dumb question on skeg/ rudder

probably a dumb question but what is the difference between a skeg and a rudder. How do you control them. Which one works best for you. Why do you like one over the other.

I am new to the world of kayaking and want to learn all I can before I buy.

Not so dumb question
Along with what kind of roll do you prefer this is probably one of the most hotly contested topics of sea kayaking. Skeg vs. Rudder vs. Niether (Usually phrased “We don’t need no stinking rudders”…) In brief; a skeg is some form of fin that drops from the aft of the kayak to add lateral stability in windy or wavy conditions. This is fixed in place by a single pivot point allowing raising and lowering. A rudder lowers from the stern of the kayak and has a side to side pivot to boot. This is controlled by cables that attach to some form of sliding or pivoting footpeg. Where you point your toe is where you go sort of theory. Both devices are designed to give the same end effect, keep you pointing in the direction you intend to go. Note: not for close in manuvering, your paddle works better for that. I have both gadgets in the kayaks in my school and they probably get used about 5% of the time. Do you need one? Depends on what your experience is, the terrain you intend to paddle, the type of paddler personality you are, etc. Try all three in various conditions and take instruction in edging and more advanced paddle techniques like slips, stern rudders & draws and bow rudders, then make your decision. Some manufacturers like Prijon sell thier kayaks with all the mounting harware in place and if you choose to add a rudder later the kit takes about an hour to install.

See you on the water,



skegs & rudders
Marshall answered your question very well. I would like to add another factor to consider in your decision making process: Your paddling environment. If you often paddle on big water and it is frequently very windy, having either a skeg or rudder is pretty handy.

I met a very experienced paddler, in fact he works and instructs for a very high-end paddle shop here in Florida, who has permanent damage to one arm from a marathon race he was in years ago. He said that he was racing into a quartering headwind and the injury was caused by having to make constant paddle adjustments to compensate over a period of many hours. He is convinced that either a skeg or rudder would have prevented his injury and problably would have bettered his time to boot.

I have both a skeg and a rudder on different boats. Neither is perfect and neither is necessary most of the time, but I wouldn’t be without them when the wind kicks up. When it really gets rough I think the rudder is marginally better.



One more thing.
If you get a rudder, get the kind that you operate by rotation. The push/pull kind make it harder to control your boat and roll.

push/pull rudder controls
those should have been eliminated 5yrs ago. It’s like using tube tires for cars.

ideally a skeg goes on a responsive hull that weathercocks slightly,if it’s on a hull that weathercocks but isn’t responsive it’s kind of a crude solution to bring some control to the kayak.

ditto on rudders,some hulls have high sterns so the rudder is shallow in the water or the rudder is a solution for funny attributes in wave handling.

So there’s a variety of applications where the skeg or rudder is utilized well or simply added on because “it’s a sea kayak”.

However, “standard” rudder systems are still available for many boats (e.g., Necky). You may have to specify the newer systems and if so it will probably cost you something additional.

“you know what gets me"
I think it was a Necky,light webbing with slide buckle going to a loop of ss. wire that has a plastic tube in the eyelet. There’s about 1 1/2” of pure slop on each footpeg using that setup. I used 1/8" hollow braid Vectran and a ss. eyelet on a similar setup. WIth a bungie pulling the footrail forward the light Vectran is pulled tight,using a constrictor splice the line is totally adjustable,and there’s NO slop. The funny part is that it’s all cheaper than the webbing and slides,and stronger. 1/8" vectran has the same breaking strength as the 1/16" ss. wire.

rotational rudders
Can you describe in more detail how a rotational rudder works? I think I have only seen the push pull kind (with two wires connected, one to each footpeg).

various kinds
But the principle is the same for most. The footpeg that you rest your feet on is fixed in position (of course, after you have adjusted it). One system allows you to then rotate the foot peg itself in place. Another system has a lever attached to the footpeg. Go to the Necky website. They have pictures of their system.

Like having gas pedals on top
The rudder is activated by pushing with your toes on the top section of the foot peg, which is jointed. The bottom section stays put and can be solidly braced on.

The regular push-pull rudder footpegs do not allow good bracing when the rudder is deployed: the whole footpeg slides back and forth on the rails. This is the most common type of rudder/footpeg system, and it s*cks. Even when the rudder is not deployed, you can push hard enough on the pegs that the rudder pops out of the keeper slot.

Here is one primer…

What Bill Said…
“I have both a skeg and a rudder on different boats. Neither is perfect and neither is necessary most of the time, but I wouldn’t be without them when the wind kicks up. When it really gets rough I think the rudder is marginally better.”

thanks for the replies
thanks for all the information. I want to go to a kayaking school before I ever buy one. Hopefully there I can use a kayak with both systems and figure out which one I like the best.