rudder foot controls

I’ve always owned skeg kayaks. One of my friends recently upgraded from a big box store rec boat to a 10yr old Wilderness Systems Cape Lookout 145 w/ rudder, and would like me to help her work on her skills. I did not realize that ruddered boats to not allow the paddler to continuously brace off the foot pegs, and instead the foot pegs slide to steer the rudder. That would drive me nuts… how do you brace or learn to roll without putting pressure on the foot peg??

Confused rant aside, I see that there are newer foot control systems that either pivot like a gas peddle (sea-lect designs), or have a completely separate solid lower section for bracing and upper section to push to steer (SmartTrack). Is it possible to retrofit an older traditional rudder system with these new foot pegs, or does the smaller range of motion of the cable on the new foot pegs not adequately turn the old rudder?

I doubt she wants to drop $200 on a new full rudder system since the boat itself was only $400, but if just $75 new foot braces would do the trick with the old rudder, I could probably convince her its worth it.


If she were near Atlanta, I would hand
her the Sealine pedal system I bought but never installed. I was spooked by reports of an internal part breaking in those earlier versions, and that would be a concern. Obviously I can’t warranty the assembly, but I heard that some didn’t manage to break it.

On rudder range of motion, I think the range would be sufficient for normal steering while underway, but I don’t know whether it would allow super strong turns, as in sweeping in to a landing.

I decided that a 14.5 touring kayak that responds strongly to leans doesn’t even need a skeg, much less a rudder, and so I have removed the rudder, and as a ww paddler, I don’t miss it. (Necky Looksha Sport.)

Had one of them

– Last Updated: Nov-09-14 10:42 AM EST –

Yeah, you could get her into a SmartTrac or similar system with a separate rudder control built into the pedal that stayed otherwise fixed. I had one of them on my first sea kayak. I had the dealership make the change before the boat left the lot, because of two brief experiences with the usual sliding rudder system. I already knew I hated it.

But I also found I virtually never used it, one reason being that with size 6.5 to 7 feet working the rudder control just plain was awkward. And if I tried to hold it for a while in a quartering wind I could get cramps. My conclusion was that they were better designed for a bigger foot size.

The systems like this will occasionally let loose when you put hard pressure on them for a roll, but the fixed part behaves most of the time.

But I wonder if you should just find a way to tie the darned thing to fixed position for the session - if such exists, or borrow a boat that is skeg-designed, then let her decide about the rudder system as well as the boat. She might end up wanting to move on from the whole package as she gets a better idea of the alternate options. I have some concerns about how easy the Cape Lookout will be to start with. It is a boat from another era, when the North American manufacturers were designing boats to keep paddlers upright as much as possible. Those are often not the most forgiving boats to learn to roll in.

I have a Smart trak on a QCC - it works OK, but if I was starting from scratch, I would choose a Sea-lect instead. The ‘toe-pilots’ on the Smart trak are small and a bit fussy, the Sea-lect design looks cleaner to me.

If I ever buy another kayak…
it will absolutely not have a Smart track Rudder.

With that said; if your are a once a week paddler, they are fine.

If you are a five day a week paddler in salt water be forwarned that you will need a big tub of replacement parts

Jack L

shock cord
1/8th " tied onto the pedal system, secured to hull with a Home Depot bathroom wall hook with adhesive patches secures a Current Designs Solstice rudder pedal. I use 2 hooks for a triangle tether into the pedal. Problem here was fore and aft adjustment along a hull mounted ladder the pedal runs on would let go a few feet before a rip.

If the spray skirt doesn’t come off, the pedal would pop loose, or I would need to pee in my shoe…one to go there.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what you describe as foot pressure on the pedal but in the Solstice moderate pressure on one pedal…for bipedal stability…allows more pressure on the operative edge/roll/surf/paddle pedal.

Understanding the system does have pressure limits qualifies your approach.

Rudder pedals
Kajak Sport and Prijon both make “gas pedal” type rudder foot pedals. I think they were making them before seal line made the smart track foot braces.

