Whitewater Kayaking Hub

How to choose a spraydeck

The Spraydeck (or sprayskirt) is one of the most fundamental pieces of Kayaking equipment, especially for whitewater kayaking. But how do you choose the right one? 


 Choosing a suitable spraydeck can be confusing. For most whitewater paddlers, a neoprene spraydeck will be the best choice. The two main types to choose between are rand and bungee, with most whitewater kayakers favouring the bungee style. If you are paddling harder whitewater, where implosions are likely, then a rand spraydeck will be the best option for you.


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What is a spraydeck and why use one?

A spraydeck, or sprayskirt, is a waterproof cover for your kayak that you wear around your waist and that fits over the cockpit of the kayak to create a barrier that prevents water from coming inside of the boat

 Without a spraydeck, we would be sitting waist-deep in water, thrown under the river like a sinking ship rather than skipping over the surface. If we didn’t wear a spraydeck on the river we would quickly be swamped from the waves and holes. If you have ever paddled a boat full of water you will know that it makes it incredibly hard to navigate through even the flattest water. The boat becomes heavier and you suddenly find yourself at the mercy of the river. 


A spraydeck will allow a paddler to roll the kayak, preventing the water from coming into the boat whilst upside down. This allows the paddler to roll back up with ease and continue down the river. Without a spraydeck, whitewater paddling wouldn’t be possible and it is important that you choose the right spraydeck to get the most out of your paddling. 


A spraydeck is also important as it allows the kayaker to exit the kayak when the paddler is in a dangerous situation or fails their rolls. This allows the kayaker to pull the spraydeck off of the kayak and allows for a swift exit out of the boat. This is an important safety consideration when choosing a spraydeck, as it can be dangerous to choose a spraydeck that is, for example, too tight and the paddler cannot remove it when the need arises. This guide will help to avoid this, by helping you choose the correct spraydeck for your needs.


What are the different types of spraydeck?


There are two main materials used for spraydecks:

  1. Nylon 


Nylon spraydecks are more suitable for the beginner kayaker, or for those only looking at doing low-grade rivers or flatwater touring. The nylon material construction means that they are often much more affordable than the more advanced spraydecks on the market. The top or “chimney” of the spraydecks commonly has an elastic pull cord to create a seal around the paddler’s waist to create a better seal.

These types of spraydecks do not generally produce a good seal around the cockpit rim and allow more water to get into your boat. Similarly, the bungee pull cord means that a lot of water can come through the top of the skirt around your waist, especially when rolling. When large amounts of water come over the top of the spraydeck, Nylon decks are prone to imploding. This is where the weight of the water forces the spraydeck to come away from the rim of the kayak, allowing for water to enter your boat. However, they are much easier to put on and remove by yourself, which makes them much more suitable for beginners and more comforting for those who are nervous about removing the spraydeck. Nylon spraydecks are also great for getting kids into kayaking and will allow them to safely swim out of the boat and get used to pulling the cord and taking the spraydeck off with little effort when they are learning. 

2. Neoprene


The most common material used for whitewater spraydecks is neoprene. Neoprene is a stretchy and durable material that will perform much better than nylon spraydecks, but will have a price tag to match! Neoprene spraydecks are more suitable for intermediate to advanced whitewater boaters or for beginners who are getting into moving water. The neoprene material will prevent more water from getting into the boat and will create a much better seal, both with the cockpit rim and the waist of the kayaker. The tube of a neoprene spraydeck should fit snugly around your waist to create a waterproof seal and will have either a rand or bungee seal around the rim to create a watertight seal with the cockpit. Neoprene spraydecks are more resistant to implosion and will ultimately provide a drier ride. 


Rand or Bungee: what are they and which do I need?

There are two main types of methods that manufacturers use to create the spraydeck seals:

  1. Bungee

Bungee spraydecks are made by sewing a ring of shock cord into the outer edge of the skirt. These shock cords are filled with latex strands which create tension around the rim when stretched around the cockpit of a kayak – just like an elastic band. This forms the driest seal and provides more flexibility when using the same spraydeck on multiple kayaks. However, the stretchier nature of the bungee means that in big water or when running waterfalls, the deck is more likely to implode. This will be the style of spraydeck that will suit most kayakers and disciplines unless you are running serious whitewater where implosion is likely. 


  1. Rand

Rand spraydecks are created by glueing an extruded rubber ring (or “Rand”) around the outer edge of the skirt. The rand seals work more like a Tupperware seal with a mechanical lip-locking mechanism and have will much less stretch than bungee decks. Therefore, Rand spraydecks require a lot more force to take on or off, which makes them much more resistant to implosion and suitable for the hardest of whitewater. These are the decks that are used by serious whitewater kayakers when running big whitewater and tall waterfalls. 




What size spraydeck do I need? 


Choosing the correct size of your spraydeck is important to ensure that you stay dry on the river. There are two main aspects of the sizes you need to consider the size of the cockpit and the size of the waist tube. Most manufacturers will provide a list of dimensions for the waste tube sizes and this will very similar to picking the correct size of trousers. With a neoprene spray deck, it is important to have a fairly tight or snug fit around your waist, this is to ensure that a watertight seal is formed around the top of the spray deck and water will not be pouring into your boat through the waste seal. Most manufacturers provide standard small medium and large sizes, with measurements in both inches and centimetres to ensure that you can find the correct fit. You don’t want to have a waist tube that’s too tight as this can be uncomfortable but too loose, and it will be ineffective. When buying a nylon spraydeck the pull cord around your waist can be adjusted to create a tight fit and, therefore, choosing the correct size is less important and will be able to fit a wider range of waist sizes: perfect for kids and groups getting into the sport.


The second aspect of the spray deck size you need to consider is the size of the cockpit. This will depend on the size of your boat. For Rand spray decks, it is important to choose the correct size as this will form a watertight seal, whereas, with a bungee spraydeck, this is less important as the bungee we will be able to stretch to accommodate a wider range of sizes.  It is important to ensure that you choose the right size for your kayak to create a watertight seal. When choosing a size it is best to consult the size charts of the cockpit rim on the boat manufacturers website and the spraydeck size on the spraydeck manufacturers website. Some manufacturers will provide the correct size and spray decks for popular boats on the market. 


It is also important to consider that having a spray deck that is too tight on a boat can make it difficult to remove the deck in the case of a swim or an emergency, especially for those getting into the sport as this can cause anxiety on the water which is best voided. On the other hand, too loose and the spraydeck may come off too easily and be susceptible to implosion.  If you have a wide range of boats and only want to have one spraydeck, it is worth considering a bungee design.



Where can I get a spraydeck from? 


There are many manufacturers of spray decks currently on the market and even some both manufacturers and tired and canoe stores will provide their own versions of spray decks comma often at a cheaper price.  When getting into whitewater kayaking, as long as the deck fits and is comfortable, it is less important where you get the Spraydeck from. However, for more advanced boaters and those looking to paddle harder whitewater, it is important to get a high-quality spraydeck from a well-known brand.

If you’re in Europe then Palm Equipment makes great affordable models of neoprene spraydecks, from entry-level to advanced models for all kinds of whitewater. Immersion Research is one of the most popular spraydeck manufacturers in white water kayaking with a lot of the best-known Kayakers using their products. Immersion Research (IR) has a range of whitewater spray decks, that are generally a little more expensive but well worth the investment and are considered some of the best implosion-resistant skirts on the market. Other companies to look out for are Palm, NRS, and PeakUK.


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