Looksha 17 Questions

I bought a composite Looksha 17 on clearance about a year ago. It was a bit of an impulse buy. I have only used it in the pool at a rolling class where the stitching on one of the rudder straps gave out. I am now trying to get ready for this spring and trying to decide what to do about the rudder. As background I am planning to primarily use this kayak on the Connecticut river for exercise. I also intend to use it on LI Sound, the Connecticut lakes in NH and other such places for day touring and camping. I am 6’1" and 220 pounds. I am currently learning to roll in my Dagger Katana.

I have searched the forums here for info on the Looksha 17 and think that the boat will be good for my intended uses once I have sorted out the rudder.

I am trying to decide if I should fix the rudder system that came with the boat or replace it with a SmartTrack system. The rudder system that came with it appears to be an Ocean Kayak Universal system with sliding pedals. With the rudder stowed they gave somewhat squishy support when trying to roll, although I am now suspect of their build quality. My intention is to use the rudder to compensate for weathecocking in the wind and not for steering. As a cruising kayak in moderate conditions is the original rudder system good enough? Is the fixed pedal of the SmartTrack worth the effort to retrofit it to this boat and would it make this boat more useable in rougher conditions?


I’ve paddled the plastic version of the Looksha 17 (mostly in the Looksha V name, what it was called before they renamed it to 17), along with having owned Looksha IVs and Sports. The pedals are a bit squishy, but that hasn’t been an issue preventing me from rolling. When you apply pressure to both pedals, they lock pretty well. These boats all do weathercock a lot, so do need the rudders more often than other boats.

I paddle Jackson Journeys a bit, and they have the Smart Track rudder. Thinking about it, I don’t think I have ever used them with rudder down (these are rental boats at a place I work for, so I just assume the rudders are broken, as they usually are). Not sure if they are more likely to break or harder to fix, but the various ruddered Necky boats at this place are more likely to have working rudders than the Jacksons. The Smart Track does lock a bit better than the Looksha’s, but either works just fine.

It seems like some of the foot peg systems are interchangeable, in that they can be attached to the same bolts. I’m not sure about this, but that would be the first thing worth checking. Measure the spacing between the bolts, and see if it matches up with something else.

“With the rudder stowed they gave somewhat squishy support when tying to roll.” This shouldn’t matter much for your roll. After learning to roll well, you can take your feet off of the footpegs, and still roll up just fine. If your mind was placing much of any focus on a little squishiness in the footpegs while rolling, you should make a point to direct that focus elsewhere. When you’re upside down, you will naturally be pressed against the thigh braces. The trick is relaxing the non-engaged knee/thigh from that position while you engage the other. It seems to really bring the boat around if I think about pushing down with the non-engaged knee while lifting up and in with the other. In any case, solid footpegs aren’t necessary for rolling. I would suggest that yes, I fully believe folks apply pressure in this way, but it is not productive stress, and therefore, relaxation of this footpeg pressure will likely help versus hurt when rolling.

The biggest trouble with the sliding footpegs is that it makes it more difficult to engage your legs where it’s useful, especially the forward stroke. I think it will be well worth it to get something with a fixed footpeg beneath the moveable rudder control.

I put so much emphasis on boat control that I learned to paddle everything without rudder/skeg. I’m still quite stubborn about it - I have to make sure I’m handling everything without, before I deploy one or the other. Most often I feel good about continuing on paddling without deploying. But a rudder sure does allow you to pour onto your forward stroke versus all the little tweaks you hardly even realize you’re doing without it. It’s pretty hard to argue against the utility of it. I hope you’ll enjoy your Looksha 17.

The Smarttrack is on a shorter track and would require drilling two new holes and filling two old ones (probably with a nut bolt and rubbe washer), Not a big deal but I want to give it some thought to the best option before I do this.

I would stay with your existing rudder system, especially if you are a high mileage paddler in salt water.
If you want a solid foot peg system, then they are the way to go, but I hate them.
Between my wife and I we have had 5 QCC’s with the Smart Track system, so I am intimate with repairing them, and I have to keep a big box of their parts on hand.
In each side there are thirteen parts and it is one big pain to work on them.
I finally two years ago changed my personal QCC-700 out to a conventional el cheapo rudder system and have been a happy paddler ever since.

Good luck on whatever you decide!

@LAP said:
The Smarttrack is on a shorter track and would require drilling two new holes and filling two old ones (probably with a nut bolt and rubbe washer), Not a big deal but I want to give it some thought to the best option before I do this.

I did this exact thing for my wife’s Looksha IV. She treats her kayak gently so the Smarttrack has given no problems. My own kayaks have no rudders - my SKUK Explorer has a skeg which is rarely used, my Mariner Express has neither rudder nor skeg and does not need them.

The Looksha was one of the workhorses of ocean paddling for a lot of years in Maine before the Brit boats came on. It’s a good all around boat.

It does weathercock more than some other designs. The Dolphin nose boats in that older line all tend to do so, though it is not highly rockered like the first year Elaho I have in the basement. So you probably will want to deploy that rudder for tracking purposes in wind at times when you are out in bigger water.

I am not familiar with the pedal/rudder system you have on the boat now. After horrendously sore legs from managing an older rudder system on a rental boat for a day on an ocean bay, I had them put in a Smart Trak system on my ruddered Squall before it ever left the dealer’s lot. And when I started to learn to learn to roll, I doubt I could have ever learned without having the option of a fixed pedal position.

There may be some alternatives to the Smart Trak system that install more easily on your boat and still provide a fixed pedal option. But one way or the other, I would not be in bigger water without that.