Kayak Glossary

Bilge Pump - A device used to remove water from the hull in case the boat is swamped. It is often a simple hand-actuated pump.

Brace - Using a paddle blade held flat against the surface of the water to prevent a boat from tipping over.


Bulkhead - Watertight division between the cockpit of a kayak and the cargo compartments. Because the cargo compartments in Wilderness Systems kayaks are watertight, they provide flotation in case the boat is swamped.


Canoe - A typically open boat propelled with a single bladed paddle from a kneeling position. Contrast with kayak, a decked boat propelled with a two-bladed paddle from seated position.


Chine - The transition where two relatively flat sections of hull meet (usually where the vertical side hull meets the horizontal bottom hull). A good example of a boat with a defined chine is the pungo. If the edge is less defined but still clearly present the hull is described as soft-chine. If there is no defined edge then the kayak is said to have rounded or rounded-V hull, as in the Carolina


Closed Cockpit - See cockpit.


Cockpit - Area of the kayak where the paddler sits. In a closed-cockpit kayak (like a tempest) the paddler's legs are mostly covered by the forward deck and their knees are braced against the upper part of the hull giving them plenty of control over the angle of the boat in the water. Typically closed-cockpit kayaks are paddled wearing a spray skirts. In an open-cockpit kayak (like a Pungo) the cockpit opening is much larger and the spray skirt is optional. Open-cockpit boats are designed for easy entry and egress plus access to items stored in the cockpit area. A sit-on-top kayak (like the Tarpon) does not place the paddler within the hull of the boat, rather in a recession molded into the deck.


Composite - Manufacturing process where sheets of woven material like fiberglass or Kevlar are layered and bonded with resin in a mold to produce the desired part. Composite kayaks are much lighter and have higher performance than roto molded kayaks, but they cost more and can crack under severe impact. All composite Wilderness Systems boats have the "Pro" designation after their name.


Day Hatch - A small watertight hatch behind but accessible to the paddler useful for storing small items.


Deck - The top surface of the kayak, where the cockpit entry and hatches are located, as opposed to the hull which is the part of the boat in the water.


Eskimo Roll (or just "roll") - Maneuver combining a hip snap with a special stroke that allows a kayaker to right themselves if the kayak turns over. Not as hard as it might seem.


Feathered Paddle - See offset


Flare - Where the hull is angled outward from the base of the hull to the sheerline. Kayaks with pronounced flare (like the Pungo) have improved secondary stability.


Floatation Bag - An inflatable bag that you put in the bow or stern of your boat for floatation in case the boat is swamped.


Foot Pegs - Found in the cockpit and used by the paddler to brace their feet on. Provides leverage against the kayak while paddling.


Freeboard - Area of the hull between the waterline and the sheerline. If there is flare in the freeboard it will increase the boat's secondary stability. If there is tumblehome in the freeboard it will reduce secondary stability.


Grab Loop - A rope loop or handle found on the bow and stern of a kayak used to carry the boat between two people. Also, the thing you never, ever, hang your kayak from unless you want it to warp.


Hull - Typically refers to the bottom half of the boat as opposed to the deck


Initial Stability - The resistance of a kayak to being leaned over is termed its initial stability. Because leaning the kayak to turn it is a key part of advanced kayaking too much initial stability can be undesirable in a boat for advanced paddlers. This is only an issue in longer kayaks - our recreational kayaks and some of our light touring kayaks have tons of initial stability because they are short enough to turn easily with a paddle alone. See also secondary stability.


Kayak - A decked boat propelled with a two-bladed paddle from seated position. Contrast with canoe, an open boat propelled with a single bladed paddle from a kneeling position.


Keel - The ridge that extends the length of the kayak along the center of the bottom of the hull. A pronounced keel will increase a kayak's tracking characteristic.


Offset - Some paddle for touring kayaks and whitewater paddling have the blades set at different angles on the shaft. The angle between the faces of the blades is the paddle's offset. Allows for more efficient and powerful strokes in certain conditions as well as advanced strokes and braces. A paddle with no offset is fine for recreational paddling.


Open Cockpit - see cockpit.


Paddle - Used to propel your kayak through the water. Kayak paddles have two blades, canoe paddles have one. Contrast with oar, used to propel Roman galleys. See "Ben Hur"


PFD - A personal flotation device; a vest of buoyant material that provides supplementary floatation to a person in the water. For kayaking you are required to have a Coast Guard Class III PFD. [Note: a life jacket is a typically a heavy duty PFD used in ocean rescue situations that can provide floatation to an unconscious person in the water. Not something you'd want to try and paddle a kayak in, though many people call Class III PFDs "life vests"]


Roto-molded - Manufacturing process where polyethylene powder is placed in a mold that is rotated and tilted in the oven to coat the inside of the mold, shaping the part. The advantages of a roto-molded kayak are impact resistance and lower cost, but at a greater weight than composite kayaks.


Rudder - Blade or plane on the stern of the kayak which can be rotated to assist in turning the boat. On Wilderness Systems kayaks rudders are operated by cables attached to the boat's foot pegs. Contrast with a skeg, which is fixed and keeps the kayak going in a straight line.


Secondary Stability - If you can lean your kayak over without it tending to completely roll over then it has good secondary stability. See also initial stability and flare.


Self-rescue - After a wet exit, reentering your kayak from the water. Can be difficult without a paddle float or an assisting boat, the exception being sit-on-top kayaks.


Sheerline - The edge where the edge of the deck meets the side of the hull.


Sit-on-Top - A class of kayak in which the paddler sits in a recessed seat in the deck of the boat, rather than within the hull as in traditional kayaks. A sit-on-top is easy to get onto and off of, even while in the water. See cockpit.


Skeg - In the context of a kayak, a skeg is an extension of the keel that improves the kayaks tracking ability. Conceptually you can think of it as a rudder than does not turn. On the Tempest the skeg is retractable into the keel, on many other boats (like the Pungo) it is built in to the stern end of the keel.


Spray Skirt - A piece of gear that creates a seal between the paddler's torso and the deck of the kayak, preventing water from getting into the cockpit area.


Soft-chine Hull - See chine.


Stern - The back end of a kayak.


Swamped - When your kayak's hull is partially or completely filled with water, usually the result of a wet exit. Resolved with a self rescue and use of a bilge pump.


Tandem - A kayak that is designed to be paddled by two people.


Tracking - The tendency of a kayak to travel in a straight line. Typically the longer a boat is the straighter it tracks but the harder it is to turn. Our shorter kayaks are maneuverable but track well because of special design features like pronounced keels and built-in skegs.


Tumblehome - Where the hull is angled inward from the base of the hull to the sheerline. Tumblehome reduces secondary stability.


Waterline - How high the water is on the hull of the boat.


Weathercock - Tendency of a boat to turn into the wind. A rudder or skeg will help control weather cocking.

Wet Exit - Leaving an overturned kayak rather than attempting an Eskimo roll. See self-rescue.