© 2009 Adam Johnson

Skirtworks’s New Bungee Skirt: A Review

Kayakers are choosy about their gear. When a boater starts kayaking, he/she often buys one or two brands of kayaks, like Riot or Wavesport for example, and then will never paddle another boat for the duration of their kayaking careers. This brand loyalty doesn’t stop with kayaks either; it continues on to PFD’s, drytops, and, (you guessed it) skirts.

The Skirtworks bungee on the kayak. A good fit.

Skirtworks recently approached me and asked me to write a review about their new bungee skirt. It seems their customers had been wanting something that was a bit easier to put on than their traditional rubber rand spray skirts; however, still offered up the performance and durability of their randed skirts. Being a devout randed skirt fan throughout my 14 years of kayaking, I have always been a bit leery of bungee skirts.

Skirtworks’s white bungee is almost as thick as my ring finger.

That being said, I will admit that I used a bungee skirt when I first started kayaking and also used a bungee skirt that was made by IR about a year ago. I recall the first bungee skirt that I had was a rather weak skirt. It imploded after freewheels and even after landing flat–seal launching into flatwater to run Celestial Falls in Oregon. After a few stout beatdowns with this unnamed skirt (the company has now gone out of business and dropped off the radar), I knew that I had to buy a new skirt and that it was not going to be a bungee skirt.

But I digress. There are lots of skirts–good skirts–out there that rely on a bungee as their primary attachment to the cockpit rim. I have even used some of these skirts for 6 months to two years and had been somewhat satisfied. Some examples of these other skirts would be Snapdragon, IR, and Wildwasser, to name a few. Skirtworks’s bungee spraydeck is no different and can be added to the top of this list.

Initial Impressions:

Regular, Kevlar, and “Small Diamond” Neoprene–a 3 for 1 deal.

There are three distinct differences between Skirtworks’s randed skirts and their bungee. 1) The bungee chord (duh). 2) Skirtworks uses something called “Small Diamond” neoprene on the rear of the skirt instead of kevlar all the way around. And 3) A new addition which I have not seen before is this texture directly underneath the bungee which helps to adhere the bungee to the boat.

Little rubber dots added just beneath the bungee to help the skirt stick to the cockpit of a kayak.
Rubber dots? What good are those?
The rubber dots do in fact help. These days, many skirt manufacturers seek ways to help adhere a bungee chord to a cockpit rim. The only way to do this is to add something sticky to the underside of the bungee. Do they actually help? I would say, “Oh yeah” to this question. Remember that skirt that I talked about that lent me some beat downs? That skirt did not have any of this sticky inner material.
Detail view of the “Small Diamond Neoprene”.
So, what the heck is this “Small Diamond Neoprene” stuff?
I think every company calls it something different. In many cases, the word often ends in an “X”. For example, Armorex, Supratex, anything-x that gives it added flare (just like most cars have exotic letters which correspond to models like Honda Accord LX, etc). In any case, it is essentially a step up from regular neoprene; however, it’s not quite as tough as the traditional kevlar on the front of this skirt. But don’t get me wrong–it is still tough enough to withstand abrasions from the sharpest sandstone that you can find.
Testing the skirt. If I could only make this a legit career…
My initial overall impressions were very similar to the other Skirtworks skirts that I have used. Their skirts always feel stout–meaning they have a solid construction, use thick and long lasting material that wont fail when you need it most, and they posses enough elasticity to easily put the skirt on a kayak–even in cold weather.
We have already covered the rubber dots on the underside of the skirt, the “Small Diamond” neoprene, and the characteristics of the bungee chord, so what else is there? But of course! The quick grab handle and the benefits of a bungee skirt.
Skirtworks’s Quick Grab Handle

