Spray skirts are the answer to the question that non-kayakers ask about how kayaks can flip over and not fill with water. They also serve a purpose when a kayak is upright, namely to keep waves and splashes out of the boat. In short, spray skirts attach to both the kayaker and to the kayak, thereby making the paddler one with the boat.
In order to keep the paddler dry and the kayak free of water, the spray skirt must fit snuggly around the torso of the kayaker as well as around the cockpit combing of the kayak. This snug fit often gives kayakers difficulty when putting the spray skirt on and attaching the spray skirt to the kayak. Here is a guide on how to put on a neoprene spray skirt and how to attach it to the cockpit of a kayak. These steps will also work for nylon spray skirts which are much easier to put on due to their loose nature.
Put the Spray Skirt on Your Body
You need to put your spray skirt on after you have put on what you will be wearing to kayak but before putting on your PFD. Step into your spray skirt as if it were a pair of pants or, well, a skirt. With both legs in the skirt, grab the whole tunnel of the spray skirt in each hand, almost rolling it up to the skirt part. Stretch this as much as you can and pull the skirt up to your waist. Once at your waist, pull the tunnel part of the spray skirt up as high as it will go. You may have to do this in sections in tighter spray skirts. Adjust your paddling jacket, dry top, or dry suit from underneath the spray skirt.
Starting to Attach the Spray Skirt to the Kayak
After putting your gear on and being ready to paddle you will need to take your kayak to the water. Be sure to get into your kayak in a place that is conducive to doing so. Once comfortably in your kayak, you will need to attach your spray skirt to the kayak cockpit combing, the lip around the hole of the kayak.
Start at the back. Grab the two sides of the spray skirt behind your body. Drape the spray skirt over the cockpit combing behind the kayak seat. Now slide your hands up the sides of the spray skirt laying it over the cockpit combing on each side. Do this as far as it will go.
When the spray skirt will no longer be placed over the combing you will need to grab the spray skirt and stretch it around the cockpit. This can be done in three different ways.
Method 1 for Attaching a Spray Skirt
Grab the spray skirt on each side in front of you toward the front of the cockpit. Pull and stretch the spray skirt from both sides. As it stretches attempt to maneuver the skirt so that it grabs the cockpit combing as it moves up the cockpit.
Also, as it stretches slide your hands while maintaining your grip on the skirt up toward the grab loop. You should get to a point where your hands are both at the front of the spray skirt. Attempt to get the tip of the spray skirt over the tip of the cockpit combing.
Method 2 for Attaching a Spray Skirt
If the spray skirt is too tight to pull from the sides toward the front you can pull from the grab loop. The grab loop of the spray skirt is at the tip. With the back of the spray skirt secured take hold of the grab loop with both hands and pull it up to the tip of the cockpit. Try to get it over the tip of the cockpit. You may need to adjust the back again at this point and push the sides over the edges of the cockpit combing.
Method 3 for Attaching a Spray Skirt
If either of the first two methods did not work you will need to do a combination of both. You could hold the spray skirt on with one hand and stretch with the other either from the grab loop or a side.
Whichever method you choose, be absolutely sure that the grab loop doesn’t get tucked into the kayak. It needs to stay on the outside of the boat for obvious reasons.
If nothing works, wet your spray skirt. Wetting the neoprene seems to loosen it up and it helps the neoprene grab the plastic. As an absolute last resort ask a friend to help. You hold the back of the spray skirt and let your partner sit on the bow and pull the grab look forward. Four hands are better than two.
Releasing the Kayak Spray Skirt
Now that your spray skirt is securely fastened to the kayak you may be wondering how on earth you are supposed to get it off. Well, there are two times when you will need to undo the spray skirt, namely when you are ready to get out of the kayak or if you need to wet exit the kayak. In either case this is as easy as pulling up on the grab loop and the skirt will pop off.