Spray skirt selection

[Note: I posted this first on the Impex message boards, but realized I could get broader input here.]

I recently (last Sunday) bought a used Impex Currituck. What should I look for in a moderate to extreme condition spray skirt?

Note: I purchased it from a friend, a kayak instructor. He tends toward extreme: be prepared for doing rescues (good protection of the edges of the skirt), rolling (neoprene deck, at the least), surfing, etc. I expect under his care to spend as much of my time head-down as head-up. :slight_smile:

I lean toward the Seals brand, if only because it seems they have the most precise sizing (1.2, 1.4, 1.7: for instance, I would not buy a “large” sport coat, when “44 Long” will fit me more closely). Thus, it sounds like a Seals 1.2 is better than another brand’s “medium” or “small”. (Also, I’ll need an XL tunnel: that “44 Long” is a real measurement.) The Currituck cockpit is quite small: 16x30, I believe.

The main question: is a neoprene tunnel a good idea, or a great idea? Is a nylon or nylon-with-neoprene-waist tunnel good enough for 80% or 90% of what one is likely to encounter, or does that last 10% require an edge of safety?

I find that the neoprene tunnels are reserved for “whitewater” skirt categories. I’m considering

  • Seals Extreme Tour: Neoprene deck, nylon tunnel with neo waistband.
  • Seals Shocker: Neo deck, neo tunnel, Sealtex edge guard (a “whitewater” skirt).
  • Seals Pro Shocker: Neo deck, neo tunnel, aramid-reinforced edge guard (think body armor, bulletproof vest).

    More notes: I expect to be on flatwater (Maine lakes) or slow-water rivers (near Philly) a fair amount, but I’ll also be at the Jersey Shore and on the Maine coast at some time. For very calm flatwater, I’ve got an ultra-light (and ultra-leaky) Seals Inlander that I picked up for the first trip, but I’m looking now for my mainstay spray skirt.

    Ideas, thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

    (Pardon the long post, please. Also, my dreams lean toward surf and rough water; reality may bring me up short, of course.)

I also like Seals, because of their sizing. They make it so easy, as compared to the other brands.

I have both a Coastal Tour and Extreme Tour. For sea kayaking, the biggest thing I hear is you want neoprene for deck for more extreme conditions to keep it from imploding under waves, but even with the coastal tour (nylon deck) I never had any trouble in surf zones or surfing or rolling. The nylon did leak a little more (and had drip from water soaking through after a while).

Neither has a neoprene tunnel. Perhaps that would have been good to reduce the amount of water that I get when rolling (a cup or two comes through my clothing and the tunnel with every roll). But never had an issue with this, as I either am not rolling that much, or would blow a roll at some point and have to wet exit (negating any worry of a little water in the cockpit).

Neo v Nylon
I found that I prefer neo/neo for the type of paddling I do; coastal. I do however, have a several other types of spray decks; Snap Dragon neo/nylon, Wild Wasser neo/neo, Kokoatat thing, and I even have a day skirt in there. Neo/neo has become my preference for the tunnel fit and the tight deck. Water pooling isn’t really an issue, but for what ever reason I just prefer it not be there, and the suspenders on the neo/nylon just get in the way.

for what its worth…

I’m also eagerly awaiting a new Bombergear 08 skirt w/Kevlar, should be good.

very capable boat
Please make certain you can quickly release whatever skirt you buy both upright and with water up your nose. I used to favor all neo but now use the Reed Chill Cheater. Never like the nylon as it leaked.

I ended up with two skirts because one doesn’t fit all. For warm days only nylon works for me as neoprene gets too warm. But when colder or in surf or practicing rolling I prefer neoprene. I have a mostly nylon tube with a neoprene deck though as a compromise between keeping water out and comfort in warm temps.

So consider how much you’ll get wet (WW or surf) and how cold your weather (especially air temps) and pick what fits best or get more than one skirt.

Neo/neo is drier thru the tunnel when if fits right, but depending on the fit in shape between the skirt and the cockpit,as much water can come in under the edge of the skirt. For example my Vela fits a 1.2 Seals, but the skirt is actually a little loose along the sides because the cockpit is narrower than it’ll accommodate.

A spray skirt that will stand up to rescues and surf isn’t extreme in sea kayaking terms, just what you need. A good neo, edge reinforced sea kayak skirt should do it for most people. Going to a full WW skirt may be overkill depending on how hard it is to pull off, especially if you are mating it with a composite boat. This is less of an issue for a guy than someone like me with my scrawny violin-playing wrists, but even there you really really need to be able to pull that skirt when you are learning surf.

Some amount of water in the boat isn’t a big issue.

is your Currituck blue?
Ok, I might come across as addressing a troll but luskwater has the same boat as I have. Bought a used Currituck (as playboat) from an very competent instructor. See picture http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnarlydog

I used to have neoprene skirts but these days only Reed by Chillcheater will do (same as andy).

The size you need is called “Keyhole”.

It fits snug and does not leak. Seriously does not leak. It’s easy to peel off since it stretches nicely and works great in the surf.

