Despite the massive amount of bikini brands, bikini styles, and bikini trends, it is still incredibly hard to find bikinis that are functional for the hardy demands that surfing puts on your swimwear.
As a female surfer, I think it’s pretty darn important to have a swimsuit that stays on. I mean, nip slips happen to the best of us but we’d probably prefer if they didn’t.
From the paddle-out to the popup, you want your bikini to stay put and preferably, still look cute.
When I first wrote this blog in 2019, it was hard to find any functional surf bikinis. Now the real question is, of all the surf bikini brands out there in 2021, which are the cutest, the sturdiest, and the best?
We’ve rounded up 8 of the best surf bikini brands that have been tried and tested in heavy water.
After testing out these bikinis personally, I can promise you that these 8 surf bikinis are not only cute and comfortable, but they’re also sturdy, durable, and will absolutely stay on when surfing big waves.
Shopping for the Best Surf Bikini
Okay, so you want to rock a cute bikini for your next surf trip. Here a few tips for shopping for that new surf bikini:
Size Yo’Self Up
No size is created equal. You may be a consistent medium in all your clothing however, since bathing suits are completely form fitting, you’ll want to be sure that they are exactly the right size.
In addition, since you’re looking for a surf-friendly bikini, it can’t be on the loose side of the spectrum either. It’s gotta stay on through thick and thin.
Point being, find a measuring tape (you may need to use a piece of string if you only own a hardware style tape measure) and size your hips, waist, and bust.
Once you’ve got the measurements, be sure to check the size chart for each bikini brand to find the perfect size.
Consider Your Preferences
Coverage is a crucial factor when shopping for bikinis. Some are into the “Less is more” trend and some prefer more modest confidence with fuller fabrics.
Fortunately, most of the brands we recommend in this blog are really good about letting their customers know what kind of coverage each bikini offers. On most sites you can even shop by coverage level like Cheeky, Moderate, and Full.
Because of the varying desires in coverage style, we’ve shared our top bikini pick for each of the 3 different coverage styles for each brand.
Also note, Lo, Mid, and Hi coverage are all relative terms for each brand. Lo means low by that brand’s standard.
This means that Lo coverage Carve Designs could be way more coverage than a Mid coverage Sensi Graves bikini.
Bikinis Are Expensive
The eternal question: Why does it cost so much for so little fabric?!
The answer may never be revealed. However, what I can tell you is that occasionally there is a way around this.
New collections will always cost more but the good news is, collections eventually go out of style and you can find huge discounts on outdoor retailers like Backcountry.com.
The Best Surf Bikinis
1 | Carve Designs
Pros: Seamless fit, stylish neutral and floral prints, super soft fabrics, cuts for all preferences, flattering fit, every style is sturdy
Cons: The elastic on the bottoms aren’t super tight
Lo-Coverage Pick: Dahlia Top + Sanitas Bottoms
Mid-Coverage Pick: La Jolla Top + St Barth Bottoms
Hi-Coverage Pick: Palisades Top + Stinson Bottoms
Carve Designs is my #1 pick for surf bikinis. The reason I pick this brand over any of the others is because they’re truly designed for adventurous women, and most importantly, they’re wildly comfortable.
The Carve Designs fabrics are seamless, form fitting, and are often reversible. These bikinis stay on with a perfect level of stretchiness.
I love that they have some creative styles and prints as well as some simple ones.
Carve Designs is not a fashion based brand. It’s not exclusively for skinny girls nor are their bikinis built for lounging on the sand (totally un-adventurous).
As the Carve Designs motto goes, these bikinis are for “REAL WOMEN WITH REAL BODIES AND A REAL PASSION FOR ADVENTURE”
Hands up to all the surfer girls out there who can relate to this!
In terms of picking the right style, it’s worth noting that Carve Designs runs more on the fuller coverage side. While I sometimes wear a size medium on both the top and bottom, I prefer a size small in Carve Designs.
Every single style at Carve Designs is perfect for surfing so it’s all up to you to decide which style you like the most. For more straps and style, try the Dahlia Top or for simple fashion, the Stinson set is a go-to for active women.
Shop bikinis on Carve Designs website or Backcountry for up to 60% off.
2 | Sensi Graves
Pros: Tightly fitting elastics that actually stays put, eco-friendly, lightweight materials, strappy backs, thick waistband
Cons: The thin fabric can feel too revealing for some
Lo-Coverage Pick: Issy Top and Jennifer Bottom
Mid-Coverage Pick: Colleen Top and Kyla Bottom
Hi-Coverage Pick: Alexa Top and Emma Bottom
The Sensi Graves motto alone is enough to make me love the brand: “Bikinis designed for girls who rip.”
Sensi Graves is a darn close second on the best surf bikinis.
Though the rest of the brands on this list are all great for surfing heavy water, if I were to paddle out at 8-10 foot day at Haleiwa, I’d grab my Sensi Graves bikini because the elastics are just so darn good.
The tight-fitted elastic of Sensi Graves will make sure my bikini stays on when I wipe out.
