Written by 1:23 am Kayaking, Kayaking Basics

Kayak Parts & Terminology you should know

Kayaking, very much like any other outdoor, does come with its own share of terminologies.

There are those words and terminologies you will never hear of them anywhere, except when you are kayaking. When you are getting started, obviously, these terms and kayak parts could actually leave you feeling confused and left out, especially if you have never heard of it before. 

For beginners, here are top kayak parts and terminologies you should know if you are thinking of getting into this great outdoor sporting activity soon.


Cockpit: This is that large opening where you normally seat.

Deck– This is the top part of the kayak. When it comes to that traditional sit-in kayak, the deck is that specific area of your boat that normally covers your legs and also that small section at the back of the paddler that is often left exposed. When it comes to sit on top kayaks, the deck often refers to the whole flat area on top of the kayak; that is including where you normally sit as you paddle.

Hatch:  This is a compartment where you normally store your gear. It is located right below the boat deck. Typically, this part is fully waterproof and comes fully made from elastic bands so that you can keep them as close as possible.

Bow: This refers to the front part of the kayak; that is right opposite the stern

Stern: This is the rear part of the kayak; opposite the bow.

Hull: This is the bottom part of your kayak; the part that comes right in contact with water. Wh have two popular designs when it comes to this part. There are kayaks that come with a displacement style hull alongside a V-shaped hull.  We also have a planing hull. This one comes with a flat bottom and the sides are quite steep. Planing hull doesn’t offer so much speed, but the kind of maneuverability you can net from it will simply blow off your mind.

Toggle/Grab Handle: This is a handle that is attached by a rope to the stern and bow. This part makes launching and carrying the kayak incredibly easy. You can also use this part to transport your kayak from one location to another.



These parts are actually optional. You may find a kayak with them and others without. Just like common parts, it will make a lot of sense if you also learn about them. You never know when you might actually come across these parts and terms used.

Cockpit coaming: This is basically that rim of plastic and at times rubber that is attached to the edge of the cockpit

Bulkhead– This is purely in the inside of the kayak. It is that watertight wall that separates the kayak in several internal parts. This part plays a crucial role when you are kayaking. It creates a sort of watertight gear storage hatches. It also creates the best buoyancy with a pocket of air, giving you more and more stability.

Drain plug– This refers to a very small hole through which you can use to drain water from your kayak.

Foot pegs: These ones come often screwed right on the sides of your kayak. They provide much-needed comfort as you can easily rest your feet on them as you kayak.

Skeg:  A skeg is a retractable fin found on the underside of the kayak. It keeps you moving in a straight line.

Rudder: This is also another fin. It is located at the rear end of the kayak. It plays a crucial role as it helps you with steering and maneuverability.

Thighs hooks: These are that indented portion of your kayak’s cockpit. It actually allows you to brace your thighs against the boat and that gives you those independent lower and upper body movements.

Knee Pads: Also located right in the interior of the kayak. They enhance comfort.

Rocker: This is basically that bananas-shaped curvature of your boat’s hull. The steeper curve you get from the rocker, the more maneuverability your kayak will have.

Spray Skirt: This can be plastic or rubber material.  It comes stretched over your lap when you sit in the cockpit. It also attached to the rim of the cockpit and it can actually keep water from getting into your kayak, especially when it comes to high waves.



Paddling a kayak is not something you would say it simple. There is a lot that goes into the whole process as it involves quite an array of strokes. Here are some of the most basic strokes you will hear people talk about.

Forward stroke As the names suggest this is a stroke to take your kayak forward. This is one of the most commonly used strokes as it propels the kayak forward. When it comes to this stroke, the paddle first enters the water right at the front of the kayak and then you pull it back towards the hip. You then take it out the water and repeat the same step all over again,

Back Stroke: This stroke does two things; it helps you move backward or even help bring your kayak to a stop. How to pull off this stroke is incredibly simple. You enter the paddle into the water right behind you and you draw it forward. If you want to stop the kayak, you do several short backward strokes on either side and the kayak will come to a stop.

Sweep Stroke– This is a stroke that helps you turn your kayak. Here we have two; forward and reverse sweeps. When it comes to forward sweep, you put the paddle into water at the front then you draw it away from the boat and right back towards you in a sort of an arc.

