Advanced Kayaking Terminology Guide


Much like any new activity, kayaking terminology can be quite challenging for those who have just started their kayak journey. And not knowing what something means may lead to quite a problematic situation. Learning proper kayaking terms will help you understand it better, know what you want and what you need, and help you stay safe.

This article will lead you through advanced kayaking terminology and help you understand it better, so you don’t face a problem where it is quite easy to avoid.

Basic Types Of  Kayak

There are three types of kayaks – creek boats, playboats, and downriver boats, and their names and abilities should be the first thing you’ll learn about kayaking, because it may make a significant difference when the time comes to buy one.

Creek boats

These boats are high-volume, large deck shaped so neither of the ends will submerge easily while having the ability to resurface quickly. They also have ample rockers so turning can be done quickly. The bottom of the creek boat has slight edges, and they are longer than the other two types.

Play Boats

As the name says by itself, these boats are made for activities that require big mobility. They are great for kayaking freestyle or trick performing, and are also great for kayak surfing, but they are not the best choice for the river. Their deck is compressed so the ends could sink, this way allowing the paddler to do vertical tricks. Volume is centered on the cockpit, so the kayak could maintain stability when vertical.

Downriver Boats

These boats are somewhere between those two types described above. Their main ability is to keep some stability while allowing the paddler to perform some tricks. They shed the water easily, move fast in a straight line, which makes them perfect for river running.

Volume In Kayak Terminology

In kayak terms, the volume is a word used to describe the inner capacity of a vessel. Most often, it is measured in gallons, and it is directly related to your kayaking style.

High Volume

These types of kayaks are great for beginners because their ends act similar to balloons and prevent the vessel from sinking. They are also a great choice for waterfalls or medium to hard rapids because of their stability.

Low Volume

On the opposite end are low volume kayaks. They sometimes offer minimal space inside the ends, which can cut into the water, making the trick process easier. Using this vessel white water kayak or waterfalls is not recommended because a strong, spinning current could affect the speed, but also control of the kayak.


This kayaking term is used to describe the bottom of your boat. It can be displacement or planing.

Displacement hull
It is the traditional one, and most of the kayaks you’ll be running into these. They are rounded, streamline shaped, and have a keep. Another important ability is to track easier.

Planing hull

The bottom of these boats is flat, so the boat can spin easier. They are great for maneuvering, but sometimes quite hard to keep in a straight line.



The kayaking term chine is used to describe the line where the bottom and the sides of a boat meet. They can be hard or soft, and they define the shape of the hull which could be either boxy or rounded.

Hard Chines

Created to provide kayak edge control, hard chines allow the boat to continue planing even while turned sideways or during the spinning, but it can also flip easily. The perfect performance will come from the 90-degree chine, but it would make a boat incontrollable. Don’t worry, though, even if you’re a beginner this type of boat may be the best option because you’ll learn how to feel the river easier and faster, and how to balance properly.

Soft Chines

They provide a more forgiving ride compared to hard chines when there is not an edge to catch. These types of boats are more predictable, easier to control and the possibility of flipping is low.


When someone uses the word “rocker” to describe something in kayaking terminology, it is the curve that goes from bow to stern on the boat’s bottom. There can be two types of kayaking rockers – kick and continuous.

Kick Rocker

This means the center of the boat’s bottom is almost flat, while the ends angle drastically. The result is a flat disc surface on the top of the water, so the tips stay above the water and the tricks are easier to do.

Continuous Rocker

If the boat has a continuous curve that goes from one end to the other, then we’re talking about the continuous rocker. It offers easier maneuvering,

Kayak Interior

Now it is time to go through the kayaking terms about the interior part of the vessel.

  • Some boats will have foot pegs that will allow your feet to push against them, making it easier to stretch your legs during your time in the water.
  • Bulkheads serve as a stable place for your feet and are most often used in the playboats, where there is no space for footpegs. In case something goes wrong and a front impact occurs, bulkheads will minimize the damage to the ankle.
  • Thigh-hooks serve as a movement transmitter from the body to the boat. It is one of the most important parts of maintaining control of the vessel. The deeper it is, the more control you’ll have.
  • Pillar is the vertical wall from both sides of the cockpit that serves as an extra-strength in a structure that will prevent the boat from falling apart.


In kayaking terminology, stability can be primary and secondary.

Primary stability is relative stability while the boat sits on the water.

Secondary stability is a kayaking term used to describe the stability while the boat is turned on the side. The calculation is simple – the more surface area touches the water, the stability is better.


It is also important to learn some of the essential and basic kayak accessories in kayaking terminology.

  • A drain plug, if installed on your boat, serves the purpose of draining water from the boat slowly. Although, if there is not a drain plug, don’t worry. The sponge will do the trick, and if the amount of water is big, flip it and let the water go out.
  • Float bags are there to prevent the boat from sinking if it becomes filled with water, but they won’t work as a flotation device in any other case.

Globo Surf Overview

For a successful kayaking career, it is important to learn the basic terminology, so when the time comes, you know what you or some other kayak enthusiasts talk about. It is not hard, but it is important and it may make a big difference in your experience. Now, take the cockpit cover off and launch it!

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!