The parts that make up a sea kayak

Skegg, rudder, thigh brace, bulk heads and cockpit… It sounds both maritime, but also a bit aviation-like? In this guide we will walk you through all the basics of a sea kayak –  all the parts are and what they are there for.

The deck

The deck of a sea kayak is a well tought out space that makes life safer and easier for you as a paddler when you are out at sea. Toggles, lines, bungees and hatches are all parts that makes it possible to handle safety gear, paddle, access compartments and handle the kayak when doing rescues and when carrying it on land.

1) Paddle roll
The paddle roll helps you slide your paddle under the line and secure the paddle on your kayak when taking a break or having to do a T-rescue.
2) Deck line
Deck lines are static lines that are mounted on the deck of the kayak. The deck lines help you pull the boat closer to you and handle your buddie’s kayak during a T-rescue, which is why the static lines are an important safety function.
3) Bungees
Bungee cords are stretching and allows you to store extra gear on your kayak and secure your spare paddle. Big loads on the deck makes your kayak top-heavy and wind catching so you should avoid storing bigger items on the deck.
4) Hatches
The hatches are the lids that give you access to the storage compartments. A sea kayak must have at least two watertight storage compartments. Round hatches are the best at keeping water out while ovale hatches make it easier to fit larger gear in the compartments. Most sea kayaks have 3-4 hatches with 3-4 corresponding compartments for gear.
5) Carrying toggle
The toggle is a carry handle placed at the bow and stern. On a sea kayak the toggle must be accessible from the water to allow the paddler to swim with the kayak in an emergency situation. While this is important in an emergency you will mostly use the carrying toggle for carrying the kayak on land.

The cockpit

The cockpit is the place from which you control your kayak. The placement of thigh braces, foot rests and seat and back rest are all essential to how comfortable you feel when you are on the sea. The shape and size of the cockpit are also factors that influence how safe you feel in your kayak.

1) Cockpit
Most sea kayaks have a keyhole cockpit narrow in front, but still easy to get in and out of. The narrower the cockpit is in front the harder it is to get out, but the more the paddler is in control of the kayak.

2) Thigh braces
In a sea kayak your legs are below deck with the thighs pushing against the thigh braces. This is the most important contact with the kayak allowing you to control the boat. Thigh braces can be padded with foam for extra comfort.

3) Seat and backrest
The seat is your base of operation and should fit you and feel comfortable. What you should pay attention to is the backrest which should never be higher than the rear deck of the kayak. When doing a self-rescue you enter the cockpit from the rear deck. If the backrest is higher than the rear deck it will challenge your balance. So while a high back rest might look comfortable you will never find it on a professional sea kayak.

Points of contact

In a sea kayak you mostly use your body when maneuvering. This is done by always having close contact with the kayak. There are three important points of contact that help you get the job done.

1) Footrests
An important point of contact is the footrests. The footrest can be adjusted to allow the right spacing for your legs.
2) Thigh braces
The thigh braces are one of the characteristics defining a sea kayak and the most important connection to the kayak. In a sea kayak your legs are under deck with thighs applying pressure to the thigh braces. The contact between thigh and thigh braces are crucial for the paddler to be in control of the boat and be able to maneuver.
3) Back rest
The correct seating position is straight back and leaning slightly forward, but with contact to the backrest.

Storage compartments and bulkheads

One of the sea kayak characteristics is that it has a minimum of two watertight compartments for storage, on most modern sea kayaks you will find 3 compartments. The storage compartments have two very important functions. It allows you to bring lots of gear and do multi-day trips. The second function of the compartments concerns safety. The compartments are separated by sealed bulkheads. If you capsize the compartments provide buoyancy even if your kayak is packed with lots of gear.

1) Bulkheads
To keep the storage rooms watertight a bulkhead separates the storage room from the cockpit. It is always a good idea to check that the bulkheads are meticulously sealed to avoid water getting into the storage rooms. If you capsize and the bulkheads are not sealed it will cause your kayak to sink. However no matter how well the bulkheads are sealed PE kayaks are never 100% watertight so remember to pack all your gear in waterproof bags.

2-3) Hatch and Day hatch
Most sea kayaks have two larger compartments for storage, one in front and one in the rear. You will use these for larger pieces of equipment like a tent, sleeping bag and other gear. Behind the cockpit you find a smaller compartment; the day hatch. You can access the day hatch from the cockpit and it holds sufficient space for all you need to bring for a daytrip.

Skeg and rudder

Most sea kayaks are fitted with a skeg, but some have a rudder in addition to the skeg. Wether you want one or the other is a matter of taste since both solutions have the same purpose – to help you track straight.

1) Skeg control box
You lower the skeg from the control box placed right next to the cockpit.
2) Skeg
The skeg is similar to a keel on a boat helping you to keep up against the wind. You lower the skeg in the tailwind and crosswind if you have problems tracking straight. In headwind the wind locks your boat in the water and you will not need the skeg.
3) Rudder
A rudder is a blade attached to the stern of the kayak. The rudder is operated by foot pedals in the cockpit and can be swept from side to side. A rudder has the same function as a skeg.

Kayak guide – Read more

Become a DesignKayaks dealer

DesignKayaks is a Danish sea kayak brand: Stunning colors, exceptional performance. Unmatched value for money for you and your customers. Our model range consists of three models designed to meet different demands. They apply to everyone from new paddlers, exercise and touring paddlers all the way to instructors, technique and surf aficionados.

Read more

Our factory

Passion seeps through every step of the process when we make our sea kayaks. Our factory is located in the city of George in South Africa and with our modern roto moulding techniques we produce our high quality 3-layer PE sea kayaks in a well engineered and computer controlled environment.

Read more

Meet the people behind DesignKayaks

We have put a lot of thought, care and love into the design of our kayaks. And it all comes from years of experience and “getting our hands wet”. Søren Telling is the man behind the boat design and Hanne Telling – with her many years of experience from LEGO is the woman behind our unique business and colour concept.

Read more