Kayak skirts are commonly known as spray skirts, and they fit around the opening of a kayak to keep water away from the paddler's body. The skirt fits snugly around the paddler's waist or torso, and it is affixed to the kayak by an elastic band known as a rand. The materials used to make kayak skirts can vary, as can the quality of the construction and the intended purpose of the skirt. Neoprene and nylon are the most common material choices for the skirt, and while some skirts are fully waterproof, others are not.
The two general types of kayak skirts are full skirts and half skirts. Full skirts are by far the more common type of kayak skirts, though half skirts have become increasingly popular, especially among kayakers who paddle only during the warmer months of the year. Unlike the full skirt, a half skirt only covers the front part of the kayak opening to prevent water from entering the boat. The rear of the opening is left open so air can circulate into the boat, keeping the paddler comfortable in summer heat. This skirt is appropriate for warm weather paddlers on calmer waters. Many paddlers choose to own both a full skirt and a half skirt to be prepared for all conditions.
A full skirt will cover the entire opening of the kayak and will generally extend up the paddler's torso. This keeps water out of the boat and away from the paddler's body. Neoprene kayak skirts tend to be quite warm, making them a great choice for cold weather paddling. They are water-resistant or waterproof and very tight-fitting. Neoprene skirts can withstand rolling, or turning the boat downward into the water, and they will usually stay snugly in place. They do tend to be a bit too warm in the summer months, however.
Nylon skirts are lighter and only water-resistant. They are not as rugged or durable as neoprene kayak skirts, so they are generally only used for touring kayaks and avoided by whitewater kayakers. Whitewater kayakers may wear kayak skirts that combine both nylon and neoprene; nylon tends to stay in place better than neoprene, but neoprene tends to keep the boater drier. The skirt is also less likely to move during rough waters if it is made of neoprene. Whitewater kayaks will also only use full skirts, as half skirts will allow far too much water to enter the boat.