Rudder opinion

I have heard that having to use a rudder is bad technique. For the most part I have never used my rudder because of this. However, the other day I had a annoying quartering tail wind and decided to drop my rudder because I was tired of being in a continuous turn to go straight. Is this considered “bad technique”, or are they refering to using the rudder for turning the boat as bad. I always use edging for turning and am pretty good at that, but if I can paddle further easier the rudder does not seem all that bad. I have a 17’ boat and am less than 130Lbs so my boat weather vanes pretty easy. Just like your opinions on this.



did using the rudder
make it track better? then don’t worry about what others think, it worked when it needed too.

Rudders now appear to be in vogue
for racing. Every stroke is a power stroke when you drop the rudder and angle it like a trim tab. Constantly twitching the rudder around will create drag and slow the boat down.

There is nothing wrong with good technique. Being a purist is ok too. Do what gets you where you want to go the fastest.

You did not use the rudder to turn

– Last Updated: Jun-12-04 9:45 PM EST –

you used it to go straight.

Racers do it. Nothing in the world wrong with that.

On the other hand: in big stuff would you like your life to depend on a rudder cable? If so, do your maintenance. Do it like your life might well depend on it. If not consider a NDK explorer lv or some other boat which is handleable in the wind. You are the captain and it's your life that can be on the line so it's your call.

I was a bike racer and a bike courier in Boston. I rode fast but my bike was in maintained in top condition. I saw a girl courier go down in front of a car because a shift put her chain into her rear spokes. with good maintenance, and decent equipment this would not have happened. She is lucky to be alive! did I take care of her on the street? Yes. Would I have been sad for her if she died? Yes, I would have. Would I have thought it a terrible waste that she did not take care of the technology that her life was dependant on? You know me. Did I tell her that while she was lying down? No way!

I agree with you 100 percent
I am another one who very seldom uses the rudder.

It is almost always up.

But, I wouldn’t be without it in strong quartering winds.

It also comes in mighty handy when tying to cross rip currents, and heading up stream against a strong current.



everything is good
water, boats, rudders, etc. Rudders in and of themselves aren’t bad or good. It’s like saying rear wheel drive vehicles are bad,or internal combustion engines are bad.

Most folks are paddling long large volume kayaks,rudders make them easier to control in wind/waves. Most commercially sold kayaks are designed to take rudders. All racing kayaks have rudders. A Current Designs Solstice or Necky Arluk III is designed for a rudder,a Tempest or Chatham isn’t designed for a rudder.

So put that rudder down when you want.

My Opinion
I think it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt or killed because they heard that

“having to use a rudder is bad technique.”

Someone buys a boat, installs no rudder, then gets caught out in nasty conditions without the equipment to deal with it.

Any boat that I own WILL have a skeg or a rudder as SAFETY equipment.

(I am also a competitive bastard and with my skeg or rudder I will get to the finish line BEFORE my buddy.)


– Last Updated: Jun-12-04 7:55 AM EST –

You would be screwed if you got holed in the composite boat on an off shore reef in conditions. Ditto loosing your paddle. Same if you go over and find that your paddle float has a hole, your VHF battery went dead in pea soup fog in the middle of a busy channel or you lose your glasses in a capsize, or..., or....

The fact is that any number of things can go wrong with equipment and not just a broken rudder. You plan your contingencies and backups, check your equipment regularly, and you go for it in what conditions your judgement tells you is appropriate to paddle.

Personally, I don't care for rudders. But I wouldn't state categorically that a rudder poses an additional potential hazard. Conversely, a rudder may well prove to be a life saver for someone should something happen that would impede a paddler from edging/leaning/sweeping, etc. in conditions.

It strikes me that the rudder, skeg, or nothing at all debate is really a matter of personal preference rather than a true issue of safety in and of itself. The axiom: learn to control your boat without a rudder can also be said as "learn to control your boat without a skeg", or "learn your boat and how to control regardless of rudder, skeg, or nothing at all." I certainly haven't heard any stores of someone being jeopardized by a failed rudder. In fact, most of what I have heard are simply of folks being over the heads literally and figuratively regardless of the boat they paddle.


getting injured
back in the S.F. Bay area I made a CLC Patuxent 17.5. After paddling it for a half year I knew I would need a rudder for me to race it in the JackLondon Sq-Yerba Buena Island race. It’s fairly maneuverable, nearly symmetrical with obvious weathercocking characteristics.

It went straight with the rudder. I also injured my shoulders/connective tissue mildly from paddling too hard with a high angle stroke with too long of paddle and without the training or musculature to apply the power without injury.

