New sit-in kayak & spray skirt

Deae Friends,

This is my first message in the forum, so nice to meet you all!

I am about to buy a new sit-in kayak, which is a bit expensive for my budget. To cut donw expenses, I thought of not buying a spray skirt (At least for the first year), since this would cost an additional 100$. I want your advice on whether a spray skirt is really need in waters that are usually calm. I woulnd’t like to neglect bying a spray skirt if this is a matter of safety…But if it is just a matter of comfort, I think this can wait a year or so.

Also, it would be great if I could have your advice regarding the type of kayak that I will be buying. I have found a used Riot Polarity 16.5 Double Kayak. Apparently it is an old model. Do you happen to have any advice in this respect. From the reviews that I have read in it seems to be a safe, stable and decent vessel.

Many many thanks for your time!

That’s a really heavy tandem (2 person) kayak… Do you know that?

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Hi and welcome.

I also just bought my first sit-in kayak, and also a Riot 13’, and for my first year didn’t get a spray skirt yet. While this is not advice (I’m too much of a newbie) I figured this year would be for learning and I’d stay by the shorelines and not venture anywhere wavy. This is how many rental places do things, as spray shirts would add layers of complexity, learning, and maybe even risk.

But I do see myself getting a skirt somewhere down the road (or down the river) as it would provide that extra safety margin needed to cross more open water.

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dear grayhawk, thanks for the remark! Indeed, it s heavy, around 40 kg, but I intend to use with friends. So hopefully the weight won’t be an issue

Many thanks otterawy. This was my idea as well: get a good kayak (happens to be my first sit-in as well), get accustomed to it, then add layers of imporvement/complexity.

In the end, it is better to have a couple of good carbon paddles and life jackets rather than a couple of spray skirts…

Life jackets are required and should be worn, in USUALLY calm water or not.
CF paddles are not a NEED . There are good paddles much cheaper that will more than do the job for beginners. Aquabound makes paddles from fiberglass, or glass and carbon. Learning how to paddle is far more valuable than the few ounces you save with all carbon.


wanaka, are you buying one or two kayaks (a single and a tandem)? You should learn to paddle before taking on a tandem with friends who know nothing about paddling. Your paddling learning curve will be huge in a single without the added issue of multiple friends in a tandem.

As for your initial question, in my mind, a spray skirt is part of basic equipment for a sit in sea kayak. Safety calls for you to learn how to wet exit the kayak safely when using a skirt and kayak. Suggest you find an ACA or BC instructor and take some introductory lessons to learn how to exit an overturned kayak with a skirt on.

If you are buying a tandem, I would not have paddle friends in a skirt unless they have practiced wet exits with a skirt on similar to what is suggested for you above.

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A spray skirt is an essential part of a sea kayak, not an optional accessory. However, that being said one should never wear one unless completely practiced and comfortably with a wet exit.

While a spray skirt may be optional in very calm and protected waters, the red flag that I see is your description of the waters in which you plan to use it as usually calm. Weather changes , sometimes quite unexpectedly. It only takes a few inches of water in a sea kayak to make it very unstable. In calm weather, even a boat wake can dump a lot of water in a kayak. In addition to a spray skirt, you would want a cockpit cover for the other cockpit If paddling a tandem solo.

Overall, rather than a tandem, for your first year I would suggest getting a used single kayak and spending the money you’ll save on some basic instruction on technique and safety. After a season of experience paddling, buy another inexpensive used boat and gear for friends if you’re still into paddling.


thanks for the info!

Indeed, I got lifejackets before i even started doing my research on which boat to buy
so, you suggest that I can compromise with a fiberglass paddle as a beginner. Thanks a lot!

ear Kayakhank,

I intend to buy one tandem kayak. This will be my first ever sit-in (I have some experience with SOT). So I definitely see your point. The good things is that my bros are athletes with a background in rowing -which means that they are very experienced in paddling, stabilizing narrow beam vessels, reentering overturned boats etc. I think that this helps (and that they can instuct me accordingly…)

@rstevens15 Valid point, you never know what the see may bring. I hadn;t thought of this issu (water making the kayak unstable). Would using a kayak bilge pump be a safe alternative to spray skirts?

If you will be paddling in waters that are warm and stay reasonably close to shore, I think you can do without the spray skirts. A big tandem like that isn’t something that can be rolled, so the skirts will keep water from being splashed into the cockpit from waves or boat wakes. That’s inconvenient but not likely to sink you. But you will want to invest in a pump. And the comments about wet exits are very relevant. If you capsize, the skirts can restrict your ability to get out of the cockpit. That’s why practicing wet exits is needed, where your first action while under water is to remove the skirt.

I frequently launch in a protected bay where a kayak rental company is based. I’ve never seem their renters outfitted with spray skirts. Probably because of the danger of entrapment during a wet exit.

