Skirtless in a real sea kayak

The latest Canoe & Kayak mag profiles a well known potographer and his works, can’t remember his name. He paddles in “real” conditions around Seattle/ BC in a narrow beam “true” sea kayak but without a skirt in place most of the time for access to cameras which makes sense.

I do this as well and wonder how many other paddlers just drop the skirt for heat reasons or any other reason. Of course we know the need for skirts but minus rolling or paddling in breaking waves apparently it’s not uncommon to go topless. But of course most clubs require not only a kayak with flotation but also a skirt.

I’m curious if you are not a skirt believer what length & width boat are you paddling and where?

“his” works?
you lost me there, I thought this post was going to get more risque.

Me too
I was expecting something more “hardcore”!!

Seriously though, are you talking about Gary Luhm? Excellent photographer and kayaker I must say…

I go both ways (dad, don’t worry, it’s not what you think!!). I frequently paddle without a skirt when the weather allows, although here in Lake Michigan the skirt is often a necessity! I prefer paddling in harsh weather (at least 2-3ft seas), as it makes it more interesting and also more of a challenge. When it is calm I am just going for a day paddle I’ll leave the skirt tucked neatly inside my dry bag so I have easy access to my camera, VHF, GPS, food, party favors, etc…

Some folks go both ways

– Last Updated: Aug-09-07 4:00 PM EST –

My dad would probably be more worried to hear I was wearing a skirt.

Boat is 17'9" with a 20" beam, although I hesitate to call it a "true" sea kayak, I'm not looking for a fight and I've seen some folks in shorter wider boats who could handle a lot rougher open water than me (had to throw in the disclaimer, I don't want to offend anyone). . . but I do leave the skirt in my day hatch sometimes. I've done that a couple times in the last week in all the heat. I paddled a couple of good sized ponds and an enclosed little bay last week, the water was flat, I wasn't going to practice anything that required a skirt, it was very hot out, so why bother? It was very nice, much cooler. When I'm heading out further into open water, say Quincy Bay or Boston Harbor I'll always wear the skirt though, it gets a bit rougher out there. I did a paddle a couple weeks ago with a group, and one very accomplished paddler with a greenland style paddle went skirtless with his pfd in the rigging accross the Woods Hole channel. It seemed a little careless but the guy was light years better than me, it was a calm clear day and the guy new his ability and the conditions . . . he was in his comfort zone. I guess you just need to know where you're at.

Skirtless in Seattle?
I only wear a skirt in Lake Superior. I don’t bother with it on rivers and smaller inland lakes.

Always wear one.
I don’t see the big deal. Without a skirt turning is more difficult because you can’t edge as much. With a skirt it is easy to access stuff in the cockpit by just temporarily popping the front of the skirt. Too hot to wear a skirt??? You probably complain about peas under your mattress.

Used to Go Skirtless
Now I’m always skirted. Always ready to get upside down now. Or even halfway upside down. I used to go skirtless to beat the heat. I’ve switched to rotary cooling.

rotary cooling :slight_smile: ha ha ha
rotary cooling…I like that :slight_smile: ha ha. Nah, I’ve been taking out free rental boats from the place where I worked for years…typically Carolinas and Tsunamis…real rec. boats…no skirt. I’m getting into the the higher end, fiberglass boats…longer, narrower, and learning to actually use my body to control the boat…I much prefer to have a skirt on with these boats…you can edge the boat over more…plus rolling practice is FUN!!!

skirtless in hot weather
Only put it on when seas kick up or it is really buggy and I wnat to keep the ankle biters out of the boat.

If you have never tried putting your skirt on if increasing winds and seas, you really should practice it. It is tougher than it looks and you wiil not be able to brace. Put it on earlyy before conditions get too exciting if you are offshore.

This does beg a question…
about what gear you need and when, which is ultimately dependent on where you’re paddling, your skill level, accepted risks, etc.

If you’re in a flatwater environment, with no need to break through surf, no risk of getting waves, and don’t edge your kayak for turning, do you really need a skirt at all?