It’s not a safety item. It’s a rudder. Safety is a function of other issues besides equipment.

Agree, except…
A rudder is not a rudder is not a rudder. They still sell and install the kind that operate by pushing the foot pegs back and forth. This means that in conditions where a rudder would be a safety device you lose a major way to control your boat because you have little or no support for your feet. I call that a hazard not a safety device.

Even with sliding pegs
Even with sliding pegs you can brace both feet against the pegs and have fairly firm support. In fact you can set the rudder down brace both feet in a neutral rudder position and then you effectively have a skeg. Ok a skeg set to far to the stern… So I don’t see a rudder as a hazard.

Having a rudder doesn’t preclude edging and using your turning strokes. It does make it a bit harder.

I’ve had to use my rudder only once. Could I have done without if I had been better at edging/turn strokes at the time? Probably. Could I have done without if I had a different hull design? Maybe. Will my next boat have a rudder? Probably not - if I can find one that paddles as well for me and I’m as comfortable in as this one (couldn’t find one last time I was shopping but my skills have changed). Would I like to retrofit Seaward pegs? Yep, when I can justify the cost and find the time.

So practice paddling without the rudder in different conditions, but when that doesn’t cut it or just gets old and you want to put your effort into going forward, goahead and use the rudder to maintain course. You are using it correctly.

recent article in sea kayaker

– Last Updated: Jun-12-04 2:55 PM EST –

might be worth the time to read, or skim like i did. The paddler in it was not at your level but a malfunctioning rudder put him in fairly dire straits.if I recall corrrectly.

Every piece of appropriate technology is both a strength and a weakness.

Even the boat.

I have a history of swimming a couple of miles offshore with nothing but my skills and a bathing suit. I think kayaking is safer but I have done both.

The efficiency provided by a working rudder might make it possible to get off the water before lightning, or a bad storm, or exhaustion sets in. ON the other hand lots of parts means lots of chances for failure. A failed rudder at the end of a boat might require swimming to strap it down to the deck or jettison it.

The quest for perfect affordable technology will never end.

Did it work for you?
Yes, in that situation. If it works for you, use it and dogma be damned.


I what you all said is pretty much what I wanted to hear. By the way I have a Prijon with the toe operated Rudder and it works great. No problem if a rudder breaks, then it is left up to my skill.



That was my point.
If you get a rudder, get a good one that is not the push pull kind.

Push/Pull Pedals
I filled the front of the bulkhead wall with foam up to within 2-3" of foam behind the pedals. It limits the amount of travel of the sliding pegs but still allow some movement of the rudder control. More important, if the cable went I still have something to “solid” to settle my feet on. Also, both my ruddered kayaks, I built a a “rudder keeper” with kydex (plastic material use for knife/gun sheaths) and screwed onto the kayak. So when the rudder is not in used and resting on the keeper, I had very minimal travel (some flex) of the pegs because the rudder stayed in place. Most of the rudder keepers are not sufficiently high to keep the rudder in place when someone jams hard on one of the pedals when bracing or rolling, etc.


I Skimmed That Story Too
I was thinking that a jammed skeg could cause a similar concern for folks who need to use in high winds. Jammed up, you can’t turn down wind. Jammed down, you can’t turn upwind.

Jammed rudder or skeg, a partner can help you fix the problem. If you alone, you would have to decide whether is advisable to take a swim and attempt to fix the problem.


Oh, oh, you are in trouble now !
I remember a year or so ago when in one of the gazillion rudder debates, I made the comment that a rudder was a “safety device”, and I got jumped all over by Liv-2-Pdl.

I agree with you fully.

There have been several times where the deployed rudder got me through soom bad scenes, and I am not a novice paddler.



Good Morning, Jack!

– Last Updated: Jun-13-04 10:46 AM EST –

I respect LeeG and I think I understand him to be saying that safety is between your ears. No argument there.

I still say the person with a deployable rudder who finds himself out in rougher-than-predicted weather is better off than the person who has none.

If I sold kayaks I would recommend owning a rudder but knowing how to manuever the boat without it.

I think a rudder is a safety device and I think a jury could be convinced that a rudder is a safety device. "Your honor, we, the jury, find that the seller was negligent in advising that the buyer NOT opt for the rudder."

Jack, you may see me out on the water more. That damn bicycle is killing me!

We are more or less in agreement
that all technology should be assessed and that skills are the prime thing.

I have never heard about a skeg being stuck down. If a cable (or set screw or button) or rope breaks it is certainly likely but that’s one I’ve really never heard of.