Parts of a Kayak – Beginners Guide


Are you looking to invest in a kayak? Perhaps you just recently purchased one and are doing some research?  Well, whichever the case, you need to be familiar with the different parts of a kayak and how they contribute to its overall build and performance before you decide to take yours out for a spin. 

Knowing these will help you gain a better understanding of your vessel, which will keep you safe and allow you to communicate more effectively with other paddlers while out on the water.

Parts Of A Kayak: Understanding The Anatomy Of Your Boat

While the basic terminology of most kayak parts can easily be understood, some aspects may require you to refer to a kayak diagram to know what’s where and what does what. Our handy guide lays out the basic parts of a kayak you need to know. Read on! 

1. Hull

The kayak hull is the part that sits on top of the water when you paddle. These parts come in different designs, each with its pros and cons.

  • Rounded hulls: Kayak hulls with rounded edges are deemed faster and easier to maneuver. They also have better secondary stability (ability to remain steady when tipped to the side) than primary stability (steadiness of the kayak in flat waters).
  • V-shaped hulls: As the name suggests, these hulls have a ‘V’ taper that allows kayaks to cut through the water more efficiently. This makes them effective at tracking (going in a straight line) but decreases their primary stability.
  • Flat hulls: A flat hull design is most prevalent in fishing kayaks<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> as it offers good primary stability and maneuverability. However, it doesn’t track as well on a straight path.
  • Pontoon hulls: Pontoon hulls or ‘tunnels’ offer excellent stability and allow for good tracking. However, they aren’t very agile and can be difficult to maneuver.

2. Deck

The deck simply refers to the top portion of your kayak. More often than not, kayakers use this portion for storage by lashing their equipment over it. There are both pros and cons to doing this.


  • Allows you to carry more items for your kayaking trip
  • Makes it easy to reach for items that you need while kayaking


  • May affect your kayaks’ performance
  • The collective weight and size of gear may affect the stability of your vessel

3. Cockpit


The cockpit is the area where the kayaker sits. Keep in mind that only enclosed types of kayaks have cockpits; sit-on-top kayaks have molded seats instead. 

Different kayaks will have different types of cockpits.

  • Recreational kayak cockpits are relatively large and spacious. Kayakers should have no problem entering and exiting the said cockpits and may even be able to stand on the kayak’s floor.
  • Touring kayak cockpits are smaller than cockpits found in recreational kayaks.
  • Ocean kayak cockpits are smaller than touring cockpits and are often round in shape instead of oval. Because of the tighter space, entry and exit can be a challenge for beginning kayakers.

When choosing a kayak cockpit, one thing you need to consider is its height, since this can affect how easy it is for you to enter and exit your boat and how comfortable you will be while paddling.

Kayak cockpits that have a high front will make entering and exiting the kayak easier. A high kayak front also means more room for your legs and knees inside the kayak. Kayak cockpits with high backs help improve comfort and reduce lower back pains. You will mostly find this design in touring kayaks.

4. Hatches

Kayak hatches provide additional storage spaces on your boat. These are very useful for kayak anglers and multi-day kayakers who need more storage space to hold their fishing accessories and gear. Hatches can be circular or rectangular; whatever design you choose, make sure it is sturdy and watertight. 

5. Rudder

A rudder is a long, narrow fin-like blade attached at the end of the kayak stern and extends down to the water. It helps steer the kayak and reduces the need to constantly make corrective strokes that can easily exhaust the paddler. Paddlers use the kayak’s foot to operate the rudder and move it from side to side.

6. Skeg

Like the rudder, skeg also helps in steering the boat. However, unlike the rudder, this one is located in the kayak hull. There are two types of skegs found in most kayaks:

  • Fixed Skegs: Directly fixed into the kayak’s hull.
  • Retractable Skegs: Partially or fully deployed. If paddlers would rather not use it, they can pull the skeg completely out of the water.

7. Scupper Holes

Found in sit-on-top kayaks, scupper holes function as a drainage system to remove water that enters the kayak. Since sit-on-top kayaks are open-decked, it is quite common for water to seep in. When this happens, kayakers may find themselves sitting in a puddle of water, which can be very uncomfortable. Also, if more water accumulates inside the kayak, it can put the boat at risk of capsizing.

Other Parts of a Kayak


Aside from those mentioned above, there are several other kayak parts that you should be aware of. The following is a list of these parts as well as some terms that paddlers use often that we thought were necessary to include in our kayak anatomy guide.  

  • Bow – The front end of a kayak
  • Stern – The rear end of a kayak
  • Port – The left side of the kayak (when you’re seated in it and facing forward)
  • Starboard – The right side of the kayak
  • Grab handles – Handles located on the bow and stern and used when carrying the kayak
  • Scupper plugs – Used to cover the scupper holes
  • Cleat – Used to lock the rudder in a down position for safe transport
  • Thigh braces – Allow the paddler to secure their knees under the cockpit area.
  • Hip pads – Help create a contoured fit in the cockpit to improve comfort and prevent the paddler from swaying side-to-side while paddling
  • Cockpit coaming – The collar around the cockpit where the spray skirt is attached
  • Hatch cover – Used to cover the kayak hatch to keep water at bay

Globo Surf Overview

Knowing the different parts of a kayak is necessary so you won’t feel lost in conversation when talking to your more advanced paddling peers. But beyond that, knowing what’s where in your boat helps you understand how everything works, which ensures safe, comfortable paddling. 

Keep in mind that the above list refers only to the basic and common parts found in most kayaks. You can always refer to a kayak parts diagram to acquaint yourself with the more complex aspects of your boat.

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