Deploying a skeg or rudder?

My newest kayak came with both a skeg and rudder. My question is when would you use or how would you decide which tracking aid to deploy or would there be a time when you would deploy both at the same time? So when to use the skeg vrs the rudder?

[Does My Kayak Need a Rudder or a Skeg? | How to Kayak - YouTube]

If the skeg resolves all directional control needs, the skeg is a nice efficient choice. If you’re supplementing your skeg with edging and any corrective inclusions to your paddle stroke, even seemingly subtle ones, to achieve directional control, a rudder is a nice efficient choice.
Be cautious about using both. If you can deploy enough skeg to change from weathercocking to leecocking, and then use a rudder to steer back the leecocking, this is probably not as nice and efficient as you could be.

I can’t think of a situation where you would want to use both at the same time.

In general, kayaks are designed to have either a rudder or a skeg. I would suspect that this kayak had the rudder added after, or as an option, since it is not feasible to add a retractable skeg after the fact. Skegs will make a maneuverable kayak less so, but their primary purpose is to make the kayak neutral in the wind. Rudders make a hard tracking kayak turn - they are great for when you just want to paddle, without using tons of corrective strokes.

What have you had on any previous kayaks? I would suggest trying one and then the other in various conditions to see how the kayak handles with the skeg or rudder and then tailor your choices based on the conditions.

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All of my previous kayaks were skegged. I’ve never found a need for a rudder. I’ve always managed to control my direction by adjusting the amount of skeg I engage to compensate for the affects of the wind, by edging the kayak and by using some sweep strokes. This kayak came with both skeg and rudder. My question is why would I need to use this rudder if I can control my direction as I have done in the past with strokes/edging and skeg? I am thinking of removing the rudder , would it be missed and under what conditions would I need it or choose to use it over the skeg?

I have always had skeg kayaks as well, but I use a ruddered kayak for the Everglades Challenge, and also have a sailing rig on that kayak. The rudder is definitely a huge advantage when paddling long distances when you don’t want to waste energy on steering strokes. Also very useful for sailing. But I still prefer the skeg for normal “fun” paddles when I’m not trying to cover very long distances.

There are other folks e here who use ruddered kayaks all the time. It really just comes down to preference!

A lot of the use of a rudder depends on how it actuates. The old sliding footpegs could play hell with paddling and using the rudder to counteract wind or current.

Modern systems don’t mess with you posture as much, so the rudder can be used kind of like a directional skeg.

I don’t know of any circumstances where both would be used either.

@steevey you should be able to tell before anyone. It depends on the boat, your skill and conditions. Experiment!

I can turn faster with my Epic 18x rudder up than with the rudder down, even with the rudder hard over while sweeping hard on one side. The rudder prevents the back end from going sideways so the boat can’t spin as fast. Best use is to counteract wind. Both rudder and skeg will keep your boat pointed straight during a glide. A skeg housing cuts way back on cargo space if you camp.

Try them both in different situations.

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One of my boats came with both a skeg and a rudder. I would not have ordered it with a rudder but that is how it was equipped. It lost some weight shortly after purchase. Rudders certainly have their place, but I’ve paddled a lot of years with only skegs and that remains my preference.


I have a Sea Lion Shadow with a rudder and a Chatham17 with a skeg. I never use either one until I feel a need. The conditions let you know.

If you are edging and doing corrective strokes on one side to a level it is becoming tiring it’s time to deploy. As skills increase the use becomes less and less needed but if wind or current are strong enough they are very good to have available.

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Heavily loaded boats benefit more from a rudder than lightly loaded boats.

So the only difference I can think of right now is that you have more benefit from the rudder when heavily loaded and otherwise a skeg will possibly be better.

Kanoniem, can you please explain?
I don’t have a kayak with both a skeg and a rudder. I have 2 kayaks that are similar but not identical one of which has a skeg and the other has a rudder. I have loaded both down for camping trips and when loaded with 75 to 100 pounds, each sits lower in the water then when it’s empty so they both weather cock less when loaded than the do when empty. In river current they react more when loaded, again because there is more surface in the water to get pushed around.

Now, I am a pretty new kayaker with only 2 years of experience, so I know that there is much I don’t know. So the statement that a loaded kayak benefits more from a rudder threw me. I don’t understand why that would be.
But knowing I don’t know more then I do know, I thought I’d simply ask.

Well I am just repeating the knowledge of kayak designer John Winters,
also because it corresponds to my own experience.
But why this is so, I am not sure.

Well if the man designs kayaks I’d have to believe he knows something about the subject.

Anyone else here have any insights?

Turns easier loaded up. Most tandem sea kayaks I can think of all have rudders.

Same sized hulls CD Extreme and CD Expedition. Expedition takes more weight, higher deck, for more volume has a bigger rudder and turns excellent.

Just a guess … in rough water a rudder may be totally out of the water at times, being at the stern. So a more heavily loaded boat will ride more deeply, so the rudder stays in the water more. The skeg is almost always submerged.

That may be it. I had not thought of that.
I’ll pay attention to that the next time I am out on big waves in my Sea Lion.


Skegs and rudders are two different things.