How tight does a sprayskirt need to be?

I’m trying to sell a sprayskirt that’s too small for my kayak. People are contacting me asking if it will fit their kayak. I had a long talk with a Seals representative that opened my eyes. I’m wondering if these conclusions I drew are correct.

  1. A neoprene sprayskirt is a lot harder to remove than a nylon one of the same size.

  2. Nylon may be sufficent in mild conditions; neoprene may be necessary in rough conditions. A half skirt may be fine in some conditions.

  3. The correct tightness may depend on the conditions the skirt is used in, AND THE STRENGTH OF THE USER. Some people may not have the upperbody strength to remove a drum-tight neoprene skirt. E.g., older people, women.

  4. If you can’t or don’t intend to roll, you might not need a drum-tight fit.

  5. Therefore the Seals fit chart is a general guide only. The right skirt size for your kayak might vary from what the chart says.

  6. Finally, new skirts are tight.

    Reason for my question: the recommended size for my kayak is way too tight. I can’t remove the skirt even sitting in the kayak on my lawn. My discussion with Seals made me realize that I don’t really need a neoprene skirt, and if I get one, it should be larger than the recommended size. They recommended nylon rather than neoprene.

    I just want to point out that people who buy a tight skirt and don’t seek instruction for using such a tight skirt could be getting themselves in trouble on the water. It’s not as simple as getting a number from a chart.

Some skirts are just mislabeled

– Last Updated: Sep-27-09 3:47 PM EST –

Not saying yours is, but I have one that is more than a size and a half smaller than the label on it. Fits very tight on the next size down cockpit but it is impossble to put on the "right size". The thick rubber rand does not help - it is very tight and resistance increases fast as you stretch.

That said, it is a lot easier to remove than to put on. I have to push very hard with both hands to just put the front edge over. But it comes off with only a moderate effort with one hand.

Lastly, the shape of the cockpit and cockpit lip matters a lot. I have another skirt that fits loose and is very easy to put on one kayak but unless I use both hands it is very hard to remove - the front lip catches it. The same skirt is a much tighter fit on a different kayak but is very easy to remove...

As for nylon skirts - all that I've tried leaked. They are fine if you do not roll or edge too much. The one I had was not easier to put on (since it had that large knot on the bungy that required special attention to fit under the cockpit lip) and did not keep me cooler even though it was supposed to be letting moisture out (why? because it was all wet all the time). The only advantage of the nylon skirts I see is cost, but if they do not work, why bother ...

Lastly, I've had my two neoprene skirts above for more than a year now, using mostly the "tight" one, and it has not loosened one bit, even though I've intentionally left it on the cockpit for days in hopes it would do so. Just as hard to put on (and easy to take off) as in the beginning. I;ve used it in the summer as well at freezing - same thing (except it is a little harder to put on in the winter, but after a few minutes it loosens-up just a bit to make removal/replacement easier on the water. Once it is off for a short time, it tightens-up again).

neo easier on sometimes
There is more substance to the body on a neo skirt than a nylon skirt. I used to have to carefully work my hands forward constantly maintaining tension on nylon skirts, in order to get them to stay in place while I put them on. Then they would pop loose when I did an aggressive brace. Two separate properly sized skirts from two different manufacturers, same story.

Then I bought my first neo skirt, and it was a bear to get on at first. But after the first couple trips I realized that it had become easier than the nylon skirts. Get the back on, put the front on, pop the one side if both didn’t go on as I did the front. Faster, more secure.

Same story with the neo skirt I bought for my girlfriend. I had to help her get it on the first time. By the end of the day she was doing it herself with no complaint. By the second trip she told me she liked it a lot better than the nylon skirt.

Like they say, your mileage may vary.

Removing sprayskirts
To remove a sprayskirt DON’T pull on the release loop. Grab it and push forward then up. If you can put the skirt on by yourself you should be able to remove it by yourself.

Also neoprene skirts are much easier to put on or off when they are wet.

tight enough
to make you butt look good…

I’ve owned Seals skirts for my ww
kayaks, but I’ve never had one that was hard to remove. I think it isn’t a neoprene/Nylon issue, but rather that your neoprene skirt was not designed and sized properly for your boat. Seals screwed up.

I have had neoprene skirts that were hard to get on, but I have never had one that was hard to get off, by pulling FORWARD toward the bow on the grap loop.

