Inflatable Kayak Glossary of Terms

In your research on inflatable kayaks you may have come across certain terms that are slightly confusing. Especially if you are new to kayaking it is nice to know what all the words mean when reading the kayak descriptions.

Below is a list of important inflatable kayak terms – most of which are also terms you will come across for all types of kayaking.  If there are any terms that you know of that you see missing, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

Inflatable Kayak Terminology
A – C
  • Aft – toward the rear of the kayak
  • Active Blade – the blade that is in the water
  • Astern – toward the rear of the kayak
  • Backpaddle – paddling backwards in order to slow or reverse the motion of the kayak
  • Bail – to empty water from the kayak either by using a pail or a bilge pump
  • Beam – the width of the kayak when measured at its widest point
  • Bilge – the low point inside the kayaks hull
  • Bilge Pump – a small hand pump used to rid excess water from inside the kayak
  • Bladder – an inflatable air bag inside the kayak that helps to provide buoyancy in case of capsize
  • Blade – the wide, flat end of the paddle that enters the water, the shape of the blade can effect the movement of the kayak
  • Bow – the front end of the kayak
  • Bracing – a specific stroke that helps to prevent the kayak from capsizing
  • Capsize – flipping or rolling the kayak
  • Cockpit – the sunken space inside the kayak where the paddler sits
  • Cockpit Coaming – a raised border around the cockpit that keeps water out of the kayak where the sprayskirt can be attached

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D – H
  • Deck – the top of the kayak
  • Denier – a unit of weight indicating the fineness of the fiber used in constructing the inflatable kayak… typically the higher the denier, the stronger the fabric and the more rigid the inflatable kayak
  • Drag – any resistance to a forward motion
  • Dry suit – an insulated and rubberized waterproof suit designed to keep the paddler warm and dry in any conditions
  • Eddy – a current that is at variance with the main current typically behind a rock or an obstruction in a river that can be used as a rest stop or to maneuver up or downstream (known as eddy hopping)
  • Face – the side of the paddle that is pushing the water
  • Folding Inflatable Kayak – typically these kayaks are part inflatable and part folding kayak… parts can be inflated and the rest can be folded up for ease of transport and storage
  • Foot Braces – foot rests that are great for bracing your feet inside your kayak that helps give strength to maneuver the kayak
  • High Brace – a strong bracing stroke that is used leaving or entering an eddy
  • Hole – turbulent river feature that can suck in a kayak and be extremely dangerous
  • Hull – shell of the body… inflatable rubber
  • Hypalon – synthetic rubber patented by DuPont that is very resistant to chemicals, extreme temperatures and ultraviolet light

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I – P
  • Inflatable Fishing Kayak – these are kayaks that are specifically designed for fishing in fresh water as well as in salt water and may include all sorts of accessories geared for anglers
  • Inflatable Pedal Kayak – this is a special type of inflatable kayak that can be self-powered with foot pedals and has underwater flippers that are attached to the pedals in the cokpit
  • Inflatable Sea Kayak – an inflatable kayak designed to travel in open water that typically has a high cargo capacity
  • Inflatable Surf Kayaks – these can be very similar to whitewater kayaks but will have more fins and flatter bottoms and are designed to surf ocean waves
  • Inflatable Whitewater Kayak – highly maneuverable inflatable kayak that is designed for rivers and playboating
  • Low Brace – a supportive stroke where the arms are close to the body and the back face of the paddle is pushing against the water
  • Nitrylon – a more eco-friendly inflatable kayak material that is a lamination of nitrile synthetic rubber and natural rubber over a 1200-denier, low stretch polyester fabric
  • Paddle – a shaft with two blades used to power the kayak
  • PFD – personal flotation device… a lifejacket
  • Pivot – a sharp turn in the water
  • Playboating – whitewater kayaking stunts and other maneuvers
  • Power Face – the side of the paddle blade that pushes against the water
  • PVC – polyvinyl chloride… this is a plastic that is used in the production of many inflatable kayaks as it is cheap, durable and easy to assemble

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R – W
  • Rapids – a fastmoving stretch of whitewater that may have rocks and a steep gradient
  • Recreational Inflatable Kayak – typically a stable inflatable kayak that is designed for flat water and light recreational use
  • Rocker –the curvature of the kayak from bow to stern that will help to predict the maneuverability of the kayak
  • Rudder – vertical blade at the stern of the kayak that can be turned to change the direction of the boat
  • Rudder Paddles – foot paddles inside the kayak that are pressed with the feet in order to steer the kayak
  • Shaft – the straight part of the paddle that we hold on to
  • Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak – the seat on a sit-on-top kayak is usually slightly above water level which means that the center of gravity for the paddler is higher than in a traditional kayak and the kayak is usually a little slower
  • Skeg – a vertical extension on the bottom of the kayak that is designed to improve the steering
  • Sprayskirt – a waterproof covering that fits around the paddler and the opening of the kayak
  • Stern – the rear of the kayak
  • Strokes – paddling movements used to maneuver the kayak
  • Tandem Inflatable Kayak – a kayak for two people
  • Watertight Hatches – hatches within the kayak that where we can keep gear and accessories
  • Wet Suit – neoprene bodysuit that keeps out the cold water and protects in harsh weather conditions
  • Whitewater – fast moving and turbulent water that usually goes through rocks, falls and other obstructions

View our comprehensive reviews for more information on inflatable kayaks.

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