Rash Vest (Rash Guard, Rashie): Protective Apparel for Divers and Water Enthusiasts


A rash vest, also commonly known as a rash guard or rashie, is a type of athletic shirt specifically designed for water sports enthusiasts, including scuba divers, surfers, and swimmers. Rash vests are made of a blend of spandex and either nylon or polyester, providing a comfortable and flexible fit that offers essential protection against skin abrasions, chafing, and rashes that can result from friction between the body and water sports equipment, such as wetsuits or surfboards.

History and Development

The rash vest has its roots in Australia, where it was initially developed as a protective garment for surfers during the 1970s. As surfers spent extended periods in the water, they would often experience painful rashes caused by the continuous rubbing of their torsos against waxed surfboards. The rash vest was designed to alleviate this issue by providing a barrier between the skin and the abrasive surfaces.

Over time, the rash vest gained popularity and was adopted by other water sports enthusiasts, including scuba divers, who began wearing them under wetsuits to prevent chafing, skin irritation, and rashes caused by the prolonged exposure to saltwater and tight-fitting neoprene wetsuits. Today, rash vests are an essential part of the scuba diving and water sports apparel market, providing both functional benefits and a stylish appearance.

Materials and Construction

Rash vests are constructed from a blend of spandex and either nylon or polyester, providing a lightweight, quick-drying, and durable fabric. The combination of these materials allows for excellent elasticity, ensuring a snug fit that moves with the body without restricting movement. This flexibility is crucial for water sports enthusiasts, as it allows for a full range of motion during physical activity.

In addition to their elasticity, rash vests also offer a high degree of breathability, making them suitable for wearing in warm or tropical environments. Some rash vests are treated with an antimicrobial finish to prevent odor-causing bacteria growth, ensuring that the garment remains fresh and clean during extended periods of use.

UV Protection

One of the most significant benefits of wearing a rash vest is the added ultraviolet (UV) protection it provides. Many rash vests are designed with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating, which measures the garment’s ability to block UV radiation from the sun. A rash vest with a UPF rating of 50+, for example, will block over 98% of UV rays, protecting the wearer’s skin from sunburn and long-term sun damage. This additional protection is especially important for scuba divers and water sports enthusiasts, who are often exposed to intense sunlight and UV radiation due to the reflection of the sun’s rays on the water’s surface.

Styles and Features

Rash vests are available in a wide range of styles, colors, and designs to suit individual preferences and requirements. There are both short-sleeve and long-sleeve options, offering varying levels of coverage and protection depending on the user’s needs. Some rash vests also feature a high collar or a built-in hood for added sun protection and comfort.

In addition to the standard rash vest design, some manufacturers offer specialized versions tailored to specific activities, such as paddleboarding, kiteboarding, or snorkeling. These specialized rash vests may include unique features, such as reinforced padding on the elbows and knees, integrated boardshort connectors, or pockets for small personal items like keys or a waterproof camera.

Fit and Sizing

A proper fit is crucial when selecting a rash vest, as a loose or ill-fitting garment may not provide adequate protection against skin irritation or rashes. Rash vests are designed to fit snugly against the body, providing

a secure and comfortable barrier between the skin and any abrasive surfaces. To ensure an optimal fit, it is essential to consult the manufacturer’s sizing chart and consider factors such as body shape, height, and weight when choosing the correct size.

When selecting a rash vest for use under a wetsuit, it is important to ensure that the garment fits snugly but does not restrict movement or cause discomfort. A rash vest that is too tight may result in restricted blood circulation or difficulty breathing, while one that is too loose may not provide the desired level of protection against skin irritation.

Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance of a rash vest are essential to prolong its lifespan and ensure that it continues to provide the necessary protection against skin irritation, rashes, and UV radiation. After each use, the rash vest should be rinsed thoroughly in fresh water to remove any salt, sand, or debris that may have accumulated during the activity. It is also important to wash the garment regularly, following the manufacturer’s care instructions, to remove any sweat, sunscreen, or other substances that may cause deterioration or discoloration over time.

To prevent damage to the rash vest’s materials, it is recommended to avoid exposure to excessive heat, such as direct sunlight or hot surfaces, for extended periods. Rash vests should be air-dried, preferably in the shade, and stored in a cool, dry place when not in use.

Environmental Considerations

As environmental concerns become increasingly important within the water sports and scuba diving communities, many rash vest manufacturers are adopting more sustainable and eco-friendly practices in their production processes. Some companies are using recycled materials, such as regenerated nylon or polyester derived from discarded fishing nets, plastic bottles, or other post-consumer waste, to produce rash vests with a lower environmental impact. These eco-friendly rash vests provide the same level of protection and performance as their conventional counterparts while reducing the consumption of non-renewable resources and minimizing waste.


Rash vests play an essential role in protecting scuba divers and water sports enthusiasts from skin irritation, rashes, and harmful UV radiation. With their lightweight, flexible, and quick-drying materials, they provide a comfortable and functional solution for a range of aquatic activities. By selecting the appropriate style, fit, and features, a rash vest can greatly enhance the user’s experience in the water, ensuring optimal comfort and protection. As environmental awareness continues to grow, the adoption of sustainable materials and practices in the production of rash vests will become increasingly important, contributing to the overall well-being of both the user and the planet.