For a sea kayak, which is only rolled occasionally, a neoprene skirt should NOT be so tight that it is hard to get on, and certainly should not be hard to get off.

If you need a high performance skirt, find a neoprene skirt that fits your boat. I’ve used Nylon skirts also, and for non-challenging conditions they are OK, but not for when you must keep the water out.

“I’ve never had one that was hard to remove. I think it isn’t a neoprene/Nylon issue, but rather that your neoprene skirt was not designed and sized properly for your boat. Seals screwed up.”

I agree! They should have listed the next size up for that boat, period.

On the other hand…

"I have had neoprene skirts that were hard to get on, but I have never had one that was hard to get off, by pulling FORWARD toward the bow on the grap loop. "

Exactly! If the OP can put it on by yourself, she should definitely be able to get it off!

I agree with other poster has pointed out, “pulling” it up or back isn’t the right way to do that. One need to pull it FORWARD and UP!

"For a sea kayak, which is only rolled occasionally, a neoprene skirt should NOT be so tight that it is hard to get on, and certainly should not be hard to get off. "

Well, that’s quite a mis-conception. Sea or WW, if you can roll it, you WILL (and SHOULD) roll it often. How else do you keep your rolling pratice up for the one time you truely “need it”! So, there’s no reason sea kayaks are rolled less frequently than WW kayaks. Nor should sea kayak skirts fit less secure than WW ones.

The general rule of thumb is still valid. If you don’t roll, go nylon. If you can or plan on rolling, go neoprene. In either case, it still need to be tight to keep water out.

Bottom line, skirts are for keeping water out. It need to be tight enough to do THAT JOB. It also need to be NOT so tight so the wearer can put it on by him/herself. And if it can be put on without outside help, there’s no worry about getting it off.

Are we talking off the boat or off your

Most really tight skirts come off like a bomb going off coming off the coaming, they are hard to put on easy to take off with all that stored potential energy.

Just a word on that issue. Many choose
tunnels that are unnecessarily tight, on the theory that a tight tunnel will keep water from getting down the tunnel and into the boat.

But a tight tunnel fights the torso-twisting motion of kayaking.

I use tunnels that are borderline loose, and when I might be concerned about water getting down the tunnel, I wear a drytop or just a paddle garment with relatively tight cuffs and neck.

He has it right.
If you are going for fair weather day paddles a nylon skirt is fine.

If you are batteling the North Atlantic with 3 M swells topped with oposing wind waves the nylon skirt may not do.

Go for the nylon, it should be fine at 1/3 of the price.

I have been jammed in a kayak once by my Neoprene skirt, my wife has been hit twice like that and it is not fun. I had a nylon skirt refuse to come off a student once: Water preasure can do that.

You have some good info here.

These things don’t happen often but they do occur.

“Seals screwed up"
That was my first thought, but I’m really not sure.

My cockpit is 18.5” x 35". According to Seals that’s a 2.2 sprayskirt. The skirt I own is 2.5 and I am not able to get it on or off, even though according to the size chart it’s too big.

Seals prints the size directly on the skirt in big letters.

I couldn’t get it ON or Off

Women and skirts

– Last Updated: Sep-28-09 8:51 AM EST –

OK - this is one of my pet peeves. Between wrist strength and reach there are skirts so tight that they are unsafe for women to use. I encountered one such in my first rolling class - I finally got it off but it was only because it turns out I think really well when I am going to imminently drown. What worked there would not have been a plan in a capsize in moving water, nor would it have been reliable with a fiberglass coaming.

Waterbird, I agree with most of the above except the part about using a nylon skirt for rolling. Paddling in a situation where you may need to roll implies environments like surf, or large conditions, where a skirt pulling off the coaming can increase the risk. For those who may need to roll, I feel the better solution is a neo deck skirt that will stay on but may just not be super tight.

As to a neo skirt being harder to remove than a nylon, depends on the coaming. A sharp fiberglass coaming will hole a nylon skirt with the same vigor as it will a neo skirt with equivalent strength bungie. There are things that are usually true, one being that nylon skirts have thinner bungies and the other that plastic coamings are less sharp and release any skirt more easily.

As Alex mentions above, even a nylon skirt can manage to jam up in the right circumstances. So the rim of the skirt starts mattering quite a bit. A skirt with a bungie rather than those really thick and sticky WW rands... much easier to manage and adjust.