For the reveres sweep, you basically do the same thing, but this time in the reverse direction. That wide arc you form typically helps you push your boat in one direction or even the other.

Side Draw This is a basic stroke you can use to change the direction to any other side of the boat without moving forward or even backward. Here your paddle enters the water right to the side of the paddler as you draw it back; that is towards the kayak. You can actually repeat this step as much as you want until you have actually moved as far as you want to.

Low Brace: This is what helps you regain balance so that you don’t capsize and find yourself at the bottom of the lake or river.  When it comes to low brace, you use the back face of your paddle. You use it to push down against the surface of the water.

High Brace: This is pretty much the same as the low brace, but this time, you are actually pushing down using the front face of your paddle.



Capsize: This is left for experienced people only. It is also something you don’t want to do if the water is extremely cold.  How to pull off this trick is simple. You tip your kayak over while you are still in the inside. It can be quite scary if you are a beginner.  Plus, if you can get a boat with a wide and flat hull that will make capsizing quite difficult to pull off.

Wet Exit: As the names suggest, with this, you get out of the kayak and right into water after you capsize. This will definitely leave you very wet and you might want to ensure you have the right clothes before you can do it.

Eskimo Roll: With this one, you really don’t get out of the kayak. After you capsize, you just roll back up.  And pretty much like Wet exit, this technique would only work if you are wearing a spray suit. Plus, it is incredibly difficult to pull it off. It needs a lot of practice.

Portage: This is typically carrying the kayak around an obstacle or a rapid before you re-enter the waters again.

Edging: Also called carving, it is that technique of tilting your kayak so that you have one side out of the water.

Boofing: This is that seamless forward stroke that allows you to run a drop without necessarily finding yourself in the hole at the bottom of the drop. When it comes to boofing, your boat stays flat all through that maneuver and lands flats.



When it comes to this, obviously, you have heard of rapids and lakes; however, there are those you might not have heard before.

Rapid: This is one section of a river where the flow speeds up.

Eddy: This is found near the rapid. It is where the water is calm. They are often formed when there is an obstacle in the water.

Surf: This refers to the waves that make really good surfing. It could be in a lake or even the ocean.

White water: This is flowing water that mixes with air to form a sort of frothy white colored foam.

Drops: These are sudden changes in water elevation, often caused by rocks or even change in the river gradient.

Hydraulic/ Holes: This is a part of the water that causes the kayak to drag. It is often formed by water running fast over a rock.



Kayaking is an outdoor sporting and pretty much like most outdoor activities; it comes with its own share of accessories. It is also important you learn about them before you get into kayaking.

Paddle: The most obvious of them all. It is one of the most vital accessories and it is a must-have. Without this crucial accessory, you won’t get anywhere as it is what helps you propel the kayak forward. The paddle comes made from different materials. It can be plastic, wood or even fiberglass. The paddle is made up of some parts as well.

  • Blades: As the name suggests, this is that wide flat part of your paddle. It is the part that enters the water as you push water either backward or forward.
  • Shaft– This is basically the handle. It is the part you hold as you get that blade into the water. The shaft comes in different designs. It can be straight or even bent. It can also be one-piece or just two parts connected together.

Lifejacket/ Personal Floatation Device: Another very important accessory. You are advised not to go out kayaking without this vital component. It is what will help you float in case of an accident, especially capsizing.

Spray Skirt: This comes highly recommended for whitewater paddlers and also sea kayakers. A spray skirt can be worn around your waist and connected to the cockpit. That will actually prevent water from getting into the boat. A spray skirt can truly come in handy if you know you are going to paddle on very cold weather.

Wetsuit: This accessory is quite popular among divers and surfers, and its also being embraced by kayakers. When you are paddling in cool weather with chances of capsizing a few instances, a wetsuit will ensure you are kept warm all through. They usually come fully made from Neoprene and are often worn tight against the skin. They not only help you dry but keep you also warm.

Dry Suit: This is an incredibly waterproof suit. It comes equipped with very tight closures, especially at the extremities. They truly come in handy in cold weather. They are also the best for layering warmer clothes when you are out there paddling in very cold weather.

Dry Bags: As the name suggests, there are bags, but incredibly waterproof. They are containers where you can easily store your clothing, electronics or any other valuables. Anything kept in the dry bag will stay dry even if you are thrown in the water a couple of times during that rough ride.

Updated on January 23, 2021 by Ben

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