A spray skirt is used to keep water out of your boat. These used to be made in nylon or neoprene. Neoprene is the only way to go for whitewater. The first order of business is to get one that fits your cockpit. Make certain the skirt is well constructed as it needs to stretch significantly to make a tight fit. Beware of skirts that are really difficult to stretch since we sometimes need to attach our skirts in less than stable areas on the river. The front grab loop must also be sturdy making it very easy to rip off so you can quickly escape your kayak. An even better system is a strap that crosses over the middle of the skirt. A common safety hazard is accidentally tucking the front grab loop under the skirt - always look before you launch. The tunnel is worn around your waist and needs to be quite snug to prevent water from seeping in.
There are a number of custom and mass produced skirt companies to choose from:
- Skirtworks Note: Excellent quality and customer service. They also make custom skirts.
- Immersion Research Note: Decent products and excellent custiomer service.
- NRS: Note: Great mail order company with reasonable prices.
Prices range $75 - $180 for new skirts. You can pick up use skirts for considerably less but may need to make repairs. AquaSeal makes decent products for repairing neoprene although I always prefer neprene cement (not stiff and is strong as new). Avoid the Harmony brand of spray skirts which perpetually leak and are impossible to seal. Also avoid nylon spray skirts as well.