Kayaks 101

Kayaks 101 is a way to get you acquainted with kayaks before you can even see one. Knowing the general anatomy of them is bound to make you way more confident in your search, and it’ll give you the needed boost to hit the waters on your very first kayak.

1. General Anatomy

First, we’ll discuss the general anatomy of all kayaks. That will include the parts that you’ll find on any kayak, no matter its type; a touring kayak, sit-on-top, or sit-inside kayaks.


“Starboard” is boat talk for the right side of the kayak, from the very start of it to the very end. If you want to point out anything that’s on the right side, “starboard” is the appropriate term.


On the other hand, “port” is boat talk for the kayak’s left side, and the same rules apply here. If you want to comment on anything that’s on your left side, you’re going to use the word “port”.


The front of your kayak and points always to where you’re going.


Stern is the back end of your kayak, and it points to where you’ve been. Another way to refer to the Stern or the rear end of your kayak is your 6 o’clock.


The deck is the top of the kayak, and it includes everything that’s at the highest level of the kayak. The deck is always on top of the water unless you capsize.

For sit-on-top kayaks, the deck is pretty simple, as it’s split seat, stern, and bow. On the other side of the spectrum, for sit-inside kayaks, you’ll find that the cockpit involves a lot of parts; hence, the deck is way more complicated.


The hull is the entire lower body of the kayak, starting at the bow and ending at the stern. Everything that’s not a deck is a hull, and most of the hull is underwater unless you capsize, and the kayak is flipped upside down.

Deck Lines

Deck lines are mostly bungee jumping lines, so they’re incredibly robust and elastic. Moreover, they’re used for two different goals.

The first one is that they keep the hatch closed, and we’ll speak about the hatch in a minute. They are tied tightly in order to prevent any water from seeping into the hatch.

The other job that the deck lines are used for is extra storage. You can tie some gear and personal belongings to these lines as long as these belongings are stored in watertight pouches.


Now, let’s discuss the hatch in detail. It’s the inside compartment where you’re able to store all of your gear and personal belongings. It’s designed to be waterproof and is further protected by the deck lines that we’ve spoken about as they’re closed very tightly to keep the hatch doors closed.


The keel is also known as the centerline. So, when you reach the bow of your kayak, there is a tip, which is the highest point of the kayak, follow it down all the way to the end of the hull.

You’ll be going down the centerline, and that is the keel of the kayak. What is its job, you might ask yourself? It cuts through the water. The sharper and larger the keel is, the more water your kayak will be able to cut through per unit time.


A Skeg is a fixated fin that you can add or remove from your kayak. It helps stabilize your kayak and keep it on track. Nevertheless, it can’t be moved all controlled the moment it’s attached to your kayak.


A Rudder, on the other hand, is also a removable fin; nonetheless, it’s adjustable. So, it helps you to steer your kayak around as smoothly as possible, and keep it on track.

Drain Plug

If for any reason water ends up getting inside your kayak, all that you have to do is reach for your drain plug and unplug it so that the water comes out of the kayak. This way, you won’t risk it going down into the water or capsizing.

Scupper Holes

Scrapper holes are kind of the same thing; nonetheless, they’re designed to drain water that has come up the deck so that you’re not continuously wet while kayaking.

2. Specific Features

Now that we’re done with the general features of all kayaks, we can speak about some additions that are suited more towards one type of kayaks. Namely, we’ll speak about sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks,  and the differences between them.

Sit-Inside Kayak Anatomy

As suggested by the name, with sit-inside kayaks, most of your lower body will be inside of the kayak shielded from the water and the sun. Hence, it’ll need some adjustments in order for you to be seated comfortably.


Since sit-inside kayaks give you so much more storage space, the idea of bulkheads emerged. What are bulkheads? They’re walls built inside of your sit-inside kayak, and their aim is to distribute the storage space inside the hatch.

This way, they don’t only create extra security, so that not all of your stuff is in one space, it also boosts the buoyancy of your kayak. Subsequently, it’s more stable and less susceptible to capsizing.


The opening that will include your adjustable seat, and lead you on to the inside, where there is a lot of support for your lower half, which we will discuss momentarily.


Sit-inside kayak seats are normally much more comfortable than sit-on-top kayaks. Moreover,  the seats are adjustable to offer as much support as possible for the kayaker.

Spray Skirt

A spray skirt is a piece of plastic that covers whatever it’s that is showing from your lower half. This prevents you from getting wet by splashes of water and keeps you as dry as possible. It’s attachable to the sides of the cockpit.


When you go for a kayak that is suitable for your own height and weight, you’re supposed to be comfortable throughout your entire trip. Nonetheless, staying in the same position, especially with cramped long legs, will lead to fatigue, and that is where braces come into play.

Sit-inside kayaks can come with multiple braces, including thigh braces, foot braces, and knee pads for extra comfort, and all of these are present inside of the cockpit and most adjustable.


Coaming is the edges of the cockpit, and mostly, it’s enhanced and supported by durable rubber that can withstand the pressure of getting in and out of the kayak continuously.

Carry Handle

Every kayak must have a carry handle, and when it comes to sit-inside kayaks, their handle is placed at the stern or rear end. This allows the kayaker to pull the boat easily.

Sit-on-Top Kayak Anatomy

With sit-on-top kayaks, it’s much easier to get onto and off the water, since you don’t have to struggle with any bounds. Nonetheless, it does require a lot of stability to keep your position.


Footwells are built into the kayak so that you can change the position of your legs and still have them supported. You don’t have to adjust anything here, as you’ll find multiple ones in different positions to suit you.

Foot Braces

Foot braces, on the other side, are adjustable, and they come in pairs.


The seat here is mostly padded and marked, but nothing more. There is no back or neck support, you’ll have to sit up straight all by yourself.

Carry Handle

The carry handle of the sit-on-top kayak is mostly in the middle. Sit-on-top kayaks are much lighter than sit-inside ones, so they can be carried from shore to water, and vice versa.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a beginner, things might seem a bit too complicated, and boat talk might scare you off. Nonetheless, as you go through our kayaks 101, you’ll see that it’s not that hard.

All of these parts are pretty logical, and you can surmise their job and goal through their position anyway. With time and experience, you’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t add up. That is the essence of a successful kayaking trip.

You Can Also Check:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top