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What is a Spray Deck for Kayaking?

a spray deck for kayaking

Kayaking can be an enjoyable activity, but being out on the water doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to get wet. 

That’s where kayak spray decks, or spray skirts, lend a helping hand. 

Kayak spray decks allow your lower body to remain dry and also prevent you from submerging your kayak underwater. 

In this article, we will explore if a spray deck is right for you, as well as provide helpful tips on picking one.

First, let’s examine more closely what exactly a spray deck is.

What is a Kayak Spray Deck?

Alomejor Kayak Deck Spray - Adjustable Kayak Spray Skirt

Most kayakers are familiar with two common types of kayaks: sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks. 

Sit-on-top kayaks provide very little protection if any. You are exposed completely to the elements.

Water may wash over the sides of your kayak or it may also seep up through your drain holes and get your legs and feet wet. 

This can feel great on a hot summer day, but what if you don’t want to get wet?

You may have noticed these other sit-in kayaks. 

When you sit inside these kayaks, the kayak itself covers and protects your lower body. 

But what about the opening around your body? Water can still get in?

You may notice that these kayaks have somewhat of a rim around the opening. 

A spray deck looks similar to a skirt. This “skirt” fits around your waist/abdomen area, and you will stretch the remaining material around the rim of your kayak, ideally staying in place.

These spray decks are constructed with waterproof material such as nylon or neoprene and will assist in keeping water out of your kayak. 

But do you need one?

Do I Need a Spray Deck for my Kayak?

a spray deck for whitewater kayaking

There are a few things to consider when thinking about getting a spray deck for your kayak. 

Mainly, the two important things to consider are your intended kayak use and the overall weather.

Some people enjoy a more extreme version of kayaking, such as whitewater kayaking. If you go whitewater kayaking, you can expect to see most sit-in kayakers wearing a spray deck

This is because the water is very turbulent and can wash over the sides of your kayak very easily.

If the kayakers were not wearing spray decks, they would be very wet, and potentially very cold. Not to mention their kayaks could become full of water and submerged.

These spray decks are beneficial to whitewater kayaking in another way. Many kayakers have learned to perform a kayak roll (also known as an Eskimo roll).

If a kayak flips over, you can maneuver your paddle and body in such a way that you will flip yourself back over, in one swift move. 

This maneuver is made possible because water does not get into your kayak.

Seals Neoprene Spray Skirt

Weather and water conditions will play a vital part as well. If it is generally cold outside, having your spray deck seal the opening to your kayak can help keep you warm. It also keeps the cold water away, of course. 

If it’s raining, the spray deck can help keep it out. If the water is rough and choppy, it can help keep the water out. 

Ultimately, it will be your personal preference. Many people paddle their sit-in kayaks without a spray deck. However, if you expect rough water conditions or extreme activity, it would be beneficial to own and use a spray deck.

So what should you look for in a spray deck?

How to Choose a Kayak Spray Deck?

When choosing a spray deck, there are two things it needs to fit: your body and the kayak.

One important thing to consider is what type of material to use. Generally, most spray decks will be made of nylon or neoprene, and there are differences between the two.

1/ Neoprene

Last update on 2024-03-04 at 19:40 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Neoprene spray decks are better suited for providing a very tight seal to your kayak, and also a tighter seal to your body.

Therefore, these should be used during rough activity and water conditions. If you plan on performing Eskimo rolls in your kayak, for example, you will want a neoprene spray deck.

You will need a general idea of the size of your waist/abdomen so you can get the proper fit for the “tunnel” part. You want a relatively tight seal, but you don’t want to be super uncomfortable either. 

The “deck” is the part that flares out from the tunnel. This will be the part that will fit around the rim of your cockpit to stay in place. 

To find the correct deck fit, you will need a spray deck that is specific to your kayak. Many kayaks have different-sized cockpits and there is not a spray deck that is considered to fit universally. 

2/ Nylon

Vbest life Kayak Spray Skirt, Adjustable Nylon Boat Canoe Surf Kayak Cockpit Cover Waterproof Cover...
  • [Waterproof Nylon Material] Desirable accessory for kayak sports.This kayak spray skirt uses waterproof nylon material, tear resistance and durable.
  • [About Size] The sprayskirt bottom length is approx. 71cm / 27.9in, the top width is approx. 28cm / 11.0in, the height is approx. 36cm / 14.2in, and there is adjustable cord allows you to pull the...

Last update on 2024-03-04 at 19:40 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Nylon spray decks will do a good job at keeping you dry, but they do not give as tight of a seal as neoprene spray decks.

These decks generally have a stretchy, adjustable rope that fits around the rim of the kayak, similar to a bungee cord.

Therefore, rough activity and water conditions will be less favorable. You will probably end up getting wet. 

Despite this, nylon spray decks are generally considered more comfortable, and their tunnels are usually a universal fit, as they are adjustable. 

Additional Comments

The material you pick will be your personal preference unless you plan on being in extreme conditions. 

Regardless, if you tip over, exiting your kayak will be the same process with either material. However, nylon spray decks are easier to remove, so that is something to also consider. 

You can also find spray decks that contain both types of material, and you can find spray decks that are made for tandem (two-person) kayaks. Single or Double Spray Decks for Advanced Elements Convertible Kayak

Now you need to know how to put one on.

How to Put On a Kayak Spray Deck?

Luckily spray decks are simple products and are fairly easy to throw on and attach to your kayak. You shouldn’t have too many issues. 

Follow these general steps:

1/ Put On the Tunnel

Seals Sprayskirts Pro Shocker Kayak Spray Skirt

You will need to fit the tunnel of your spray deck around your body before getting into your kayak. 

Make sure the grab loop is in front of you, and you can either hold open the tunnel and step into it like a skirt, or you can throw it over your head and slide it down like a shirt.

If your tunnel is adjustable, adjust it to the proper amount.

The base of the tunnel should be close to your waist, but you can adjust it better once you are in your kayak.

2/ Attach the Deck to the Kayak

Perception Kayak Sun Shield for Sit-Inside Kayaks

You will need to be in your kayak for this part, as you will be secured in after you attach the deck.

If your deck uses a drawstring or adjustable rope, loosen it up and fit it around the rim of your cockpit. Tighten the rope snugly.

Make sure the grab loop is sticking out and not folded under the material! This is very important, as you want access to the grab loop to detach the deck in the event your kayak flips. This is your emergency escape method, so you can see why it is very important.

If your deck is neoprene and does not use a drawstring-type rope, you will need to stretch your material and work it underneath the rim of the cockpit.

You can start at one end and work your way around. These can be a little tight, especially if they’re new, so you may have to use some muscle.

Now you should be all set. You can readjust the height of your tunnel if you need to, and be on your way.

If you run into any issues, consider watching the following YouTube video or follow these steps by Whitewater the Canoe Centre.

How to Get In a Kayak + How to put on a kayak spray skirt


Rain and rough water can both affect your trip out on the water.

Owning a spray deck for your sit-in kayak can be a simple and convenient way of preventing yourself and your cargo from getting wet. 

By now you should be able to get in your kayak and attach your spray deck effortlessly and worry-free.

Be prepared to laugh though; you will probably look rather ridiculous when wearing your spray deck while it is detached from your kayak!

Perhaps now you can test your courage and attempt learning how to perform an Eskimo roll.

Happy boating!