Deploying a skeg or rudder?

Hard to repair also.

You’re a rudder guy or a paddle guy. Can’t imagine being both. Unless you’re paddling an Epic where the skeg is incorporated into the rudder.

For myself I’m usually carrying a stick that’s flat on both ends when I paddle, so haven’t found use for a rudder.


2 different tools for 2 different jobs - abet there is some overlap. Rudders are basically designed to turn a boat. It can help with weathercocking, but in rough water, it will not be in the water all the time. Being at the end of the boat (with the nose in the bow wake), they will help with tracking, but impeed turning with paddle strokes. Skegs are designed to help with weather cocking. They are under the boat, and generally closer to the center of gravity. They will stay in the water during rougher water. They also should not impeed turning with paddle strokes. Most skegs are retractable - so less likely to get beat up in surf landings. Sure you can stow a rudder, but they still have parts that can get beat up. There are some rudder skegs - but other than being more complicated, I don’t know their strengths or weaknesses.

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One issue with a rudder is that when stowed in up position on the rear deck, it increases the effort the wind exerts on the rear of the kayak. How it changes the handling of the boat depends on the boat and the direction of the wind

It’s so minimal the air a rudder can catch compared to the hull and the paddler. If it’s that windy the rudder would probably be down with most paddlers.


I’ve often heard the complaint that a stowed rudder on the deck is a wind catcher, but how much wind will a 3 x 15" or smaller rudder actually catch compared to the boat, the paddler, and their paddle? A number of paddlers always deploy the rudder all the time and if the wind is that strong many more will have it deployed as well and not parked on the rear deck.

I don’t agree that the primary purpose of a rudder is to turn the boat. I almost never deploy my rudder, but when I do it’s to counteract the effect of a strong stern quartering wind. While it can turn the boat, I don’t know of anyone who uses a rudder as its primary purpose. When and how often they deploy a rudder depends on the boat and conditions. Some boats really need a rudder or skeg, some don’t. Both rudders and skegs introduce some drag, and if you don’t need it, don’t deploy it.

Paddling a long distance in a cross or stern quartering wind using edging and corrective strokes tends to be slower, more tiring, and overall, less efficient. In my boat in those conditions, I can gain about 0.5mph as measured by a GPS by using a rudder. I assume the improvement would be similar using a skeg.

As far as turning with a rudder, if you turn the rudder it will enhance turning ability, not impede it, especially in a boat with little rocker. Naturally, if you keep the rudder straight it will impede turning.

As far as reliability, over the years I’ve been paddling I’ve only seen two rudder failures, caused by a broken cable. That can be temporarily fixed in the field with a bungee cord. However I’ve seen many skegs jammed by a pebble after a beach landing. Some people put a loop of cord on the tip of the skeg so another person can try and free it on the water or it can be done back on the beach. However, for most skegs if you try and force it down you risk bending the control cable. If this happens you are SOL. The cable must be replaced which can be a fairly involved project and not doable in the field.

Both rudders and skegs are designed to kick up if they hit something when they are deployed when landing if you forget to retract them. If a boat with deployed skeg hit the beach or a submerged object sideways, it is much more likely to be damaged than a rudder.

It would take some very short period steep waves for a rudder to be completely out of the water, and then it would only likely be for a second or two.


Like I said . . . depends on the center of lateral effort and center of lateral resistance. It might help some boats.

I agree that rudder isn’t the way to turn.

Now I’m confused. Some would say “So what else is new?”. So be it.
If rudders aren’t good for turning or steering (which is what Webster says they’re for), then (1) why attach them to a vertical hinge and (2) under what circumstances are they superior to skegs?

Why? Rudder’s have turned millions of ships for thousands of years.

Sure you can edge but in heavy wind a rudder doesn’t hurt.

If you’re not going straight you’re turning, no?

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My favorite boat has a rudder that can not be raised out of position. I use it all the time; sometimes to keep the boat going straight, when I need to turn harder than just a lean allows. On windy days it can be a lifesaver.

