© 2009 Adam Johnson

Skirt Review: SkirtworkS = Solid Sprayskirts

Aramid Tough Rim Sprayskirt with SkirtworkS’s Quick Grab Rip Chord.

There are many companies in the kayaking industry today who are making sprayskirts; however, SkirtworkS separates their gear from the crowd by making time-tested, battle-hardened skirts and neoprene accessories.

A company based out of Friendsville, Maryland, SkirtworkS has a wide variety of skirts to offer for both the Class I flatwater paddler and the full-on, Class V+ paddler.

The Skirt on the Boat.

Although SkirtworkS has a vast array of skirts, this independent review will focus on their Aramid Tough Rim with their innovative Quick Grab Rip Chord. Disclaimer: WhitewaterFreestyle takes no responsibility and/or liability for SkirtworkS, their products, or the way you use their products.



Being a long time user of Mountain Surf sprayskirts, it is hard to deny the similarities between these skirts; however, there is a reason for this. Mountain Surf recently moved its headquarters to Canada. The employees from Mountain Surf, of whom at that time lived in Friendsville, allegedly were not ready to move to Canada. Thereby, these employees, whom had worked for Mountain Surf for over a decade, decided to form their own company.

And so SkirtworkS was born…

Taking these years of experience in the industry and applying it to a new, innovative, and reputable company denotes the emergence of an experienced group of individuals who have been deeply rooted in the industry for nearly two decades.

First Impressions:

SkirtworkS Sprayskirt (underside)

These skirts feel solid. Constructed with a neoprene tunnel and deck, these skirts also sport a tough Aramid outer coating. One of the things I absolutely despise in a skirt is when the outer rim wears whilst on your boat via your paddle or when you are scouting a rapid and twigs or thorns puncture and even tear the skirt. With this thick, 5.5mm Aramid outer coating, this will likely not happen (unless you happen to hike through knives often ;-).

The Aramid Rim is tough!

Notably, the neoprene feels slightly different than some other neoprene’s which I have felt in the past. This neoprene feels a bit softer than those of some other skirts with a finer tooth in the texture. At this point, I am not sure if this is a good or a bad thing (ie whether this makes the neoprene tougher or weaker versus the thicker tooth). If I had to guess, I would probably prefer the thicker toothed, seemingly “tougher” neoprene to this smoother neoprene; however, this is something that time will only be able to tell. At this point in this skirts use (3 weeks of kayaking almost daily) this neoprene shows no wear.

Putting these skirts on my boat in my living room was a breeze. They felt very stretchy and fairly easy to put on–even for the Tight Fit skirts. I could see reducing the size of the rand just a bit to make it just a hair bit tighter for my liking; however, this will end up being personal preference.

Getting it Customized. Custom Skirts with a spot for your name!

“Setback” — What this is and why it’s awesome
SkirtworkS makes custom sprayskirts and accessories. This means that you can give them a paper tracing of your personal boat’s cockpit rim (using a large sheet of paper or newspaper and a pencil), and they will custom-build a skirt to fit not only you but also your boat.

But what is a setback?
Your setback is the distance from the rear of your cockpit at its midpoint (or center) to your lower back when you are sitting in your boat (for most this is to the front of the backband).

Why it’s awesome:
By measuring the setback of your kayak, you are able to get a custom fit for the placement of the tunnel. This comes in especially handy for boats with larger cockpit rims and larger gaps towards the rear of the boat (eg most Pyranha creekers). This also prevents unnecessary wear on the skirt and allows for maximized mobility.

If you prefer to have your skirt stretch a bit when you put it on the back of the cockpit (ie you want to have to lean back a bit to stretch the skirt over the rear of the cockpit rim to make it taught) I would recommend taking .5″-1″ off of your setback. Please measure carefully when doing this.ย 

Quick Grab Handle:

The Quick Grab Handle (above).

This handle is a revolution for the sprayskirt industry. This handle is:

  • Always on top, making it impossible to get trapped under/inside your boat
  • Always in the same location, which is great when you need to go for it and you want OUT!
  • Extremely easy to put on and take off.

This is an innovation which begs the question: “Why has no one made this before?”. I do not have an answer to this question; however, I have been really pleased with this style of grabloop. It does take a sharp tug to get it off, being slightly harder than a standard handle which you can put in different locations (including under and inside your cockpit rim); however, the effort is only about 20% extra–a nominal amount when you need out and you are going to swim. My guess is that you wont even notice the difference in that case (and if you are swimming, you probably have the strength of the Hulk).

Putting These Skirts to the Test:

Jared Seiler (Foreground) and Adam Johnson (Background) Blue Angeling on the Llancahue River, Chile.

I have had the opportunity to test these skirts in both cold and warm weather situations. They have performed wonderfully. They are extremely dry and seal well around the cockpit rim. I find them to stretch easily in both conditions–obviously being slightly harder to put on during colder conditions.

Adam Johnson below Princessa Falls, Fuy River, Chile. Photo: Patt Rogers

A skirt used for creeking can be summed up if it is able to withstand plugging waterfalls and what I would like to name “Curtain Calls”– having the skirt withstand the whole force of the river at the base of a waterfall (‘the curtain’). Additionally, when creeking, a skirt is one of your primary “defenses” against the rapid. Simply, a skirt prevents you from sinking and probably swimming–which in some situations can be deadly. SkirtworkS’s gear stands up to the test:

The Plug Test:

Adam Johnson plugs through a slot on the Llancahue River, Chile. Photo Patt Rogers.

The other day I was able to get in multiple plugs on the Upper Palguin River, Pucon, Chile. One of these proved to be longer-than-usual, whereupon I disappeared completely underwater for 2-3 seconds. I began to feel the pressure from the waterfall behind me and felt the neoprene of the skirt flex inward along with some shrinking from my drytop. I thought, “Oh boy, here we go…!” and was pleasantly surprised when I began to explode upward, resurfacing out of the water, skirt intact, after a wonderful downtime experience. Additionally, I have taken this skirt off of a variety of waterfalls, ranging from 15′ to 70′, and I have had no problems.

Adam Johnson plugs the first rapid on the Upper Palguin. Photo Patt Rogers.

Curtain Calls:
After running some of the beautiful waterfalls in Chile, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to be at the base of 1 or 2 larger drops (after a freewheel and some stout curtain-holes). Both times could have easily imploded a skirt; however, these skirts passed these tests with flying colors–I came out unscathed both times and was stoked to move onto the next drop.

Adam Johnson runs Boof to Swim, Middle Palguin, Pucon, Chile. Photo Jared Seiler.

Summary: 8.5 / 10

Quick Grab Handle

Solidly constructed. Great Customer Service, quick response time. Innovative and industry-changing Quick Grab Handle that is always there. Custom fitted to your kayak with you in mind.


Softer neoprene which may wear faster than neoprene with a bigger tooth. Quick Grab Handle is 20% harder to pull (however worth the effort for the added safety in mindlessness). Some users could stand to have a slightly smaller rand.

Overall, these skirts are bomber. They seal well to your cockpit in all weather conditions. They can withstand beatdowns during stout–and often unforseen–times. Additionally, they also excel whilst playboating for the exact same reasons.

Adam Johnson, “The Stout”, Middle Palguin, Pucon, Chile

Check these guys out on their website at www.SkirtworkS.com or call Karen and Charles at

Stay tuned for more updates! Until then, vaya con rios.

-Adam Johnson

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