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Best Changing Ponchos

Surf ponchos are becoming as ubiquitous and essential as the leash in a surfer’s arsenal. Photo: Slowtide//Kassia + Surf

The Inertia

Every surfer is familiar with the beach parking lot towel change. Whether you’re changing in and out of a wetsuit or a 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 the process worlds easier to avoid embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions and, as is super scientifically proven, exactly zero surfers have gone back to a towel once they’ve tried a surf poncho. To cap it all off, surf ponchos keep you way cozier than a towel after chilly sessions.

Over the past few years, we’ve 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 watersports technology. Read on for our top picks, and for more detailed info check out our Buyer’s Guide and Comparison Table.

The Best Surf Ponchos of 2024

Best Overall Surf Poncho: Slowtide The Digs

Most Absorbent Surf Poncho: Billabong Hooded Towel Robe

Best Budget Surf Poncho: COR Surf Changing Towel Robe

Warmest Surf Poncho: Voited Outdoor Surf Poncho

Most Stylish Surf Poncho: Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel

If we somehow haven’t convinced you to hop on the surf poncho bandwagon, we’ve also tried out the Best Beach Towels

Best Overall Surf Poncho

Slowtide The Digs ($80)

Slowtide The Digs Changing Surf Poncho

Pros: Warm, absorbent
Cons: Only comes in neutral colors

Material: Cotton
Weight: 3.5 lbs

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 terrycloth, you will be warm and dry in no time, and that’s truly what we’re looking for in a surf poncho. The Digs comes in three classic colors: black, green, and heather grey.


Most Absorbent Surf Poncho

Billabong Hooded Changing Towel ($70)

billabong changing towel

Pros: Super absorbent, fun prints
Not super warm

Material: Cotton
Weight: N/A

Billabong’s Hooded Changing Towel is the first changing poncho our tester 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.

The poncho features a front pocket for keeping hands cozy or storing goods and provides plenty of coverage, so you can easily change without making a scene. 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.


Best Budget Surf Poncho

COR Surf Changing Towel Robe ($37)

Pros: Affordable, lots of color/size options
Cons: Not as durable as some other options

Material: Microfiber
Weight: 0.9 lbs

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.


Warmest Surf Poncho

Voited Outdoor Surf Poncho ($95)

Voited Surf Poncho

Pros: Super warm, waterproof/windproof coating
Cons: Not super absorbent, bulky

Material: Recycled ripstop fabric
Weight: 2.16 lbs

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 we would like to see in a surf poncho, but overall this is an incredible product.


Most Stylish Surf Poncho

Nomadix Changing Poncho ($70)

nomadix surf poncho

Pros: Fun print, sand resistant material
Cons: Not as absorbent as some other poncho

Material: Recycled polyester/nylon
Weight: 1.45 lbs

Surf ponchos may not be the coolest post-surf outfits, but some are more stylish than others. The Nomadix Changing Poncho comes in three bright, fun prints that are all eye catching. The fabric is lightweight and breathable but is still nice and absorbent. It’s not quite as absorbent as a poncho made from traditional towel material, but it gets the job done.

A huge plus of the material is that it’s sand resistant, which we really appreciated as it minimized sand in the car and at home. The poncho has a hood with a drawstring closure and a kangaroo pocket for stashing goodies and keeping the hands warm.


Best Surf Poncho for Travel

Kassia + Surf Your Favorite Changing Poncho ($120)

Pros: Sustainably made, dries quickly, packable
Cons: Not warm or very absorbent

Material: Deadstock cotton
Weight: N/A

Constructed from deadstock cotton (leftover fabric) 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 we’re all about.


Best Of the Rest

Runner-Up Best Overall Surf Poncho

West Path Surf Poncho ($79)

West Path Changing Surf Poncho

Pros: Extra long, zippered chest pocket
Hood is a little small if you’re tall

Material: Cotton
Weight: N/A

When it comes to comfort and useful features, the West Path Surf 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.


dryrobe Advance ($195)

dryrobe surf poncho

Pros: Incredibly warm, fleece lined pockets, waterproof
Not super absorbent, pricey

Material: Recyled nylon/polyester
Weight: 2.86 lbs

The dryrobe Advance is one heck of a surf poncho. In testing, we were 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. However, that “lack of needing to be dried” does come with one downside – a bit of a lack of absorbency. As much as it tries to be, no synthetic cloth will match the absorbency of cotton (at least in my opinion).

On the outside, a waterproof and windproof outer shell does an awesome job of eliminating windchill on even the breeziest of dawn patrols. For changing purposes, we do wish there was an easier way to close the front of the robe that didn’t involve putting two pieces of a zipper together (notoriously difficult with frozen hands), but if that really bothers you, just take it off and put it on over your head like any “normal” surf poncho.

Another massive plus are the pockets. With two fleece-lined pockets on the outside and three 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 price tag is a bit of a downside, but with how well it works as a surf poncho and all of its other potential uses, we’d say it’s justified.


