A Kayaking Blog By Dan Simenc

How to Make a Drydeck

How to Make a Drydeck

Dec 13, 2011

The two most luxurious pieces of kayaking gear are drysuits and drydecks. Most paddlers are familiar with the wonders of drysuits, but the beauty of drydecks is much less well known.

A drydeck is a one-piece combination of a drytop and a sprayskirt. Imagine no water leaking between the folds where your skirt and drytop meet; no more struggling to squeeze your waist through a tight tunnel (just pull the loose top on over your head); and, you’re much less likely to forget your skirt at home!

Pros use drydecks. The paddlers who never seem to be at work and instead are always shredding the snot out of your local playspot are either wearing a drydeck or should be wearing one. Because these paddlers spend so much time in their kayaks they have an extra incentive to use the best gear system. But, you don’t have to be a pro to appreciate the convenience and comfort of a drydeck; it only takes one surf session to appreciate the benefits.

The drydeck was first named and created in the late ’80s by John Mason, the founder of Mountain Surf. I used to own a Mountain Surf drydeck and it was one of my favorite pieces of gear. Since drydecks are viewed as a specialty item they are tough to buy, and only offered as special orders by a few companies. While this may be changing soon, there is another very viable and current solution to getting one: make your own!

Team NRS paddler and aerial master Stephen Wright graciously shared his drydeck recipe with me. He and others like him have successfully made a slew of these and everyone who owns one swears by its value.

What you need:

NRS Flux Drytop
NRS Drylander Shock Cord Sprayskirt -waist size XL (get the biggest size you can)
McNett Seal Cement
-Rubbing alcohol
-A large rubber yoga/exercise ball or something else suitable for the form

How to make it:

1.  Cut off the black outer waist elastic and velcro/neoprene skirt part on the bottom of the drytop.  Just cut as straight as possible with sharp scissors right where the nylon ends and the black neoprene begins.

2.  Measure up about 2 inches from the new bottom of the drytop and mark with a sharpie all the way around (so you know where to glue.)

3.  Put the skirt over the drytop (make sure you line up the front of the skirt with the front of the drytop well!) and slowly inflate the yoga/exercise ball inside both of them.  Inflate it TIGHT so that the skirt and drytop are stretched together–if you have some of the ball sticking out below the skirt, it’ll prevent it from wanting to slip off. (I used a large exercise ball, and it wouldn’t fully inflate underneath the top and skirt, but did inflate into a tight egg shape that worked fine.)

4.  Carefully line up the skirt and the top so that the top of the skirt tunnel overlaps your sharpie marks by about 1/4 inch and roll the top of the skirt tunnel down until it’s rolled/folded down to the bottom of the top.  At this point you should have the bottom 2″ of the drytop and the inside 2″ of the top of the sprayskirt tunnel exposed and ready for glue so that once the glue’s ready, you can just roll the skirt back on to the top. (Just like changing a wrist gasket.)


5.  Use rubbing alcohol to thoroughly clean both surfaces.  Apply a good layer of McNett Seal Cement to both the top and the skirt–the skirt will need more to seal the neoprene. If you want to avoid getting glue on the rest of your sprayskirt you may want to tuck some paper underneath the fold (I didn’t bother, but I did leave some streaks of glue on the skirt.)

6.  Let that layer of glue FULLY dry (8+) hours, then add the final layer.  SO  2 total layers of Seal Cement.  Wait about 5 minutes after applying the last layer of glue (until it’s mostly dry, but still tacky), then roll the skirt up onto the top.  Go slowly and carefully, because as the 2 glued surfaces come together, they’re going to permanently stick, so avoid wrinkles and bubbles like the plague.

7.  Once they’re stuck together, use a can of soda or soup or something to roll/push the glued area together HARD.  The cement is pressure sensitive, so the harder you push it together, the stronger the bond. Don’t worry if the skirt is not aligned perfectly straight with the top, there’s enough give in the extra fabric for the skirt to line up  straight with your cockpit.

8.  Use some Aquaseal around the very top edge of the skirt where the contact cement might not have lined up exactly right to glue the top of the skirt to the drytop and make it harder for it to want to peel away.

9.  Wait at least 24 hours for the Aquaseal and contact cement to FULLY harden before you deflate the ball and paddle with your brand new drydeck.

After deflating the ball and removing the drydeck I turned it inside out and re-glued a couple spots that didn’t fully bond. I then ran a layer of Aquaseal all around the inside seam just to be thorough. The 4 oz can of seal cement was just enough for the job, but the 3/4 oz tube of Aquaseal came up just short and I had to borrow a little more to finish the job.

I am now the very happy owner of a brand new drydeck, and am excited to put it to use at Boise’s new whitewater park this spring.

Photos by Tabbi Simenc

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