The last above is not hard to manage, especially if dealing with in-country small outfits like Seals or Snapdragon. I've sent a skirt back to have it tightened up with a thicker bungie, but could have alternatively asked them to put in a thinner one. My first neo deck skirt had a bungie that knotted in back, and I just set that knot so that the skirt was a comfortable level of tightness, or looseness depending on how you look at it. The bungie got knotted tighter as my confidence in exiting and then a roll increased.

Nylon vs Neoprene
When I built the Coho I purchased a Seals nylon skirt of the size recommended by Seals. It was (and is) harder than %$$##*% to put on but leaks when you edge a lot and pops off (from the sides) when you roll. So I switched to a SnapDragon neoprene that was advertised as “not for beginners”. Bought it through Pygmy so it is the “right size” also. Guess what? It’s easier to put on but doesn’t leak.

Neither one is difficult to get off when upside down.

I think a lot of the leaking from the nylon skirts comes from tne wrinkles where the nylon is sewn around the bungee cord.

The best advice is (if you can), take the boat with you when you buy a skirt and actually test to see what will work and what won’t. Not always possible though.

They also shrink
Neoprene skirts shrink over time too. I always order a little larger than I think I need especially from Snap Dragon because I hate fighting with the thing especially when they get tighter and tighter on the tunnel with shrinkage.

Thick rand vs. thin bungie

– Last Updated: Sep-28-09 10:10 AM EST –

"A skirt with a bungie rather than those really thick and sticky WW rands... much easier to manage and adjust"

Not sure if this is always the case, at least as far as removing is concerned (adjustability aside). I suppose depends on the combination of cockpit rim + skirt as you mentioned.

The thick randed WW-style neoprene skirt I have (used on a composite sea kayak) is actually easy to remove with the pull strap even thoguh it is very tight and will not come off on its own easy at all. This is due to the design of the pull strap - it rolls the rand around the edge of the cockpit pulling back or up and even a little effort is enough to remove the skirt without the need to push forward first. With the thinner skirts I've had this was not the case - I have to push forward 1st then up to release the front. I had shorter folks in one of my kayaks that found doing that very difficult with a skirt that is otherwise a loose fit - the cockpit is too grabby but it is also too long a reach for them - they simply can't pull forward first with enough strentgh then up...

Er… are you speaking relatively -:wink: ?

– Last Updated: Sep-29-09 9:18 AM EST –

I know some folks who say their tunnels have shrunk over time and no longer fit, but I'm not sure if this is attributable to the neoprene properties or to some other reason - these same folks have also noticed that the waterline length and width of their kayaks has increased over time as well -;)

EDIT: Not directed to JB or anyone in particular -;)

Pull straps etc
Kocho brings up a good point - there are skirts that are made with an extra strap run behind the grab loop which does the job of peeling the skirt over the edge without the paddler having to pull it forward. So far I’ve only seen this feature on a skirt with a neo deck, but it may be out there in other skirts and I’ve just missed it. But in one like this, the edge is going to come of relatively easily regardless of how it’s made.

As to dryness - I didn’t mention that I don’t worry too much about fully sealing out water. I’d rather have a skirt I know I can release when tired than worry about a little water getting in.

One reason for shrinkage is that the
gas in the little bubbles in neoprene (nitrogen I believe) will slowly leak out over time.

A fitted wetsuit I bought in the 70s now looks like it was made for a teen. Remarkable amount of shrinkage, and the suit has been just hanging in a cool, dry closet in the interval.

Remedies for tight sprayskirts

– Last Updated: Sep-28-09 1:10 PM EST –

I use a rubber-rand WW skirt which was impossible for my to put on at first. I found the following to be effective:
-Goop on the 303, stretch the skirt onto the cockpit and leave it for a couple of days (no, you don't have to be wearing the skirt!).
-Applying 303 regularly keeps the skirt stretchy and flexible. You know when it's time to reapply when you start having trouble again :-)
-Get the skirt really wet before you try to stretch it onto the cockpit coaming.

A good emergency exit technique if your grab loop doesn't work (or you've left it inside) is to grab the material where the tunnel meets the deck by your hips and pull up from the sides. There's usually enough play there that you can grab hold. Good idea to practice so you know what to expect.