Paddling wide river surrounded by cliffs and trees

Gear Terminology

Kayaking terminology used to name features of the gear used in kayaking

Features of a kayak depend a lot on its purpose. Various features of a sea kayak, crossover and playboat can be seen in the slider below:

Internal walls separating the cockpit and other components. These are usually solid in fibreglass kayaks and made of foam in plastic kayaks. These prevent the kayak from completely filling with water. If you paddle a whitewater kayak without hatches, or have a leaking hatch cover / bulkhead, consider using buoyancy bags or foam blocks to ensure buoyancy even when the kayak is flooded with water.

The part of the kayak you sit in.

Cockpit Rim (or Coaming)
The edging around the opening of the cockpit that allows you to attach a spray skirt to create a waterproof area.
Usually refers to the bottom portion where your bum sits.
Back rest
This can be separate or integrated into the seat. Back band is a basic type of back rest.
Hip padding
Additional foam blocks to create a snug fit in the boat.
Knee (thigh) Braces
Also known as Thigh-hooks. These allow you to better control the boat tilt with your knees.
Foot pegs / plates
Pegs or plates that you can push against with your feet to assist with torso rotation. Kayaks with a rudder will have pedals or plates that are attached to the rudder lines to control the rudder.
Carry Handles / Toggles

These are used to carry the kayak when you have a volunteer to help. Whitewater kayaks usually have fixed handles to allow for a secure grip, but sea kayaks tend to use toggles that allow the kayak to spin in the waves when holding these. Toggle handles often are often have the cords sewn together to avoid catching your fingers in the toggle.

Deck Rigging

The static and stretchy cordage found on the deck. If your kayak has a rudder, you may also notice rudder lines that control the rudder. These run in parallel to the stern perimeter deck lines.

(Deck) Bungee
Bungee cord on the deck to hold items, sometimes with netting to help hold items. Stern bungees are usually designed around holding a spare split paddle.
Perimeter (Deck) Lines
A static rope that runs along the stern and bow of the kayak. It's main purpose is to allow you to securely hold onto the kayak should you fall out.
Grab Handles
Whitewater kayaks often have additional handles to assist in holding onto the kayak. Deck rigging is avoided as this would create a hazard if that rigger catches a rock or tree in the river.

An opening that allows access to a waterproof compartment within the kayak. These are either described using the position within the kayak and day hatches reference smaller hatches that can be accessed from the kayak seat.

Stern (or Rear) Hatch
The main rear hatch on a kayak.
(Stern) Day Hatch
Small hatch directly behind the seat
Bow (or Front) Day Hatch
A small hatch in the front that usually opens into a small neoprene pocket. Renowned to be a bit leaky. A variation is to have a small hatch fitted under the deck completely inside the cockpit.
Bow (or Front) Hatch
The main forward hatch on a kayak.

There are three main types of hatches

Rubber push-on hatches
Generally the most secure but degrade in the sun faster than the other types
Neoprene with Hard Cover
The neoprene creates the actual seal and the hard cover prevents waves from pushing in the neoprene. Old or badly fitted covers are known to leak slightly.
Screw hatches
These are made of hard plastics with a screw. An O-ring creates the water-proof barrier to keep water out. Main issues with this type of cover is sand or dirt in the thread making it hard to unscrew or cross threaded.

Kayak paddles have a shaft with two blades, as opposed to canoe paddles that have a single blade.


Like kayaks, paddle blades and shafts can be made from wood, metal, plastic fiberglass or carbon fibre.

Refers to how much the blades are offset from each other.
Shaft shape
Shafts can be straight or "bent" in that the shaft is ergonomically shaped to reduce stress on the paddlers' wrists.
These are common in whitewater kayaks to add additional strength to the hull of the kayak. These are usually hard closed foam.

A blade that helps you to go straight in windy conditions and in choppy conditions. The blade can be moved left or right using foot pedals that are connected to the rudder head via rudder lines.

It is also used to turn slowly, but it is better to use turning strokes rather than to get into the habit of using the rudder to turn.

Drop-over Rudder
These are the most common and have a rudder blade that rests on top of the kayak and can be rotated 270° into the water. These have the benefit of easily raising the rudder when in shallow water or around obstacles that could damage the rudder blade.
Integrated Rudder
These are built into the hull and are more effective than drop-over rudders. The main issue is that these are easily damaged, especially those that drop down below the usual hull line.
A blade attached to the hull on the kayak that usually can be raised or lowered. This assists the kayak when going in a straight line.
Spray deck
Also known as a sprayskirt. These are worn around a paddlers waist to prevent water from entering the boat, even when the paddler is upside down.