Skirt for beginner sea kayaker

Hi folks, this is my first post, and I wanted to gauge your opinion on something:

I just bought my sister a nice Eddyline Nighthawk 16 touring kayak (fantastic boat, we both took it out today on the Mississippi Sound), and the one piece of gear she needs to get is a spray skirt (she got lucky and got my wife’s extra PFD, my old Kokatat drytop, and an extra pair of pogies we had in the garage, but the only skirts we had were whitewater, and we use all of them).

Here’s the thing: 90% of the time, it’s very warm and steamy down here where she’ll be paddling. She’ll largely be paddling in protected waters (inside the barrier islands on the Mississippi Sound), but she’ll hopefully graduate to some ventures on the outside of the islands into a little heavier seas at some point (still definitely not extreme though, think small seas).

I’m trying to recommend a skirt for her, but as my propensity is whitewater, I think all-neoprene. I know that’s overkill for what she’s doing, and I’m mainly wanting something that is not too restrictive, but is reasonable quality and reasonably dry (at least taped or sealed seams). What would you choose based on what you know about this paddler:

  • Warm weather most of the time (even in January today, we both were out in shorts and sandals and t-shirts paddling).
  • Female (if that matters)
  • Touring boat
  • Typical paddling environment is coastal, inside-the-barriers waters with occassional ventures into small seas
  • Reasonable quality and dryness
  • Not too expensive – she’s a beginner, and who knows if this will really catch on for her, plus she’s in grad school and is limited on funds.

    My thinking is for something like this one:

    or this one:

    But I’d love to have the input from some more experienced sea kayakers (again, I’m mainly a whitewater guy).

    Thanks in advance,


most folks think they need neoprene and don’t. I have used a good quality nylon skirt in alot of conditions and it does fine. Unless waves are breaking over your deck/head, you don’t need it. Or if you’re rolling.

warm weather they’re especially nice.

Seals, Snap Dragon, Kokatat…features are nice.


For warmer months
I prefer a skirt nylon (or Gortex) skirt with suspenders and a drawstring top (rather than the neoprene band). I like to wear the skirt outside the PFD. With the suspenders you can loosen the drawstring and get the skirt to breathe without having it fall down low enough to let in lots of water from waves. When it is very calm you can simply slip out of the suspenders and let the top fall down into your lap. Much cooler, but easy to quickly pull back up if the conditions get worse.

I am using the the simple nylon WildWasser skirt. About $40-50 dollars. Very nice as long as I am not going to do rolling practice.


I prefer the neo…

…yes, they are warm, but I lived in Picayune, Ms for 5 years and never once used the AC in the truck. I’ve

lived in DC, coast of NC, Memphis, Huntsville (Al),

and Vicksburg (Ms) and SE Asia.

There IS something wrong with my thermostat!

Nylon, neo…probably doesn’t matter. I have 2 WW boats and 2 touring boats. All my skirts are neo.

Get what you want, just don’t skimp. Ie, don’t let the price dictate what you get. If you decide you want a neo, do not get the nylon just because it’s less expensive. Otherwise you’ll won’t be happy and you might have qualms about buying a neo while you have a good nylon skirt.

nice first post!

easy off
I use both neoprene and nylon. Used the nylon for quite a while before getting the neoprene. Even in surf and rolling. As Flatpick said, you can go either way.

But, if she is truly a beginner, you may want something that is a bit loose to start with. Until they know they can pop the skirt when they are unexpectedly upside down, best to get one that will just about fall off on its own if they try to push out. So one that is a bit on the loose side (not so loose that a small wave would knock it off, but loose enough that a knee pushing upward would pop it off).

I’ve got the tropical by seals for both my capella and mystic, gotta have 2 because the boats are different sized cockpits. I only use the skirt on my capella when the water is ruff or I’m crossing the intercoastal waterway (big boats make big wakes that come over the boat!!) My mystic on the other hand must have a skirt all the time. It rides really low in the water and to do any kind of turn, the side of the cockpit dips down awfully low into the water. The tropical tour by seals fits really tight (or I’ve got it adjusted to be really tight!!!) But that’s how I like it. One thing I would suggest before your sister goes out in a boat with a skirt…have her take a rescue lesson using the skirt and doing a wet exit. The more she practices popping that skirt underwater, the more relaxed she’ll be using it. The first time I “practiced” just rolling over and wet exiting, I was scared to death something would go “wrong”. Just making myself roll upsidedown was an achievement!! And I was grinning like an idiot after my first popping of my skirt. (somehow the wording of this is sounding funnier than I intended!!) It’s not a laughing matter when you really need these skills.

have both types
nylone and neoprene. You are probably more experienced than I but my 2 cents worth anyway. If she will use a greenland paddle, go neoprene as it paddles very wet!

We dont use our nylon ones anymore as the ones we have by nrs i believe and ems will eventually soak thru. My hubby and I love the Snapdragon glacier tek sprayskirt and I dont like suspenders and they feel in the way under my jacket to me. It does take practice to remove when wet exiting and absolutely must be practiced as neoprene fits pretty snug if fitted properly, especially if she is a beginner.

Another sprayskirt I would possibly buy is a goretex one which a fellow paddler loves and says is cooler than neoprene. I cannot remember the brand (kokatat maybe) but is was a name brand and fairly costly - it had a mesh pocket for storage on it also. This might be a good first choice.

I have a Nighthawk 16 . . .
. . . it came with a Snapdragon coated nylon spray skirt. It has proven to be completely adequate. I cut the suspenders off but it keeps the cockpit dry even with waves braking over the deck and during intention and unintentional roll practice. The size is medium.

Coated nylon can still be hot
That’s what we found anyway, though admittedly in summers in far more northern climes. Enclosed is enclosed, the only diff with a neo skirt is that you can get it wet and with a goretex skirt that it does breathe some. The goretex one mentioned is probably Kokatat’s - my husband has one and for the right situation it’s a nice option. But it is also very pricey.

Our only other conclusion with the coated nylon ones was that they had a remarkably short life span before they started leaking once they’d spent time on the ocean. The salt water was hard on the seams and the taping. But on a hot day, damp thighs from seam leaks can be a blessing.

If you go nylon or goretex (or there used to be Codura ones too), you do want a stiff band that’ll arch the skirt up slightly. That way the water from paddle splash runs off rather than pooling in your lap. You used to also be able to get nylon skirts from either Harmony or Voyageur that had some insulation in the deck, so they could go into colder or rainier weather with less fuss.

I have many skirts …
including several all neo (Snapdragon, Seals) and a couple of Seals Tropical Tour skirts. I do prefer the breathable fabic over the coated nylon for comfort, but there really isn’t a difference in how the nylon skirts perform. My go to skirt is a hybrid - neo deck and breathable fabric upper. Several companies make these. For most of my paddling, when I’m not practicing a lot of rolling or playing in the surf, I choose a hybrid. The Seals Extreme Tour is nice especially when doing rescue practice because it is reinforced around the edges, but the less expensive Seals Sea Sprite works very well and the neo is a little more stretchy, so it’s easier on/off.

The Sea Sprite would be my overall choice for what you describe because it will give her room to expand into more advanced conditions without having to immediately purchase another skirt.



Mississippi Sound Sprayskirt
I have a Seals “Sneak” Sprayskirt for my Perception “Carolina 14.5”… I paddle year-round in the estuaries and open waters of the Gulf Coast, and have found the “Sneak” to be a reliable and versatile skirt.