Swim Briefs: The Banana Hammock Dilemma

The swim brief, holy grail of bodysurf gear or a trending fad within the bodysurfing world?

Jon Henricks member of he Speedo sponsored Australian 1956 swim team. Photo:  Ern McQuillan
Jon Henricks member of he Speedo sponsored Australian 1956 swim team. Photo: Ern McQuillan

The swim brief or “racing brief” is commonly referred to as a Speedo and there is good reason. Speedo is the brand that started the racing brief trend. In 1955 they began using nylon in their swimsuits and the following year the Australian company sponsored the Aussie Men’s Olympic Swim Team bringing home eight gold medals. This performance brought instant notoriety to the clothing company which was no stranger to pushing the boundaries in swimwear. The fame-claiming performance of “underwear styled” swimwear made the brand name stick even to this day.

However, in the current swim, bodysurf and water polo world there are dozens of swim brief manufacturers all vying for a share of the market. Anyone looking to glide quickly through water will eventually look to more streamlined suits. Some bodysurfers, including Men’s World Bodysurfing age group champion Chris Lafferty,  have even donned speedsuits in the ocean. These have been described as difficult to get into at best. The speedsuit also offers another challenge to the wearer. Edges and friction allow bodysurfers to change direction. When a person wears a speedsuit to nullify friction they are giving away some ability to maneuver. A more practical solution could be to wear as little clothing as is legal in most municipalities.

Enter the swim brief. The front V design is unmistakable. Most are made from nylon and spandex and secured at the front with a drawstring. The advantages are universally recognized. The first obvious benefit is the reduction in drag. Bodysurfers need speed. The swim brief cuts the drag of a typical wetsuit or boardshorts. Swim briefs are also much more stable than your typical boardshorts. So if you’re shy about jumping in the ocean in a swim brief, you’re more than likely going to be shy about walking home butt-naked because your trunks got snatched by that mutant fourth wave of the set. There are more heralded benefits from those bold young men who prefer to let it all hang out, but in the practical sense swim briefs are a clear winner.

Common Nomenclature
Common Nomenclature

While they may have the tactical advantage over trunks, swim briefs have not quite broken through to the casual bodysurf population. There are still embarrassed smiles and broken bravados whom refuse to squeeze into the beneficial Tarzan uniform. There are exceptions to this rule. On a typical summer day at Wedge you’ll find up to a dozen swim brief clad bodysurfers lounging and ripping. Their blinding white thighs in May eventually become slightly off-white flesh by October. From Europe to Brazil, beaches all over the world are populated with the casual swim brief wearer. Will fin brandishing Americans be the next to run with the motto “Sky’s out, thighs out” or will we stubbornly be dragged by our shorts through the surf?


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Swell Lines Magazine

Bodysurfing yarns woven 'tween crest & trough