I cannot say enough good about this Quick Grab handle. I honestly do not know why this hasn’t been in the kayaking industry for years and years. It just makes so much sense. Here’s why:
  • It is always in the same place to grab for,
  • You never have to deal with it when you put your skirt on your kayak, and
  • The handle is never underneath your cockpit rim, ever. (I don’t think you could even put the skirt on upside down to attempt to get the handle underneath the cockpit rim.)
Coming directly from the bungee chord, the handle comes complete with thick tubing, webbing, and a solid attachment to the rear of the skirt so that it is always exactly where you left it last.
I wrote more about Skirtworks’s proprietary Quick Grab Handle in my previous review which you can find HERE. There is also some previous history about the company and cool photos from Chile there as well. Check it out.
But why choose a bungee over a rubber rand?
This may seem obvious to some, but the advantages to using a bungee skirt are that it is simply easier to stretch onto the kayak–especially if you boat in cold weather. For some people, this benefit is indispensable. They use a bungee skirt solely for this reason.
The bungee skirt underside.
A great deal of this boils down to personal preference. Many prefer to have a skirt that is easier to put on whilst others prefer the “tight fit” for ultimate performance (often something unnecessary for the everyday paddler). Ahh yes, life’s choices. Continuing onward…
On the water performance:
Yes, what you all have been waiting for. The main act, the big show: How does this skirt actually perform on the water?
Boof stomping.
At this point, I have tested this skirt many times, “live and direct”, on the water. To set the record straight, note that the skirt, a Skirtworks Preferred Fit Bungee, was sized for a Riot Magnum 72 (creekboat) with an 8″ setback.
Boofing the top drop at Valley Falls
Overall, I am very pleased with this skirt. I was able to kayak down a 10 mile run several times and only get about a cup of water in my kayak throughout each day–which includes doing enders and playing a bit in big, powerful features.
I have always found bungee skirts harder to put on the kayak when they are dry. Why is this? Because oftentimes the shape of the skirt & bungee is less conducive to staying on the back of your cockpit rim than a randed skirt. This means that, when you first get in your boat, although the skirt will still be easier to stretch onto your kayak than a randed skirt, you may have to wrestle with it a bit before it is on your boat (read: the back side of the skirt pops off the cockpit rim during the first stretching of the day). If you have ever put a bungee skirt on a boat, you have undoubtedly experienced this. Kayakers must simply accept this as a bungee skirt fact of life.
That said, this was never insurmountable; it simply required me to pay some special attention to the skirt whilst putting it on the cockpit for the first time in a day of kayaking. After 1-3 tries, the skirt was on the boat.
I should also note that, after getting the skirt on the kayak and freshly doused with some summer whitewater, putting the skirt on was always a breeze. I attribute this to “material memory”. For some reason, bungee skirts are *so* much easier to put on after they get wet–as was the case with this skirt.
Going for the plug
I have no complaints about this skirt. During enders in powerful features it always stayed put and held pressure, even when placed under duress. Landing flat after boofs the skirt was flawless. And, did I mention that the skirt was dry? I think most bungee skirts that I have used have not been quite this dry. I theorize this is from the custom tracing that Skirtworks does of your cockpit rim when you order a skirt.
Solid skirt. Great materials. Easy to stretch onto the kayak. Customized for you and your needs. Quick Grab handle is always in the same spot. Unbeatable customer service.
Slightly harder to put on the kayak than a randed skirt when dry.
Overall, I would recommend this skirt to anyone who likes bungee skirts and does not want to have to deal with a rubber rand + the force that it takes to put those skirts on kayaks. Personally, I am going to stick with rubber randed skirts just because I demand that ultimate performance when I kayak. That said, if you are in the bungee crowd, definitely check this skirt out. This skirt is a strong contender and you will not be disappointed.
More info:
As of this writing, the skirt in this review, the Skirtworks Preferred Fit Bungee with Kevlar, retails very reasonably at $140. To find more info, please visit http://www.skirtworks.com/, email karen@skirtworks.comor call Karen and Charles at 301-746-5666.
Disclaimer: WhitewaterFreestyle and it’s affiliates takes no responsibility and/or liability for SkirtworkS, their products, or the way you use their products. Please kayak at your own risk.

A big shout out goes to Barb Bragg for most of these photos. Cheers!

For more photos of this skirt, visit my Picasa Web Album.

Until next time, see you on the water!
-Adam Johnson


  1. JB
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 9:44 pm | #

    Back in the day, I always new I hit a good boof when my L'eau Vive would blow completely off my Micro.

  2. RiotAJ
    Posted September 1, 2009 at 10:06 pm | #

    "Back in the day"? Shoot JB, once upon a time I had a L'eau Vive skirt–and I'm supposed to be the young buck.

    Back in the day, ha!


    When are you going to come and boat with us Mo-town folk again?

  3. JB
    Posted September 8, 2009 at 10:30 pm | #

    Well, you've been kayaking since you were, what? 6, 7? I waited until I finished high school to get in a hardshell boat.

    When am I going to boat again period?

  4. Bradford McArthur
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 12:51 am | #

    Hey Adam!

    I just took a nice stroll through your blog. California looked like a ton of fun. We were there this spring as well. Only for a weekish though, but it was well worth it for sure. I am up in Kamloops, BC. When are you going to come visit? Alright enjoy WV!


  5. RiotAJ
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 8:52 pm | #


    Heck yeah man, it's good to hear from you.

    BC huh? That is pretty cool boss. I will definitely have to look you up for sure when I head out there. I have never boated in BC before, but it looks like it's a pretty rad place.

    I had a question, are you and the boys planning another trip this winter? I am looking for some people to head south with and figured that you all would be fired up to go do some kayaking. Let me know your plans via email at riotaj@hotmail.com . Talk to you soon bud!


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