When I first started spending time out by a lake, one of the first things I started doing was kayaking. I quickly developed a love for kayaking, and I am willing to bet that many of you have had the same experience.

That love for kayaking started as a kid, and as an adult I wanted to buy a kayak. After buying a kayak, I wanted to learn everything I could about it.

That meant learning what the different parts of a kayak are called. Now I can help you by teaching you what I have learned.

Different types of kayaks

A stack of orange kayaks on a trailer.
Photo by Nareeta Martin / Unsplash

Before we start to look at the different parts of a kayak, it is important to note that there are several different types of kayaks.

They share similar features, but they each have distinct differences.

Whitewater or play boats

These kayaks are the simplest option you will find. They are usually made of plastic and have very few additional parts.

Their design is optimal for rough waters where ropes, rudders, and fiberglass hulls can get damaged with ease.

These boats are good for playing in river rapids, but they are not great for long trips on open water.

Sea or touring kayaks

If you want a boat with a lot of additional parts, you should consider a sea or touring kayak.

These boats are designed for extended open water excursions, and as a result, they come with extra storage room.

They have more technical features, ropes, hatches, and sometimes even rudders.

Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks are the most common option for people because they combine many of the aspects of whitewater and sea kayaks.

These kayaks are usually made of plastic, but they are larger than most whitewater kayaks.

These boats are not very technical, but they are large and stable. This makes them great options for paddling on flat water.

The parts of a kayak

Photo by Devon Divine / Unsplash

Now that you know what the different types of kayaks are, we can start to look at the different parts. I will try to take you through each of these parts in as much detail as I can muster.

The hull and deck

The main body of the kayak can be split up into two parts, the top, and bottom.

The bottom section is the part that is submerged while you are paddling, and it is called the hull. Conversely, the deck is the top of your kayak.

The hull and deck will usually be made out of the same material as there is not usually a distinct point where it switches from the hull to the deck.

The cockpit

The cockpit is an area you are probably familiar with. This is the opening in the deck of the kayak that allows the paddler to sit inside.

Cockpits can come in a variety of sizes, but they are usually round or oval. Typically, recreational kayaks will have larger cockpits, and as a result, they are better options for bigger people.

Conversely, whitewater kayaks tend to have smaller cockpits that are covered by a spray skirt.

The coaming

The coaming is the edging that you can find around the cockpit. It is a watertight sealing that is used to attach the spray skirt to the boat.

You should note that not all kayaks have coaming because not all boats have a spray skirt.

Grab handles

Pretty much every kayak that you will look at will have two grab handles. They are located on opposite ends of the boat, and they make it easy to carry with two people.

If you have ever tried to carry a kayak without using the grab handles, you know how difficult that can be. Using grab handles significantly eases the process.

Typically, grab handles are small rope loops on the far ends of the kayak. They can be plastic holds in some situations as well.

The seat

The seat should be the simplest part of the boat to understand. It sits inside the cockpit every time, but it can come in a few different forms.

Notably, there are built in, removable, soft, cushioned, and hard seats.

The type of seat you get comes down to personal preference, and as a result, it is something you should consider when looking at kayaks.

Foot pegs and rails

The vast majority of kayaks will have foot pegs inside the boat. They serve as braces to help you stay balanced and in control of the boat.

Some foot pegs are stationary, whereas others are adjustable and can be moved along a rail to better suit the length of your legs.

If your kayak does not come with foot pegs, they can easily be installed.


Bulkheads are compartments that can be found at either end of your kayak. They serve as watertight storage for your valuables and supplies.

If you are planning on bringing electronics like your phone with you out on the water, you can keep them safe in the bulkhead.

You just need to make sure you do not exceed the kayak weight limit!

Additionally, the bulkhead makes it so that if your kayak flips, it is not completely filled with water. As a result, it is easier to drain your kayak when you get back to land, and it is less likely that it will sink.

Hatches and hatch covers

Typically, sea kayaks will come with two or three hatches. These are openings that can be found on the deck of the boat.

They are sealed with rubber hatches to keep water out. You can keep your extra supplies in these sections of the kayak.


Some but not all kayaks will come with a rudder.

A rudder is a blade that is attached to the end of your kayak. In choppy waters, they are very useful in helping you maintain control of your boat.

Final thoughts

When you go out to purchase your first kayak, you do not need to know the names of every section of every type of kayak on the market.

That being said, it can be helpful to have some knowledge of what you are going to buy beforehand. That way, if the person working at the store asks you any questions, you will be prepared and they can more efficiently help you find a kayak that suits your needs.