Parts of a Kayak: Understanding Your Boat

This article is part of our series: Intro to Kayaking.

 A detail shot of the stern of a kayak sitting in the water with the rudder in the un-deployed position
The names of many kayak parts are easily understood; others, not so much. Our handy visual guide shows you what’s what and what’s where.
 

 

Getting Oriented to Your Kayak

 
basic anatomy of a kayak
 

1.  Bow: the part that’s pointed where you’re headed

2.  Stern: the part that’s pointed where you were

3.  Port: boatspeak for the left side

4.  Starboard: boatspeak for the right side

 

 

Anatomy of a Sit-in Kayak 

(not all boats have all these things)

 
anatomy of a sit-inside kayak
 

1.  Deck: the topside

2.  Hull: the bottom piece

3.  Keel: the bow-to-stern ridge on your hull

4.  Cockpit: where you get in and command your craft

5.  Seat: your base of operations that sits within your cockpit

6.  Coaming: boatspeak for the edge of the cockpit

7.  Deck line: This can be stretchy (a bungee) or nonstretchy (static) 

8.  Hatch: your portal to an inner cargo area 

9.  Carry handles: an easy place to get a grip

10.  Rudder or skeg: A skeg is a static drop-down fin and a rudder is an adjustable flip-down fin. Either of these help keep you on track. 

11.  Bulkhead: a wall inside your boat that keeps water from swamping your cargo space (not pictured)

12.  Foot braces: adjustable rests inside the footwell; you control your rudder with these (if your boat has one)

13.  Thigh braces: the pads that hug your thighs in the cockpit of a well-fit boat

 

 

Anatomy of a Sit-on-Top Kayak

(not all boats have all these things)

anatomy of a sit-on-top kayak
 

1.  Deck: the topside

2.  Hull: the bottom piece

3.  Keel: the bow-to-stern ridge on your hull

4.  Seat: your base of operations

5.  Foot braces or footwells: foot braces are adjustable while footwells are built into the boat at intervals 

6.  Deck line: This can be stretchy (a bungee) or nonstretchy (static) 

7.  Hatch: your portal to an inner cargo area

8.  Carry handles: an easy place to get a grip; many sit-on-tops have them in multiple locations.

9.  Scupper holes: drain holes for water that sloshes across your deck

10.  Rudder or skeg: A skeg is a static drop-down fin and a rudder is an adjustable flip-down fin. Either of these help keep you on track.