The Inertia Contributing Editor
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kassia surf changing robe poncho hero image

The Kassia + Surf Changing Poncho in action at San Onofre. Photo: Kassia + Surf


The Inertia

Every surfer is familiar with the beach parking lot wardrobe change. Whether you’re changing in and out of a wetsuit or swimsuit, the feeling of struggling to maintain your modesty with a small rectangle of fabric is the same – an uncomfortable one. A surf poncho makes it worlds easier to avoid embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions and, as scientifically proven, exactly zero surfers have gone back to a towel once they’ve tried a surf poncho. Plus, as winter approaches, they keep you way more cozy than a towel after chilly sessions. Here we tried out some of the best-selling surf ponchos on the market to see what all the hype is about, and help you make an informed decision when purchasing such a critical piece of modern surf technology.

If we haven’t convinced you to hop on the surf poncho bandwagon, we’ve also tried out the Best Towels for Surfing. And with winter coming soon, be sure to check out our Best Wetsuits for Men and Women, as well as our guide to the Best Booties and the Best Earplugs for Surfing.

What Are The Best Surf Ponchos?


dryrobe Advance ($215): 4.75/5
Slowtide The Digs Surf Poncho ($79.95): 4.75/5
West Path Surf Poncho ($69.99): 4.75/5
Billabong Hooded Towel Robe Poncho ($84.03): 4.75/5
COR Surf Changing Towel Robe ($37.99): 4.5/5
Ho Stevie! Thick Microfiber Surf Poncho ($29.97): 4.5/5
Slowtide All Day Microfiber Surf Poncho ($79.95): 4.25
Voited Outdoor Surf Poncho ($74.95 – $86.47): 4.25
Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel ($79.95): 4/5
Kassia + Surf Your Favorite Changing Tunic ($139): 3.5/5

What Makes a Good Surf Poncho?

Although preference varies from person to person, there are a few things I look for in a surf robe/poncho. I want something to keep me covered while I’m changing, keep me warm, be absorbent, and of course, I want it to look cool.

Warmth
I tend to run cold so I’m always looking for something warm to throw on after a chilly surf. When I’m not using it for changing, I’ve definitely been known to hang in my surf poncho on the beach and have maybe even popped into the grocery store once or twice in it. Maybe.

Coverage
If you plan on changing in it, you want a robe that’s going to keep you covered so you’re not flashing everyone in the parking lot. I like a robe that’s big enough that I can reach under it to take off my suit and goes to at least mid-thigh so I’m fully covered. It can often be worth sizing up if the poncho you choose has different sizes and you’re going to use it as a changing robe.

Absorbency
I tend to have my surf poncho double as a towel, so it’s nice if it absorbs water well. Oftentimes, the robes are made out of towel material, which is perfect in my book since I’m guilty of regularly forgetting a towel. However, some of the insulated options on this list make use of microfiber linings, which aren’t quite as good for toweling off.

Aesthetic
While it’s certainly not essential for function, I want a surf robe/poncho that looks cool — if there is such a thing. Some may prefer solids but I’m all about fun prints or something that sets it apart. Luckily, there are usually plenty of options to choose from for each style of poncho listed below.

What Else Matters in Choosing a Surf Poncho?

For one, pockets. Like I said above, I often end up spending a long time in my surf poncho after I’ve surfed. If I were to hypothetically stop by the grocery store after surfing, it sure would be nice to have somewhere to stash my car keys, wallet, and phone.

Bulk/packability should be another consideration if you’re planning on taking your poncho for a surf trip. Usually not a problem with the more towel-like ponchos (though the plush luxury of Slowtide’s The Digs would be tough to pack), but the larger insulated options could be difficult to fit in a suitcase. Some, like Voited’s Outdoor poncho pack down into their pocket for portability.

Without further ado, here are the best surf ponchos.

Lucy dryrobe

dryrobe Advance ($215)

Warmth: 5
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.75

The dryrobe Advance is the king of all surf ponchos. In all honesty, calling this massive and super cozy garment a surf poncho does it an injustice. Changing robe, massive overcoat, super-absorbant towel, the dryrobe Advance is all of these and more. This rad changing robe has a super soft synthetic lambswool lining that wicks away moisture without feeling wet itself. In testing I was super impressed with how well it stood up to a multi-surf day, providing instant post-surf warmth without needing to be dried out in between uses. On the outside, a waterproof and windproof outer shell does an awesome job of eliminating windchill on even the breeziest of dawn patrols. Another massive plus are the pockets. With two fleece-lined pockets on the outside and two inside pockets there’s plenty of room to keep essentials like a phone or wallet safe and dry, and your hands warm at the same time. The only downside is the price tag, but with how well it works as a surf poncho and all of its other potential uses, I’d say it’s justified.

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Slowtide The Digs Changing Surf Poncho

Slowtide The Digs Surf Poncho ($79.95)

Warmth: 5
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.75

Take a surf-vey of your local break’s parking lot, and chances are you’ll see a few of these guys. And with good reason. The Digs from Slowtide is a heavy hitter in the surf poncho category. Featuring 100 percent cotton winter-weight terry, you will be warm and dry in no time, and that’s truly what we’re looking for in a surf poncho. Coming in three classic colors – Black, Green, and Heather Grey. If you’re looking for a little more color in a poncho, check out Slowtide’s Oso (available on Evo and Amazon).