Ho Stevie! Thick Microfiber Surf Poncho ($50)

Ho Stevie! surf poncho microfiber

Pros: Affordable, soft
No pocket

Material: Cotton
Weight: 1.6 lbs

You’d be hard pressed to find better bang for your buck in the surf world than Ho Stevie! When it comes to surf ponchos, the brand’s soft, warm changing poncho is 47 inches long from shoulder to bottom hem, plenty of coverage for anyone (Stevie, pictured above, 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. Go for the tie-dye option and you also get a kangaroo pocket to boot.


Slowtide Quick-Dry Changing Poncho ($85)

Pros: Sustainable, dries quickly, packs down small
Cons: Pocket design can be confusing

Material: 100% post-consumer waste
Weight: 1.5 lbs

Made from 100 percent post-consumer waste, Slowtide’s Quick-Dry 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 “pockets” so you can have privacy while changing in public.

Our tester found the front pocket design to be a little funky. There are buttons on the side that allow you to stick your hands all the way through  to help with changing, but it makes it tricky to actually get your hands into the pocket. However, the ability to reach inside at the waistline is a boon for easy changing. The poncho packs down small, making it a great poncho to pack along for travels or to keep in the trunk of your car.

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 a cotton terry lining to keep you dry, post-surf.


Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel ($80)

Pros: Converts from poncho to towel 
Doesn’t offer the best coverage or warmth

Material: Recycled polyester/nylon
Weight: 2.6 lbs

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.


Nova Blue Changing Poncho ($60)

nova blue surf poncho

Pros: Fun prints, lightweight
Doesn’t add much warmth, no pockets

Material: Recycled polyester/nylon
Weight: .9 lbs

The Nova Blue Changing Poncho is a turkish towel in poncho form. It’s oversized and airy and the material is lightweight. The Nova Blue poncho does add a bit of warmth, but it’s more for coverage than for warmth and is better suited to warmer regions. The print is subtle yet cute and the tassels at the end add style points. The Nova Blue packs down small, so it doesn’t take up too much room in your car or in your bag. The Nova Blue doesn’t have any pockets, but since you’ll mostly be wearing it in warmer regions this isn’t as essential.


Pendleton x Free People Poncho ($100)

pendleton surf poncho

Pros: Oversized fit, warm 
Expensive, not good coverage for changing

Material: 100% cotton
Weight: N/A

The Pendleton x Free People Poncho is a stylish, oversized poncho perfect for post-surf hangs. The Pendleton x Free People is a large poncho made from traditional towel material, so it’s super warm and cozy. As our tester found out the hard way, this poncho is more of a towel than a changing robe. There are slits on the sides that go up high, and they don’t provide ample coverage for changing. On the flipside, because of the openings on the side, you can easily layer this poncho over clothes for added warmth. The Poncho does have a hood, but no pocket for your hands.


Best Surf Ponchos Comparison Table

Poncho Price Weight Material
Slowtide The Digs $80 3.5 lbs Winter-weight cotton terry
Billabong Hooded Changing Towel $70 N/A Cotton
COR Surf Changing Towel Robe $37 0.9 lbs Microfiber poly/nylon blend
Voited Outdoor Surf Poncho $95 2.16 lbs Recycled Polyester
Nomadix Changing Poncho $70 1.45 lbs Recycled polyester/nylon
Kassia + Surf Your Favorite Changing Poncho $120 N/A Deadstock (surplus) cotton
West Path Surf Poncho $80 N/A Cotton terry
dryrobe Advance $195 2.86 lbs Recycled nylon/polyester
Ho Stevie! Surf Poncho $35 1.6 lbs Microfiber or 100% cotton
Slowtide Quick-Dry Changing Poncho $85 1.5 lbs Recycled Polyester
Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel $75 2.6 lbs Recycled poly/nylon
Nova Blue Changing Poncho $60 .9 lbs Recycled polyester/nylon
Pendleton x Free People Poncho $100 N/A 100% cotton

surf poncho testing

Hanging out in surf ponchos post surf session. Photo: Rebecca Parsons//The Inertia

How We Tested the Best Surf Ponchos

Our lead tester, Rebecca Parsons, has spent her entire adult life surfing. She’s lived in and surfed in climates with warm and cold water and has really come to appreciate having a surf poncho to stay warm and make changing easier. She lived in northern California for awhile, southern California, and now resides in Hawaii. In order to test out these ponchos, she did most of her testing in southern California during the winter as well as on the island of Oahu. There’s a time and a place for different surf ponchos depending on where you live and surf – she has tested a range of ponchos in order to include something for every region, whether you’re looking for something lightweight and quick-drying for hot climates, or something heftier to stay warm while surfing in the winter.

Editor’s Note: This review first ran in April of 2023. After spending a little more time in these surf ponchos, we’ve found that our initial impressions were pretty spot on. We made some formatting updates to our original review and have continued to add new surf ponchos as they hit the market. We once again updated this review in April of 2024 and added in three new ponchos based on recent testing. 

