Would someone please define the word “rocker” when describing kayak hull design. I’ve seen the term used, but am confused about its meaning. What does it look like? And what performance characteristics does it provide for the boat?

Thanks for all your input.

keel line curve
"Rocker" is the curve of the keel line (the bottom of the hull from bow to stern).

Basically, the more curve, the easier the boat will turn and the less it will track.

rocking chair
the higher the rocker the easier it is to YAW.


Have a look at
this OTC web page. It shows a canoe, but the principles would apply to any boat:

I don’t know bout y’all, but…
…everytime I go out in a kayak with a tall rocker I can’t turn, I can’t track, my rock, ers, got no roll, and I always come back feeling as though I’ve already retired from the sport.

However, since having punched a hole in my greenland stick I’ve sometimes returned having crocheted a snazzy if not somewhat porous skirt.

As other, less ridiculous posters have said before me (in many less words), picture that canoe or kayak in profile. Observing the shape of the very bottom, or keel, from bow to stern, notice how it curves downward from the front and rises upwards near the back, like a rocking chair’s rocker-base. The longer the nearly flattened, or less curled-up keel area to your midships, the more of the boat’s central axis is placed down in the water to assist in tracking a straight path. Place less of that central area “flat” into the water, in this case by starting the curl of the keel upwards towards the bow and stern from points closer to the boats center, and the easier one finds it to spin about the boat on the water’s surface, as does the wind and cross-currents, unfortunately, as you now have less of an assist to tracking.

The fun comes with discovering the various ways to compliment and enhance with your own paddling abilities the various nuances of design, not just rocker alone, built into the boat you’ll be paddling in the many and varying conditions you’ll likely encounter. In my case, it is likely to be a life-long pursuit of my mis-function over hull form, and often my form overboard function.

But that’s OK. As discussed in another current thread concerning particular paddling lifestyles, I, too am a paddling slut, and I enjoy the opportunity of wantonly experiencing the many loose and different hull forms afforded me. One night stands, one-day sit-and-switches (I’d never “hit” a lady), sometimes to roll in the riparian rapture, sometimes to be dumped by the dame at sea.

Good fortunes to you in your search for that vessel to rock on with, or that with which you’ll keep to the straighter track, or perhaps the one that shall give to you a little of each. Paddle her furiously, paddle her on (sorry Frank - a lil’ Milton Berle thievery, I suppose), whatever, just paddle, baby!


Thanks, guys, you’ve been a great help!