New Kayak - Should I get a rudder?

I have a Prijon Touryak ordered. I don’t know that I really need a rudder for the small lake near my house I think it will track fine since it is 16.5’. I don’t see me putting it in rough water and the lake is small so shore is always available to hug. Not sure weathercocking will be much of an issue.

However, if down the road I do paddle some larger lakes further from shore the rudder might come in handy. So perhaps I should order it and have it installed when I pick the boat up. It is like $240. From what I have read the Prijon rudders do work nice and have a gas pedal setup.

I have a few weeks to decide but I thought I would ask for thoughts here.

I would not buy the rudder. You’re unlikely to need it for the use you describe, and it does add extra weight. Except, perhaps, in windy conditions with a very light load, tracking should be fine, and good paddling technique will enhance turning. Pocket the $240. You can always add the rudder later.


My wife has a rudder on her Prijon and I have one on my Sea Lion. We don’t use them probably 4 times in 5. But on “that 5th trip” when the wind comes up fast and we are far from the launch point they sure have been welcome.
I have her rudder connected with clasps to the control cable eyelets so it’s very easy to remove it. unclip to clasps and pull out the cotter pin and I just lift it out. Because I changed her foot controllers to gas-peddle type, we need not worry about the slack in the cables. I link them together with a cord to keep them from flopping around when she wants the rudder off.

So for me, if I was buying new, I’d get a rudder and maybe do the rigging to make it fast and easy to remove.
Rudders do act as a small “sail” when folded on top of the deck and can cause weather cocking a bit more then no rudder at all. But easy corrective stokes handle it well enough. Not as easy as if you didn’t have one at all, but not bad.

As soon as you start to feel the effects of wind effecting your kayak a bit more then you’d like to adjust for, simply drop it in the water. If the wind really starts to get stiff we then start to use it to keep the hull straight and also to help with some turns. The down side to a blade hanging down is that for tight turns it drags sideways. At such time we retract it, even in heavy winds. You need to learn when and how to use it. It’s helpful until it’s not. Only use and experience will show you when to use it and when to retract it.

But if I was starting with a new kayak I for one would order a rudder. Order the gas-peddle foot controllers too. More money, but well worth the extra in how well they works.

Please note:
I am not an expert. I have gone through a lot of kayaks in the last 2 years from buying them and passing them on to other people to help start a kayaking group in the middle of Wyoming (not a place usually thought of as A kayaking area) But in the last 2 years or so, I and Anna have bought 29 kayaks and kept 6 of them. Several have had rudders. I have paddled most of them. and so my opinion is only worth as much as someone with 2 years of experience, but in those 2 years I have tried out about 25 of those 29 kayaks and of that 25, about 7 had rudders 3 had skegs and the rest has nothing. Of the ones I bought to re-sell I measure my seat time in hours not months or years.
My opinion is of no more value than anyone else’s, but that how it is------ as of now.

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I would rather have a rudder and not need it than need it and not have it.

Paddling any distance in a crosswind relying solely on corrective strokes or edging is slower, more tiring, and inefficient. And why limit yourself to small protected lakes when the kayak is capable of more than that as you become more proficient?


If you don’t have it you can’t use it. If you do have it you don’t have to use it. You may leave you lake setting at times.


$240 sounds like about what just the components for a decent rudder system would cost. So, you’re sort of getting it installed for free. If you decide to add a rudder later, you might pay more to have it installed (unless you would plan to install it yourself).


If you paddle in tidal water, a rudder can be very useful just like in a cross wind. I had a sea kayak with one but for me it just got in the way primarily because I mostly paddle flat water.
I have a surf ski now and the rudder adds stability and control.
The rudder on the sea kayak folded onto the deck making it a wind catcher. The rudder on the ski is straight behind the boat when not in the water.

I’ve often heard the complaint that a stowed rudder on the deck is a wind catcher, but how much wind will a 3 x 15" or smaller rudder actually catch compared to the boat, the paddler, and their paddle? A number of paddlers always deploy the rudder all the time and if the wind is that strong many more will have it deployed as well.


