Kayak Parts & Terminology

This article is to help you understand the kayak parts & terminology that are most commonly found/used in kayaks. It is important to have working knowledge of the ‘what’s what’ on your boat – especially when it comes time to maintenance or repair. The following is a list of parts and accessories that can be found on your kayak.


Found on North American Style Sea & Day Touring Kayaks. Provides paddlers the ability to control direction (steer) using their feet via a rudder system with cables attached to sliding or pivoting foot peddles.

Retractable Skeg

Found on British or Greenland Style Sea Kayaks. The skeg is deployed from the hull and can be lowered up, down or anywhere in between using a hand controlled lever or dial used to aid tracking.

Kayak Drop Skeg 

Found on some multi-purpose Day Touring & Recreational Kayaks for improved tracking. it can only be dropped completely down or raised out of the water completely by an external deck cord.

Rudder Support Bracket

A bracket on the stern deck, which the rudder sits in when not engaged, and provides the paddler with solid bracing as it prevents the foot peddles from moving. A rudder support also provides a safe lock down position when transporting a kayak.

Rudder Cord

Enables the paddler to easily raise or lower their rudder system by hand as desired, using an internal or external cord.

Drain Plug

Some Day-Touring & Recreational kayaks provide a drain plug to conveniently relieve water.

Kayak Backband

Sea Kayaks tend to have a multi-adjustable, low-slung backband, while recreational models tend to have a higher backed seat that may or may not be adjustable.


The area the paddler sits in to best control their kayak. Sea Kayaks tend to have a small opening allowing better bracing and control while, Recreational Kayaks have larger openings for easy entry & exit.

Kayak Seats

Most modern kayaks have comfortable, multi-adjustable seats. Although some Recreational & Sit-on-Top Kayaks simply use a one piece molded sitting area.

Bungee shock Cords – Bow

Perfect to store a map, water bottle, or attach a low-slung deck bag to hold small items in an easily accessible area.

Bungee Cords – Stern

Most Sea Kayaks provide a stern bungee system in the shape of an X providing paddlers the ability to perform self-rescues.

Kayak Foot Braces

North American Style Kayaks – with a rudder – use a sliding or pivoting footbrake system to control the rudder. British Style Kayaks – with a skeg – provide a fixed foot-peddle system for solid bracing.

Kayak Hatches & Storage Compartments

North American Style Kayaks commonly use composite hatch covers with neoprene liners or rubber gaskets, while British Style Kayaks tend to use oval or rounded rubber hatch covers providing convenient virtually watertight storage and safety through buoyant airtight chambers.

Kayak Bulkheads

A composite wall in fibreglass & Kevlar kayaks or a foam wall in polyethylene kayaks to separate the kayaks storage area from the boats cockpit area and to limit water access.


Refers to the front end of a kayak.


Refers to the back end of a kayak.

Grab Handles

Secure handholds at the bow & stern to help carry a kayak. 

Cockpit Combing or Rim

Refers to the collar around the kayak’s cockpit for which a spray skirt or cover can easily be attached to keep the area dry.


Most North American Style Kayaks offer a starboard side cleat to lock the rudder in a down position for safe transport.

Hip Pads

Help create a contoured fit to the paddler for more refined kayak control by eliminating excess side-to-side movement. 

Thigh Braces

Brace points that enable paddlers to secure the inside of their knees under the forward cockpit area. Thigh braces provides a ‘one with boat’ feeling for better control through body weight transfer.

Perimeter Lifelines

Enhance paddler safety as bow & stern lifelines best enable paddlers to grab the kayak from an in-water position. Perimeter lines are an asset when doing self rescues as well as when rescuing another paddler. 

Now you Know

We trust this article better enables you to understand the basic parts and accessories of a kayak and some of the terminology used. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this topic, please do not hesitate to give us a call 613.376.6220 or email [email protected].

Better yet, why don’t you come visit our on-water paddlesports centre and play while you learn – We offer free test paddling six days a week!

If you’d like to learn more about kayaks, read Kayak Materials & Modern Construction Methods