I’ve seen people install a foam block to rest their heel on which helps a bit.

lock in up position
Some boats have a bracket that the rudder fits into when in the up position. Looksha IVs and the like have it, not sure about the boat in question here. That generally holds well enough to let you brace. If the rudder if the top that flips up on the top deck, perhaps a bracket could be made for this. But requires that the rudder be up.

When down, they could try pushing on both pedals at once. That will jam their knees up into knee braces and butt back into the seat, and may allow them to roll or brace. Keep in ind, this puts a lot of stress on the rudder cables, so if they are weak, they may break.

Change it, get Sealectdesigns Designs
But it’ll cost closer to $120 once you include the spacer that lowers the foot braces as the original mounting doesn’t leave room for the top of the foot braces.

The push/pull rudder controls are an abomination that should have been eliminated decades ago. Current Designs has been ahead of the game

Well, on CD
My boat that I had to have the old rudder controls replaced on was a CD - a Squall. And the Cape Horn is as old of a design. It is the era of these boats - the sea kayak manufacturers then were not thinking about the paddler going out and purposely taking the boat upside down, or using then as fun boats in surf etc.

These rudder systems were apt for the era. It’s just that we are long past that era.

Smart Track …meh
I installed the Smart Track foot braces on my old 18’composite touring boat that hates to turn. The braces worked great for 3 trips,then sand and salt got into the cable groove and leaf spring turning into a useless mass of plastic. I was about to throw it into the garbage when I decided to try connecting the rudder cables directly to the pedal and eliminate the “S” bend through the pedal. I also discarded the leaf spring It works very well now! with no binding and the sand and salt doesn’t seem to bother it at all. The down side to that is the rudder cables have to be readjusted if I move the pedals. I don’t move them anyway.

BTW the Smart Track doesn’t pull very much cable. so the rudder doesn’t move as much as with the slider braces. That can be a good thing since the rudder works more as a brake beyond 45 degrees.

Sea-Lect as replacement for sliders
I recently tradede my extra kayak for a used Necky Looksha IV, a ruddered kayak, a deliberate choice made to have gear packing space otherwise occupied by a skeg box. The Necky design still used sliding foot pegs for the Looksha IV of this vintage. I would expect that Necky has modernized here, but don’t really know. This design compromises foot bracing for typical strokes (e.g. the forward stroke). In particular, the bracing feels (and is) mushy. I think it would confuse my roll, but I haven’t had this boat in the water yet and therefore not tried rolling.

I’ve now replaced the sliding foot peg system with the Sea-Lect Designs product purchased from Seaward. My wife’s Cosma TX has this foot peg setup, hence it was already familiar and had proved sturdy and functional. We much prefer these to sliding foot pegs for rudder control, avoiding the mushy bracing that accompanies the sliders. Note that Sea-Lect Designs has a series of YouTube videos that give a few helpful installation hints.

I had hoped to merely remove the sliding foot brace tracks and just insert the Sea-Lect tracks in the same location. That is a best case scenario that Sea-Lect mentions. However, the needed through-hull hole spacing for the Necky track and the Sea-Lect track are different, so at the very least I would need to drill 2 new holes while using 2 of the existing holes. Even that was not possible, because it quickly became apparent that the Sea-Lect tracks would need to be lower on the hull for proper operation. In fact, to mimic the Cosma TX placement, the desired location would be about half way between the double chines on the Looksha IV. So I drilled 4 new holes and just plugged the 4 old holes with the bolt/nuts from the Necky track – after replacing the rubber washers and adding a bit of Lexel sealant for each hole.

One other minor problem was that the Sea-Lect setup as shipped from Seaward came with rudder cables whose diameter was too large for the existing Necky cable tubes. So I replaced the too-fat cables by stainless steel 1/16” replacement rudder cables, purchase from I consider this glitch to be inadequate research on my part, but it would have been good if Seaward would have raised the issue.

Once everything was installed, the system worked smoothly. The foot pegs can be adjusted to fit the leg length for either me or my wife, but not for anyone with longer legs. I had mounted the Sea-Lect system as far forward as I could reach. Had I enlisted a helper to provide an extra pair of arms, the tracks could have been mounted a bit more forward. Alternatively, I suppose I could move the Necky seat back a few inches to accommodate a larger paddler, but there is no strong motivation to do so at this time.