Kayaking for Beginners: Quick Tips to Get Started

Know your boat from bow to stern. Learn the parts of a kayak with these water-ready Pro Tips.

Before launching from shore and starting your next adventure, it can help to be familiar with your vessel. Knowing the parts of a kayak can allow you to pack appropriately and get the most out of your next float. DICK’S Sporting Goods associate and kayak enthusiast Austin Steele has some tips to get you acquainted with your kayak before you get out on the water.


Beginning at the bow, Steele says to check out the dry well. The dry well is a hollowed compartment in your kayak deck that goes down into your hull. Look for a plastic or synthetic hatch, which serves as a lid to protect your stored gear. “It can be difficult to get on and off, so be mindful of the things that you put into it,” Steele says.

You don’t want to struggle to reach your equipment when out on the water. Consider keeping gear you won’t need immediate access to in this location.

Additionally, the dry well is one of the most secure spots on your kayak, according to Steele. “Say if you capsize, your stuff would stay nice and safe right in here,” he adds.

Other key parts to know include:

  • Toggle/Grab handle: Synthetic or rope handle that allows you to carry your vessel, attach a tow line or tie down during transport.
  • Deck lines: Bungee or static lines that serve as additional anchor and storage points for your gear.


Moving down your kayak, the next important part is your cockpit. This is where you’ll sit and navigate your kayak, so having a comfortable, efficient fit is key.

Your seat should have a cushion and back support, according to Steele. Adjustments can be made with a few straps located along the seat’s frame. Securing these straps can help you achieve the comfort needed.

“It’s probably best to adjust this while you’re on dry land before you get out onto the water,” Steele says.

After your seat is set, take a test run by getting into the cockpit and seeing how your setup feels while on dry land. Make sure your back isn’t strained and you’re comfortable. Next, look at your footrests. According to Steele, you should adjust your footrests to the length of your leg. “It’s good to have a little bit of a bend in your knee,” he says. “That way you can put a little extra pressure on the footrests.”

Also, be sure to understand these kayak components:

  • Coaming: The outer edge of your cockpit.
  • Skirt: A watertight skirt that goes around your waist and creates a seal with your coaming to keep you dry during adventures.


The stern of your kayak should have a tank well, which is a cutout area that can house additional gear. Think of it as a large cupholder. This area is open, making it premier for storing needed gear on your float. Steele suggests keeping a jacket handy in your tank well, too.

A great way to make the best use of your tank well is to use a dry bag to hold your equipment. Dry bags can be handy tools when kayaking. Not only can they house plenty of necessities, they can also protect the items inside from outside elements.

To seal your dry bag once you’ve packed everything inside, first compress the air out. Next, fold the top down along the flexible band and continue to do so to create a watertight seal. “Make sure you get three or four solid rolls on it,” Steele says. After that, clip the two buckle ends together and store your dry bag away. Dry bags can fit great in your tank well or fixed to one of your deck lines. Find a proper spot for your needs.

With your gear packed and kayak ready to go, the last thing you need is a life jacket. As always, never venture onto the water without a personal flotation device. Find out which PFD is fit for your float with these Pro Tips on how to buy the right life vest.

Kayaking can be a great way to enjoy nature from a newfound perspective. Be sure you know your way around your boat with these Pro Tips.

Once you’re out on the water, make sure you’re going in the right direction. Use these Pro Tips on how to steer a kayak to help you get where you’re going with ease.