By the same token, if you always wear a skirt, you should flood your cockpit and practice manuevering, surf landings, etc., with a flooded boat…it’s fun, but more importantly, it’ll make you better prepared if things go wrong.

There is often the opposite scenario: the fully-bedecked kayaker who shows up to a boat demo on an inland pond with his helmet, rescue vest, knife, strobe, tow rig…yet seems to lack any of the boat handling skills one might want someone to have if they were, say, paddling in with a knife in hand to extract you from an entanglement and tow you to safety!

Our padling club
requires that you paddle with the skirt on your waist. Attachment to the cockpit coaming is determined by conditions. If you have it on your waist and the waves suddenly pounce on you it is a simple matter to attach it to the coaming.

makes sense to me.

Here in Michigan We Call It a
Spray DECK.

Are we too homophobic to call it a skirt?

Don’t leave home without it
unless it is in a small lake or river.

Only wear it when the wind and waves kick up to a point where I think I’ll need it.

The boat is a QCC-700, and the skirt is a Snap Dragon and yes I can slip off the PFD and put it in on over my head at a moments notice when I am miles out at sea

My club consists of my wife and me, and we make our own rules



Can edge the kayak without the skirt
I used to think I needed the skirt on to edge it more than a tiny bit, till I actually tried it “nekkid”. Turned out I could edge it more than I had expected without water flowing over the coaming.

Probably I’m so light the boat is sitting fairly high in the water in the first place. If I sink the boat down by flooding the cockpit (like 6" deep or more), I can’t edge it much before the coaming gets close to submarining.

So now, if it’s really hot out (90s and 100s) I sometimes remove the skirt and carry it behind my seat. Usually when it’s that hot around here, it’s also calm.

If I am practicing rolling, bracing, and sculling, I wear the skirt, since overheating is tempered by the dousing.

Therefore count me in as a skirt-optional paddler–but only in hot weather and calm conditions, when I’m doing laps before or after the rolling practice.

For your records, the kayak is 16.5’ long with a 21.5" beam.

I like your discipline.

Hot weather and spray skirts.
Most responses have mentioned not wearing a skirt when it’s hot. I live in hot and muggy Miami, FL and I always wear one. I do like to roll often, but I also wear it for sun protection. I’d rather have hot legs than sunburned thighs. Without a skirt, my thighs would burn within an hour or so.

Also, getting things in and out of the cockpit is no big deal, just pop the skirt off for a couple of minutes.

Pedro Almeida

skirting the issue
I always wear my skirt but when I guide others professionally and they ask me if they have to wear the skirt, I sometimes tell them they should put the skirt on them but don’t need to put it over the combing of the cockpit if it is a calm warm day—that way if the wind picks up, they can slip it on but don’t have to endure the heat if the ocean is glassy flat.

Paddler and conditions

– Last Updated: Aug-10-07 12:18 PM EST –

Heck - when I saw "topless" I also thought this'd go somewhere else...

I always wear the skirt - more important in heat because I will handle the heat by rolling or at least sculling full over (if the water looks a little yucky). If someone doesn't tend to get upside down to cool off that wouldn't be a factor. I've also never been sure that it wouldn't be hotter to have the sun beating on my legs, or more annoying to have that much more real estate that the darned bugs could get to when we stop to chat and grab a drink. So it stays on.

However, if someone shows up on an evening paddle on a calm river or local lake who seems to have spent all of their paddling time right side up, I'd just as soon not see a skirt. Or at the most a nylon one that'll fall off. I'd rather not have to deal with one of those extreme fear responses.

the real purpose to wear the skirt is not to be able to roll your boat but to keep water out of your cockpit when the when wind and waves pickup—although it does keep the water out when you roll also—some instructors actually teach rolling to beginers with the skirt off—a boat with a cockput full of water is actually easier to roll then one where the skirt keeps the cockpit dry—the hard part is keeping the boat upright after the roll is completed.

not a believer!!
for shame