If it were me, I would include the rudder. I have kayaks with rudders, and I almost never use them. But that’s a decision I get to make. I know that they do make a nice positive difference when deployed.
I don’t remove my rudders from the kayak when I’m not using them.

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I think the question you need to answer is: do you want to be able to go fast in a straight line in all conditions. If yes, then get the rudder. If that ability is not worth $240 to you, then you don’t need it. For me, if I am 2 miles upwind of my takeout spot and there is an abrupt unexpected weather change so I really want to get off the water, then I want a rudder. If my brother says he can beat me to that point over there, I want a rudder. If I am out for a leisurely paddle along the shoreline, the rudder is of no use, but also very little trouble. The only time I really wished I had no rudder was when I took my Seayak down a creek and caught the rudder on a sweeper.

If it was me I’d get the rudder. Kayaking on windy days is way more pleasant if you have a rudder (or a skeg).


If you get the rudder you can always remove it. I have a kayak with one that has been used with and without rudder.

Wind catcher?..Besides the paddler and paddle it is with many boats the bow that catches the wind. Usually bow sections are higher than stern, ie rudder location, because of paddler feet and wave action requirements.

Get the rudder.


Can you get a Smart Trac rudder? IMO, a better one than the kind on most kayaks.

I prefer the Sea-Lect rudder system. My wife had a Smart Track rudder on her QCC600. She went through three cable sets in eight years due to the way the cables are routed at the pedals. Too many bends and too much tension. Switched to Sea-Lect pedals and still going strong after seven more years. Did not change the rudder itself.

I e-mailed Smart Trac and Sea-Lect to find out if their rudders would mount up nicely on the Touryak. Thank you.

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Most kayaks take a rudder or a skeg; if your yak doesn’t have a skeg, your only option is likely a rudder.

You do not need a rudder to turn; it’s better to learn to edge and use your paddle.

There is one drawback to having neither a skeg nor a rudder and that is if you have to paddle with wind, especially with it off your rear quarter. The wind can swing your boat around. If you never plan to paddle in wind, don’t waste your money. If you do, if you can’t fit your boat with a skeg, the only option is a rudder.

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It is the stern that catches the wind, and causes weather-cocking.
Hence the need for a skeg or rudder to hold the stern “in place”.

Here are a couple articles which explain the effect of wind on the bow and stern.

If moving forward, the bow tends to be locked into the water while the stern in in a low pressure zone so the stern is more affected by the wind.

If using a rudder (or skeg is fully deployed), beware as you may induce lee cocking. On many kayaks the rudder is controlled by foot adjustments so lee cocking may not be recognized since you will compensate for it while paddling. If using a fully deployed skeg and lee cocking occurs, simply reduce/adjust the amount of skeg deployed until you paddle straight with neither weather cocking nor lee cocking.

After all this technical talk of weathercocking/lee cocking, the only kayaks I have had which had a rudder were specifically for fishing so to control the boat only while drift fishing. The rudder was not used during active paddling.

With many questions, it depends. I generally prefer to paddle without a rudder. They are a week point, a failure point, and often a crutch. That said, depending on where you are paddling and conditions, they can be very helpful. I have a few boats. I have rudders on some, nothing on most, and a retractable skeg one one. It’s not that there is one solution, but different solutions for different conditions. Most of the time, I would probably go with a naked boat. If I am trying for maximum efficiency, I might use a rudder so I don’t have to adjust with strokes. If I am going to deal with waves and wind, I would consider a rudder or skeg. In all fairness, I have never “needed” a rudder or skeg - but one time I really wanted one (paddling in rough water with a rear quartering wind). Every other stroke was a sweep.

I’ve been paddling 40+ years all over the world . It’s simple, if you paddle the ocean or large lakes you WILL eventually need a rudder or a skeg. People who say otherwise are just fooling themselves and lack experience.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages and I have boats with both. But in rough water with great distances to cover I’ll take a good rudder over a skeg any day. For shorter paddling and surfing I like the skeg.