But above all it breathes. So much more comfortable then neoprene. Lighter more comapct and dryes fast… what else do you need?

It is hard to come by in USA but most of the Brits use them.

Can order online.


You got it
Yes, I’ve got an Ice color fiberglass Currituck, also bought from a very competent instructor. A lot more rigging around and across the decks than your “Bluey”, but sister boats nonetheless.

How did you know?

Snap Dragon
I just bought my 3rd Snap Dragon today. The Glacier Expedition. Neo deck, reinforced edge, breathable tunnel with adjustible fit using velcro. I also have an all Neo/Neo, and the non-reinforced verision of the Glacier. I tend to use these over nylon all the time as nylon leaks, and I rarely paddle without rolling. Seals may be good, but the Snap Dragons are made locally and I feel good supporting a local paddling company.

Oh, I have 3 boats, but one will be sold next week and they get the nylon skirts.

Snap Dragon
I use and like the Snap Dragon Ocean Tour Exp, neo/neo with reinforced edges. I use a medium with an Impex Force 4, which has a slightly larger cockpit (16x32) than a Currituck, which is listed as taking a small. I’ll bet that would be very water tight,as the medium is on the Force 4. After 4 hours in surf or with rolling practice, there’s at most 5-6 spongfuls of water (which I think comes between the tunnel and me, though I’m not sure ). I’d be curious to compare a Chillcheater or Seals, but it certainly works fine and has held up well.

Snap Dragon/Rutabaga
Snap Dragon skirts are hard to beat for quality. You might consider a breathable tunnel, a Gortex type material that Snap Dragon has on some of their tunnels. Lot cooler in the summer. Snap Dragon has so many models to choose from. Call Rutabaga, largest paddle shop in the country. They’ll help you with sizing.

Bluey told me so :slight_smile:
see, when Bluey was born she had a twin sister but then they got separated… long story.

Boy, I’m so full of BS.

Enjoy your blue girl, they really are one of the most fun ones to play around with.


Thanks to all
This has been very helpful (as well as disturbing: do I have the evil twin, or does gnarlydog?).

I spoke with the owner of one of the few nearby kayak shops, who surprised me (I shouldn’t be, I suppose: too used to mass-production) by telling me that the Snapdragon folks pretty much make each skirt to order, rather than keeping warehouses full of inventory (all that neoprene decaying in the darkness). Many of the other makers–especially the few I’ve never heard of–certainly do the same.

It appears to be a small world: at least two people I’ve corresponded with have “recognized” my boat (one sold it to the previous owner), so I should get used to small-scale and hand-crafted materials. Sounds great!

Reed and Snapdragon
I use Reed on my LV NDKs as I like the fit and the comfort of the skirt. On my surf boat, I use a Snapdragon.

Both are good and I’ve also heard great things about Seals.

Snapdragon is also making a woman-specific skirt with a better, anatomically correct tunnel. Whether it’s on the market yet, I don’t know, but a friend who’s a rep has one. Nice idea and I’m looking forward to trying one out.

Snapdragon’s Women’s Skirt
I have one for my WW boats, with the knee-off strap and the tapered tunnel. I think it was called the Flirt but it was just barely out when I got mine so I’m not sure.

Comments - the tapered tunnel makes for a different waist fit. I am right on the cusp between small and medium for Snapdragon waists, and got a medium as my tour skirts figuring that would be a match. But since the taper extends outwards fairly fast, I probably should have gotten a small. It works OK, but I don’t get the level of dryness I would if it were a little tighter.

Also, check the bungie strength. As it came originally, the bungie kept pulling off the combing of my first WW boat, the Piedra, at every roll. Luckily I discovered this in a pool. I didn’t have the Inazone at the time so I don’t know if it would have been a problem with that larger cockpit, but I suspect maybe. I sent it back to Snapdragon with a cockpit tracing and their solution, the next heavier bungie, has worked perfectly. I do need help to get it pulled on if it hasn’t been good and soaked, but that’s not at all uncommon with women in WW boats. This might have worked OK with a glass coaming, but it was definately not going to hold well on a plastic one.

If a neoprene tunnel fits tight, it will
oppose the twisting of your torso. My last two skirts, a Snapdragon and a Harmony, were selected with a just-slightly-loose tunnel. If I am going to be paddling strong surf or heavy whitewater, I wear a drytop or at least a snug paddle jacket to keep water from entering at the top of the tunnel. Of course, a good drytop or paddle jacket may make a skirt with a breathable cloth tunnel quite acceptable.

Someone (Celia I think) mentioned having a minor problem with water being driven under the sides of the skirt. I had this problem with two kayaks, using an old Seals skirt. When I switched to the Harmony, a tighter skirt, the side-entry leakage was gone.

Last possibly useful point. With neoprene tunnels, excess height of the tunnel may also contribute to chest constriction and mild difficulty twisting. Excess skirt height should be trimmed off. A good guideline is to see how high the tunnel needs to be to mate properly with your drytop, and remove any excess.

Snapdragon HANDS DOWN!
Snapdragon is by far my hands down favorite. Best fitting, both deck and tunnel and dry boat.