How to choose a sprayskirt

CKS Online's Customer Service Guru Nick Gilbert talks about the value of a whitewater kayaking spray skirt and how to make sure you're getting the right size spray skirt for your kayak with the right design and materials for how you paddle.

Spray Skirt Basics

Spray skirts keep water out of your kayak. They are an essential tool for every kayaker, and a spray skirt (or splash deck) is critical if you want to roll or punch through hydraulics without your boat filling up with water. While finding the best whitewater spray skirt is a basic need for every kayaker, the variety of sizes and materials can make knowing which is the right spray skirt for you tricky sometimes.

Spray Skirt Sizing

We’ll keep this part brief. There are two main measurements you need to know to fit your spray skirt.

First, you need to know your waist size.

Waist size determines the fit of the tunnel of your spray skirt. The tunnel is the part of the skirt that sits around your abdomen and torso. If your spray skirt is too tight, it will be uncomfortable. Too loose and extra water will get into your kayak. Tunnel sizes are usually measured in XS through XXL. Measure your waist (just about your upper hip bone) and go with the size the manufacturer recommends for your waist size.

How to measure your waist for sprayskirt sizing

Next you’ll want to know deck size.

In addition to your tunnel size, you need to know what size deck fits your cockpit. The deck of a spray skirt is also measured in S through XXL sizes. We recommend checking this skirt fit tool to find the proper sized deck for your kayak. Most modern creek boats fit an XL, and most smaller river runners and playboats fit a size L. That being said it is always best to consult the skirt fit tool and check the manufacturer's recommendation to know exactly what will fit your boat.

Materials: Rand vs Bungee

Once you find your correct spray skirt size, choosing between a rand and a bungee style spray skirt will be the next most important choice you make when buying a spray skirt. While the deck and tunnel of most spray skirts are made from neoprene, the Rand and Bungee designation refers to the material used around the edge of the skirt. The rand or bungee is what actually holds the skirt into the groove along the cockpit. This material must be dynamic enough to stretch and allow the skirt to fit over the cockpit and it must fit tightly around the edge of the cockpit. A bungee spray skirt has a bungee cord around the edge while a rand skirt uses a thick piece of rubber.

Bungee Rand
Whitewater Sprayskirt Bungee Close Up Whitewater Sprayskirt Rand Style
Pros
Easy to put on, easy to take off.
Better for cold water paddling.
Cheaper.
Pros
Implosion resistance.
Often made with more durable materials.
Cons
Prone to implosion in extreme conditions
Cons
Harder to put on/ take off, particularly in cold weather.
More Expensive.
Fewer models/ options available.
Bungee Skirts are stretchier and are therefore easier to put on and take off your kayak. Many people start kayaking with a bungee due to the ease of use. Since the bungee spray skirts are stretchier, they can fit a little closer against the cockpit rim and can keep more water out than a rand skirt.
When paddling in cold water, or if your boat is right between spray skirt sizes, it is nice to have a bungee skirt for the ease of fitting the skirt onto your boat. Additionally, beginners will feel more comfortable with a bungee skirt, as it is easy to take off and inspires more confidence for wet-exits. Finally, Bungee skirts are often cheaper than Rand skirts with basic options from brands like Snap Dragon starting at about $100.
On difficult whitewater, larger features such as holes or waterfalls can exert enough downward force on a bungee skirt to “implode” the skirt or essentially rip it off your boat. In big rapids this is a rather important safety consideration as a swim due to skirt implosion could lead to injury or worse.
Rand skirts have much less stretch than bungee skirts, making them extremely resistant to implosion. For most Class V kayakers, a rand skirt is often considered essential safety gear as swimming in Class V is simply not an option. Even on Class III and IV rapids, cheaper bungee skirts can be prone to implosion because less durable materials allow the skirt to stretch in ways that cause implosion.
Rand skirts provide reliability and confidence on the water any time when a skirt implosion is a possibility. When watching kayak videos you will notice every pro paddler is wearing a rand skirt such as the Immersion Research Royale Rand Spray Skirt.
The downside of a Rand skirt is it is hard to get on your kayak -- particularly in cold weather or on a boat with a larger cockpit. Additionally, rand skirts have a higher price point and there are fewer models and options available.

Which sprayskirt is right for me?

Many paddlers go through a progression in their whitewater paddling career where they start with a cheaper bungee skirt, then they learn and progress to either a high-end bungee or a rand skirt as they start running more difficult whitewater.

For beginners, a bungee is more than adequate. We think Snap Dragon makes a good range of beginner options. Additionally, the Immersion Research Shockwave Bungee skirt is a great choice for beginners looking for a bit of a tougher skirt.

For Class V boaters, a rand is essential. Our top choices are the Immersion Research Lucky Charm, or for a version with more durability the Immersion Research Royale is likely the nicest skirt on the market.

For intermediate paddlers, high end or “advanced” bungee skirts such as the Immersion Research Empire Klingon can provide a good compromise of high implosion resistance due to a stiffer bungee and more reinforcement material, without the difficulty of putting a rand skirt on your boat.

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