Friday, June 21, 2013

Paddle Surf Gear Guide: Oakley Compression Shirt and Shorts

I'm pretty much the world's biggest surf gear skeptic. I don't believe much hype and I come from a, "Less is More" school of thought. So when my good buddy Andrew Pate, who is an Oakley sales rep and member of our current mainland Mexico surf assault team, tossed me one of Oakley's new compression surf shirts and said to pair it with what looked like a fancy pair of biker shorts, you can guess what my reaction was: "This is a joke right?".

Now I don't know about you but I'm not the type of dude to voluntarily wiggle into skin tight, lycra workout gear. The whole yoga pants thing just doesn't translate to dudes like us (or men in general- right?) so I was not fired up to try the stuff out. Andrew, however, explained to me how it works. He told me that compression clothing has been used for many years by all kinds of athletes from triathletes to Jai alai players- surfing was the last holdout to what is acknowledged to be an important piece of sporting gear.

Evidently, when you squeeze the crap out of your body, the veinous return that brings all the toxins out of your muscles and through your system so they can be metabolized is amplified. Squeezing is good. Compression gear squeezes you and allows you to do more Jai alai or, in our case, surf better for longer. According to Andrew, Oakley submitted some of it's guinea pig pro surfers to repeated blood tests to evaluate their lactic acid build up while wearing the compression gear; they observed a decrease in fatigue and lower lactic acid content in those surfers who wore the compression gear.

Compression good, lactic acid buildup bad: Oakley shirt and shorts... good stuff.

So I gave it a shot. No, you will not see a photo of me in the biker shorts but I will tell you that I think there may be something to this stuff. Oakley's compression shirt is pretty slick as a piece of tropical surf gear. First of all, it's very comfortable. Each of the seams is anatomically placed, there is no binding even though the thing is clamping down on you like a boa constrictor. I surfed every day with it on and I didn't develop any type of rash. The fabric is special too, it's got a texture to it that is hard to describe, it grips your skin and, how else can I say this... stimulates it. I know, it sounds weird but that stuff felt really good.

This is functional surf gear, in addition to its compression properties, the shirt carries a high SPF rating- I wore it without any sunblock and never developed any type of sunburn. Was I less fatigued? Yes, I believe that I was- it was strange but typically by day three of a surf trip, I start to really feel the soreness in my upper body. This time, however, I felt fine each afternoon. Don't get me wrong, I was cooked off at the end of each morning but the difference for me was that I didn't have soreness accumulating as the trip wore on.

I had to work myself up to the shorts. After a couple days of not wearing them I started to develop a crotch rash. I think this was a result of straddling the deck pad. So I took a deep breath and wiggled into those things. I'm not going to say it was a pretty site- some of us just weren't meant to sport biker shorts but, I have to say, they were comfortable and they did protect me from that crotch rash as well as ensuring that some wayward jellyfish tentacle wouldn't sting me in my tender parts (the longsleeve compression shirt was great protection for this as well). I ended up wearing them everyday for the rest of the trip and, guess what? I'm going to pack them for my next trip too.

In all, I'm going to say that these two pieces of gear are keepers and will now be my go-to pieces of protection for tropical surf trips. Andrew says they are equally effective under a wetsuit so I may give them a shot at home as well.


  1. From underclothes to shirts to shorts, when you take the time to fold everything neatly, your drawers will be easier to use and this is really a great update.

  2. I would love to get some of this surfing equipment in Hawaii. It shouldn't be too hard to find.