What I love about Sensi Graves is the tight fitting style of it. I love a good, comfortable bikini, but when I’m paddling out on a big day, I know the tight-fitted elastic of Sensi Graves will make sure my bikini stays on when I wipe out.
In terms of style, I like that Sensi Graves has low coverage options that are still functional, unlike most bikinis.
The whole less is more style actually works for surfing with Sensi Graves and my top pick for bottoms are definitely the Jennifer.
I absolutely love all the criss cross options of their tops and my favorite is the Issy.
Shop Sensi Graves bikinis now.
3 | Zealous Clothing
Pros: Thick and soft fabric that doesn’t sacrifice secure fit, wider fitting bottoms that still offer cheeky fits, cute prints, strong back straps, reversible tops, tie-string bottoms
Cons: Some may not like the thicker fabric
Lo-Coverage Pick: Riptide Wrap Top and Brazilian Bottoms
Mid-Coverage Pick: Braided Top and Cheeky Bottoms
Hi-Coverage Pick: Mermazing Top and Basic Surf Bottoms
Zealous goes above and beyond in merging athleticism with modern styles surf girls have come to love.
While sturdy fit is of utmost priority for surfing, I ideally don’t want to sacrifice cute cuts along the way. Zealous achieves just that with their various different surf style tops and fitted bottoms.
My honest favorite thing about Zealous that sets them apart from the other brands listed here are the bottoms.
Honestly, I love that all of their styles have a wider fabric on the crotch, a realistic and often overlooked highlight for surfing girls. But they do this while also managing to offer cheekier fits that make you feel confident. And if that’s not your thing, there are high coverage options too 😉
Of course, all of their other bikini bottoms also come with tie strings, keeping everything secure on those intense wipeouts and hold-downs.
When it comes to Zealous surf tops, you can’t go wrong. Each top stays true to the core components that make a bikini good for surfing.
- They have strong shoulder/neck bands (for strong girls),
- Have tight and supportive underbust bands,
- & though bust support varies by style, they all have a thick but soft fabric that stays on.
If you’re looking for an all around top performer for style and support, the Braided Top or the Mermazing Top will be your new best friend. Or add a little more spice to your surf style with my personal favorite, the Riptide Wrap.
Last but not least, I love the story behind Zealous and Marie’s passion for surfing and design. These bikinis are insanely high quality and support small business and sustainable manufacturing in Bali.
4 | Maaji Swimwear
Pros: Super soft, unique prints, stylish designs, not too tight or too loose
Cons: Designs aren’t as functional for surfing as other brands mentioned
Lo-Coverage Pick: Bralette Top + Signature Thin Cut Bottoms
Mid-Coverage Pick: Seamless Halter Top + Signature Sublime Bottoms
Hi-Coverage Pick: 4-Way Halter Top + Signature Sublime Bottoms
I almost forgot to include this brand despite the fact that for years, I wore this bikinis more than any other pair I owned.
Maaji is designed for the more wild and free spirited souls.
Maaji does not design as “sporty” of styles as the other swimwear brands in this blog. In fact, they don’t even identify with “active swimwear” per se. Maaji is more about fashion but I’ve included them here because I find their suits very comfortable for surfing.
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Maaji has dozens of different cuts, designs, and styles so you have to be a little picky if you’re looking for a surf suit. Steer clear of those bandeaus (unless you’re feeling extra brave) and head towards the halters and bralettes like the Sundeck or the 4-Way Wear styles.
What I love most about Maaji is the Sublime signature bottoms. These bottoms are the perfect overall bikini bottoms. They have coverage but are also flattering. They’re sturdy but also soft and light. I’d surf anything under 8 feet in these bottoms.
Shop Maaji bikinis on their website or find discounts on Backcountry.com.
5 | Hakuna Wear
Pros: The ultimate stay-put bikinis, high quality recycled materials, Salt water (& chlorine) resistant, built for active women, most functional low cut bottoms out there
Cons: No mid or low cut tops currently available
Lo-Coverage Pick: Miho Bottom
Hi-Coverage Pick: Kare Kare Top + Jeju Bottom
The first and foremost thing I love about San Diego based small brand, Hakuna Wear, is that their surf bikinis are designed for active women. Their suits are specifically for surfers and are guaranteed to stay put due the unique feature of a drawstring on their bikinis.
The elastic drawstring is on all of their bikinis bottoms and tops which keeps feeling confident and secure so you can focus all your attention on heavy water waves.
I have the Kare Kare top with the Miho bottoms and there are 2 things I really love. One, the top has a super comfortable athletic fit great for truly active-focused women. Two, these are definitely the most functional low-cut bottoms out there due to the drawstring. With most brands, i wouldn’t consider a lo-cut for a big surf day but not with these.
All Hakuna Wear bikinis are also reversible which any surfer girl can agree makes a new bikini far more exiting with 4 different ways to style it.
The worst thing we fear about buying a new bikini for surfing is for it to fail on you on a heavy day and not only does it ruin your session, but it also feels like wasted money. You can rest easy knowing that they will repair moderate wear & tear for a reasonable price with Ding Repair.
