Neoprene Kayak Spray Skirt & Wetsuit Repair
When I first started this sport gear options were much more scarce then they are today I learned some tricks that have helped me get by on the cheap, and helped me get back out in my gear in a pinch. My originally kit for Whitewater Kayaking when I started in 1996 consisted of some Free hand-me down gear including, a wool sweater & hat, wetsuit, sprayskirt, PFD, & eventually a drytop. I spent $400 on a Used Perception Overflow Kayak, Got myself a NEW Protec Helmet (PURPLE of course!!) & a NEW Paddle from Lightning I was ready to go… Well Almost, there were some serious repairs to do to get the hand me down gear working. Including changing the skirt tunnel size from a L to a Small, patching out the Deck of the Sprayskirt & restitching a buckle on my PFD. Today, I don’t think I would bother with repairs on the PFD, which it turned out barely had any floatation left and in reality I am not sure the buckle was up to safety standards when I was done. Whether you are just interested in keeping a backup set of gear, trying to stay on a paddling gear budget or on paddling safari, knowing neoprene repair is a helpful trick that can help you out in a pinch. So here is the step by step on neoprene repair… enjoy and put it to use!
Neoprene Repair Tools:
- Fishing Line (preferably Thin & 8 pound test minimum)
- Seal Cement or Aquaseal (Preferred but in a pinch… Any Contact Cement will work)
- Scissors (for Iron Mend & Cutting Neoprene)
- Iron (if you use Iron Mend)
Now, identify the repair needed, take a good look at the condition of the neoprene to see what is going on. Neoprene is rubber encased inside fabric. Damage to Neoprene can look several ways:
- A tear or Puncture caused by direct abrazion/use, neoprene is still in relatively good shape otherwise.
- The fabric on the outside of the rubber is separating from the rubber inside.
- The Rubber interior has been degraded to the point where it is thinner (often you see this on the seat of wetsuits) and thus no longer gives much warmth.
- The exterior fabric has peeled off of the rubber exposing cracking rubber interior.
For the later 3 issues you may need to reinforce the fabric surrounding the area with Iron Mend & or cut out the old neoprene and Add a new chunk to the area which is affected. See latter steps for this.
IF the neoprene is in good condition then the simplest repair is to Stitch & Seal your damaged skirt or wetsuit here is how:
STEP 1 : Stitching your Neoprene Repair:
For tears, Large Punctures/ Holes or small punctures that go all the way through the neoprene then, stitch up the tear with fishing line first before you seal it. The aethetics of the repair are directly related to your sewing skills (whoops hope you attended home ec or grandmas lessons…). I use a gentle looping stitch from one side of the tear across to the other and back under. You want to start 1/8 to 1/4 inch before the tear starts and go past then end about the same distance. I say gentle stitches, because you want the tear joined but not stressed. If you sew it too tight or use too many stitches you risk damaging
the rubber on either side of the tear.
For small punctures that only go half way through and don’t gothrough the second layer of fabric on the back side of the neoprene you can skip the stitching and go straight to the Sealing part of these steps.
STEP 2: Sealing your Neoprene Repair
Once you have Stitched the neoprene you will want to coat the stitches with Seal Cement on both sides of the neoprene fabric. I find that Seal Cement works better then any other silicone sealer including Aquaseal because it is designed to have more stretch and since your neoprene is stretching around you or your boat you want to maintain its stretch so as not to damage the area surrounding the repair. Aquaseal also works, the cure time is longer, it does hold up to abrasion a bit better over all but I have found you loose some of the neoprene stretch. To get better abrasion resistance with Seal Cement I usually do two coats, the first coat really gets absorbed into the fabric, the second one will cover up the fishing line, and make the repair more durable.
STEP 3: Iron Mending your Neoprene
Some times your neoprene repair needs more then just glue to either make it more comfortable, more water resistant or function like a single piece of fabric. Here are some repairs that I think benefit from IRON MEND.
- Any repair that will touch your skin, so with wetsuits if the repair is going to sit on your leg all day, you will want to Iron Mend the interior of the suit on the repair area to reduce any chaffing from the Stitch & Seal repair.
- If you want a more Aethetic repair, a some people like the way the Patch looks better then the Stitch & Seal.
- For additional abrasion and water resistance
- Any repair that uses additional neoprene patching, by adding the Iron Mend the fabric will respond more as a single unit.
Here is how to IRON MEND REPAIRS
- Put a hard surface like a wooden board underneath the area you intend to patch.
- Preheat the Iron to acrylic, low or delicate setting
- Cut Iron Mend Material to size. We recommend that you cut the patch a inch larger then the damaged area if possible. Round out the edges of the patch you are using so that the repair patch as a smooth transition from the fabric it is covering to patch. Corners will peel up easier then round surfaces.
- Place the Iron Mend Patch over the damaged area coated side down & cover with the full piece of heat sheilding material provided.
- Press Firmly down on Iron Mend Patch down with preheated Iron for 10 sec. Then rotate the iron pressing down again over the area for another 10 sec.
Once you have ironed on the patch, let it cool for a few minuets and then check for good adhesion. Apply more heat if needed.
Here is a repair I did Stitch & Seal style on my Sprayskirt 2 seasons ago after ripping the skirt somehow at Lewis’s Leap on Cherry Creek.
TRAVELING KIT ESSENTIALS:
- Fishing Line
- Seal Cement
These tricks have come in most handy when traveling overseas on paddling trips as well as on long safari or Grand Canyon trips.. In many places replacement gear can be hard if impossible to track down.