Make your own spray skirt!

  • 1/8" Neoprene, nylon one side
  • 1/4" Shock cord
  • hog rings
  • 1/16" x 3/4" neoprene seam tape
  • Neoprene cement
  • Patience
I get all my materials from Sweet Composites.  Prices are very competitive and the service is excellent. All materials listed here are on the web site, except for the patience.
The diagram on the right shows a typical layout of the pieces, leaving a fair amount of extra space.  The cockpit that it will cover is 30" L x 18"W (using 3" extra material all the way around).  Since most cockpits are not the perfect ellipse that is shown, it will take a bit more space than shown.  The tower shown is sized  for a 34" waist.  I cut the tower first, keeping the outer edge near the material edge to leave the maximum for the cockpit cover.

Material layout


Sit in the boat and measure where your body passes through the plane of the cockpit opening.
The "Conning Tower"

Make a conical mandrel as shown for the upper skirt "tower."   I used a piece of thin aluminum sheet joined with duct tape.  The upper circumference should be approximately 4" less than your waist size, the bottom length about 2" longer.  My tower is 11" tall, but I paddle C-1 and sit about 6" higher than in a kayak.  It also depends on how high you want the skirt to go on your torso.  Make legs for the mandrel, or support it on something, so that it will duplicate your body position as it sits in the boat.

The neoprene tower (below-right) is pie-shaped, with the inside of the pie trimmed off.  The inside and outside radii can be figured from your neoprene tower height and the lower and upper diameter.  See below.

Note that W is your waist size minus 2".

You can skip figuring (and measuring) the angle by just drawing a correct radius arc and measuring along it with a tape.  Generally, the total radius (T) will be in the range of 6 feet, so may be able to cheat a little.


Wrap the neoprene around your tower(nylon side in) so that it it fits snugly but isn't stretched.  Trim to desired size and shape.  Don't forget that the tower will overlap the cockpit cover by about 2" so the neoprene must extend past the cockpit plane with the mandrel in the boat.  Use neoprene cement to butt-join the ends of the tower section.. After the joint is dry, add a strip of 1/16" neoprene on the smooth (non-nylon) side to reinforce the joint.  Take the mandrel and neoprene out of the boat if it is still in it. Neoprene unwrapped
Tension cord Make a loop with shock cord.  Make it short enough to keep quite a bit of tension on the skirt.  Leave a loop opposite the joined end and close with a couple of rings at the loop and at the back joint.
Cockpit Cover

Lay the neoprene sheet over the cockpit, nylon side down, leaving roughly 4" extending past the cockpit rim..  You will be glueing neoprene-side to neoprene-side.

Stretch the shock cord loop over the neoprene, allowing it to pull the neoprene into the cockpit rim.   If it does not do this easily, you may have to shorten the loop where it is butt-joined.  *Hint!  Clamp the cord at the front and the back of the cockpit.  It will make stretching it over much easier!  See below.

Evenly pull the neoprene cover material out so that there is very little tension in the top surface.  Don't try to make it "drum tight", just somewhat sag-less.  Make sure that the shock cord is all the way into the groove.  Any tension in the neoprene will make the skirt come off at some very inopportune times...

When the top tension is uniform, trim the outside edge of the neoprene so that when it is turned back against the rim it will overlap (past the shock cord) by about 1.5".  See the bottom profile diagram.  I leave extra material on my paddling side so that my shaft won't wear through the skirt at the cockpit rim.

Cover assembly

Because I rub my paddle shaft on the cockpit rim of my paddling side (remember I'm a C-1er), I leave a little more overlap material along the right side of the cockpit for wear protection.  

Cut a small slot at the front for the front loop.

Using lacquer thinner or acetone, clean the neoprene surface of any talc, etc. You can sand the neoprene lightly for an even better bond.

Put 2 coats of neoprene glue on the overlapping edges, all the way around.  Gently stretch the outside edge back over the top surface.  Don't stretch side-to-side - in fact compress it in that direction.  otherwise you'll end up with lots of bunching from the extra material.  If you do get bunching, you can always trim the excess off with scissors, though.

Clamping the coverClamping the cord as you stretch it makes it much easier to stretch it over the  edge.
On the mandrelOn this version, I cut wedges out of the fold-up outer edge of the bottom, making it easier to glue without unsightly ripples.

Put the pieces together Once the neoprene cement is well set, cut a hole where the mandrel sat before (where your body is going to be), but about 2" smaller than the mandrel diameter.  Stretch the hole and sit the mandrel in the boat with the cockpit neoprene stretched around the mandrel with the seam toward the stern.

Slide the completed neoprene tower down over the mandrel (nylon side out) so that it overlaps the bottom by about two inches.  Then roll the bottom edge up so that it's no longer touching.

Ready to rollReady to apply the glue onto both the top and bottom.  Once the glue (I use two coats) has tacked off, carefully roll the top down over the bottom.
Profile of pieces
Cross-section view, from the front
The finished profile of parts

Put 2 coats of neoprene glue on the tower and bottom section.  When tacked off, carefully roll the top down over the bottom.

You're done!

(The next one will be much neater!)