I just posted this as a response to a year old YouTube video. Anyway, I had planned to post something like this here. So I/m just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on nylon vs neoprene w regards to ease of exit. Or recommendations for specific skirts.
[copy and paste starts here] A few years ago now, I got tumbled in some surf and one of my arms was temporarily paralyzed. I learned later, from a sports medicine OT type doctor, that I probably had a shock to my brachial plexus. Afterwards, I made sure I was well practiced in popping the skirt with either arm. As I’ve gotten older, and maybe paddle less, I find that I cannot hold my breath as long as I use to and have started worrying about being trapped upside down, unable to roll, and unable to pop skirt (maybe I’m panicking or have vertigo due to cold water imbalance in my ears and am too disoriented to find grab loop). Very unlikely scenario given the environments where I typically paddle, but I want a skirt that I can pop by just pushing off the bottom of the boat with my feet. It’s been a while since I used a nylon skirt but I was thinking of going back to that on the assumption that it would be easier to exit without the use of my arms. I generally don’t have a problem doing a re-entry and roll so I am not too worried about not being able to roll back up if skirt comes off underwater.
If you are so concerned such that you cannot confidently get out of a sit in kayak if all the stars and moon line up to make the perfect catastrophy for you to go upside down in conditions you seldom paddle it, perhaps it is time to paddle a SOT.
However, to answer your direct question, yes, cheap nylon skirts come off easily as do oversize, miss-fitted ones. My properly sized Seals Sneak nylon skirt for hot summer use is equally hard/easy for me to get off as my SnapDragon neoprene skirt for rolling and most-of-the-year use on sea kayaks.
practice leaning forward and two hands on the loop to release skirt. Do it in shallow water with someone else competent to help you and pull you up if you fail. Paddle under your arm.
nylon skirt - just don’t plan on using it in surf (even neoprene/nylon)
many years ago, I had Snapdragon custom make me a neo/nylon skirt with an implosion bar - helped, but still failed too easily.
(above - assuming large cockpit; ocean cockpit & nylon skirt will work (at least, better than large cockpit & nylon) )
Ditto that. Nylon skirt is literally a “spray” skirt because spray (and sun protection) is all it can handle. It also doesn’t shed well, with water pooling in the top area until the skirt implodes from the weight. I had a nylon skirt when I first started. Replaced it as soon as I encountered larger chops and waves in open water (not even talking a surfing scenario). That too is a “scary” scenario, worrying when the next chop/wave coming over the fordeck and is going to implode the nylon skirt.
Another alternative is a Reed Chillcheater Aquatherm SpraySkirt.
Maybe not as easy as a nylon skirt to pull off, but easier than a neoprene.
I wouldn’t use it for surf-play, but does well in surf (for once out/in type of day).
I’d like to demo an Epic V6. Their lightest layup is 33 lbs for that boat. Other SOT’s are a good bit heavier than I would want unless I got a trailer, which I don’t see happening any time soon (but maybe some day).
As it sounds like you already have sit in kayaks that you can paddle, when was the last time and how often do you “practice” wet exits with a neoprene spray skirt on? If you are not comfortable practicing solo, why not do as PD52 suggests and practice with a paddle buddy next to you in shallow water? I will go one more step though…practice exiting with just one hand (both right and left) being used to release the pull tab? That should give you the confidence to know how well you can release the skirt IF a situation as you originally presented occurs. And, while you are with your buddy in the shallows, why not also practice the emergency skirt release (used in case you accidentally cover or cannot locate the pull tab) by releasing the skirt at the hip by pulling it out & off.
Are your current kayaks plastic or composite? I find the composite rims require a bit more force to get the skirt off and also usually require manually clearing the whole rim. My plastic boats the skirts pops off cleanly once started a little. I had an unexpected swim in my plastic Gemini a few months ago and I was out of the boat before I even knew what happened, didn’t even have time to reach for the grab loop. This was with a Seals neo nylon skirt, proper size for the cockpit.
I have nylon, neoprene and Reed spray decks. Nylon comes off easiest. Reed which I bought with my boat because it was the model designated for my boat is the most difficult to remove. Has very little flex.
The neoprene, a Seals, was ordered using their spec list and I couldn’t get it on the boat. So I called them and they modified (changed the bungie) it and it is perfect! Snug but not impossibly so. Perhaps you should call them and discuss what you are looking for and they can customize. It only a few bucks more than stock.
No, I don’t have a sit in kayak, but I’ve been wanting to demo an Epic. I do practice wet exits with my neoprene spray skirt on, and as per my original post, using left or right hand. I use to also practice reinstalling skirt underwater before rolling up, but I don’t think I can hold my breath for that long anymore. But maybe…haven’t tried for a while. Maybe this weekend.
Composite. I’m generalizing perhaps from my only plastic boat (a Sealution II), which was my first boat, way back when, but in my experience the underside of composite rims are flatter (parallel with deck) whereas the underside of plastic boat coamings are more likely to be curved. As a result, you have to pull the grab handle on a composite boat towards the bow first and then up whereas on a plastic boat you can just pull it up and it will naturally stretch over the rim and off.
Roll up, assuming you still roll. No need to take the time to install a spray skirt underwater before getting upright into a high oxygen environment. Just as practicing a wet exit is important, the reenter and roll is a fun roll to practice too.
If you have the time, installing the spray skirt underwater can significantly reduce the amount of water you have to pump out when you right yourself but the priority is to get upright. Yes, re-entry and roll is far superior IMO to cowboy scramble or paddle-float assisted re-entry once you get it down.
Yes, as you mentioned, the priority is getting upright and breathing air. Then worry about h2o in your cockpit.
Once you reenter and roll, quickly reinstall the skirt (to stop more water entering the cockpit) and paddle to a quiet area to start pumping or to do a T-rescue. Paddling a kayak with water in the cockpit is a good drill to practice as you know water sloshing around in a cockpit makes stability challenging…be ready to brace.
If I have time, I’d rather do what I can to prevent significant water getting into the cockpit to begin with. Then I don’t have to worry about it. Not sure why I would do a T-rescue if I were already paddling my boat but in any case, T-rescues require another kayak and I mostly paddle solo.
We all swim occasionally - capsize. It’s part of paddling. Make sure you periodically practice pulling the loop of your skirt away from you and up over the combing.
If you decide to learn how to roll it will eliminate water exits.
And, for those in these forums that can and do roll quite a bit, we know that truthfully that we are “all in between swims.” Self and assisted rescues are part of the array of skills to learn and practice.
The answer may also be affected by cockpit size as well as skirt matrial & rim material. In a Pygmy Arctic Tern with a Seals 1.7 skirt staying in while upside down required conscious attention to keep locked in. Relax a little & gravity takes over. In the Delphin 150 (plastic hull) and a 1.4 skirt I’m more locked in upside down but have the skirt come loose when twisting around a bit much to set up. In the Explorer LV (composite with a rather small keyhole rim) I do need to make sure to pull the loop forward or to reach to my side & pop it off.
If you are around another experienced kayaker (which it seems you usually are not), getting out of your kayak to have a friend perform a T-rescue is lots quicker and easier than pumping - at least it is among the folks with whom I surf/enjoy rough water. Our priorities are: 1) get upright into a kayak, 2) exit the impact/surf/clipotis zone and into a safe zone, and 3) decide on how to dewater the kayak.
Unfortunately, no one I paddle with regularly right now is comfortable performing “The Dump” maneuver to dewater a kayak quickly.