Sure, boats, paddles, apparel and PFDs are important and all, but the one piece of gear holding it all together, and keeping you part of your boat, is the unheralded spray skirt, that tiny oval of neoprene that keeps water out and you in. So to give this unsung piece of gear its due, we singled out a handful of skirts from leading paddlesports brands and got boaters the country over to weigh in. The most recent installment: Level Six Ace and King!
Level Six Ace & King:
(Photos: Courtesy Casey Bryant Jones/Paddler: Katie Kowalski)
In the hunt for a skirt? Even though kayakers aren’t usually looking for a Royal Flush, the new Level Six Ace and King spray skirts are holding all the cards for a skirt combining stay-on-edness, durability and affordability.
First and foremost, the freshly re-designed skirts are built with the company’s new thinner rand profile for a better fit on all styles of cockpit rims. They also employ new burlier, neoprene panels for longevity and abrasion resistance and the rand is stitched—and, intentionally, not glued—for what the company maintains is the best stretch in all weather conditions; from desert heat on the Grand to cold weather and water conditions up north.
You want beefiness in a skirt, and in both the Ace and King that comes from a 4mm deck with extra abrasion side panels. The slightly more expensive Ace comes with Kevlar side panels for abrasion resistance, while the King carries Rotex abrasion panels for when you slice that eddy turn or boof a hair too close to that pointy rock you swore you’d miss.
We also liked its Smart Stretch natural rubber seal on the rand, as well as its ribbed cross-section, which evoked Elmer’s-like adhesion and implosion-resistance, even when getting pounded in our playboats in the local C-hole at high water. It even held fast during an impromptu chundering in the Osterizer hole in Cross Mountain Canyon.
The tunnel is made from Superstretch 2mm neoprene, so go ahead and don’t worry about throwing back that celebratory brewha at the takeout and upsizing to that grande portion enchilada plate on the shuttle home.
Though we didn’t actually test it swimming (not in our pay grade) the nylon pull loop is easily reachable and easy to latch onto. And in the nice touch department, internal silicone grip printing even made it feel sticky.
But don’t just take our word for it. Kayaker Luke Pomeroy has been using his Large cockpit Ace on a Medium Jackson Rockstar V all summer and espouses its virtues: “I’ve been using the redesigned Ace skirt for almost a month now surfing Goodwave in Columbus, GA, and it’s been performing great so far. The new rand is significantly easier to put on and still holds really well to the cockpit rim of my Rockstar. The skirt has been super dry surfing on a foamy wave every day and I haven’t had to empty my boat or sponge out at all during my sessions. I haven’t had to worry about implosions and overall, it’s been a dry, comfortable, and easy-to-put on skirt; I’ve had a great experience with it.”
Katie Kowalski put her new Large cockpit Ace to the test in Ecuador this winter on a Jackson Medium Zen 3.0, with similar results. “I tested it out for a month down in Ecuador this winter and it was great,” she says. “The all-new stitched rand and smart stretch rubber makes the skirt easy to put on all while still providing the confidence when paddling bigger and harder whitewater, like the Quijos. The deck is also reinforced with Kevlar that prevents and reduces wear and tear and provides a dry fit. Even after kayaking every day for month in the sun it stayed intact, durable and dry.”
Both skirts are available in Large and XL cockpit sizes, so decide which one best floats your boat to seal you in.
MSRP: King: $160; Ace: $185
Watch video review by Wade Harrison here
Seals Pro Rand Skirt
(By Luke Spencer, Clackamas River Outfitters)
After over 20 years of whitewater kayaking I’ve had the chance to use a wide variety of spray skirts from multiple manufacturers. I’m a diehard randed skirt user. In my humble opinion, the rand creates a seal on the cockpit rim that can’t be duplicated by bungee-type skirts and offers the driest fit, with the most implosion-resistant option available.
For years I was a loyal Mountain Surf supporter with the Dur-O-Ring being my go-to model. The Kevlar-reinforced deck and the randed skirt set the standard for years. When Mtn. Surf went out of business, I was forced to find a new manufacturer that would be a good substitute. This was tough because Mtn. Surf had a formula for their skirt that no other manufacturer could duplicate at the time. I paddled with different options over the next few years including, Wildwasser, Level Six, Snap Dragon, Bomber Gear, and Immersion Research.
With limited options, I went on the hunt for the skirt that met my needs.
1- Kevlar-reinforced deck
2- Rand that fit well on a variety of boats
3- Dry for playboating, river running, and Class V
4- Durable enough to last 3-4 seasons of hard use
A few seasons later I got my hands on a Seals Pro Rand sprayskirt, which seemed to meet all these options.
Before getting into the review, let’s talk a bit about the manufacturer. Seals Sprayskirts is a family-owned business that specializes in sprayskirts and paddling accessories. They’ve been in business for over 35 years with facilities based in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains where they still cut and sew their goods.
Boat Fit – One of the biggest complaints about randed skirts is the Herculean strength it takes to get them on the boat. The Pro Rand offers a randed-style of seal that is both highly implosion-resistant but still flexible enough to get on the boat even if you’re not curling 50-pound dumbbells. Although it still requires more strength than the bungee counterpart, the compound Seals uses has much better elasticity and a well-designed shape making it easier to get on than competing brands. Another key in getting the skirt on easily and creating a good fit is in the shape of the rand itself. Seals has done a great job with its shape making a good fit on a wide variety of kayaks. Seals has also designed the rand with micro ribs, helping to keep water out — especially great at that playspot. This implosion-resistant seal also provides piece of mind when plugging or boofing stout drops.
Torso Fit/Tunnel – Sizing on the tunnel for the torso is XX-Small through XXX-Large, with a form-fitting tunnel offered in two lengths to fit a wide variety of paddlers.
Durability – From UV to Devil’s Club and everything in between, skirts take abuse. How does the Pro Rand hold up? While I can’t say it’s impenetrable to blackberries and Devil’s Club, it is built tough with solid materials offering Kevlar reinforcement in the high wear areas. Will it be dry forever? No, but you’ll feel you’re getting your money’s worth. The Kevlar reinforcement and the glued, stitched-and-sealed seams offer piece of mind and confidence that you’ve got a solid skirt in your gear bag.
Bonuses: The sweet clip on the grab handle offers an integrated safety whistle and makes it convenient to hang and dry the skirt. Seals also offers a comprehensive sizing chart that makes getting the correct cockpit size a breeze.
PRO RAND SKIRT
- High performance 4mm neoprene
- Contoured micro-ribbed rubber rand seal to cockpit
- Top-edge wear guard with 22% Kevlar fibers
- Form-fitting anatomical tunnel is 9″ high. A low fit 6″ tunnel is also available (custom)
- Glued, stitched and sealed seams
- Grabloop includes integrated safety whistle
- For use with rotational molded kayaks only
- Stock Cockpit Sizes: 1.2 thru 2.2
- Msrp $210,
- Info: https://www.sealsskirts.com