Huh? Sorry for not being attentive to the discussion. Most kayak bilge pumps are manual. When a wave washes over the cockpit you are somewhat too busy to put paddle down and pump. Electric pumps are $$ and heavy. Kayakers always try to be light.

If you are concerned about drips from paddles, use a sponge. We often don’t close the skirt in the 95+ degree summer. We put medium sponge between legs and sponge out.

Similar to @overstreet. When paddling on inland lakes I don’t use a spray skirt unless there are whitecaps. Even then not when its hot out. A bilge pump is for serious water; I bail with a big sponge.

When toting up your expenses consider how you will transport the boat. It’s easy to pay more for a rack system than for what a boat costs.

Each water sport is different. Whether rowing (seated rear facing with a single blade) or canoeing and being athletes is not kayaking (seated forward facing with a double blade paddle). Some water skills may transfer very quickly, however there are enough major differences and subtle nuances to each that they are very different sports. Suggest you learn from some kayakers to minimize your learning curve so you can enjoy paddling safely more quickly.

Starting in a tandem with others who are not experienced tandem kayak paddlers is basically the “blind leading the blind”. There are easier ways to learn. Good luck with whichever path you choose.

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Agree with @kayakhank - I rowed for years before switching to kayaking. Very few of the skills are transferrable short of weather and tide awareness, and flatwater rowers may not be all that aware of tides either. Yes I was comfortable in a narrow boat but I had to learn everything else from scratch. Recovery of a capsized rowing shell is very different from recovery of a capsized kayak.

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I was thinking more of that one big boat wake that perhaps dumps several gallons in the cockpit. I wouldn’t recommend that wanaka head out in any sort of rough water.

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On inland lakes , not the Great ones, I’ve been caught in unexpectedly rough weather. Exciting but nothing dangerous.
That completely changes in salt water . Dependable forecasts are necessary on nice, calm days.

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I agree with others that being proficient in another sport, even one that seems related, doesn’t guarantee that one will be good at a new one. After all playing hockey doesn’t make you a good golfer though both involve hitting a little round thing towards a target.

The first time I put my super-fit teen nephew, who crewed with a team that was the regional champs that year, into one of my boats (which was a very stable Feathercraft folding kayak with inflatable sponsons) he managed to capsize it and fall out in less than 10 minutes. Bear in mind this was a boat that a friend of mine I’d loaned it to previously had once been able to stand up in while on the water in order to adjust the seat back to her satisfaction.

Every sport has a muscle memory that needs to be developed and sometimes a person highly skilled in what seems like a “similar” activity will react in exactly the opposite way that is needed in the new situation. We used to run into this when teaching beginning rock climbing through my outdoor club: the students who tended to have the most difficulty learning were the body builder type guys who tried to drag themselves up by arm and shoulder power rather than applying balance, leg strength and cantilevering their center of balance to move up the route. They often lacked the flexibility to “stick” to the holds.


I learned my lesson about spray skirts in my first year on the water in a kayak. I was paddling around Wye Island on the Chesapeake. It was early November, the air was warm but the water was cool, so I was wearing a wetsuit. I was wearing a sprayskirt, but didn’t have it attached to the cockpit rim due to the warm weather and sea conditions. Early morning and the only other boat on the flat water was a workboat slowly chugging up the river. That workboat proceeded to dump about 3" of water into my cockpit.

I was surprised how much less stable that little amount of water made the boat feel, even in calm water. I have always carried a hand pump and a sponge, so I used the pump to get the majority of the water out, properly fastened the spray skirt, and continued on until lunch, when I used the sponge to get the last little bit of water out. Without a pump I would have had to look for a place to land to dump the water out. I’ve never paddled without a spray skirt properly worn again. I frequently paddle in areas where it is not at all uncommon to have waves wash over the deck and cockpit.

Although some people find a spray skirt too hot in the summer, I find keeping the sun from beating down on my lower body pretty uncomfortable too and the water tends to keep the interior of the boat a bit cooler than the outside air temperature.

Then again, I’ve worked for most of my life in restaurant kitchens and am not too bothered by heat.


Two times that I haven’t worn some kind of skirt in the last few years and both times something memorable happened. Once I got soaked by a startled manatee and the other I had a decent sized fish jump into my lap. Oddly both were in almost exactly the same spot, separated by only a few hundred yards.

I do use a splash deck frequently in the summer, as heat stroke and heat exhaustion are real threats here in Florida in the summer. Heat index is 100F+ most days and the Gulf water reaches the low 90s - evaporative cooling doesn’t work so well in those temperatures. I overheated a couple of times wearing a neoprene skirt and I am very heat tolerant. The splash deck keeps the sun off my legs and a significant amount of water out of the cockpit while allowing for some airflow as well. Very occasionally a wave will sneak up on the beam and make it over the side of the splash deck. If I know it is going to be rough or if I am paddling offshore I use the full skirt instead.