Spraydecks are used on most sit in kayaks and are an essential item for anyone paddling on all but the calmest of days. Usually made of neoprene, nylon or a combination of both, a spraydeck protects against the ingress of water splashing across the upper deck of the kayak. They also do a great job of stopping rain or snow from entering the cockpit too. Even just a few litres of water sloshing around in a closed deck kayak can start to affect stability.
Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes and designs vary hugely across disciplines. Likewise there are a wide range of spraydeck sizes, shapes and constructions. The spraydeck is an important piece of kit and choosing the right one for your kayak can be a bit of a minefield so we've written this guide to help you find the right spraydeck size for you and your kayak.
Anatomy of a Spraydeck
There are 2 main parts to any spraydeck - the deck and the waist/body-tube. The deck is the flat section of material which attaches around the rim of the cockpit area.The waist-tube or body-tube is the cylinder of material which goes around the body of the wearer and is attatched to the deck section pretty much at cockpit level. The waist-tube is worn over any rashvest or wetsuit and under a cagoule (if worn) and/or buoyancy aid.
Nylon spraydeck body tubes are often one size fits all with an adjustable elastic cord around the top edge, however neoprene and combination decks are usually supplied in a range of waist sizes.The waist-tube is usually the easiest measurement to get right (most people have a rough idea of their waist size!). once you have chosen a make and model of spraydeck, check that it will fit your waist, simple!
Deck size is a little more difficult. Kayak shapes are less than standardised and there are many shapes and sizes of cockpit. The best way to make sure your spraydeck is a perfect fit for you kayak is to measure the dimensions of the cockpit rim (the hole you sit in!) measuring across the widest point then the front to back length along the centre line, then compare to our table below:
Make a note of what UK sizing number, or whitewater size name and then get in touch with one of our stores. Let us know the boat you are using the deck with and the size you have measured the cockpit to be. We can then find the right deck for you and your boat.
Some cockpit measurements sit close to the border between 2 sizes. If you are an experienced kayaker looking to use your kayak in rough water then choosing the lower size will give you a snug fit that might be a bit difficult to get on to the rim but once on is going to grip tight and give you the confidence that it isn't going to pop off if a wave breaks over it or when you take a drop over a waterfall. If you are less experienced and want the reassurance that the cockpit will be easy to release from the rim if you tip over or fail a roll then choose the larger size for an easy fit.
Neoprene or Nylon Spraydeck?
Both serve a purpose, but what's the difference?
Neoprene offers a stretch and grip to the boat that nylon simply cannot, a neoprene deck will generally be more taut and flatter than a nylon one across the deck. Nylon decks can be easier to remove in an emergency, although the better ones have an adjustable elastic cord around the rim which can be pulled very tight for paddling in lively conditions such as when surfing. Neoprene body tubes hug the body whereas a nylon body tube tends to be looser which can be better for those wanting to do longer distances in warmer weather. The three main types; Nylon, Neoprene and Combi, are illustrated below:
The option to go for should be based on both the type of paddling you intend doing and your experience/confidence. If you are proficient at rolling and looking for a spraydeck to take you down white water, or to surf in fairly powerful waves, you will need a tight seal that won't let the deck cave in or rip off. For this use, a high performance neoprene deck with a latex lined rim (provides extra grip) is the go-to choice. More experienced Touring and Sea Kayakers will also favour a neoprene deck for a more watertight seal to cope with a range of different paddling conditions. Most touring and sea kayakers will choose a combination deck with a nylon body tube to give a looser fit against the body for better comfort if you are heading off for a day-long voyage. For almost any other paddling activity, a nylon recreational deck is perfect.
Most of the staff at Canoe Shops UK will paddle with a neoprene spraydeck for the vast majority of paddling disciplines but in some cases will still adopt the use of a Nylon spray deck. Almost all of our reviews feature nylon spray decks as they are an excellent choice for the recreational paddler.