Is skeg helpful while surfing?

Just curious. I know you wouldn’t want to keep it down and risk breaking something while landing but surfboards have that fin in the bag which I guess is a skeg so that got me wondering.

It depends on the boat and the conditions, but for a typical sea kayak surfing a beach break, I would say generally no. You need maneuverability in surf and the skeg inhibits it. It may also make the boat more likely to broach when being pushed by a wave. I have used a skeg when surfing small swell (~2’ or less) on open water and it’s helpful at times.

Surf kayaks have them. But they really look like surf boards with a seat. They are generally shorter than sea kayaks. Skegs are also short.

A skeg on a sea kayak can sometimes make it a little easier to catch a wave to get a ride. But near the beach you want it up anyway, and catching the bigger ones is going to be more about balance and paddle skills than anything else. In my experience, a regular sea kayak is most easily handled in surf with the skeg up. That way you do’t have to do anything with it while you are handling the rest of it.

I can only assume they can help catching and surfing downwind waves, but as stated above, shore break and long boats tends to mean breaching. I guess it ultimately depends on the wave shape and depth. I used to have a wave ski, and it did have a slot for a surfboard skew-but it was essentially surfboard length. I never had it in waves were the skeg would have really helped. My wife’s sup has a skeg, but she does not surf it.

I don’t use skegs when surfing.

The skegs job is to help the boat go straight, When surfing you will have forces going all over the place, including sideways forces at different places fore-aft on the boat, and this varies based on wave shape and where you are on the wave. Most people that have surfed kayaks know that the boat is trying to turn sideways pretty much all the time. If the push sideways force is where the skeg is placed, the skeg will actually make the sideways turning effect worse.

The paddler offsets this through turning and rudder strokes. And if you are trying to turn a kayak to get it back on the line you want, having the skeg deployed will slow down this process.

BTW - You can turn a boat much faster with a paddle and appropriate strokes than with a rudder, which is why you would also not use a rudder in surf.

Surf kayaks, wave skis, and surf boards are different beasts. I think they have the fins because they have hard rails, and are cutting those rails into the wave to surf sideways across the wave. Regular kayaks do not have these hard rails (though some boats like the P&H Hammer get pretty close).

On my 16 foot Valley Avocet I always use my skeg down. But if approaching land I pull it up.

Sweet video. Looks like you were having a blast! Or perhaps I should say a “swell” time. Get it…haha. Anyway, I’m curious if you purchased or made the thingies (not sure what the official term is) that you thread your forward deck bungie through to lift it off the deck. I just tried making some from minicell and they work OK, but would rather have something nicer looking. I have a pretty curvy foredeck (the boat is general is quite rockered) and my paddle doesn’t lay cleanly on the deck. The best I can do is have it cross the midline about halfway between the cockpit and the most forward part of the boat so that it sort of sits in the trench. In that position however, it projects almost a foot and a half over the side, up by the bow. I took a miter saw to one of my old GP paddles to see how much I can shorten the blades by and still roll and paddle OK (kind of drastic perhaps but a carpenter bee had already eaten a big divet out of one of the tips). I suppose I can go the storm paddle route for my spare but I don’t like paddling with them. I’m hoping I can just make or purchase a GP paddle with shorter and perhaps slightly wider blades than usual for use as a back up (literally) paddle. I think that Bill Bremmer of “Lumpy Paddles” makes, or use to make, a “surf paddle” which is sort of along those lines.

@dc9mm said:
On my 16 foot Valley Avocet I always use my skeg down. But if approaching land I pull it up.

@Monkeyhead said:
Anyway, I’m curious if you purchased or made the thingies (not sure what the official term is) that you thread your forward deck bungie through to lift it off the deck.

I use these, called “deck balls”:

I don’t know if they are available in the US.


If what Allan posted is what you’re thinking of, Current Designs sells them:

Yep, that’s what I’m talking about. Thanks.

I made mine out of corks. I covered them in epoxy glue so they would stay in one piece. Thats a storm paddle on my deck. I have it in case my main paddle gets ripped out of my hand. I would then roll up and retrieve my main paddle. No way I would want to lose my 600 dollar paddle. Keeping a full size Greenland on my deck just wouldn’t work well with that 16 foot boat. My longer boat holds a full size much better.

You can get bags of 3/4" wood beads and any craft store for a few bucks. You’ll need to enlarge the holes to fit your deck lines (make them snug), but once you thread them on, they last for years. I don’t even bother to apply any kind of a finish to them. Large (1") beads are also available, but I find them to be useful only for paddle lines; they’re too big for use on perimeter lines.

I don’t use my rudders/skegs while surfing. But if a person banks on it for general stability and/or directional stability, I can see where it could prove useful in the same way it would in open water runs.

On a surfboard or wave ski, you have a much different planing surface. I think the idea is that those fins allow you to steer and run at an angle, rather than your board skidding straight down the face regardless of which direction your craft is pointed. The displacement hulls of sea kayaks do behave differently. They are much more resistant to moving anything but straight forward or straight back. Of course all the buoyant volume means the broken water acts very strongly upon a sea kayak hull. That’s where sea kayak side surfs come in. I can imagine where the bow of the kayak might slip downwave more quickly than the stern out of a sidesurf? It could be interesting to play with. But it’s much more likely that folks would deploy their skeg simply for general and/or directional stability.

I keep the skeg up when surfing unless I am only surfing in deep water away from shore. Near the shallows, the kayak almost always ends up getting bashed about and tumbled around which is more abuse than I want to give my skeg. Also, the skeg tends to get jammed up with stones if it gets pushed/smashed closed in areas with lots of small stones.