Kayak Aerodymanics

This weekend we went paddling at a local resovoir. We decided to explore the shoreline opposite the launch site, crossing approx. 1/3 mile of exposed water, with wind out of the northwest at 10-15mph. There was light chop and we crossed with no problem. On the way back across, we were slightly upwind of the launch site. The wind was hitting us broadside and we figured we would get pushed slightly downwind and have an easy trip or at worst, have to keep aiming the kayak upwind while we paddled. The oppsite happened. We kept getting pushed INTO the wind, and we struggled as hard as if we were going right into the wind.

We clearly made some erroneous assumptions, but we're both at a loss. What was going on?

That’s called weathercocking …
… and it’s fairly common.

Most (but not all) kayaks will tend to “head up” into a strong wind, like a weathervane atop Grandpa’s barn roof.

Some boats will actually leecock, or turn downwind, in the same circumstances.

You don’t say what kind of boats you have, but a rudder or skeg would help with such problems

Read here to learn about both: http://www.paddling.net/message/showThread.html?fid=advice&tid=914146

Good Luck!



weathercocking is actually a good thing
if not to excess. A skeg or (heaven forbid! a rudder ;^)> ) will tune that right out.

Sounds like good paddling experience

– Last Updated: Aug-04-08 1:20 PM EST –

and those times will teach you more than reading about it before hand. Now you will understand what you are reading and you can relate.

...but I thought this was going to be about flying kayaks.

Paddlin' on

Or if you have neither
skeg nor rudder, edging the boat slightly to the windward side will counter the tendency also.

And trim
In addition to skeg/rudder and shifting your seat to the side so you are in a constant edge for a turn in the desired direction (I do that a lot because it’s easier than lotso sweep strokes), you may also be able to improve things by how you load the boat. Altering trim won’t stop weathercocking, but judicious use of weight may make it easier to contain. You don’t mention what boat you have, and this can be somewhat boat-specific. In my Vela I always drop the dry bag of spare clothing and spare skirt in the stern, and in the Explorer LV the same dry bag usually goes in the bow, because the Vela has a pretty “tight” bow and the LV a very “loose” one.

You can play around with your boat and find out what works best.

Loon 138

Our boats are Loon 138’s. We only take short paddles right now, 1-2 hours, so we don’t carry much, but we’re pretty hefty paddlers if that makes a difference.

Wind area
Don’t forget that depending on the boat, the part with the most wind area might be YOU!


A thought…
for what it’s worth.

Weathercocking can also be fought off by moving your hands on the paddle shaft.

If your boat is trying to turn right, move both hands to the left, giving you a longer sweep on the right side of your boat.

Long paddle windward, short paddle leeward.

I hope this makes sense…


the cure
on the Loon 138 for weather cocking, assuming you don’t have the rudder, is to make corrective strokes to make the boat steer to leewaard—most use a forward sweep and a ruddering brace–if you don’t know what those are you should take a beginners kayak course—some people can just go out and paddle with no instruction at all—unfortunatly most of us can’t–taking the basic course is a smart thing to do–

Heaven forbid a rudder?
PLEASE explain?

rudders are for wimps
skegs are for your average paddler and real men don’t use either

Even in a Pintail…
We know someone who paddles one as their main boat, and is sincerely bemused that some Pintails have skegs…

But I’d wimp out and go for one with a skeg myself.

next time
shift more weight to the back if you want to correct for weathercocking.

Isn’t it the opposite?
I somehow find it easier to move my hands closer to the water/blade on the up-wind side. This gives a shorter lever for a more powerful stroke on that side to counreact the weathercocking. The farther away from the blade a hand is, the less powerful the stroke, isn’t it?

I generally use my skeg
going downwind in choppy water—don’t have to work so hard at steering–my buddy who paddles a kitbuilt shearwater disdains such devices.