I’m hoping to learn to roll a kayak soon and am wondering what options are important primarily for rolling. I’m in Florida and paddle in warm/ hot weather a lot, though prefer the cooler months. I’m familiar with many of the materials and brands and feel as though any of them do a good job in a bit of weather, but for rolling, what features and material are most important? Tunnel, shoulder straps…etc.
A good and snug fit to your torso to minimize water leakage there. And snug enough to cockpit coaming to seal water out and loose enough to pop off for wet exit. Materials include neoprene which will be hot in summer months. Reed Chill Cheater makes stretchy and thin material skirts (or spray decks) that seal well and are much cooler than neo.
Something stretchy. Regular nylon will usually pull off the coaming when you go thru the motions. Used to be some nice other material skirts to be had, not stretchy but generous in fit. However as far as I know those have been impossible to get for a long time.
I paddle with neo skirts most of the year, on hot days in Maine I either dump water on myself or, when I have a companion, dunk into the water via a static brace or a roll. I am a bit conservative about doing those alone even if I am solid on them. But Florida is hotter longer than Maine.
I am not nearly as concerned about the tightness of a skirt in terms of letting in water as most I paddle with. In surf that sloshing around can become a pain, but for most touring paddling even an inch or so of water should not be a huge issue.
I use in Florida a Seals Neo skirt most all year. In summer on the 100 degree days we often go with skirt open or not on. Sometimes with a nylon skirt but it leaks.
NRS lists sizes in inches so you can measure your cockpit and determine the right size.
Sweetwater kayaks in St Pete is a good retail store that will steer you right. Also teach rolling. See their symposium on web site.
Most important is the seal of skirt to your kayak. One that won’t pop off if you twist your body (which the roll will have you doing). Neoprene generally does this better than nylon. Basically you want the skirt to stay in place during the whole roll.
You can still roll up if the skirt pops off, but it is harder and your boat will be flooded. In a lesson, this will man constantly draining your boat.
Sealing around our body with a tight tunnel, suspenders to hold skirt up, etc. are less important to me. A roll is a wet process - no matter what skirt I am wearing, there will be some water in the cockpit. Less is always nice, but I haven’t found a way to prevent it altogether. So I wouldn’t worry as much about tightly sealing tunnels.
That said, you won’t want lots of water getting in each roll. If you have, say, a quart or more coming in per roll, it is likely during a roll class/practice that you could get enough water in to change the balance of the boat, which could flip you and be harder to recover from.
All good advice provided. There are now some good Other materials like the Seals Odyssey (polypropylene Deck/tunnel) that make for a taut deck but a flexible and adjustable tunnel. If you’re planning on frequent faceplants such as playing surf then neoprene is the way to go.
Well I think neoprene is the way to go even in Florida.
I have had good luck with the Snap Dragon EXP series or Seals neo skirts.
I second contacting Sweetwater kayaks in St Pete or Marshall at the River
Plan to eventually get a summer and winter skirt. Our Deep South summers are too hot for a neoprene spray skirt which keeps you amazingly dry if it correctly fits both you and the kayak (except for your sweat).
Summer: I like a nylon skirt when not planning to roll lots, specifically a Seals Sneak which has a zipper opening for additional cooling. For extensive rolling practice and cooler weather padding: I use a Snap Dragon Ocean Tour Exp - it is really dry which is good.
Concur with an earlier response, go see Sweetwater in Tampa. A few lessons rolling make a huge difference in the beginning.
Thanks for all the advice folks! Went ahead with a neoprene skirt for rolling lessons, then I’ll just get a cooler one as spring comes. Figured I can’t just rely on neoprene when living where it’s blazin’ Hot most of the year!
My first sprayskirt was a Snapdragon one with a snug-fitting neoprene skirt and a nylon tunnel with shoulder straps. In hot weather, I wore the tunnel over the PFD (or did not wear the PFD) and adjusted the top of the skirt fully open, which allowed moist warm air to vent up and out. When it was time to practice rolling, I would put the PFD on over the tunnel. It let in a bit more water than a full neoprene skirt and tunnel, but not enough to be a problem.
If you do a lot of rolls, you’ll get a little water in the cockpit anyway. This can be minimized by wearing a drysuit with its own tunnel to interleaf with the skirt tunnel, but in hot weather and cool or warm water you wouldn’t want to wear a drysuit anyway.