Spray skirt stuck?

Hi, newbie on the forum… Just wondering as I had a scary exp not that long ago. My skirt was stuck, in my stupidity I didn’t check release strap were easily accessed to lift and remove,(it was caught partially) under elastic of skirt. First time ever I didn’t take my time in applying skirt… Anyway, flipped over to cut a long story short, really struggled to get it off, there was a moment when I thought that I was stuck, boat was stuck alongside partially submerged tree…

Anyone have any other ideas about how to release a trapped spray skirt?


Not sure this is official method
You can put your kuckles down by your hips with both hands and and press down as hard and as you can then grab for the edge when it comes off.

thats what I do
I was also taught to grab around the hips and try to get a bit of a wrinkle in the fabric and work it until you can get underneath. I always try this with a new boat or skirt. If you can’t get it off this way, it’s dangerous and shouldn’t be used. There are too many things that can go wrong with the grab loop to trust your life to it.

Force Works
The spray skirt should not be at all able to exceed the power you can generate with arms and/or legs. A few things you can do:

  1. Place your hands on the boat just behind your hips and push down. This should easily break the skirt free.

  2. With above, extend your legs against the foot braces and simply push. This should also be sufficient.

  3. Lean forward toward the front of the boat and push down with arms against boat just below the coaming. Extending legs vs. the pegs should facilitate this exit as well.

    As with all things kayaking, practice until you find the solution that works for you. I haven’t seen this happen, but I can certainly imagine that the pull for releasing the skirt may fail over years of use (if any will fail, it will be one of my old ones that I sometimes still use). I’ve tried all the above with skirts new and old and they all work. In truth, I don’t even try to grab the loop since these methods all work quite well and are much faster.

    Still, there is something to be said about putting an easily grabbed object on the skirt pull so that it is both hard to leave in the boat and easier to find when you need it.


What kind of skirt and boat?

– Last Updated: Nov-04-12 9:55 PM EST –

Nylon deck skirts can often push off with enough force, especially on a plastic boat.

I disagree with one person above. While I favor looser rather than tighter skirts myself because of entrapment concerns - I'd rather be a bit wet than worrying about getting air - things can be quite different on a composite boat with a sharp, narrow rim. They will trap skirts a lot easier than the big rounded coaming edge of a plastic boat, especially if the skirt has a neoprene deck and goes to helpfully try and stretch when you try to push it off.

If you are talking this combination - neo deck skirt with the thin edged and often deep coaming of a composite boat - you should practice grabbing a handful of skirt and getting a side free that way.

One other option with which I have no experience is to see if there is a suspendered skirt that would both work for your needs and has an easy way to release the straps in a pinch. But remember that you need to be able to manage whatever emergency method without being able to see anything, since you could have to do it upside down in dark or swirling wate.

After one such incident, I just
made sure the skirt grab loop stayed out where it belonged.

The push-down-by-the-hips trick sounds good. On the above referenced incident, I was able to grasp enough skirt fabric in one hand to pull it loose. Cheap neoprene skirts may tear if treated that way, but quality skirts double-sided with Nylon should yield without tearing.

I started out with dainty Nylon skirts on the smaller c-1 cockpits, and despite my considerable size, I could wet exit out the tunnel without pulling the skirt. Keeps a lot of water out of the boat.

I now size my kayak skirts with loose tunnels, because I rely on a drytop or tight paddle jacket to keep water out of the tunnel if I flip and/or roll. I must try to wet exit out the tunnel without removing the skirt, and see if I can still get away with it.

Learn to release skirt
Glad you made it out OK. Everyone using a skirt should learn the simple way to release the skirt if the grab loop is not available. Grab the skirt with both hands together, in the front of the coaming, off to the side of the loop (11:00 or 1:00 if you imagine the coaming as a clock face).

Grabbing the skirt with both hands where it goes over the coaming edge, pull forward and up. This will release even a tight neoprene skirt. Practice this while you are right-side-up - make it automatic.

Then practice it upside-down (with a helper standing by in case you need an Eskimo bow rescue). This is a good pool exercise for us northerners this winter.

Cheers, Alan

North River Kayaks

second strap
There is a second nylon strap across the neoprene deck of snapdragon skirts. Just grab the strap to pull off the skirt. this makes it pretty fool proof.

when buying a skirt make sure you can get it off with ONE hand. If not, buy a new skirt or go to the gym more often.

