May I ask, as a raft-guide, what exactly was enticing about getting into hardshell kayaking? Is it just having full-control over your own boat, being able to roll up, go fast, etc?
Leaky skirts tend to mean the boat is at fault, more often than not.
For instance, due to the Dagger Kingpin's cockpit shape, it's extra-difficult to prevent leaking (the curve-down on the middle-to-front of the cockpit rim.) A solid flat egg/oval shaped cockpit is best at preventing leaks. Either way though, with some (window) weatherstripping and a rubber-rand, it shouldn't be too
hard to prevent leaks, at least somewhat. I always take in water but it's never to the extent that it makes my runs unpleasant.
Playboating is probably where you have to be more concerned, like with your Juice. I have a Transformer 2 and have used a snapdragon skirt and am currently using an IR Kling-on. The skirt/rim still leaks like a sieve, no matter the brand or level of quality of the skirt. Also, I haven't noticed any major advantage, leak-wise, with my IR Lucky-charm over my older Snapdragon (standard) on the Creek Boat. The problem with the Snapdragon I always ran into, is they tend to have the bungee eventually come undone at the front seam. When this happens, at least on my Prijon Pure, it means it's going to come off the moment I flip in a powerful hole (which it did). Until it gets worn out though, the Snapdragon skirt can hang with the best of them (it lasted me quite awhile before it wore out; and is still useable at pool-sessions). When it wasn't coming apart, it saw me through some of the worst Class V holes, never imploding/coming off without my permission.
The IR rubber-rand skirts seem to last forever though. My friend who boats way more than I can ever hope to has an IR Lucky Charm and he gets way more river miles than me, on the same skirt. It's showing some wear on the grab-loop, but I haven't heard of his coming off without permission (he does post on the swim board, should the occasion happen).
I just basically geared up my girlfriend for the opposite; packrafting; with the help of Matti of Ten Mile Creek Kayaks. We got her the PFD, river-clothing, and helmet. One thing that surprised me as a kayaker, is how little river-clothing she actually needs. I'm used to using a drysuit for everything; because too-much-heat just means more bracing and rolling practice between drops. I didn't really consider the fact that wearing a dry-suit in a rafting scenario isn't quite the same. More akin to wearing a sauna-suit.
So keep that in mind. Colorado Creekers tend to wear full dry-suits; they require no planning for weather. As long as the river isn't iced over, you're good to go. If the dry-suit is too much (it won't be), you just strip down to your swimming trunks. There's just no reason not to out here. Plus, it carries me through some winter runs here and there. As for the NRS brand itself; well, I wouldn't personally ever consider buying a drysuit from them. They simply aren't on a short-list of brands I'd consider, which are (in no particular order)
- Immersion Research
Not an absolute requirement by any stretch, but every cold-water creeker seems to eventually uses a dry-suit.