Technical protection


For fishos caught up in the kayak fishing craze, this specialised bit of kit will protect your skin from the sun while out on the water.

It’s not really made of shark skin, but this suit will help save your skin. KAYAK fishing sees anglers get exposed to the elements for extended periods. On a ’yak you have little, if any, protection from the sun, water, wind and salt. Wearing the right clothing can mean the difference between an enjoyable day on the water to one where you suffer the results of exposure to extreme conditions, be that excess sun, wind burn or numbing cold.

I recently tested out a Sharkskin suit from Neptune Sports. This is basically a very high tech wetsuit that offers extremely effective thermal protection while allowing unrestricted movement. The suit is made of three layers seamlessly joined by a laminating process. The first, or outside layer, is a strong lycra nylon blend that offers high UV protection, the middle is a wind and waterproof membrane and the third, or inside, layer is a fleecy thermal material that provides warmth and comfort while “wicking” away moisture. Combined, the three layers form a thin and stretchy material that is soft and easy to wear.

The suit I tested consisted of leggings and a long sleeved top – there are a variety of other options available including short sleeved and tank tops, full suits, head covers, booties and shorts. The main colour option seems to be black, with a couple of silvery tops also being an option. For safety reasons, I’d like to see brighter colours available – when you’re on a ’yak you want to be visible. A hi-vis red top should be available by the time you read this.

Out on the water, the suit acts like a wetsuit – in fact, it’s rated to offer the same protection as a 2.5mm wettie. But the big difference is that the Sharkskin allows completely free movement, which is vital if you’re pedalling (as I do in my Hobie kayak), paddling and casting. The suits are neutrally buoyant, dry quickly and are very comfortable (ie, no chafing). They’re simple to clean (just wash them in cold fresh water).

Unlike most traditional wetsuits, the Sharkskin is very easy to actually put on and take off, being more like a pair of tight trackkie daks and a fleece than a skin-
tight neoprene wetsuit.

As well as keeping you warm and dry, the Sharkskin also protects you from the sun via an SPF 30+ UV rating. That said, the Sharkskin isn’t ideally suited for use in hot conditions – due to the thermal qualities of the suit you tend to overheat. Over summer I found myself just wearing the leggings (mainly to protect my legs from sunburn) as the leggings and top were just too hot. Come autumn and winter, though, I’ll definitely be wearing the full suit!

After using the test Sharkskin in a variety of ’yak fishing scenarios – estuary, bay and offshore – I reckon it is an ideal clothing option for keen kayak anglers. The suits would also be fantastic for rock fishing and as de facto waders. I can see myself wearing the Sharkskin suit next time I’m wading those freezing glacial rivers in NZ’s South Island chasing big rainbow and brown trout on fly. I’d also wear them as thermals when visiting the Snowy lakes or other cold locations. All up, extremely impressive outfits.

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