The Ultimate Guide to Rash Vests

In surfer lingo, the term ‘rash vest’ is about as common as saying ‘pub?’ on a Friday evening after work to your colleagues. But, if you’re new to all of this surfing malarkey, it can be among the many other words that, quite frankly, you literally have no idea about (seriously, are they even English?!)

Now, here at WSO, we’re very keen on sharing our passion for all things watersport with just about anyone that will listen. So, on the off chance that you are feeling a little overwhelmed by all the jargon, we want to help familiarise you with the wonderful uses of a rash vest – which is basically to a surfer, what the technicolour dream coat was to Joseph. 



A rash vest (also called a rash guard, rashie or UV top) is a thin top that comes in different styles, thicknesses and fabrics depending on its purpose.

There are two main functions of a rashie. Firstly, to provide UV sun protection. As we should all be aware, sun protection in the water is very important. The sun’s rays are reflected on the surface of the water, thus the damage which can be caused to the skin from sun exposure is intensified. Since running in and out of the water all the time to top up on sun cream can be a bit of a palaver, wearing a rashie can instantly provide us with protection on our stomachs, backs, shoulders and arms. Since these are probably most at risk of damage as they’re always exposed to the sun, a rashie is sounding like a great idea – right?

Another equally important function of a rashie is to prevent the dreaded rash caused from repeated friction of the skin against the board and wetsuit. This is called surf rash. Don’t panic - surf rash is completely normal and very common; we have all been victimised at one point in this office by surf rash! Salt water acts as an exfoliator on our skin, softening it as the sea salts rub against it. Over time, this breaks down and irritates the skin. Chances are, if you surf, you’ve probably had surf rash. Rash vests offer a protective layer though, so you can rip with no fear!



Rash vests can be worn by themselves (obviously cover your bottom part!), with swimwear or under a wetsuit for extra warmth in cold temperatures.

Rashies are available in various materials, such as spandex, nylon, polyester or neoprene.  You can also buy long and short-sleeved versions, depending on the level of protection you want and your preferences. Thermo Warmth vests provide added warmth in chillier conditions, so may not be the best idea for a Maui session, but great if you’re in wet and wintery Watergate Bay.

Rash vests come in all colours and styles, so there really is one for everyone. All the big brands have really upped their game in the last few seasons, so you can have the simplest or the most wackiest rashie that your heart desires!

Fluro colour rash vests (the really bright ones!) have become increasingly popular as they provide increased visibility in the water. They’re a great way of ensuring that you are seen clearly by other surfers in the line-up, so this is ideal if you’re a beginner and want to draw that bit more attention to yourself!



In terms of fit, rashies are lightweight and should be made to fit fairly snug, so that they can move with your body and there’s no excess fabric getting in the way. Obviously, they shouldn’t be too tight that they restrict your movement and feel uncomfortable.

Whilst most commonly worn for surfing, rash vests are useful in virtually any watersport and can be worn by any age, even young children as their skin is extra sensitive. They retain warmth, prevent irritation and offer UV protection, so if you haven’t got one…why?!


Shop our full rash vest collection here.


Published on 6th September 2018 in Surfing

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