The Best Kayak Spray Skirts

With the growing popularity of the new generation of sit atop boats among Baja kayakers, some of which are even propelled through the water with the aid of foot pedals, it can be easy to forget where, when and how this ancient sport began.

The first known kayakers were members of various Inuit tribal groups living in the northern regions of what is now Canada and Alaska.  In fact, the Eskimo name kayak actually means hunters’ boat.  Their kayaks were originally fashioned out of driftwood, which was used to construct the frame.  This skeleton was then tightly wrapped in seal skin until it became completely waterproof.

One of the first problems that was encountered was the open cockpit, particularly during high seas or bad weather.  Water could easily intrude into the boat and sink it within a short period of time.  If this happened to occur too far from shore, it often resulted in the death of the kayaker.

Eventually, however, an outer garment made out of seal skin was developed to help solve this serious design problem.  It wrapped tightly around the kayaker’s torso on one end, while the other end was securely fastened to the outer lip of the cockpit, thus making the kayaker virtually impervious to the onslaught of waves and spray that might be encountered out on the water.

The first kayak spray skirt had just been invented.

Today, kayak spray skirts are made from tough, durable synthetic fabrics that work far better than seal skin; and come without the ecological cost.  The three most common materials that are now used for fabricating spray skirts are Noeprene, Nylon and an amalgam of Neoprene and Nylon.  Each offers its own performance profile.



Kayak spray skirts that are made from Neoprene are primarily used by surf and whitewater kayakers.  They fit snugly, and effectively keep water out of the boat when rolling or being struck by breaking waves.  Thickness of the fabric is key here; too thin, and it becomes more subject to tearing from unexpected impact with solid structures like rocks or reefs.



Spray skirts made from Nylon often feature a stretching waistband that allows for easy venting and more comfort during a long day of kayaking. A majority of them are now coated with polyurethane, and many even offer breathable materials that allow for greater relief when the going gets hot and heavy. Skirts that are made from Nylon are easier to attach and release than neoprene, however they do not offer the tight seal that is needed to repel waves and rough water that neoprene does.


Neoprene/Nylon amalgams combine the best features of both materials to create a strong, durable and highly flexible fabric.


Design Variations

Half skirts, or mini-skirts, are designed for paddling in calm water under a hot sun.  They only attach to the front of the cockpit, and help keep the sun and water off of your legs, while allowing fresh air to circulate through the cock pit.

As the name implies, tandem skirts are made to fit kayaks that accommodate two passengers.  They are constructed from two separate pieces of fabric, each with its own grab loop, which are then fastened together at the center of the kayak.


Top 5 Product Review:

      (Value & Price)

 Seals Inlander Spray Skirt – $49.95

  • Spray protection for light to moderate paddling conditions
  • Medium-weight coated nylon pack cloth
  • Adjustable waistband
  • Rim grip/safety slip technology
  • Double-stitched and sealed seams

  Northwest River Supplies Rec Deck Skirt (O/S – BLACK) – $59.95

  • Skirt Material: Urethane-coated nylon
  • Recommended Use: kayak touring
  • Manufacturer Warranty: 1 year

Seals Coastal Tour Spray Skirt Ver II – $91.30

  • Spray protection for moderate paddling conditions
  • Medium-weight coated nylon cloth with Ballistic nylon guards with lash loops
  • Zippered mesh deck pocket
  • Tensioned deck stay
  • Adjustable neoprene waistband with removable suspenders

Seals Tropical Tour Ver II Spray Skirt – $114.95

  • Breathable touring spray skirt for moderate conditions
  • 3-ply waterproof, breathable fabric with sealed seams
  • Adjustable neoprene waistband with removable suspenders
  • Rim grip/safety slip technology
  • Zippered mesh deck pocket

Seals Shocker Sprayskirt, 1.4 Medium – $129.95

  • Made of high-performance 4 mm neoprene with glued, stitched, and sealed seams. 3/8″ stitched bungee attachment secures the skirt to the rim of the cockpit. Rim grip/safety slip technology keeps the skirt securely in place.
  • Top-edge Sealtex wear guard adds durability. Form-fitting, anatomical neoprene tunnel (check size chart for proper sizing) is 9 in. tall. Glued, stitched and sealed seams.
  • Grab loop with integrated safety whistle. Paddling conditions rating: extreme. All Seals sprayskirts and accessories are cut and sewn in the USA.
  • Custom sizes and colors may be available.

 When buying any product, it is always important to carefully weigh overall cost and value before making your purchase. But in the case of a kayak spray skirt, which involves your personal safety on the water, it is always best to spend a little more for a quality made product than it is to go for the lowest bottom line, and then end up paying the ultimate price.

About Tom Gatch

For well over a decade, ‘Hooked on Baja’ author, Tom Gatch, has built a solid reputation as one of the foremost published writers and columnists focusing on travel, real estate, recreational and culinary topics in Baja and southern California.

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