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West Path Changing Surf Poncho

West Path Surf Poncho ($69.99)

Warmth: 5
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.75

When it comes to comfort and useful features, this poncho is hard to beat. It has an extra-long length for full coverage regardless of height, a large kangaroo pocket, zippered chest pocket for stashing valuables, a cozy lined hood, and 100 percent cotton towel fabric. As if that wasn’t enough, each poncho purchased saves the lives of 10 baby sea turtles through the SEETurtles foundation, and is ethically produced from start to finish.

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Billabong Hooded Surf Poncho

Billabong Hooded Towel Robe Poncho ($84.03)

Warmth: 4
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 5
Overall: 4.75

Billabong’s Hooded Towel Robe is the first changing poncho I ever had and it has certainly withstood the test of time. Made from 100 percent cotton, the hooded towel is absorbent just like your everyday beach towel while allowing for extra warmth. It features a front pocket for keeping hands cozy or storing goods and provides plenty of coverage, so you can easily change in private. Like most things from Billabong, the hooded towel is available in fun patterns and colors. All and all, this one’s a winner. Make sure to size up for plenty of room to change in.

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cor surf changing poncho

COR Surf Changing Towel Robe ($37.99)

Warmth: 4
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.5

COR Surf’s Changing Towel Robe features a simple design that gets the job done. Made from towel material that is ultra absorbent as well as lightweight, soft, and quick drying, the towel robe comes in tons of color options, so there’s something for everyone. Unlike most one-size-fits-all surf ponchos, COR’s towel robe comes in small, medium, and large, so there are options for children, men, and women. Available at a very affordable price, COR’s Towel Robe is a great option for parking lot hangs and changing post-surf.

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Ho Stevie! surf poncho microfiber

Ho Stevie! Thick Microfiber Surf Poncho ($29.97)

Warmth: 4
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.5

You’d be hard pressed to find better bang for your buck than Ho Stevie! The brand’s soft, warm changing poncho is 47 inches long from shoulder to bottom hem, plenty of coverage for anyone (Stevie, the man behind the brand, is 6’2″ and designed the poncho to fit people even taller than himself). For 10 extra bucks you can ditch the chest-sized logo and go for a subtler option in grey, tie-dye, or camo, which are all made with 100 percent cotton as opposed to the microfiber material used in the black poncho.

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Slowtide All-Day Microfiber Surf Poncho

Slowtide All Day Microfiber Surf Poncho ($79.95)

Warmth: 5
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 4
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.25

Made from 100 percent post-consumer waste, Slowtide’s All Day Microfiber Poncho is constructed primarily from plastic water bottles in an effort to minimize its impact on the environment. This poncho has everything you could want in a surf poncho: it’s absorbent, dries quickly, and is sand free. Other thoughtful features include a double-sided print, a kangaroo pocket to keep hands warm, a snap front placket with drawcords, and hidden internal access so you can have privacy while changing in public. In classic black, the All Day Poncho is a crowd pleaser.

For those of us who surf in rainy climates (yuck) there’s a waterproof version available here that comes with a DWR coating to shed rain and keep you dry, post-surf.

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Voited Surf Poncho

Voited Outdoor Surf Poncho ($74.95 – $86.47)

Warmth: 5
Coverage: 5
Absorbency: 3
Aesthetic: 4
Overall: 4.25

The Voited Surf Poncho is an absolute beast, with all the bells and whistles you could ever hope for. Puffy insulation, a waterproof/windproof coating, microfiber lining on the inside and in the hand-warmer pockets, and a zippered cargo pocket that doubles as a stuff sack to turn your Voited Poncho into a pillow. The microfiber lining is not quite as absorbent as I would like to see in a surf poncho, but overall this is an incredible product.

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Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel

Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel ($79.95)

Warmth: 3
Coverage: 3
Absorbency: 5
Aesthetic: 5
Overall: 4

The surf poncho that quite literally doubles as a beach towel. The Nomadix Poncho/Beach Towel features hook-and-loop closures up both sides, allowing you to change in privacy, and then open up a luxuriously-sized beach towel for sunbathing, swimming, and more. The convertibility does make a dent in the coverage and warmth categories, as there will be a couple gaps along the sides in between said hook-and-loop closures, but with plenty of extra fabric to go around the likelihood of flashing beachgoers is low.

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kassia surf changing tunic

Kassia + Surf Your Favorite Changing Poncho ($139)

Warmth: 2
Coverage: 4
Absorbency: 3
Aesthetic: 5
Overall: 3.5

Constructed from deadstock cotton (or fabric that is leftover) and colored with low impact dyes, Your Favorite Changing Poncho is easy on the eyes as well as the environment. Created by longboarder extraordinaire Kassia Meador in partnership with Suay Sew Shop, the changing tunic features a roomy hood and a big front pocket for stashing essentials. The tunic is made from lightweight material, so it doesn’t’ do much to keep you warm, but it packs down small and is ideal for travel and warmer weather. The tunic features fun earth tones and has a hippie feel to it, which I’m all about.

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Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

Disclosure: The Inertia may receive a small commission if you make a purchase from the affiliate links included in this feature at no additional cost to you. Our goal is always to entertain, educate, and inspire, and we hope you find this feature useful.

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