Kayak Terminology

Kayak Terminology
Kayaking is an exciting way to observe coastal or river environments and is an exhilarating activity. When you are just starting out, however, it can be overwhelming when learning terms for your kayak, equipment and self-rescue moves. It is important that your equipment be in working order before you head out on the water and that you are familiar with these terms so you can better converse with other kayakers.

Parts of the Sea Kayak

The front tip of a kayak is called the fore end; the back tip is the after end (aft). The bow of the kayak is the front part that cuts through the water, and the stern is the back part that is in the water. The cockpit is the area you sit in, and the raised rim around the cockpit in which your spray skirt fits on tightly is called the cockpit coaming. The portion of the boat over your thighs is called the gunwale, and the entire top of the kayak is called the deck. There are the elastic deck lines that can be used to hold down items like waterproof containers, spare paddles or bilge pumps. Most kayaks also have two small sealable compartments for storage called hatches, which are on the fore and aft ends of the boat. The back deck should have a towline, rear deck elastics, rear grab lines and an end toggle for lifting the kayak. The front deck should have front grab lines, foredeck elastics and the front-end toggle for lifting. Not all kayaks come with a rudder on the aft end, but these can be installed.

Basic Equipment

Your spray skirt is the neoprene piece you wear and attach to the coaming to keep the water outside of the cockpit. Some kayaks have a built-in compass on the front deck, but many do not. A bilge pump is something that every kayak should have onboard. This is used to pump water out of the cockpit manually should the boat become overturned and you have to re-enter it from the water and do not have the luxury of turning it upside down on land to get the water out. Another major item you will use every time is your PFD or Personal Flotation Device. For kayaking, these are designed to ensure freedom of motion in the shoulders, and many have features such as a built-in pocket and locking sheath with knife, for rope cutting in an emergency. A towrope is a smart thing to carry when in a group of kayakers. In case someone becomes unable to paddle, you can tow him behind you.

Basic Self-Rescue Terms

One of the most common terms in kayak self-rescue is "wet exit." This simply means an emergency exit from the kayak while the boat is flipped over and you are underwater. Practicing this technique in a pool or lake is highly recommended so that in the event your kayak is flipped over in harsh weather or seas, you can confidently and calmly remove your spray skirt from the coaming and exit the boat. Your paddle floats will be of use in this situation as well. These inflate and attach to one end of a paddle. The paddle is placed perpendicular from the kayak like an arm lending support while you get back into the cockpit when the boat is turned back over. "Brace" is another term often used in kayaking. A brace is using the waters resistance to provide momentary support and keep the boat from completely tipping in rough waters. There are many kinds of braces, including low brace, high brace, hip snap and sculling brace. The Eskimo roll is basically an Extreme High brace initiated from a fully capsized position.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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