Tuilik Spray Deck
Until you experience a Tuilik you won't realize what the fuss is about and just how restrictive a "standard" tight neoprene skirt is.
Many kayakers do not use a comfy Tuilik (pronounced "doo-ee-leek"), but instead a separate spray skirt and kayaking top (often a drytop, something like a drysuit jacket), which usually seals around the waist, arms, and neck. That's just awkward and fiddly in comparison.
Greenlandic kayakers have always favoured the Tuilik. This is a long waterproof jacket with a hood which fits closely around the face (but is drawn back at the sides so as not to impair vision), cuffs which can be tied closely around the wrist, and a waist which fits closely round the cockpit coaming so there is no need for a separate spraydeck.
A Tuilik is designed for cold weather use. It is fantastic for kayak surfing, roll practice and other active pursuits. For touring, a neoprene Tuilik can be too hot in warm climates, but there are now nylon Tuiliks available that have a much wider comfort range. Some small manufacturers now make them in materials such as thermal stretch. The seams are glued, taped or welded to make them completely watertight.
Combined with an authentic Greenland kayak, a Tuilik opens the way to some additional techniques such as a different way to scull for support.
The air trapped in a Tuilik makes rolling easier. Since there is no restriction to torso rotation from the Tuilik, we got a couple more rolls that we haven’t been able to get before. We easily did the crook-of-the-elbow roll, chest sculling and a few others.
We found that a nylon Tuilik is surprisingly as buoyant as a neoprene Tuilik, because the air trapped inside the cockpit and suit provides extra flotation when lying on your side. We felt it easy to hold a balance brace with the Tuilik on, much easier than when using just a drysuit.
The only downside maybe that water pools up in your lap. It’s not as tight as a neoprene sprayskirt there and it sags slightly when drenched in water, but this really doesn't matter much when you're having fun. Just dip your head underwater with a support stroke and the water runs off.
A wet exit can happen any time and is a major part of canoeing thrills.
If you get too hot a deliberate wet exit will be a welcome refreshment.
When you come out of your kayak, a Tuilik can provide considerable initial buoyancy when you swim upright again.
A good hood seal is essential to make this work.
By briefly throwing the spray deck up and out of the water,
you can capture air inside to give you a lift.
You can even draw your legs up into the air pocket.
Dress for Immersion
Always assume that you will go into the water occasionally. When you go for a swim, a Tuilik on its own will not prevent cold water reaching almost every part of your body at the same moment. So make sure you dress warm for immersion.
If you wear a Tuilik over fleece garments you will get less sweaty than if you are wearing an ordinary anorak because of better ventilation between your body and the boat when you roll around.
If you kayak on cool water you should consider wearing a wetsuit or several layers of warm clothes under your Tuilik.
Practice floating and swimming in your Tuilik and other canoeing clothes so you're prepared for open water. For example, a fleece pullover and hoodie with long pants keep you warm even when soaking wet. Avoid cool cotton unless the weather is warm.
Swimming in a Tuilik is quite easy. We’ve worn the Tuilik while playing in water. When you go for a swim, a traditional-cut long Tuilik allows you to pull your legs up inside, trapping a large volume of air like an open-ended diving bell. Be aware that the air will slowly bleed away over time and you sink in deeper.
As with all protective gear you may want to do a swim test in your Tuilik in safe conditions. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much initial flotation the suit provides. Swimming progress while wearing a Tuilik is relatively good, although you will be slowed down by the bulk and drag of the suit (and your PFD), as you would expect.
In our experiences, the arms of the Tuilik don't fill up with water when swimming due to the slim sleeve design,
which can be a problem with a conventional paddling jackets.
Should this happen, use a breast stroke or other technique that allows you to keep your arms submerged.