This article is about skirts, I mean sprayskirts.
Over the last few years I've had an interest in the differents types of sprayskirts and how they're made. This interest appeared after a few bad swims because of skirt implosions. One of these swims cost me a broken colar bone, 2 sprained ankles and a bunch of hours at the dentist. Since then I've realized that the sprayskirt is just as much important as your helmet and lifejacket. You need to choose the skirt that fits your level and style of paddling. And it seems that there is a lot of incomprehension about the different types of skirts. Why should I invest 200$ or more for a sprayskirt ?
So here's a guide to help you through your choice !
First, you have to identify your level of paddling. Begginers paddlers and experts paddlers aren't gonna choose the same skirt. Since one of them needs a skirt that will be easy to put on and off the cockpit and the other one wants a skirt that will stay on the cockpit while running class V rapids and big waterfalls.
Second, you have to identify what style of paddling you're going to do with that skirt. Are you playboating 90% of the time, creeking 90% of the time or 50/50. Most skirts can do it all, but you can always get something more specific if the only thing you do is surfing on the Lachines or running waterfalls. Some people have many skirts to suit the different types of river.
Bungee skirts are easy to put on and of the cockpit. If you are a beginner or intermediate paddler running class I-II III or IV this type of skirt might be the best choice for you. Bungee skirts like the ''JACK'' are made of a super stretchy neoprene deck and a bungee rand that fits easily and comfortably on a variety of cockpit sizes so your friends won't have to wait for you because your unable to put your skirt on and if ever you have to go for a little swim the skirt will be easy to take off while your head is under water. Since they are made to be easy to put on, they don't have the best implosion resistance. If you're an intermediate or advance paddler doing some serious river running, creeking, or playboatin and especially if you're running class IV-V V+ and waterfalls or surfing giant waves you'll want a rand skirt.
They are easy to recognize, the rand is made out of thick and not so stretchy black rubber. Rand skirts like the ''King'' are made to stay on the cockpit. It stays put better due to the rigidity of the rubber, more contact with the plastic of the boat, and the higher friction material. The king is a rubber rand whitewater skirt featuring Rotex neoprene panels for added resistance against abrasion from your paddle. Tested on the Ottawa River, the King employs a super stretchy neoprene deck. It stays dry, provides a firm fit in the cockpit rim, and stands up to hard paddling. You might have a hard time to put it on, but once it's on the cockpit rim you're ready to go down some stouts, or to surf some big waves with confidence. If you're a beginner I'll have a hard time with a rand skirt, You might be unable to put it on and if ever you have to swim, the skirt is a harder to take off than a bungee, it won't go off until you really pull the handle at the front of the skirt. So make sure you're more than confortable under water and not swiming to much before you get a rand skirt. Also if you live in a cold country like Canada you need to know that rand skirt are a lot harder to put on when it's cold (under 0). So if you're doing some winter paddling in Quebec like me, you'll have to muscle up or buy a bungee skirt for your winter sessions.
An implosion bar is a pretty simple, but efficient idea. It's a piece of plastic in the skirt that goes from side to side. Skirts meant for creeking will come with a plastic bar inside of the cockpit material to keep the skirt from flexing inward and pulling off. You can find implosion bar in bungee skirts and rand skirts. The ''Ace'' combines a ruber rand and an implosion bar. It is designed for the most advanced whitewater paddler dealing with the hardest conditions. If you’re looking for a skirt for big water, advanced play or creeking, this is your best bet. The Ace is built to stand up to the elements on the water, boat over boat rescues, and just about whatever else you can throw at it.
To get the size that will fit your boat, make sure you follow the size chart. If ever someone around you already have the skirt you want to buy, take the time to ask how is the fit. You might need to stretch the skirt a little. When you get a new skirt and it's too tight make it wet, put it on the cockpit and let it there for 36-48 yours. I personally have a X-Large King and it fits all my boats ( JK large Zen, Jk medium Rockstar, JK longboat, Dagger rpm)
For the waist size, make sure it's tight to avoid any water entry, but not too tight because you need to be able to put it on with your drysuit and some layers underneath. Refer to your t-shirt size, if you're wearing medium then a medium skirt should be good.
Make sure you make the right choice. Having a good skirt could save your life. Thanks for reading, leave a comment for any further question !