How to choose a sprayskirt

CKS Online's team experts talk 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 whitewater 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

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. If it's too loose 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 recommended waist size.

How to measure your waist for sprayskirt sizing

Next you’ll want to know deck size.

In addition to your tunnel (waist) size, you need to know which size deck fits your kayak's cockpit dimensions. 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 need an XL deck and most smaller river runners and playboats will need a size L. That being said it is always best to consult the skirt fit tool and/or measure your boat's cockpit, then 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 whitewater spray skirts are made from neoprene, the "rand" and "bungee" designations refer to the material used around the edge of the skirt to keep it in place while paddling. 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 to keep as much water out as possible. A bungee spray skirt has a bungee cord sewn around the edge of the skirt while a rand skirt uses a thick strip of rubber (a rand).

Bungee Rand
Whitewater Sprayskirt Bungee Close Up Whitewater Sprayskirt Rand Style

 

Pros

  • Easy to put on, easy to take off
  • Stretchier in cold temps
  • Cheaper
  • Keeps most water out
Pros
  • More implosion-resistance
  • Often made with more durable materials
Cons
  • Prone to implosion in extreme conditions
  • Often made with "entry level" materials

 

Cons

  • Harder to put on/take off, particularly in cold weather
  • More expensive
  • Fewer models/options available
  • Less dry

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 Level Six, Immersion Research, and Seals starting a little over $100.

 

On difficult whitewater, larger features such as waterfalls can exert enough downward force on a bungee skirt to “implode” the skirt or essentially rip it off your boat. In consequential 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 allow implosion to occur.


Rand skirts provide reliability and confidence on the water any time a skirt implosion is a possibility. The downside of a rand skirt is they tend to let more water into your boat than bungee skirts, and they are hard to get on your kayak--particularly in cold weather. Additionally, rand skirts have a higher price point and there are fewer models and options available.

Which spray skirt is right for me?

Many paddlers go through a progression in their whitewater paddling career where they start with an entry-level 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. In fact, you may even want to stay away from rand skirts for now.
  • For experienced Class V boaters, a rand skirt is essential. 
  • For intermediate paddlers, high end or “advanced” bungee skirts can provide a good compromise of high implosion-resistance due to a stiffer bungee and more reinforcement material, while keeping you drier without the difficulty of putting a rand skirt on your boat.

 

Originally posted December 30, 2020.
Updated January 23, 2023.

What do you think? Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

About Us

We're a group of whitewater kayak, raft, and stand up paddleboard enthusiasts committed to stocking the highest-quality gear and deliver it to you as quickly as possible.

Learn more about us