Roark is a brand I’ve loved since their inception. I love, probably more so today, the travel aspect they slice into their narrative and apply it through garment production (and I think – hope – supporting local areas they visit). The printed editions they drop after each trip is full of photography, stories and interviews – good, solid content. And the apparel ranges they are creating are, to me, a nice mix between beach lifestyle, fashion and functionality. Onto the boardshorts though, right? 

While the last two pairs of boardshorts we reviewed were performance based and had performance elements like welding and bonding, etc the Boatman boardshorts from Roark are built for durability and travel. And they deliver strongly around those elements.   

I put the Boatman boardshorts through a solid thrashing during a 10 day boat trip through the Ments, wearing them all day, every day and every surf. 

Here’s my thoughts on the Roark Boatman Boardshorts…  

Roark Boatman Boardshorts


The Roark Boatman boardshorts are pretty damn good for shredding in, and protecting your butt if surf over reef but fall a lot. On a boat trip these were all time to surf in, I kid you not. Amazing. This is one guy’s opinion though and I’ve heard from others that they’re not all that. But for me, the feeling of Cordura gave me a nice feeling of security when surfing.

The Roark Boatman boardshorts might be the best shorts on the market, for people who want a technical style of boardshort but with security that these will last longer than your typical tech trunks.

Roark say of the short that:

“The ideal combination of 4-Way stretch body paneling with non-stretch durable Nylon in the back and through the waistband. Nylon Cordura ® adds durability for extended wear. The Boatman exceeds the demands for any abrasive situation in the surf without sacrificing mobility.”

Roark Boatman Boardshort Review


Tough as nails. Nylon Cordura ® adds durability for extended wear.

4 Way Stretch

T400 is an elastic elastomultiester polyester fibre that keeps it shape and delivers a great aesthetic.

Lifetime Warranty

Warranted against defects in materials and craftsmanship for as long as you own the item and Roark will repair or replace the product free of charge


The Roark Boatman boardshorts are comfortable to surf in, and laze around in. They dried quick, could deal with a flogging and keep on keeping on. You are buying these if you’re on the road for months at a time, need trunks that will handle a flogging but can also pull double duty as normal shorts, if needed.



After multiple beat downs, getting washed in and bounced over reef the Boatman trunks stayed on in a secure fashion. The waistband isn’t a flashy bonded, super light piece of material mastery instead they are more of a traditional waistband – triple stitched material around the waist and closure system. It’s reliable and familiar.  

Two things I’d love to see improved is the cord used in the closure system. It tended to come undone quite often and felt like it could do with some silicone covering for grip or a new cord type used to help with staying closed/tied off.  

The other area was the Utility pocket on the left side. The placement is great, and it’s intended use (one small thing on the fly – wax, cash, etc) is neat. But it needs better drainage as it floods regularly during duck diving, etc and becomes an annoyance.   

Aesthetically, these are a solid example of colour blocking and using easy on the eye colours. They are nice, good looking pair of trunks available in single colours, complementary block colours and also some pattern options too.  

A couple of neat design elements I picked up on include the forward angled side seam which helps avoid the sleeping bag twisting effect, as well keeping comfort on point. That, and you can (like the OK Apex) pack these into their back pocket for easy storage options.  

8 out of 10.


As I mentioned earlier, the Boatman are not performance trunks. They are ‘last longer than you live’ trunks, and when I think about the performance of the Boatman trunks and their intended use they perform really well.   These were designed for months on the road, exploring the world and bumping and banging into things.

The Cordura used in these give them a high level of durability, and the T400 stretch gives them enough movement and stretch to combat any stiffness the Cordura imposes.  

I did notice some restrictions when surfing in them, it was more around constant readjustment of the shorts. Especially when going from sitting on my board to laying you notice the lack of flexibility in the crotch area. Or when pulling/finishing off a wave and laying down to paddle I had to adjust regularly…  

I cut a couple of laps of the Superbank before spending ten days on a boat surfing most days. And while I pulled up ok, I wouldn’t recommend doing a day of run arounds on the points in them. You will, until your skin is used to the Cordura, get some chafing happening.  

7.5 out of 10.  


There’s two length options – 17” and 18” – available and they run a standard fit. It’s not slim/trim and it’s not relaxed either. Personally, I prefer the 18” length over the 17”, I don’t mind showing my knees off, but my thighs aren’t in need of being on show for everyone. I also found that the 17’s got caught and needed more adjustment on the fly.  

The Boatman sit on your waist securely thanks to the waistband construction and closure system, and there’s no excess fabric hanging/twisting around your legs (even less so if you’re in the 17”s) or pecker area.   

You will sacrifice some level of comfort if you’re coming from pure performance trunks, but that should be expected. The triple stitched seams can pose a rash/chafe problem in the early days, but I found by around day 4 or 5 of constant wearing that my skin had gotten used to the materials. 

Overall, the Boatman were comfortable boardshorts to surf in, and laze around in. They dried quick, could deal with a flogging and keep on keeping on. I’d actually be confident is suggesting buying these online vs my normal line of trying them on 

8 out of 10  


Value, to me, is getting more than I paid for. If I pay $10 for something that ends up being so awesome to me that I would have gladly paid $20, then that’s great value. Bad value means the opposite: a terrible product that is overpriced.  

For what you’re paying and getting, I’d say that the Roark Boatman boardshorts are great value. They come in at $80 ($120 in Australia!), which sits them at around the average price for good boardshorts right now.  

But you’re getting sustainable material usage and Fair Trade Certification and these are factors that a lot of us are looking for when shopping for new surfing gear these days.   

Add in the lifetime warranty for the Boatman series and you’re really getting solid value out of these shorts. I haven’t read the fine print, but I’m getting Patagonia Ironclad vibes here and I’m loving that Roark are backing themselves. I’d be confident in you getting several seasons out of these, provided you don’t go up a size or two over winter…   

9 out of 10 


You aren’t buying these if you want Formula 1 super light, high performance focused trunks that sit at the top of technical tree.  You are buying these if you’re on the road for months at a time, need trunks that will handle a flogging but can also pull double duty as normal shorts, if needed.  

In the water, getting bounced off reef and covered in sunscreen, wax and zinc the Boatman trunks stand up to the punishment and keeps on keeping on. Truly a solid pair of durable boardshorts. 

I can’t stress enough that if you’re going travelling and need to minimise your luggage, can only take one pair of shorts on the road, these Boatman trunks from Roark will serve you well. 

There are three things I’d change on these:
1 – Different cord material in the closure system
2 – Better drainage in the utility pocket
3 – Some stretch panelling in the crotch/gusset region.  

At $120 AUD, they’re great value and you’ll get a long time out of them. Compared to the level of care you need to use with leading performance shorts, these Boatman can go without the constant attention, washing, etc. They’ll still hold up and do their job.   

If, for some reason, you aren’t into the Boatman Series but are interested in the durability of Cordura then look at the  Florence F1 Burgee Cordura shorts or the Rip Curl 3-2-One trunks. I have worn the Rip Curl ones, and they’re impressive but I haven’t touched the Florence ones yet though.  

Fit & Comfort
Buy Now

Overall Rating

  • Built for surfing, and only surfing.
  • Waistband is pretty rad
  • Enviro considerations
  • Sleeping bag issues
  • Possible fit challenges

If you enjoyed this review you can visit our Product Reviews page for more, including a run of more Boardshorts reviews coming soon.

Again, if you’re interested in buying the Roark Boatman Boardshorts hit the links below:

Buy from the Roark Online Store
Check the Roark Stockist list

Photos by Jeremiah Klein, Roark and some video stills.