Parts of a Kayak - Front to back (Bow to Stern)

It is important to know the 'what's what' on your boat – especially when it comes time for maintenance or repair. We've made this video to help you understand precisely that! Following the video is a list of defined parts and accessories that can be found on your kayak. 

Kayak Part Definitions


Refers to the front end of a kayak.


Refers to the back end of a kayak.

Toggle Handles

Handholds at the bow & stern to help maneuver the kayak in rescue situations. 

Bungee shock Cords – Bow

Perfect for storing a map or water bottle or attaching a low-slung deck bag to hold small items in an easily accessible area.

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 and rescuing another paddler. 

Kayak Hatches & Storage Compartments

North American Style Kayaks commonly use composite hatch covers with neoprene liners or rubber gaskets. In contrast, 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 kayak storage area from the boat's cockpit area and to limit water access.

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 to have the best control of their kayak. Sea Kayaks tend to have a small opening allowing better bracing and control, while Recreational Kayaks have larger spaces for easy entry & exit.

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.

Kayak Seats

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

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.


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 provide a 'one with the boat' feeling for better control through body weight transfer.


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

Rudder Cord

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

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 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 by an external deck cord.

Rudder Support Bracket

A bracket on the stern deck, which the rudder sits in when not engaged, provides the paddler with solid bracing, preventing the foot peddles from moving. A rudder support also provides a safe lockdown position when transporting a kayak.

Bungee Cords – Stern

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

Drain Plug

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


Now you Know

We trust this article better enables you to understand the essential 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 call us at 613.376.6220 or email [email protected].

Better yet, you should visit our on-water paddlesports centre and play while you learn – We offer free test paddling during warmer seasons!

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