap sand
- encourage jock rot and chafe post-surf
- are just another bit of wet clothing to deal with

Let em hang free I say.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 2:19pm

Nah, budgie smugglers:

- trap sand
- encourage jock rot and chafe post-surf
- are just another bit of wet clothing to deal with

Let em hang free I say.

Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 3:24pm

Boardshorts! They're a funny thing. I've just had a tally up and I've got 6 pairs! How'd that happen?! The oldest pair I have are circa 2005. Then there are two pairs from 2007 (two for one wholesale deal from a rep mate). The latest pair yesterday (an offer from my missus so she could get free postage from an online site at a price that was hard to believe or resist! 60% off with a further 25% discount?!). One pair, bought as an emergency in Indo in 2014, are already wearing out! Though I am now in a locale where I am wearing boardies a lot of the time. They are the only 'big two' brand too!

I only wear boardies in the water. As land-based shorts, I find them useless (pockets for one thing). And don't get me started on the tight above-the-knee short shorts either. They were fucked the first time round. ST Comps killed sperm counts!

Although I have never paid full retail price for any pair, I do believe this number of 'work' garments does seem a tad excessive. Two, three at a stretch, would suffice, wouldn't you think?

talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 7:57pm

2005? And you use 'em regularly? Jeez, that's not bad going. A brand? Hmmm, and the latest pair from an unnamed site. I think I can guess. Fuck, they're cheap. Any good? Enquiring consumers need to know!

Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon commented Wednesday, 16 Mar 2016 at 11:33am

The 2005 pair are Rhythm. I got 'em in the Goldie on the cheap racks. Probably on there 'cos they are the colour-scheme of the Australian Indigenous flag? Aaaah, Queensland! Like to bust 'em out on the 26th Jan.

That unnamed site is cheap for hardware too. Worth keeping an eye out for all your surfing infrastructure needs. Got a pair of funky Volcoms via the States for 20 odd. Most importantly, NOT thigh blaster disasters!

sluggoes's picture
sluggoes's picture
sluggoes commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 7:27pm

I was into boardies on their own for years. One day I was peacefully waiting out the back when a small finger sized fish came looking for a submarine cave. Compulsory sluggoes under the boardies after that. Sand may now taint my home brew kit, but not fish. No actual injury, but a brief panic.

There were quite a few sluggo men boardriders in the 1980s and 1990s, but they have gone the way of kneeboards and goatboats. I remember seeing a movie of Lopez at G land in sluggoes, which maybe made it cool with goofies for at least a day. Only clubbies and swimmers now.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 7:38pm

A small finger-sized fish - you sure Gary G wasn't paddling behind you?
And I told you not to huff that amyl before going for a surf sluggoes.

sluggoes's picture
sluggoes's picture
sluggoes commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 8:11pm

I'm thankful I wasn't in the territory of the Candiru fish. Gary's been busy "training" the Mad Hueys lately. Fish fingers are just the start.
Gary's been trying to convince the Mad Hueys that the jet ski needs a hoon on some river bores in the Amazon.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Wednesday, 16 Mar 2016 at 12:00pm

Would really like the Mad Hueys go to the Amazon where they will hopefully have a candiru swim up the eye of their old fellas and lodge itself there.

Mr Nobody's picture
Mr Nobody's picture
Mr Nobody commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 9:21pm

Interesting article. Being more of a senior surfer, I remember the versions of 70's board shorts well. I had a pair of stylish chocolate brown shorts with scalloped sides and white cotton trim (like in the photo above).

These days I only buy Australian made board shorts (yes it is possible, google it) and find I can pay about the same, or sometimes less than what the big guys charge for offshore made versions.

Have a nice (surf) day.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016 at 9:30pm

20 buck pair of neoprene shorts from BCF and a cheapo pair from Kmart and you've got the latest technical boardshort phase fully covered.

the-school-master's picture
the-school-master's picture
the-school-master commented Wednesday, 16 Mar 2016 at 9:50pm

It's Bruce Raymond with Chappy and Kong. Not Paul Neilsen.