Kayaking Glossary – The Comprehensive Kayak Dictionary

We are pleased to present you with the only kayaking glossary or kayak dictionary that you will ever need.

Our comprehensive definitions will ensure that you understand all the slang, terminology and lingo that you will ever need whilst out paddling on the water.

The A to Z of Kayaking Terminology

Select a letter below to jump to words beginning with this letter.


Kayak related words beginning with A.
Air Brace
– An air brace is a failed attempt at the brace paddling technique (a downward sweeping motion with the paddle blade to prevent the kayak from capsizing) in which new paddlers will wave the paddle blade above the water until the boat capsizes.
– To attain (or attainment) in kayaking is when you find yourself paddling upstream and going against the current.
– An aerial is when the kayak leaves the water surface, usually as part of a freestyle trick.


Kayak related words beginning with B.
Back Stroke
– To back stroke in kayaking is to paddle backwards by pushing your paddle as opposed to pulling it.
Baja Sleigh Ride
– A Baja sleigh ride is when someone fishing in a kayak hooks a fish big and strong enough to pull them and the boat in circles. Also known as a “Texas Slay Ride”, “Gulf Coast Sleigh Ride”, and other similar variations.
– Bearing is the direction that you want you and your kayak to travel.
Bent Shaft Paddle
– A bent shaft paddle is a paddle that has been ergonomically designed with the paddler’s wrists in mind. A slight bend allows the paddler’s wrists to remain in a neutral position whilst paddling.
– A beatdown is when a kayaker jumps over an obstacle (commonly referred to as a “boof”) only to land in a hole (a location where the current reverses due to an obstacle, often trapping the boats that end up there).
– Referring to your paddle, the “blade” is the broad part at the end of the paddle.
– “Bony” refers to shallow water causing rocky and scratchy conditions, sometimes also referred to as “scratchy”. Paddling through such conditions may cause damage to your boat and should be avoided when possible.
– A “boof” is when the paddler keeps the bow of the kayak from diving in to the water. The boof is most often used when manoeuvring obstacles in a rapid. You could boof a waterfall, steep drop, hole, pourover and even an eddy line. The name is derived from the sound made when performing the manoeuvre.
– “Booties” are wetsuit socks, made of neoprene and worn to keep the feet warmer in colder temperatures.
– The bow is the front end of your kayak.
– A “brace” is a downward sweeping motion with the paddle blade to prevent the kayak from capsizing.
– To “broach” is when your kayak hits a rock and turns sideways. Leaning upstream when this happens can cause the boat to capsize.
– “Bulkheads” are walls that form compartments within a kayak. They are needed for many reasons including to keep dry storage space within the kayak’s stern and bow. They also aid floatation if the kayak’s cockpit gets flooded.
Bus Stop
– A “bus stop” is a slang term often used by raft guides that means to get everyone except the driver out of the kayak.
– Referring to your paddle, the “blade” is the broad part at the end of the paddle.


Kayak related words beginning with C.
– To capsize is to tip the kayak over in the water, often flooding it with water in doing so.
– A slang term used comedically to refer to an exciting or exhilarating time out on the water.
– A carp is when a kayaker fails to roll the raft but does manage to catch a quick breath above water.
Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS)
– CFS stands for cubic feet per second and is the common measurement applied to river flows in the US. The CFS tells you how much water flows past the measurement point on the river each and every second.
– The chine is the angle between the bottom and side of the kayak.
– Creeking is when you paddle (or even bounce) down small, steep streams.
Class I Rapid
– Class I rapids are the easiest and safest class of whitewater rapid to navigate and paddle in your kayak.
Class II Rapid
– Class II rapids have some more waves and can be slightly more turbulent than class I ones. They are generally still considered easy to paddle on with little risks involved.
Class III Rapid
– Class III rapids have irregular larger waves, rocks, eddies and other obstacles. More experience is needed to run these rapids in a kayak and beginners should not venture out on them unaccompanied.
Class IV Rapid
– Class IV rapids will be difficult due to the powerful rapids and large consistent waves found on them. Souse holes and obstacles aren’t uncommon and practised maneuvering will be required.
Class V Rapid
– Class V rapids are very difficult and dangerous to the inexperienced. Violent currents and rapids go unbroken and are found consecutively. Many obstacles will be found down the stream alongside large drops and steep gradients. Reserved for experts in purpose built rafts or kayaks.
Class VI Rapid
– Class VI rapids are incredibly difficult as paddlers will face a bombardment of obstacles and risks. Only the best paddlers (Olympic level kayakers) should venture into this kind of whitewater.
– The opening in a closed kayak where the paddler will sit.


Kayak related words beginning with D.
– The deck is the top of your kayak and it stops water from getting inside the hull.
– The downstream is the direction that the current moves in the water. In most cases you will be paddling downstream.
Downstream V
– In whitewater rafting/kayaking, a “downstream V” is v-shaped section of darker water surrounded by whitewater/whitewash that helps you identify the safest route downstream.
Draw Stroke
– The draw stroke is done by placing your paddle in to the water and parallel to your kayak. Then pull the blade towards the hull of the boat.
– A drybag is a bag designed to carry your belongings whilst out on the water which is also waterproof to keep them the contents dry.
– A drytop is a top/jacket designed to keep your torso dry whilst paddling/kayaking.


Kayak related words beginning with E.
– An eddy is a place in the river, usually behind a rock or other obstruction (like a sharp turn or a drop), where the water reverses to flow upstream. Eddies make great places to stop and rest whilst scouting the rapids ahead of you, and they are also often wear any floating gear ends up should capsize.
– As the name suggests, an eddyline is the line between the eddy and the current.


Kayak related words beginning with F.
Feather Angle
– The feather angle of your paddle refers to when the angles of the blade are offset instead of aligned.
– A ferry is when you manoeuvre and paddle sideways across the current instead of downstream with it.
Foot Entrapment
– Foot entrapment is when someone puts their foot down in whitewater and it becomes stuck (usually between a rock, log or some other obstacle). For your own safety, it is recommended that you don’t put your feet down whilst in water knee deep or deeper.
– Footpegs, sometimes known as foot braces/foot rests/foot keepers, are adjustable places to position and secure your feet within the kayak cockpit. They offer increased comfort and paddling leverage. Footpegs are not mandatory for kayaking.
Forward Stroke
– The forward stroke is the fundamental kayaking stroke to move the boat in downstream in a forward direction.


Kayak related words beginning with G.
Grab Loops
– Grab loops, otherwise known as grab handles, are rope loops secured to the kayaks bow and stern. They make moving and transporting the kayak easier and more convenient.
– A groover is the more comical name given to the toilet taken on a longer river trip. The name comes from a time when re-used ammunition cans were used which left a notable mark on the paddlers butt.
– Gunwales, or gunnels, are the pieces of wood (alternatively aluminium or vinyl depending on the kayak) which run all the way along from the bow to the stern on the top of the hull.

Kayak Glossary Updates

If you come across any kayaking related words, terminology or slang that you don’t understand or haven’t heard before, please let us know and we’ll update this page with a definition as soon as possible.