Paddling Terminology: From Aft to Yaw

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, does that means a word is worth 1/1,000 of a picture?  

Aqua-Bound Whiskey kayak paddle

It’s no understatement how much can be told and felt by a picture. But when it comes to communicating your thoughts and feelings about that picture, well, words sure come in handy!

Every industry, regardless of its niche, has a specific vocabulary—its lingo. This is a way for those within that industry to communicate accurately to each other.

The paddling industry is no different.

Why Learn the Lingo?

Most people, whether familiar with paddlesports or not, can tell you what a paddle, kayak and lifejacket are. But paddlesports lingo goes much further.

Learning some of the paddle industry’s lingo will help you:

  • Learn more about the industry in general. When you know the lingo, you can do better research when shopping…know what descriptions mean…understand why that hull is shaped differently than this hull.
  • Provide a greater base of knowledge so you can communicate all things paddling with others who share that passion. Instead of asking your friend to hand you that thingamajig over there, you can say: “Hey, will you hand me my spray skirt and bilge pump?” You can talk shop!
  • Prep your mind for paddling when you’re in the off-season. You may not be able to paddle in January where you live, but you can brush up on your paddling terminology any time of the year!

Some Resources for You

Our friends at have this great Glossary of Canoe Terminology that includes such commoners as alongside, as well as more obscure terms like azimuth. While it’s titled for canoeing, many of the terms apply to all paddlesports.

For a kayak-specific glossary, our friends at NRS have posted their Beginners Guide to Kayak Terminology. Their list goes into a ton of helpful detail, specifically targeting river kayaking.

To round off our suggestions, here’s a list of terms for general kayaking from Sea Kayak Chesapeake Bay. And finally, for you stand-up paddleboarders—our own post of SUP terms.

Pick one of these to start with and you’re on your way to become more knowledgeable about the paddle sport you love the most!

Do you have questions for us? Our Wisconsin-based customer service team loves talking to our customers! Email: [email protected] or call: 715-755-3405

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