Roark Boatman Boardshort Review – Surfline
The last two boardshorts we reviewed, the Florence Marine X Weld and the Outerknown Apex 2.0, are performance-based and incorporate things like welding and gluing. Roark’s Boatman Trunks, however, are built to last, meaning to withstand the wear and tear that comes with intensive surf trips. I put the Boatman trunks through their paces on a recent ten-day boat trip through the Mentawais. I wore them all day, every day, for every surf. Here’s what I discovered in my coverage:
Said Roark about the boatman:
“The ideal combination of 4-way stretch panels with durable non-stretch nylon in the back and through the waistband. Cordura nylon adds durability for extended wear. The Boatman exceeds the demands of any abrasive situation in the surf without sacrificing mobility.
The Boatman is the odd inverted mullet of boardshorts – party up front with T400 stretch and firm in the back with Cordura panels. It’s this balance of materials that allows the Boatman to take a beating while moving with your body while surfing.
T400 is an elastic polyester elastomultiester fiber that retains its shape and provides moisture wicking properties. Cordura is a synthetic material with high tensile strength fibers that can withstand long term wear and tear – like those that come from multiple encounters with a reef. It is very abrasive and in most cases extremely water repellent. The Boatman is also finished with a DWR treatment which helps repel water from the material. I don’t know if they use C0 DWR, which doesn’t expel harmful fluorocarbons, or the more traditional C0 option. Hopefully this is the last.
Some of the neat design elements I picked out include the angled-forward side seam, which helps counteract that twisting, sleeping bag effect and keep comfort on point. And like the Outerknown Apex, they can be stowed in their own back pocket for easy storage. The belt is not a flashy, glued and super light material, but rather a traditional belt: a triple stitched material around the waist and a closure system. It’s familiar and reliable. After multiple hits, being washed and bouncing off the reef, these trunks remained securely tied around my waist.
Two improvements I would like to see though: 1. The cord used in the closure system. It came undone regularly and looked like it might have a silicone coating on it for grip, or a new cord that stayed closed or tied; and 2. The utility pocket on the left side. Its placement for intended use is excellent (a little thing on the fly for wax, silver, etc.), but it needs better drainage. It flooded every time I dived and got really annoying.
Aesthetically, the Boatman boardshort is easy on the eyes and a classic example of color blocking. This is just a cute pair of boxers available in solid colors or complementary color blocks, with a few pattern options as well.
Design score: 8 out of 10
Fit and comfort
I am 5’9″, 185 lbs and usually wear a 34, and was pleased with the fit of the Boatman. There are two length options available, 17″ or 18″, and they have a standard fit – not slim and fitted, but not relaxed either. Personally, I prefer 18″ to 17″. I don’t mind showing my knees, but no one needs to see my thighs. Also, 17s got caught and needed more adjustments on the fly.
The Boatman sat securely around my waist thanks to the belt construction and closure system, and there was no excess fabric hanging down and twisting around my legs and private parts. . The triple-stitched seams caused chafing issues early in my trip, but after four or five days of wearing them constantly, my skin had gotten used to the materials.
If you come from performance trunks you will sacrifice some comfort, which is to be expected. Overall, though, they’re comfortable enough for surfing and then lounging around. You can cover them in sunscreen, wax and zinc, slide them on the coral, sit on the rocks… They will accept any punishment. I would actually feel confident buying them online, rather than adhering to my usual philosophy of trying them first at a retailer.
Fit and comfort rating: 8 out of 10
As I mentioned earlier, Boatmans are not performance trunks. These are trunks that outlast humans and are designed to spend months on the road, exploring the outdoors, bumping and bumping into things. But they work pretty well.
The Cordura gives them a high level of durability, and the T400 stretch provides enough movement and stretch to combat any stiffness imposed by the Cordura. I noticed some restrictions while surfing there, mostly related to having to constantly readjust my shorts. Every time I went from sitting on my board to lying down, or vice versa, or every time I finished a wave and lay down to paddle, I noticed a distinct lack of flexibility in the kick zone. the crotch. I wouldn’t recommend wearing them on a day spent running errands at a point break. You will have a rash.
Performance rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Roark Boatman boardshorts cost US$80, A$120, putting them at the average price of a good pair of boardshorts in 2022. But you get sustainable use of materials and fair trade certification, two factors that many of us look for when buying new surf gear these days. Add the Lifetime Warranty for the Boatman Series and you get great value from these shorts.
I haven’t read the fine print, but I’m getting Patagonia Ironclad vibes with Roark here, and loving it. I think you could get several seasons out of it (as long as you don’t go up a size or two during the winter).
Value rating: 9 out of 10
If you want super lightweight, Formula 1-style, high-performance geared trunks that sit at the top of the tech tree, you don’t want to buy them. You want to buy these if you’re on the road for months at a time and need trunks that will take a beating, but can also do double duty as normal shorts if needed.
The author, testing in the Mentawais
Of course, I would like to see a different drawstring material in the closure system, better drainage in the utility pocket, and stretch panels in the crotch/gusset area. But for what you spend and what you get, Boatman boardshorts are a solid buy, and you’ll get a long life out of them. Compared to the level of care peak performance shorts often need, these can do without constant washing.
If you’re hitting the road for a long surf trip and want to minimize your luggage – or if you’re going anywhere and can only take one pair on the road, the Boatman boardshort will serve you well. And survive to be worn another day.
Overall score: 8.1 out of 10
Will buy Roark
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