paddling with and w/o rudder, speed

So how you think a rudder effects a kayaks speed when going in a striaght line? I get the feeling that my SmartTrack rudder slows me down.

instant drag, just add rudder (or skeg)

around 10 percent drag when deployed and held straight. way more when articulated.


i dunno about smart track but

– Last Updated: Aug-01-06 9:46 PM EST –

don't almost all race boats have some kind of rudder?

10% - huge!?
Is there hard data to support that 10% figure - it seems like a huge number when the geometry/size/entry of the rudder/skeg is compared to the rest of the boat.

racing hulls are more efficient for high speeds than touring hulls,if racing rudders added drag it would be more noticable there than in touring boats,I bet a racing rudder has less drag than an open skeg box and squared off skeg.

I get
very little drag with my rudder down. It’s noticable, but barely. It’s a fairly fast boat with a fairly nice rudder shape though (Solstice GTS). However, I’ve paddled some other’s where you felt a significant difference immediately when dropping the rudder. I’m thinking it really depends on the boat - the shape of the boat just before the rudder - and the rudder shape and size.

Surfski slides along pretty easy
rudder and all, but kicking the rudder over does put the brakes on.

Yes and no
It will slow you down if there was nothing to influence the yak such as wind, currents, and a slight imbalance.

But for flat out going fast, it will more than make up the difference of leans and correction strokes.

that is why the racers use a rudder.



Matt Broze, from Mariner, quoted this figure years ago, I believe.

Skeg figures on the Tempest are quite a bit lower. I did some rough GPS testing.


Solstice GTS tracks like a train and can build up tremendous forward inertia. I’ve paddled it, and my first sea kayak was a Squall. Maybe the rudder has slightly less effect on a boat like that than one that is less adament about going forward straight?

That said, I did feel drag from the rudder on my Squall the almost-never times I ended up deploying it.

Correction strokes
Read the post and …well, had I had the choice last sunday with 20+mph following winds comming across the stern at a 30 degree angle, I’d have opted for a rudder on the tern in a heartbeat.

efficency vs speed
The fastest kayaks for going in straight line are olympic sprint boats, which all are designed with understern ruders (a rudder under the stern, the place where skegs usually live). In this case the rudder is used to correct for variations in stroke and boat movement to keep boat going straight and thus allow all effort to be used into forward propulsion of boat. Obvouisly this is all out sprint and pace cannot be held longer than the race.

The pro rudder camps argument is that by allowing one to focus all energy on forward propulsion and none on steering you end up using less energy for same speed. These are compulsive people who spend great amount of time tweaking stroke so that rudder is not used to make up for poor technique.

The anti-rudder arguement is that rudder adds drag and it is more efficent to use boat shape and edge/lean to influence direction without added drag and liability of rudder.

I tend to paddle more with rudder dependent craft for speed and tend to side with ruddered argument so my description of non rudered philosophy is probably weak. I think overall gain on fucusing on technique and allowing the rudder to componsate for inherent pitch and yaw allows for greater speed.

There was an article discussing this in Sea Kayaker that had opinions from Greg Barton (olympic sprinter) and Nigel Foster (sea kayaker). There is also some info about Barton’s feelings on the epic website.

For going slow it may be more efficient to not use a rudder and drift along making minor corrections with edge etc… but for going fast the ruddered kayaks will almost always beat non-ruddered kayaks in races.


I go for days on end without using …
my rudder, but with those conditions, my rudder suddenly becomes my friend.



What JackL Said
In a crosswind the rudder will INCREASE your speed. No wasted energy on correcting strokes.

rudder vs skeg

added weight, complexity and cost. prone to failure, needs judicious care to maintain good working order. dangerous to handle, liable to give you cuts and bruises or worse. dangerous in surf, big seas, especially doing rescues. makes handling boat on land difficult. hate them.

add to kayak efficiency and speed? most definitely. i never want a boat with one again, but they have their place.

most desireable is nothing, but skeg is lesser of two evils…

keep and open mind
would have to humbly disagree with your post.

Not all enjoy rudders but to say that they are difficult to handle on land, dangerous in big seas, and are prone to failure and require judicious care are all plain wrong. Yes they can fail but is uncomon I paddle 4 days a week and have had to do no maintanence to any of my rudders. In my opinion the best big sea boats are surfskis and you will be hard pressed to find anyone who can paddle one proficiently to disagree and they all have rudders.

typo from title taken from your prfofile


Have Looked
several times for a differance as measured with the gps and have not seen any differance let alone a 10% differance. My interest in measuring has been in calm conditions, straight line paddling, with minimal current or wind influences. I am sure more scientific measurements could be made under lab conditions but I would be blown away at a 10% differance from what I have seen.

In terms of rudders influence on boat speed when in wind/current conditions I agree it actually improves overall speed for the reasons stated by the other posters.

Happy Paddling,


Rudders often become an…
excuse for technique. If you like them get one, if you do not like them, don’t, but please, learn to paddle.

Augustus Dogmaticus


Yes, guess I should learn how one of these days.

Happy Paddling,


A rudder is a bit like…
Having a rudder on a kayak is a bit like having power steering on your car. Certainly no one really needs power steering on their car any more than people need a rudder on their kayak. Power steering does make a car easier to turn just like a rudder makes a kayak easier to turn. Of course at the expensive of making things more complicated, more drag, something more to break, adds cost, etc. Maybe people should just learn how to drive and appreciate the feel for the road that not having power steering will give them. I am sure a few people who posted will never admit to having power steering on their car either.

I find it very entertaining that this subject gets people fired up. I guess I have never went out kayaking with the idea of impressing someone with my ability to turn my kayak without a rudder. Let’s not forget the whole point of kayaking is to have a good time and to enjoy life.