Is a rudder worth the cash?

I have a big ole’ OK Big Game and I’m wondering what benefits I would get out of adding a rudder to it.

A rudder is pricey. What are folks thoughts on rudder use in general?

I wouldn’t own a kayak without one
unless it was a rec. kayak.

I can paddle all day long without mine and go for weeks on end without using it, but let a 20MPH quartering wind come up or get caught in “washing machine” like conditions, and as far as I am concerned it is a nice safety device to have.

others will differ, but to each his own!

Jack L

do they hold up to river running? I do some low water paddling and it might drag…it appears they are made to push up out of the way though.

you don’t need it…unless
Unless you are sailing, or fishing, or using a canoe paddle because of higher winds. Even then you can do without it. But if you do any of those three things and you get a rudder, then you’ll never want to be without one again.

Both posters are right.
If you are on big water with a crosswind or in tricky currents , a rudder is great but I am working on my 4th kayak and it will not have one.My first bioat had one and I never used it.


– Last Updated: May-21-10 4:53 PM EST –

The only times I would have wanted a rudder were when I was in strong quartering winds, and even then, I would have been content with a retractable skeg.

I think if you anticipate making long crossings on open bodies of water a skeg or rudder is worthwhile. Apart from making directional control easier, either will limit the amount of leeway you make in a beam or quartering wind.

Also depends on the boat
My first boat had one but didn’t need it. It tracked like a freight train. Had another boat that was very maneuverable and really needed one for ease of paddling.

My wife loves them, they do make paddling easier.

funny truths
about rudders and skegs (and the fierce followers of each) can be seen on this

funny truths
about rudders and skegs (and the fierce followers of each) can be seen on this

I prefer to have it
but I am not forced to use it. Its kinda like my PFD. There if I need it but my hope is that I don’t. I just bought a CD Kestrel 120TCS for my daughters 12th birthday that has neither. My thought was it would help her become a better paddler. Her current boat doesn’t have either and she does well. My wife and 16yo daughter have always had rudders and are too dependent upon them. To sum it up I would get one or the other but be cautious of becoming dependent upon it. If it breaks while on the water you are going to need to be able to work without it.

"thoughts on rudder use in general"
There are 10 kayaks in our home fleet - 6 sea kayaks and 4 ww kayaks. None of them have rudders. None of them are designed to use/need a rudder.

Some boats are designed to have rudders. For these boats a rudder is wise.

If you have been in conditions in which a rudder would have been useful and your kayak is designed to accommodate one, then it is probably a good investment.

We’ve owned one kayak with a rudder. We sold it.

Have 'em seldom use 'em
Wish there was one on the WS Pamlico 135T that we have. It is a beast to turn from the back with a non-paddler upfront. Different strokes as they say…

I very seldom use it in a river, and
I would never use one in white water.

Jack L

rudders rule
Overall I say rudders are worth every penny. I’ve owned 5 kayaks and still have 4. The only one without a rudder is the whitewater one. Been paddling 50+ yrs…and sure I can paddle my touring yaks without using their rudders but never want to. My pals without rudders don’t get to relax like I do.

Caffyn On Rudders
Comments On Rudders and Skegs

By Paul Caffyn

During my very first sea kayak expedition around Fiordland in 1977/78, Max Reynolds and I used small retractable skegs that were attached to a ’shoe’ or fibreglass sleeve that slid over a Nordkapp stern. Only the size of a cigarette packet, the skeg was rotated into position in deep water by the other paddler. It evolved during the South Island trip into a deep shark fin shaped skeg, mounted on a ’sleeve’ that sat loosely on the stern for launching and was pulled into position with a cord from the cockpit. Shock cord, from the stern to the skeg, allowed the skeg to ‘retract’ out of the way for landing. For following, or quartering seas from the stern, the skeg improved the kayak’s tracking in a straight line. For the start of the Australian trip I used an HM Nordkapp, with the extended keel stern, but after a gripping experience of being unable to turn up-wind on a flat sea in gale force winds, I cut the extended bit off and reverted to using my shark fin skeg.

Prior to the trip I was intrigued by the deep draught, over the stern fibreglass rudders that the Tasmanian paddlers considered not as optional extras but as integral parts of their boats. Photographs of the seas they paddled and accounts of long distances achieved with rudders in diabolical conditions, led me to thinking about trying a rudder. When I broke the skeg blade off south of Brisbane, a friend helped me build a sturdy Tasmanian style rudder out of aluminum. Still with a mind set about kayaks and rudders, we mounted the rudder on a fibreglass ’shoe’ or sleeve, that slid over the Nordkapp stern, and was held in place by the deck lines. Well, the mind set disappeared with the first long surfing run north of Brisbane, and the rudder stayed in place for the rest of the trip. It saved my life on several occasions, the most crucial being the overnighter along the Baxter Cliffs when I was caught by a savage cold front. When I limped into a beach at the end of that 106 mile drama, my knees and heels were rubbed bare of skin down to the exposed blood vessels, such was the battle to steer clear of being smashed into the vertical cliffs.

The statistics speak for themselves in showing the benefit gained from the addition of a rudder: Melbourne to Sydney:

HM stern – 30.6 miles per day Sydney to Brisbane

Skeg – 34.3 miles per day Brisbane to Cape York

Rudder – 39.2 miles per day

Contrary to the notion of a rudder being: ‘not for steering, but to trim. Sea kayaks are steered with the paddle, like all kayaks and canoes.’ I use my rudder for steering – the paddle solely for forward propulsion. When a paddle is used for corrective steering strokes, either sweep or paddling on one side, forward propulsion suffers and the normal paddling cycle is upset.

I must qualify this and state the design, structure and mounting determine the difference between inefficient and efficient rudders. My rudder blades project 12″ below the keel line. I have never broken a rudder – bent the blade once off North Queensland in a big surf, but straightened it out over my knee on shore and it was good for another 6,000 miles.

Situations where I have found a rudder to be invaluable include:

manoeuvring in congested sea ice or iceberg choked seas

ferry gliding across channels with fast tidal streams

coping with boils and eddies in overfalls

steering when the wind is too strong to paddle

fast manoeuvring in congested shipping lanes

hugging a reef fringed coast when paddling into a strong tidal stream flow

surfing in front of following seas

Another advantage of a sturdy deep draught, over the stern rudder is a surprising increase in overall boat stability.

The most magic sound I hear at sea is a humming vibration generated during fast surfing runs at 15 knots+, either when surfing boat wakes or in front of following seas. Sheer magic!

© Paul Caffyn, 2000

have two kayaks one canoe
and all have rudders.Once I started using them, I loved them. Once I got into racing, they were necessary. I am with Jackl on this one, I wouldn’t be without it. Of course, I do think you will find among the people who race, a high percentage of them will have rudders. Just a lot nicer when you or conditions go to hell and you are forced to deal with it.

I would bet that if you were to put a person in a ruddered boat and turn them loose they would ALWAYS turn in a better 100 mile time than a non-ruddered boat. I guess when I bought my kayaks, the rudder option was a couple hundred or so. The canoe it wasn’t an option, it was standard. For me, it was worth it. Some hate them, some love them, not many are in between.

No. Unless your kayak wasn’t.