Kayak rudder question....

On your non whitewater kayaks, how much do you depend on your rudder? If you had to give up your rudder would you even own a kayak or would you be considering a canoe or sit on top kayak? I presently own a 14’ canoe and have considered acquiring a non whitewater kayak as an additional option for my paddling pleasure. I’ve been told real men don’t use rudders, but to each their own I guess. What do you think?

search the archives. there is T O N S of info on this very subject.

you know that a good stroke quiver contains MANY rudders.



not necessary
have 3 kayaks, one with a rudder. The only time I wish I had the one with the rudder is in ‘tailwind’ conditions. Other than that don’t use it much at all. I find it takes away a bit from the foot pegs if you like to push hard on those.

If the boat you want has them, great. But I wouldn’t turn down a boat cause it didn’t.

As Flatpick says, there has been much discussion on this over the years so check the archives.


It’s almost entirely a matter of…
…personal preferences. However, I don’t mind mentioning a thing or two about my own preferences…

The very first kayak I ever sat in had a rudder (Necky Looksha Sport). Being, at the time, totally clueless with regards to everything having to do with kayaks and my relation to them, I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to just press a foot and turn. :slight_smile: I paddled that boat three times. The next boat I tried also had a rudder (Necky Looksha IV). This boat, though definitely seeming to need its rudder at times, made me also begin to appreciate the idea of rudderless kayak operation. Though I continued to experiment with both rudder equipped and non-rudder equipped boats, I very quickly found myself moving in the direction of rudderless boats.

Three months–and many tested boats–later, I purchased my first brand new boat; a rudderless, skegless Current Designs Caribou. Ten years later, I still love to paddle the Caribou. I’ve since built a S&G rudderless boat (Arctic Hawk), and love this boat as well. My next boat(s) will be rudderless SOFs.

I’m an unrepentant rudderless/skegless paddler, and couldn’t be happier in terms of boat handling, practical issues having to do with extraneous mechanical devices, and personal sensibilities with regards to aesthetics. :slight_smile:

You may end up feeling very differntly than I do, for all sorts of perfectly valid reasons (better paddlers than I have found reasons to like the silly things), and even if that’s the case for you, I’ll do my best to resist too much mention of how I feel about those ugly contraptions! :wink:


There must be a gang of us that
aren’t “real men” including all the world class racers.

Not sure who your friends are that told you that BS, but you are listening to the wrong side of the coin.



A rudder can remain stowed until you really need it.

Stowed rudders…
While there are some rudder systems that keep a stowed rudder at least partially out of the way, most systems still seem to leave a large “weathervane” sticking up somewhere, somehow. What does a “fixed weathervane” do? Hmmm…could such a thing even contribute to weathercocking? Thereby making its deployment necessary? :slight_smile:


depends on the boat
I have a Valhalla surfski. It is designed to go fast but has no directional stability. It requires a rudder to paddle it. I simply could not steer the boat without it. It is fun to steer with my feet. It allows me to focus my paddling efforts on forward speed. I wish I could still paddle that boat but I have gained too much weight. I keep it around so my daughter can use it.

I also have a 16 foot sea kayak (Mariner Express) that is designed to be paddled without a rudder. A rudder on this boat would be useless added weight. I can control this boat in wind, waves, surf, and current by using paddle and body english. The boat can be turned with very little effort. I can maintain a heading in all but the most severe paddling conditions. The addition of a rudder on this particular boat would be like carrying a crutch even though I have two good legs. It is way too easy and so much fun learning boat control with just a paddle. To be honest there is a built in fixed fin type thing in the stern of the boat that acts very much like a fixed rudder. It keeps the boat going straight when level and allows for turns when leaned. Without that fin, I might have a very different opinion of that boats handling characteristics.

I guess if I were having trouble maintaining control over my boat than a rudder would be blessing.

Ugly contraptions? That hurts.

– Last Updated: Jun-24-07 9:55 PM EST –

Coincidentally, I had someone compliment me on my beautiful rudder today. He said: "Don't you steer those things (kayaks) with your feet?" I showed him how the beautiful rudder deployed and he just thought that was the coolest thing ever.

I usually don't use my beautiful rudder as I like to have it displayed above water for all to see, but if I'm paddling for long distances with a beam-wind or following sea, I will sometimes drop it (but ONLY if the water is very clean.) I also find myself wanting to use it more with my new-found love...my beautiful wing paddle (and don't you DARE call that ugly.)

use 15-20% of the time
My kayaking instructor definitely pushed us to learn how to paddle without a rudder, so for a few years after that I was hard nosed and never used a rudder.

Then last summer, I was paddling with a friend with a fierce side wind (and me in a Looksha IV, which an earlier poster said was one that really needs a ruder). The weather cocking was so bad that I was only paddling on the upwind side, which meant I was not putting as much effort in to moving forward as I could have, so was falling way behind my friend. I dropped the rudder and was easily able to stay with him.

So, I am not longer a rabid anti-rudder person and do use my rudder at times, but only a small percentage of the time.

Beauty is in the eye. Perhaps an…
…optometrist can help you with that problem? :wink:


If you’re the type that enjoys driving a stick shift sports car where you are more involved in the driving skip the rudder.

If you love cruise control, eating a sandwich and talking on the phone at the same time while driving then get a rudder.

Size Matters…
the little contribution it would make is just that Little. My body sitting upright in the boat is a much Larger issue…If the wind is so high the rudder is a problem stored on deck, then the weather is unfit for paddling. Wind comes up AFTER I leave the dock?..then I’d deploy the rudder.

Rudder, just in case
I use my rudder only when things get really hairy. Strong winds, big following seas, etc. It’s nice to have as a back-up.

I rarely use it though, since it is best not to depend on it, just in case it breaks or otherwise fails.

My best paddling friend has covered almost all of the West Coast of both North and South America. From Tierra del Fuego to ANWR. I’ll be sure to call him and tell him he’s not a real man.

Nice to have one
And not need it, than to not have one and need it.

Rely on your skill
I don’t like rudders but then again I’m just a paddler who will never have the excuse that I got in trouble because my rudder…

Paddle safely and don’t depend on something or someone who may let you down at the wrong time.

Richard Grove

You don’t need one but get one
Any boat can be paddled without a rudder with some practice. It really isn’t hard and once you learn you make corrections without knowing your doing it. It is like riding a bike. You don’t even realize the small corrections you are making with the front wheel to keep the bike upright.

But, there are times when a rudder is nice. Like when you are gliding into a cove with your camera in hand to get a close-up picture of a bird. Or when you crossing a large body of water with crosswind and chop. It is also nice when you are racing in a large group and you are trying to stay away from other paddlers without altering your stroke.

So, I say learn to paddle without a rudder but have a rudder for those times when it is nice to have.