Embarking on a sea kayaking trip but don’t know your keel from your bow? Get ready to brush up on your sea kayak anatomy with our beginner-friendly guide. While some parts of a sit-in kayak are self-explanatory, other names require a little more explanation.

Basic Anatomy of a Sea Kayak 

1. Bow - the “front” of the kayak that’s pointed in the direction you’re headed

2. Stern - the “back” of the kayak that’s pointed in the direction you’ve come from

3. Port - the left-hand side of the kayak

4. Starboard - the right-hand side of the kayak

5. Deck - the top side of the kayak (may also feature bungees and hatches for storing gear)

6. Hull - the bottom of the kayak

7. Keel - the ridge that extends from the bow to the stern along the kayak’s hull

8. Cockpit - the area in which you sit to control the kayak (between the forward and rear bulkheads)

9. Seat - the place where you sit within your cockpit (may be adjustable or not)

10. Coaming - the lip or rim of the cockpit and where the skirt attaches to

11. Deck line - a stretchy (bungee) or non-stretchy line that can be used to store gear 11) that you want to keep within arm’s reach

12. Hatch - a semi-dry inner cargo compartment where you can store valuables and other gear

13. Carry handles/grab loops - positioned at the front and rear to easily carry your kayak and/or tie it to a car roof rack

14. Rudder - an adjustable flip-down fin that helps to keep you on the right track and is controlled by foot braces inside the cockpit

15. Skeg - a static drop-down fin that keeps you positioned on your preferred track (but doesn’t steer the boat)

16. Bulkhead - an interior wall that keeps water from infiltrating the cargo space

17. Foot pegs/pads/braces - adjustable rests inside the footwell that can be used to control your rudder

18. Thigh braces - supportive pads on the underside of the cockpit’s roof that your thighs press against to aid in maneuvering and controlling the kayak.

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Last Updated March 24, 2020

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Anatomy of a Sea Kayak

Embarking on a sea kayaking trip but don’t know your keel from your bow? Get ready to brush up on your sea kayak anatomy with our beginner-friendly guide. While some parts of a sit-in kayak are self-explanatory, other names require a little more explanation.

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