Sports & Utility Boats Program (SUB)
Paddle Sports-Kayaking


Interested in kayaking, but want to know more before you get started? Top Of This PageHere's a quick introduction to where to use a kayak and what kind of boats you'll find.

What is a kayak?

A kayak is a small boat with a deck that is propelled by a two blade paddle by someone sitting, unlike a canoe which is open and propelled by a single blade paddle by someone kneeling. Kayaks are designed for one person or two and sometimes more.

Where are kayaks used?

Kayaking is a growing sport, and various types of kayaks are used for different kinds of water, including:


What are the main categories of boats and their advantages/disadvantages?

  1. Recreational Kayaks - stable and easy to paddle. These boats are designed for lakes, bays and slow moving water. Good for beginners, they are short and wide and easy to turn, but more difficult to paddle in a straight line. Recreational kayaks come in different sizes for comfort and often have storage areas for daytrip equipment.


  2. Touring or Sea Kayaks - long and stable, these boats are good for extended trips. They track well in a straight line, but are harder to turn than shorter boats. Varying models have more of less capacity to store gear. For day trips, you may want to choose a lighter touring boat with less storage and more maneuverability.


  3. Whitewater Kayaks - agile but less stable than other kayaks. These boats are designed to fit tight around the body, to make quick turns and be easy to maneuver. They usually have rounded bottoms or flat hulls for negotiating rapids. They are difficult to track in a straight line.


  4. Downriver Kayaks - often used for racing by more advanced kayakers, these long and narrow boats are designed for speed. Their straight keel makes them easier to track in a straight line, but difficult to turn, and they are easy to tip. Top Of This Page


  5. Sit-on-top Kayaks - designed so the kayaker sits on top of the boat and the body is not enclosed. Less stable than other kayaks, they are easier to fall out of, but also easy to climb back on. Designed for both paddling and surfing, they come in one-seater and multiple-seater.

What are the different styles of kayaks?

Kayaks are manufactured for a variety of materials, including plastic, wood, fiberglass and kevlar. There are also inflatable kayaks, folding kayaks, and do-it-yourself kayak kits.

How much do kayaks cost?

A simple kayak can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, usually starting at about $500. More expensive kayaks can cost several thousand dollars, with lots of options in the $1,200-2,000 range. Paddles range from about $40 to hundreds of dollars.Top Of This Page

Kayak Terminology:


Back Band:             (back rest) Provides support for the lower back while kayaking and helps with erect posture in the boat. Located behind the seat, and usually made of padded fabric, plastic or foam.


Bulkhead:                A cross-sectional wall inside a kayak made of composite, plastic or foam. Bulkheads provide structural support and cross-sectional bulkheads create watertight compartments for buoyancy and storage.


Coaming:                The rim of the cockpit.Top Of This Page


Cockpit:                   The enclosed central compartment of a kayak, in which the paddler sits.


Deck:                        The top part of a kayak that keeps the hull from filling with water.


Foot Pegs:              (also known as foot braces) Adjustable structures inside the cockpit on which kayakers place the balls of their feet.


Roll:                          The technique of righting a capsized kayak while still inside.


Sit-On-Top:             (SOT) A kayak without a cockpit, sit-on-tops are usually self-bailing with various seat and foot brace configurations. Many are for recreational use, but some are designed for touring and racing.Top Of This Page


Spray Skirt:            A neoprene or nylon skirt worn by a kayaker that attaches to the rim (coaming) of the cockpit to keep water out.


Thigh Braces:        (or Knee) Braces usually found in whitewater and touring kayaks, these structures inside the cockpit give the paddler important points of contact for boat control.

 Wet Exit:                 Coming out of a capsized kayak 


Vessel Examinations

Peter Urgola, Department Chief - Vessel Examinations
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Richard Myrick, Division Chief - Vessel Examinations
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Alexander Cascione, Branch Chief - Sports & Utility Boats Program
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Pages prepared by: Robert Daraio, DVC-VE 2006

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