My Relationship with a Shorty

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“Flipping over is half the fun!”

These words work their way into my brain as turbulent water, rocks, and maybe some aquatic wildlife pass me by as the underside of my kayak takes a peek at the rest of the world for a moment. It’s an adage that, at present, I’m trying to get my kayaking students to buy into. For them, the concept of immersion therapy rings perhaps a little too true here.

As a kayaker, our ability to enjoy the river skyrockets as soon as we learn to roll, and the more comfortable we become upside down, the wider the realm of possibility on the river expands. Stern squirts, party surfs, waterfalls, rock splats, and even just cooling off in the middle of the summer aren’t just for the pros on YouTube anymore…no, for you and your combat roll, the world-er-river is now your oyster.

Of course, the more I flip over, the wetter I get, which often means catching a chill and always means draining my kayak once, twice, or too many times to count throughout the day. It’s too warm for my drytop but I can’t spend all day worried about where I can pull over to drain my boat in the middle of a lesson or on the verge of perfecting the windowshade at my local play spot.

In full disclosure, I didn’t always see the purpose of the NRS Stampede Shorty Jacket when I first started paddling. The goofy ‘t-shirt drytop’ was the underdog of the gear world, and it wasn’t until I bought into the notion that flipping over on purpose would make me better at flipping over accidentally that I found its merit. My relationship with a Shorty began years ago, on one particular day after discovering the joy of a simple eddy line and a kayak with a slicey stern. I’d had enough—enough cold, enough draining, enough of my damp cockpit—I grabbed the Shorty in hopes of playing a little bit longer before having to drain my boat or getting a little too chilled.

The Shorty delivered with the functional benefits of a drytop without the overkill of added warmth on an already warm day—my core stayed insulated, protected, and relatively dry while the short sleeves kept me cool and composed to play all day long.

A few years after discovering the drytop’s awkward step-brother, I found myself teaching paddlers of all skill levels in the heat of the beautiful but unforgiving North Carolina summer. As an instructor, it’s even more important to stay both dry and cool while teaching so I can focus on my students and not on draining my boat or getting chilly from the cooler dam-released rivers.

Today’s NRS Stampede Shorty still has an inner skirt, similar to a drytop, which tucks into the tunnel of the sprayskirt keeping most of the river from creeping into my kayak with every roll. But it’s now constructed with the same material as the NRS Crux Drysuit: 4-layer Eclipse fabric that locks out water, breathes freely letting excess moisture escape and is burly enough to resist puncture and abrasion when you’re paddling through debris-filled runoff. Even better, latex gaskets no longer suck the life out of you. Glideskin neoprene neck and arm seals provide all-day comfort while still keeping most water out.

The Shorty does have a small splashproof pocket on the chest but honestly, I don’t use it on any of my drywear. I’m sure paddlers would complain if it wasn’t there, but I’ve never had a reason to store anything in those little pockets. I’ve thought about storing my car key in there but—call me paranoid—I was worried the key might tear through if I was moving around enough or got caught on something. I decided against it. (I do have a friend that stores his car key in the same type of pocket on his drytop). But for me? Anything else I might put in there—chapstick, nose plugs, cash—I just stow in my PFD pocket to keep the drywear as neat and clean for as long as possible.

My go-to combination is a long-sleeve NRS HydroSkin shirt under my Stampede Shorty for ultimate insulation and the right amount of exposure to cool off if I need to; this is, by far, my favorite way to stay warm, dry, and have fun on the river in summer months.

Right-side up, upside down, right-side up again, with a whole lot of comfort and little distraction. Flipping over is, after all, half the fun.