How to know if it’s a surfing bikini?

Surf swimwear isn’t your regular swimwear. Sometimes it can be hard to spot a surfing bikini unless you know what to looks for. Still Stoked has created a directory of all the best surf bikinis so you don’t have to spend a fortune on buying a surfing bikini that doesn’t stay on. This is all you need to know.


Close your eyes. Imagine warm water, glassy offshore head-high waves, deserted reef breaks… just you, your friends and your bikini. It’s that sensory freedom you look forward to every summer. Buying at least 3 bikinis before winter is over, in anticipation of those dreamy surf sessions. Nothing beats surfing in a bikini.


The reality of surf bikinis however, is not always the above daydream…

Your bottoms manage to roll down past your butt cheeks with every duck dive.

Why one boob always pops out and not the other.

How your neck always aches after surfing.

That one time your bikini miraculously untied itself leaving you topless in the white water!


All these things have happened to me and more. Finding a surfing bikini that will stay put is hard work and surprisingly not all the women’s surf brands make them which is immensely frustrating.


If you want to shop the best surfing bikinis, check out our tried and tested list of the best surf bikinis brands.


Surfer Alejandra Zaid knows a good surf bikini. Getting ready to surf wearing KOKOH bikini
Surf guide Alejandra Xaid tests multiple surf bikinis in on charters in the Mentawais Islands.
Photo by Carlos from Sultan of Spin



Through trial and error (lots of error) here are my top do’s and don’t when choosing the best bikini for surfing



DO look for cross back or racer back bikinis

These bikinis distribute the weight of your boobs across your back and shoulders while holding your assets closer to your body. There they will stay put!

DON’T surf in a halter neck bikini

When paddling, you arch your back and pull your shoulders close together to keep your chest off the board. A halter neck bikini will put opposing forces on your neck. Add to that the weight of your boobs and you’re putting unnecessary strain on your body that could lead to neck issues or headaches.



DO wear crop top style bikinis if you have big boobs

Crop top bikinis offer the greatest coverage, preventing overspill out of the top. They are my go-to bikini when the surf gets big and I need to concentrate on my wave position rather than my boob position! With no straps to tie (the bikini is often a solid structure), you never have to worry about it coming undone when you stack. With thick bra-style straps, they also distribute the weight of your chest across the shoulders so limit neck pain. Winner!


With all the testing I do of surf bikinis here on Still Stoked, I got to design my own surf bikini for Sensi Graves bikinis. The Alexa Top is a triple cross-back, crop top style with thick straps that are all adjustable. Great for big boobs and a small rib cage!


The Alexa surf bikini by Sensi Graves Bikinis
The Alexa Top – designed by me!

DON’T surf in a bikini with underwire

As you paddle (and you will be paddling a lot as a surfer), the underwire can dig into your side and ribs. I’ve been red-raw from underwire in my bikinis after long surf sessions resulting in days out of the water. Leave underwire bikinis for tanning ;-)


Natalie Cope surs in a classic surf bikini with a functional cross back.
Nat Cope surfs in a functional cross back bikini.
Photo Carlos from The Sulan of Spin



DO look for thick shoulder straps

Thick bra-style straps will be most comfortable on your shoulders. The larger your boobs, the thicker you want the straps (dispersing weight evenly over the shoulder). Thin straps will cut into your shoulders and are also easier to roll off when you take a tumble. Thick, solid straps all the way.

DON’T even think about a strapless bikini

It will be like playing pee-a-boo with your tits! Waste of time and probably somewhat embarrassing.



DO look for bikini bottoms with a wide hip band and a drawstring

A wide hip band makes it harder for your bottoms to roll down when you duck-dive. A draw-string will also allow you to tighten the bottoms. I have an amazing pair of high-cut, boy-shorts from Cenote Swimwear with a ruched back and draw-string. As I tighten the drawstring, not only does it pull up the ruched section increasing the Brazilian-style cut on the bottoms, but they get tighter around my waist, staying put.


DON’T surf in a triangle bikini

Triangles that move on the string mean movement from the sides as well as the top and bottom. You will fall out of it. Make sure all your surfing bikini is solid and both cups are attached together.

A good surf bikini means you can focus on nothing but your surfing and cut backs. Elena McTavish sprays the camera man.
Elena McTavish setting it on the rail, focused on nothing but spraying the camera.
Photo Carlos The Sultan of Spin



DO get bikini bottoms that little bit tighter

Like jeans, your new bikini bottoms will stretch. If they don’t have a drawstring, you are going to want them to be tight around your hips. As mentioned above, the wider the hip band the better.



DON’T be tempted by the cute side-tie bikini bottoms

Side-tie bikini bottoms are not your friend. The thin ties roll down and when tied tight, they will cut into you. No matter how good you are at knots, they are bound to come undone. Worst case scenario, both knots come undone and you’re in the white water with no pants!



DO look for stick-fabric

You can help your bikini to stay put by choosing fabrics that will grip your skin or bikinis that have had rubber added to the edges. These non-slip designs help keep you stay inside your bikini after every tumble.



DON’T put fashion before function especially with fabric texture

Crochet, mesh, embroidered bikinis… they look great but when surfing, you will most likely have sand and wax stuck all over them. They’ll be ruined for the beach… what they were probably designed for in the first place.


Cenote surf bikini are great for surfer girls with a larger chest like Alexa Hohenberg
I love my Cenote Swimwear bikini, especially the thick straps with my larger chest.


DO shop for strong, thick materials

Spandex or nylon bikinis are the best. Reversible bikinis that use double layered fabric either side will offer additional support, durability and resistance over the elements.



DON’T be tempted by light coloured or white bikinis

Yes a white or light coloured bikini will make your tan look dark but it will discolour quickly and there is a good chance that you will get sunburnt through the fabric.



DO look for bikinis that tie around your ribs (not a clasp)

Although you don’t want to have unnecessary ties with surfing bikinis, it is worth looking for a tie-back fastening bikini over a clasp. You can adjust the tightness around your ribs whereas bikinis with a clip fasten can’t be adjusted tighter to stay on when the waves get big.



DON’T buy bikinis with zips or metal detail

The neoprene bikini trend raged pretty hot in Australia last summer. Many of these styles fastened with a cheeky front zip. When surfing, this is what you will be lying on… metal. Not only is it likely to be uncomfortable but it also might ding your board. Same goes with any metal detail on the bikini. It will dig into you and your board.


O'Neill make a great surf bikini called the XENA bikini
The O’Neill XENA bikini is made from quick drying functional HYPERDRY material.
Photo courtesy of O’Neill Australia


More surfer girl tips:

Best Surf Bikinis – Review of top active swimwear brands + discount codes
For Her Eyes Only – Surf tips for girls. Because all these things will happen to you!
Surf packing list – What to pack for your next surf trip
Surf Hair Care – Pro surfer tips on how to look after beach hair
Surf Hair, Do Care: How to get beach blonde surfer hair
How to lighten hair naturally without bleach and get surfer highlights
Surfer Girl Style – Top 10 surf fashion staples
Best Surf Sunscreen – Full review & breakdown of top brands


What surfing bikini fails have you had? Any tips of preventing them? Care to share? Tell us below.


Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream. I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)


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