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Understanding Your Kayak: the Basics

Understanding Your Kayak: the Basics - Vibe Kayaks

A kayak – whether for kayak fishing or recreational kayaking – has a lot of different parts, and lots of different names for things, and to the beginner kayaker it can be tough to know what is what.

Below, we'll tell you what the different parts of the kayak are called and where they are. Some terms – like "bow", "stern", "hull" and "keel" – are common terms for all types of boats, and other words – like "foot brace" and "scupper holes" – are specific to kayaks.

Also, there are differences from a "sit on top" kayak, and a "sit inside" kayak, and we'll also teach you about those differences.

Getting Oriented to Your Kayak

  1. Bow: the front part of the kayak that’s pointed where you’re headed
  2. Stern: the back or rear-end part that’s pointed where you were
  3. Port: what boaters and kayakers call "the left side"
  4. Starboard: what boaters and kayakers call "the right side"

Anatomy of a Typical SIT-ON-TOP Kayak

  1. Deck: the floor of the kayak
  2. Hull: the main body of the whole kayak, including the bottom, sides, and deck – but not parts or pieces that go onto the hull, like a storage pod
  3. Keel: the bow-to-stern ridge on your hull
  4. Seat: where you sit
  5. Foot braces or footwells: foot braces are adjustable, while footwells are built into the kayak at intervals
  6. Hatch: the plastic cover to an inner cargo area
  7. Carry handles: an easy place to get a grip; many sit on top kayaks have them in multiple locations
  8. Scupper holes: drain holes for water that sloshes across your deck
  9. Rudder or skeg: A skeg is a static drop-down fin and a rudder is an adjustable flip-down fin. Either of this help keep your kayak on track when paddling in the water
  10. Gear tracks: These are metal strips, usually within arms-reach of the seat, which allow you to add accessories such as fishing rod holders, or GPS 'fish finders', or other useful gear

Anatomy of a Typical SIT-IN Kayak – parts that differ from a SIT-ON-TOP kayak

  1. Coaming: boatspeak for the edge of the cockpit
  2. Cockpit: the recessed, inside area of a sit-inside kayak
  3. Bulkhead: a wall inside your boat that keeps water from swamping your cargo space

Knowing all the various terms and jargon for kayaks can really help out when you are either deciding on what kind of fishing kayak to buy, or when you are out on the water with experienced kayakers and need to communicate effectively and sometimes quickly. Tight lines and cool adventures!