My second favorite boat has an under the hull rudder. It is a surfski and really needs a rudder to deal with changing currents.

I think anti rudder people need to chill, there are times a rudder is necessary.


Free choice for all to make.

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If thats how you want to use it. I just agree with rstevens15 about that. I have a 145 Tsunami without and wouldn’t pit a rudder on it. My sister has a 140 Tsunami with a rudder an wishes she saved the $300 because she never used it. I bought a used 140 Tsunami with a rudder for my now 15 year old grand daughter, and she doesn’t need it or want it. She has paddled in the open Bay. I have a 175 Tsunami with and used it only when I get tired of fighting tides and in the confluence of rivers that make it hard to control. If people want to use it that way it works. I rather edge. I hope what I learned this year can be applied to my 175. It depends on preference, conditions, the level of skill. I can list many reason why I dont want the rudder, but I use a rudder to go straight, not to turn.

As stated above, I can turn faster with my Epic 18x rudder up than with the rudder down. The rudder prevents the back end from going sideways so the boat can’t spin as fast. Best use is to counteract wind when I want to go in a straight line.

To clarify, when I paddle in a crosswind my upwind arm has to work harder to counteract weather cocking into the wind. On a long passage this means slacking off on my downwind arm and thus slowing down some. With the rudder counteracting the weather cocking I don’t have to slack off.

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There you go. It can turn the boat, but its easier for “me” to edge. I just use it to go straight.

It reminds me of Dustin Hoffman screaming in a closet to get hoarse to act a part in Marathon Man. Lawrence Olivier heard him and asked, “Why didn’t you Just act?”

I don’t have objections to anyone using a rudder to turn or go straight, or using a rudder and a skeg, or wearing a belt with suspenders. It’s preference. It takes time to learn proper technique. There are many members who can explain the technique, but they’re typically over ridden by recommendation to get a rudder, no a skeg . . . They only cost 300 bucks.

Epic says: “Surfskis utilize rudders for precise and efficient steering. The rudder allows for quick maneuvering and keeping the boat on course in all conditions. With a rudder, you don’t need to use the paddle to make a corrective stroke, and instead can focus on a powerful forward stroke to keep the boat moving.”
I understand that. A rudder makes sense for paddlers who want to focus on the power stoke and not use energy on corrective strokes. Bottom line, I think, is that the rudder is for turning, whether that means changing direction or turning into a wind to maintain direction.
Also, I don’t think there are anti-rudder people here. Isn’t it more a question of whether having a rudder (or skeg) makes sense for the boat and how it will be used? For example, some years ago I had a Seda Viking 16’6". It came with a rudder, but I never installed it nor did I miss it. But that boat was definitely not a racer or a surfski, and I didn’t take it out in high winds or in water bigger than 3’ or a bit more, crest to trough.
In any case, I find this forum interesting because of the different paddling experiences people share and the wide-ranging Q & A. I’m not looking for one-size-fits-all answers because they don’t exist … except in the minds of a few sales people who keep trying to sell them to us.

So should I use the rudder or what?

All personal preference.

Relatively new to paddling a sea kayak, so there are lots of people more qualified than me to discuss the advantages, disadvantages and proper time to use a skeg vs. a rudder. I’ll just pass along one experience that I had. I was doing an up and back trip on a local river and the boat was all over the place. I assumed it was the current so tried to manage it by edging. It was a lot of work and eventually I gave in and put down the skeg, which made things a lot easier. When I turned around at the top of the run I realized that I had been paddling with a pretty strong tail wind and the boat had been weathercocking. Putting down the skeg was the right thing to do. Who knew…

A little off topic, one point to make regarding deploying a skeg that new paddlers may not be aware of; when using a skeg, its NOT “All skeg or Nothing”. You tune the amount of skeg you deploy depending on the amount conditions you need to counteract to control your direction. You may only need a 1/4 or 1/2 of the skeg deployed to gain directional control. The amount of skeg to deploy varies from boat to boat and as conditions change and heading changes.