The other thing to practice is hang time. Capsize and count to 100 and then roll or wet exit. Teaches you not to panic and take your time. This really helps when learning to roll and not rush the setup.

don’t panic and try everything!
That’s what I told myself when I found myself trapped by a sprayskirt a few years ago. I was paddling the Little River in TN (below the elbow) and three of us had been swapping boats to keep the class II-III run interesting. I jumped in someones free style,or rodeo kayak and promptly flipped at the bottom of a class III rapid. I tried to roll but the balance was totally different so I only got 3/4 of the way up. It was chilly (March in the Smokies)but I was dressed appropriately, and had some air in my lungs. I couldn’t find a grab loop along the cockpit combing. I ditched the paddle and put my hands on the sides of the boat and pushed with all my might with both my hands and feet. I came up off the seat but it felt like a giant rubber band was holding me in the boat still. I tried grabbing a side of the skirt under the cockpit combing with no success. What got me out was grabbing the skirt with both hands and pulling, but this is hard to do wearing neoprene gloves. That did the trick. If that hadn’t of worked I would have tried peeling down the tunnel and kicking my way out. My main thought while I was upside down was how embarrassing it would be to die in class III rapid. Certainly, if your going to die on a river you want it to be on something more worthy. That was my screwed up thought process.

I learned a couple of things from that experience: 1) Make sure you know where the grab loop is on the boat you’re paddling. You can do this by tracing your hands over the cockpit rim and touching the loop before leaving shore. The position of the grabloop was in a slightly different location on the boat I was paddling and I simply hadn’t paid attention. 2) consider a loose skirt. A little water in your boat ain’t so bad if it means you can get out. I had help putting on the skirt but because “it was real tight and a bear to get on”. That should have sounded an internal alarm in my head but it didn’t.

3) just as you practice your roll you should practice wet exiting different ways in a pool with a buddy. That practice paid off for me.

This past Feb. I flipped in the bottom of a small class IV falls on paint creek in wv and had to wet exit with my nondominant hand because I dislocated my shoulder. At the time, upside down in the river, I didn’t know my shoulder was dislocated, I just knew I couldn’t even set up to roll and my body wasn’t working right to even reach to wet exit but I did get that grab loop with my good arm and hand. It wasn’t pretty but I got out pretty quick and it involved some kicking even after the sprayskirt came loose.

You do what ya gotta do to survive.

In the past, people used to put a little plastic wiffle ball on their grab loops to make them easier to find. The problem with that is they can get caught on branches from overhanging trees. It might be a good thing to do if that isn’t a concern for the paddling environment you’re in. Otherwise I consider them a snagging hazard.

Thanks Alan :slight_smile:

Rule #1

Rule #1 with spray skirts is always make sure the grab loop is out.

I make it a habit to always physically grab the loop and hold it in my hand before my boat ever touches the water (usually sliding in from the bank).

I’ve never liked the idea of a loose skirt – use the other methods or punch out with your knees against the skirt and certainly practice beforehand.


pull up the side

– Last Updated: Nov-05-12 10:32 AM EST –

The normal (old school) method is to grab material on the side and pull and the skirt will pop right off (try it).

If it's a tight neo skirt with a tight tunnel, run your hand up under the dry top flap and grab material there and pull up.

I use a tight neo with a tight tunnel and I'm always able to easily grab material on my side and can pop it right off. I have a drilled golball at my grab loop end for easy grab and a good visual so I never accidently put it under the skirt. And If I'm upside down, it's hanging right there and I can grab it with gloves or mitts.

A whiffle-type golf ball is good - I couldn’t find one so used a bright red el-cheapo carabiner. When inverted, it hangs down and is easy to see and grab.

there is a down side to wiffle balls,
biners, or any other item mounted to a spray skirt’s grab loop. They have a tendency to catch on things when one is performing deep water reentries.

The biner is a no-no in the whitewater world – it could clip into something at just the wrong time.

A locking biner would prevent that possibility, but I’m still not crazy about a metal object on something that could come back at my face.


Not sure that’s viable for WW
If your skirt would pop-off that easy, I think that is a serious hazard in white water, where the forces that water places on your skirt are probably bigger than what you describe. You do not want your skirt to pop unintentionally in the middle of a gnarly rapid or while in a hole etc. At the same time, you do want to easily release yourself from the skirt… A bit of a conflict -:slight_smile:

Good points

– Last Updated: Nov-05-12 11:34 PM EST –

Good points re: biners, re-entries and WW - I'm a flat-water type, so have more latitude in what is feasible, I guess.

This is a standard newbie mistake. You always check that the strap is accessible. In my case I have no trouble just grabbing the boat and pushing my way out no matter what, but some people don’t seem to be able to do that. When you put your skirt on, the first thing you must always do is check the pull strap. Make that a habit.