The only thing to note about Hakuna is that they currently don’t have any moderate or low coverage tops. If stylish hi-cut tops that stay ultimately secure are your jam, you’ll love Hakuna Wear.
6 | Hurley
Pros: Designed for peak performance, form fitting, lightweight but not too thin.
Cons: Not a small business, short life span
Lo-Coverage Pick: Leilani Surf Top + Leilani Surf Bottom
Mid-Coverage Pick: Adjustable Top + Moderate Surf Bottom
Hi-Coverage Pick: Max Scoop Top + Max Moderate Bottom
Hurley is built for performance and much like their top of the line wetsuit design, their swimwear is sleek, soft, and form fitting.
Honestly, there’s not much to dislike about Hurley suits. A Forbes article even quoted Carissa Moore that, “Hurley made the best bikini ever for women who surf”…
The only reason Hurley is this low on the list is that it’s become such a big business.
The other brands on this list put love into each thread but Hurley is pretty mass manufactured. And because of that, the lifespan on their swimwear is nothing compared to other bathing suits on this list.
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But of course, the mass production equates to cheaper prices for good looking suits. If you’re shopping Hurley, you might be like me and fall in love with the Leilani surf suit which looks absolutely adorable and functional.
The Max bottoms collection is great for surfers, and depending on your style preferences, you can choose more moderate or cheeky coverage.
As far as tops go, Hurley has two tops that are perfect for surfing: the The Adjustable top and the Max top. With sturdy coverage, soft material, and strappy backs, they will stay on while surfing and also provide sleek style.
7 | Jolyn Clothing
Pros: Salt water (& chlorine) resistant, long lasting, stays put, functional, built for active women, cheaper than many bikinis
Cons: Basic styles, not the most flattering cuts, not the softest materials.
Lo-Coverage Pick: Triangle Top + Duke Bottom
Mid-Coverage Pick: Tomcat Top + Midl Bottom
Hi-Coverage Pick: Fendrick Top + Andy Bottom
I got my first Jolyn bikini back when Jolyn was a small brand. The SoCal based brand hosted many trunk shows at my local surf contests and festivals. At the time, it was super rare to find a functional bikini amongst the surf scene so once I found Jolyn I was hooked.
Jolyn is the most athletically designed bikini out there.
As far as fit, you’ve never worn anything like Jolyn. Their fabrics are thick and sturdy with a high thread count. The straps are tight and the waistband is sturdy. Their bikinis don’t rip, fade, or wear down over time.
I’ve owned the same Tomcat top for 6 years and it still works like a charm and the prints aren’t faded.
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The only thing I don’t love about Jolyn is that their bottom cuts aren’t the most flattering nor are the prints the most “surfy.” You have a choice in cuts at Jolyn but even their slim coverage styles aren’t quite as cute in reality.
In addition, yes, the fabric is thick and will not rip whatsoever, but I don’t love wearing this bikini all day long because of the not-so-soft fabric.
Overall, Jolyn may not as fashionable of flirtatious but when it comes to pure surf, not style, Jolyn is great.
Shop Jolyn bikinis now
8 | Patagonia Surf
Pros: Eco friendly, stays put, soft fabric, super stylish prints, built for adventure
Lo-Coverage Pick: Seaglass Bay Top + Seaside Cove Bottoms
Mid-Coverage Pick: Seaglass Bay Top + Sunamee Bottoms
Hi-Coverage Pick: Nanogrip Top + Nanogrip Bottoms
Patagonia, does what they do best: Make one singular stylish product for outdoor folk. We love the mix of sustainability with functionality and fairly good style but the price is HIGH.
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At one point, we highly recommended the Patagonia Seaglass Bay Bikini but it seems that Patagonia has discontinued that bikini. In fact, they don’t even sell full bikini sets right now.
Women’s Surf Suits
Bikinis aren’t your only choice for looking cute while surfing. In this day and age, designers are getting extremely creative with their swimwear designs and surf suits are all the rage for surfer girls now.
Surf suits are great for protecting you from the sun and preventing rashes.
While we do cover the best women’s spring suits in our blog, Best Womens Wetsuits, here’s a quick roundup of the best surf suits that are purely built for style, comfort, and sun protection, NOT warmth.
- Lovina Long Sleeve Surf Suit
- Seea Swimwear Hermosa Surf Suit
- Patagonia Swell Seeker Long Sleeve
- Maaji One Piece Surf Suit
Womens Surf Board Shorts
There are times when the swell is rolling in and no mount of bum coverage can stay put for gnarly wipeouts. For times like these it’s nice to have the security of boarshorts.
Here are our top picks for board shorts among these bikini brands we love:
- Hurley Womens Phantom Stretch 2.5″
- Carve Designs Bali Shorts
- Carve Designs Lorenzo Shorts
- Patagonia Womens Wavefarer Board Shorts
Did we miss your favorite bikini? This is an ever-growing list of best surf bikinis so if you know of one that you think we should test out, let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Instagram!
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