Kayak Terminology

Use this guide to familiarize yourself with kayak terminology. These are just a few of the words you will be seeing frequently in our future blog posts. We may add to this as time goes on. But for now these are basic "recreational" kayak terms.

carolina - kayak terminology

Deck - The top part of a boat covering the hull

Hull - The watertight underside of a boat

Bow - The front of a kayak in relation to where the paddler sits

Stern - The back of a kayak in relation to where the paddler sits

Port - The left side of a boat or kayak

Starboard - The right side of a boat or kayak

Grab Loops/Carry Handles - Handles that aid in trasporting a kayak. Found at the bow and stern of a kayak, sometimes they are found on either side of the cockpit as well

Cockpit - An open area near the center of the kayak where the paddler sits

Bulkhead - Airtight compartments or foam blocks located in the bow and/or stern of sit-inside kayaks to aid in floatation in a capsize situation

Deck Rigging - Bungee or rope on the deck of a kayak, it's purpose is to secure gear

Perimeter/Safety Deck Line - A line running along the outer edge of the deck, secured to the deck but loose enough to reach under and hook with one's fingers. Useful for grabbing on anywhere along the boat and holding on to the kayak in a capsize or rescue situation

Hatch - An opening on the deck of a kayak, used for storage purposes

Coaming - The raised lip around the cockpit of a sit-inside kayak


tribe side kayak terminology

Keel - The longitudinal structure along the centerline at the bottom of a vessel's hull, on which the rest of the hull is built, in some vessels it is extended downward as a blade or ridge to increase stability

Waterline - Where the hull meets the water surface

Chines - Where the bottom of a boat meets the sides. Soft chines are more rounded, while hard chines are more angular

Skid Plate - An abrasion-resistant material affixed to the underside of a vehicle or boat to prevent damage to the underside when contact is made with the ground


tribe kayak terminology

Drain Plug - A plug that secures the drain hole on a kayak

Scupper Holes - Self bailing holes usually located in the seat, tank well, and foot peg area of a sit-on-top kayak that allows water to automatically be drained from the kayak. These holes are carefully placed to let in the least amount of water. As the kayak moves across the water these holes create a vacuum

Scupper Plugs - Plugs for scupper holes. Used mostly on choppy waters.

Foot brace - Small adjustable (or molded-in) foot pegs for your feet to press against


axis 10

Drop Skeg - A tapering or projecting stern section of a vessel's keel. Drop skegs are usually retractable by a rope or cable located on the side of the kayak.

kayak rudder

Rudder - A rudder is a blade at the stern of the kayak that can pivot from side to side. Foot pedals in the cockpit or a control lever near the cockpit area are used to control it.

Yaw - Yaw is the motion of the kayak about a vertical axis. It is rotation of the kayak in a horizontal plane. If a kayak turns right, it is yawing right. Example: when paddling on the left, the bow of your kayak will turn to the right. More prominent in shorter kayaks

rocker visual

Rocker -  A kayaks Rocker refers to the rounded shape of the hull. A kayak with more rocker, will have a more rounded bottom from bow to stern (much like a rocking chair). A kayak with less rocker will have a more pronounced keel

Paddle Float - Paddle float is a safety device used in self rescue. It is made with an inflatable sleeve which can be strapped to the blade of a paddle, to transform an ordinary paddle into a paddle with float. When deployed, the ensuring paddle with float can help a kayaker get back into his/her kayak.

Bilge Pump - When referring to a kayakers bilge pump, the pump is usually operated by hand and designed to remove excess water from the inside of your boat. Too much water inside your boat adds weight and can lower the kayaks performance.

Spray Skirt - a flexible material with a hole for your torso that attaches to the combing of a closed cockpit kayak. It's purpose is to prevent water from entering the kayak while paddling by creating a watertight barrier.