A Sea Kayaking Dictionary for Your Kayak Trip

Sea kayaking, like other marine activities, uses a unique assemblage of phrases and words. Understanding some of the important paddling words can be a quite useful when participating on a kayak trip. Here is our sea kayaking dictionary from G to R to keep your paddling education moving along. Naturally, you don’t need to memorize all of the words in our kayak dictionary. But they are fun to learn, can enhance your enjoyment of sea kayak trip, and maybe help you win jeopardy! At the very least you can entertain your friends with your maritime acumen.

Sea Kayaking Dictionary from G to R

Gunnel or Gunwale – The rails or side edges of a kayak, often marked by a seamline on fiberglass kayaks.
Hatch – A waterproof hold inside the kayak where you can store items you’re taking with you. The removable cover on top is called a hatch cover.
Heading – The direction in which a kayak is pointing at a given moment.
High brace – A strong, supportive stroke used when storm waves or surf threatens to capsize a kayak.
Low brace – A supportive stroke used to maintain stability in less extreme kayaking conditions.
Hull – The bottom shell of a kayak or other boat.
Hypothermia – A condition where the body’s core temperature drops to a dangerous level, normally in wet and cold conditions. See our page on hypothermia and kayaking.
Kayak – Similar to a canoe but equipped with a deck for greater seaworthiness. A lower center of gravity from the seat positions greatly increases stability compared to canoes.
Keel – The centerline ridge that runs along the hull of the kayak from bow to stern that helps maintain a straight course and provides stability.
Knot – A nautical mile-per-hour measure of speed equal to 1.15 statute miles per hour. See “nautical mile”. is 6076 ft . A stature mile is 5280 ft.
Launch – The act of transitioning the kayak from shore into the water.
Lee – A calm area behind an object that blocks the wind.
Leeward – The downwind side of the kayak. The opposite of “windward”.
Life jacket – Now known as a PFD (personal floatation device) and worn in a kayak to provide buoyancy in emergencies.
Line – This is what landlubbers call a rope; the Rudder Line is used to raise or lower the kayak rudder.
Nautical mile – Unit of distance equal to 6076.1 ft. Original intended to be one minute of latitude (1/24,000 of the circumference of the earth at the equator).
Outfitter – A company that supplies kayaking equipment.
Paddle – The device used to propel a kayak through the water.
Paddle blade – The wide, flat end of a paddle; the only part of the paddle that is inserted into the water.
Paddle face – The power face; the side of a paddle blade that pushes against the water.
Paddle shaft – The section of the paddle that is gripped between the blades.
PFD – Personal Flotation Device. See “life jacket”.
Pivot – A sharp turn executed while remaining in one place on the water.
Port – The left side of the kayak when facing the bow. Opposite of “starboard”.
Power face – The face of a paddle blade that pushes against the water.
Quartering – To move at an angle to the wind or waves. This helps to maintain speed and minimizes the chances of the bow or stern getting pushed below the surface in rough water.
Rip – A fast, turbulent stretch of water caused by conflicting currents and/or winds. See “weather rip” and “tide rip”.
Read the water – To look for visual cues that reveal current nuances, eddies, and other factors that increase efficiency and/or decrease risks while kayaking.
Reef – A shallow area created by a submerged ridge of rocks or coral.
Rudder – The vertical fin mounted on the stern of the kayak that is used to steer the boat.

Click here for our sea kayaking glossary from A to F.
Click here for our sea kayak terms from S to Z.

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