Chuck, his old friend the "Brown Dog" Jasper, and Kokatat drysuit at Grevelingendam, Netherlands 01 March 2008. 4.0 day!
I have been windsurfing in the cold winter months for over 10 years with a drysuit and in 2006 I purchased a Kokatat GFER (Goretex Front Entry Relief) drysuit. I cost about $850.00 but it was the best $850. 00 I have ever spent for water sports equipment. This suit allows me to windsurf and kayak, and in the next years to ride my SUP board, in the coldest fall, winter and early spring weather when cold water and cold air combined make a wetsuit less of a comfortable option for me.
The Kokatat being constructed with Goretex allows much more of your body perspiration to evaporate out of the suit keeping you much dryer underneath than the older "non-breathable" suits. They are extremely well built and tough suits and were originally made primarily for kayaking. Windsurfers discovered them about 10 years ago or so luckily and this has allowed us to extend our season of windsurfing all year long as long as the water has not turned solid.
However, the Kokatat requires more "care and feeding" than a wetsuit in order to keep it in good shape and prevent damage etc. Over time I have learned some lessons on how to do this both through personal experience as well as reading and talking to others. So I am describing my thoughts and recommendations here on how to take care of your Kokatat so that is remains ready to keep you warm and safe out there on those cold windy winter days.
Chuck wearing his Kokatat and ready for his first session ever in Holland at Herkingen, Netherlands. March 2007. Winds WSW at 30-35+Knots and cold!
Gary Johnson, Chuck's brother-in-law, wearing his Kokatat while trying out the Chesapeake 17L that Chuck built for his wife Gayle. Fall 2006, Hatteras Island, North Carolina
- BUYING A KOKATAT DRY SUIT:
If you are seriously considering purchasing a Kokatat drysuit, or just searching for additional information, I would very strongly recommend you talk to the "Kayak Academy". "http://www.kayakacademy.com/" They have extensive experience with Kokatat drysuits, are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and can answer any questions you may have regarding Kokatat drysuits, custom suits, alterations, etc., etc.! They also have a wealth of information on the use and care of kokatats as well. The Kayak Academy will ensure you get the right size and model suit to fit any of your watersports needs. Check with them first before you buy!!
STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION:
- BEFORE FIRST USE:
- SUMMER STORAGE: I like to store mine in a cool, dry place once the spring weather warms up. Before I do I rinse both the inside and outside throughly with fresh water and let air dry. Then I again apply Aerospace Protectant to the neck and wrist gaskets, both sides, and the zipper gaskets too. Then I hang it in our basement which stays cool and dry all summer long. Sometime in mid-summer I will reapply the 303 again just to help keep them in good shape.
I believe this will greatly help keep the suit in good condition for next season and help prevent the gaskets from drying up and being more prone to tearing etc.
- BEFORE SEASON CARE"
Prior to first use each fall, I will reapply DWR (Durable Water Repellent) to the surface of the suit. For directions on how to do this I recommend you check out the Kokatat Website at:
http://www.kokatat.com/customer_service_care.asp or contact the Kayak Academy.
AFTER EACH SESSION: Keep it thoroughly rinsed off with clean fresh water after each use, and keep the neck, wrist, and zipper gaskets well coated with Aerospace Protectant 303 on a frequent basis. I do mine after every 2-3 sessions and then once a month in the off season. So far this is the fourth season I have used the suit and my gaskets are still in great shape. I think this is because of the meticulous attention I pay to keeping them in good shape and using caution when putting the suit on and taking it off.
Plus I recommend that you get a good thick clothes hanger and add about an 10" section of that soft neoprene rubber insulation tubing - (1 1/2" thick) to each side of the hanger. Then use that to keep your suit hanging on when drying and when not in use. The thick, soft rubber tubing will spread the hanging load on the shoulders of the suit over a greater area. This will reduce any tendency to get hanger wear or creases in the suit.
I like to hang my suit up to dry then turn it inside out and let it air out that way too. Plus when hanging, ensure both the main zipper and pee zipper are open to help get air in and out of the suit. Also, it is not good for the zippers to store them closed either.
Also, keep your zippers well lubed with wax. I use surfboard wax but Bees wax etc. will work to. Finally, check before each use to ensure that there is just a very small dab of vaseline jelly in the very end of the zipper pocket. This will help ensure that now water seeps in around the end of the zipper when fully closed. If it has gone, then put a new dab in.
Remember too, that although the suit material is touch and strong, it could still potentially be torn on a sharp object etc. so use extra caution when walking around and into and out of the water.
You may also find that your under garmets still get a little damp, especially your upper body. This is because even though the goretex breathes if you are expending a lot of energy your rate of perspiration may exceed the ability of the suit to let it evaporate out. I think this all depends on how cold it is and how many layers of garmets you are wearing.