Best Surf Ponchos Ratings Table

Changing Poncho Overall Warmth Coverage Absorbency Aesthetic
Slowtide The Digs Surf Poncho 9.75 10 10 10 9
Billabong Hooded Changing Towel 9 7 9 10 10
COR Surf Changing Towel Robe 8.5 7 9 10 8
Voited Outdoor Surf Poncho 8.5 10 10 6 8
Nomadix Changing Poncho 9 8 10 8 10
Kassia + Surf Your Favorite Changing Poncho 7 4 8 6 10
West Path Surf Poncho 9 9 10 9 8
dryrobe Advance 8.75 10 10 8 7
Ho Stevie! Thick Microfiber Surf Poncho 8.5 7 10 10 7
Slowtide Quick-Dry Surf Poncho 8.5 9 9 8 8
Nomadix Poncho Beach Towel 8 6 6 10 10
Nova Blue Changing Poncho 8.25 6 10 7 10
Pendleton x Free People Poncho 8.75 9 5 10 10

West Path Surf Poncho

West Path’s surf poncho is warm, but not so warm it can’t hang on a summer beach day as well. Photo: Will Sileo//The Inertia

Surf Ponchos Buyer’s Guide

What Are the Different Types of Surf Ponchos?

Lightweight Ponchos

A lightweight poncho is typically a thin cloth material whose sole purpose is to provide coverage for changing. They’re typically not absorbent like those made from towel material and they don’t do much by way of warmth. If you live in a tropical region, they’re a good option because they pack down and small and are perfect for quick car changes. Our tester calls Hawaii her home and the Kassia + Surf Your Favorite Changing Poncho lives in the backseat of her car. If you reside in a chilly region, however, you’ll want to consider another option.

Traditional “Towel” Ponchos

Towel ponchos are the most common type of poncho you’ll come across. They’re essentially a towel with a hood. They’re absorbent, offer a little extra warmth, and provide coverage for parking lot changes, making them an all-around solid option. On days when our tester wants to walk around in her towel to warm up after a session, she reaches for options like the Billabong’s Hooded Towel Robe or COR Surf’s Changing Towel Robe.

a man in a surf poncho at the beach

Pendleton ponchos are perfect for post surf hangs. Photo: Miles Johnson//The Inertia

Heavy Duty Ponchos

If you live somewhere chilly, a heavy-duty poncho could be your saving grace. When we think of a heavy-duty poncho, we think of parkas that the swim and water polo teams wore in high school. They include an insulated lining for added warmth and oftentimes, the exterior is waterproof to provide protection from the elements. This style of poncho is bulky but super cozy and warm. Our tester is a self-proclaimed wimp when it comes to cold water and on her California surf trips, cozying up in the dryrobe Advance post session has been a game changer. That said, absorbency also matters when it comes to staying (or getting) warm post-surf, which is why the winter-weight cotton terry of The Digs from Slowtide won our Best Overall designation.

Best Overall Surf Poncho
Best Overall Surf Poncho

The Digs from Slowtide has it all when it comes to surf ponchos: It’s warm, made of highly absorbent cotton, to dry you quickly, and has two sizes to choose from to ensure a good fit and ample coverage for changing.

Price: $80

Buy Now

What Makes a Good Surf Poncho?

Although preference varies from person to person, there are a few things we look for in a surf robe/poncho. We want something to keep us covered while we’re changing, keep us warm, be absorbent, and of course, we want it to look cool (if it’s possible to look cool while wearing a surf poncho).

Our tester tends to run cold, so she’s always looking for something warm to throw on after a chilly surf. When she’s not using it for changing, she’s definitely been known to hang in her surf poncho on the beach and has maybe even popped into the grocery store once or twice in it. Maybe. If you live in a warmer region and strictly plan on using your poncho for changing, warmth won’t carry as much weight for you.

a bunch of surf ponchos on the grass

Some of the many surf ponchos we tested. Photo: Rebecca Parsons//The Inertia

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. Our tester likes a robe that’s big enough that she can reach under it to take off her suit and goes to at least mid-thigh so she’s 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.

Our tester tends 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 her book since she’s 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.

While it’s certainly not essential for function, we want a surf robe/poncho that looks cool — if there is such a thing. Some may prefer solids but our tester is 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.

Cor Surf

Cor Surf’s changing poncho is available in kid’s sizes for little shredders. Photo: Cor Surf

What Else Matters in Choosing a Surf Poncho?

For one, pockets. Like we said above, we often end up spending a long time in my surf poncho after we’ve surfed. If we were to hypothetically stop by the grocery store after surfing, it sure would be nice to have somewhere to stash our 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 own pocket for portability.

Return to Comparison Table | Return to Top Picks

Editor’s Note: If you’re not sold on a poncho, here’s our guide to The Best Beach Towels. We’ve also tested Beach Bags, Surf Backpacks, and so much more. For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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