Rudder or Skeg which is better?

What’s is the advantage or disavantage of a rudder vs. a Skeg? FishHawk

Rudder or Skeg
The skeg is solid and cannot be moved, except, in some instances, up or down. The rudder can be moved back and forth. Thi is good for windcock and for cheating on some of the rivers with a current for steering

Less is more. Try to paddle without
assistance from the rear, but a skeg may be more help for less weight and complication than a rudder.

Rudders are more useful for longer boats. For shorter touring boats, paddle control and forward/backward lean may be entirely sufficient.

deja vu

– Last Updated: Aug-24-09 7:47 PM EST –

This topic comes up about every other week and raises a controversy that will never be resolved. You might want to do a search, but I know the search function doesn't always work that well so I will offer my 2 cents.

Rudders and skegs both offer directional stability and assist tracking, especially in wind. With a cross wind, you will make less leeway, i.e., you will get blown in a downwind direction much less with either a rudder or a skeg.

Rudders can facilitate turning. The skeg is always aligned parallel to the keel line so it can't help you turn.

Rudders are more expensive and more complicated. When not deployed, they sit on your back deck which some folks feel is ugly. They can be damaged in a capsize in shallow water. They are often operated using footpegs on sliding tracks which, in some peoples' opinion, makes the footbraces feel spongy, possibly inhibiting the ability to brace against them during rolling or hard paddling.

Skegs retract up into a box inside the hull. If you have bulkheads and hatches, the skeg box takes up room in the stern storage compartment and inhibits loading and unloading somewhat, whether the skeg is up or down. Sometimes sand or debris can get into the skeg box and bind up the skeg so it doesn't deploy or retract properly.

Whether to use a skeg, or a rudder, or either is very much a matter of preference.

For my part I have three sea kayaks, none of which have rudders or skegs. There have been only a very few times when I wished that I had one. If I did a lot of coastal kayaking in unpredictable weather, I would probably add a skeg to whatever boat I was going to use.

yeah, I was getting worried
that nobody has asked the eternal question rudders versus skegs THIS week

1 Like

Try this test. Go out when you have a
fair amount of wind. Paddle a kayak with no skeg or rudder. See after a few miles how much fun your having hanging from one knee while the other is dropped. Now paddle a skeg boat. See how it is easier to handle going straight with the skeg dropped. Now imagine you want to maximize your forward motion with as little effort and corrective strokes as possible. Think rudder. Give it a try and make your own conclusions. I think you will agree.

Rudders are controversial
and skegs cause violent arguments. I have avoided them both which is a crime in some states.

In general skegs can be useful on boats that like to turn and rudders on boats that don’t like to turn. It’s best not to purchase a boat that tracks too well and you certainly don’t want anything that doesn’t track well.

Hope that clears it all up for ya.

jim :wink:



Let’s bet on how many posts this thread will generate: 50 vs 100?

Don’t feed the trolls…

Briefs or boxers, which is better?
Paper or plastic? Smooth or crunchy (peanut butter)? bifocals or contacts? sweet or sour?

hmmm . . . (sweet 'n sour . . .)

Maybe a kayak with a skeg AND a rudder is best? At least it might end the arguments.

pretty good summary

I think you are wrong.
I did a “skeg or rudder” search for the last six months and this subject is WAY underquestioned.

I never paddled a rudder boat. But when a recent acquaintance questioned how my skeg boat turned and I explained it, she scrunched up her nose and shook her head no. She grew up learning to paddle a rudder.

I followed the rudder boat and noticed the rudder always turning turning turning while they pumped their feet. I scrunched up my nose.

Say why you are asking, background
Or continue to be abused. Out of context of paddling environment, purpose and boat this is only going to degrade further. Coffee grounds soon to come…

C’mon, why is he asking?
1. He is really interested in your experience and opinion.

2. Might be considering an upgrade or boat trade.

3. Wants to see if posters even have a clue what they are talking about.

4. Wants to laugh at how many doofuses jump on this question trying to be truely helpful.

5. Wants to read a bunch of smart ass answers that makes him laugh.

Or any combination of the above. And how many post the ever evasive, “why do you want to know?” or "I can’t answer that unless I know your boat, your paddling style, your previous experience, if you can roll, wear a life jacket, use a wing or Eskimo stick, hair color, boat color, weight, age, town of birth… "

Or maybe he wants to race?
Something like that could call the answer, at least it’d get someone like me out of the mix since I don’t. There are useful ways to answer without offering shoe size and mother’s maiden name.

Perception Essense
you can get BOTH!!!

BTW- contacts! Since getting older I have never seen better!


I think pblanc did a great job.
They each serve a useful function.

I tend to not like all the stuff on the back deck. But EPIC makes a kind of integral “rudder” system now. Never tried one but can see myself trying it at an expo somewhere. If that system proves reliable and effective, there will be a shift in designs for sure.

And I recently read an article where a skeg boat was fitted with a rudder. It looked like the ultimate setup.

Other thing I didn’t like after looking at many rudder boats, those through the hull cable thingys. That has got to let some water in somewhere.

But, if I ever get in a rudder boat, could maybe be converted. Like finding Jesus or something.

As long as you are going to put a rudder
on your boat, why not go all the way and put an outboard motor on as well. I can think of no better way to destroy the paddling experience than through the use of a rudder and all the crap that goes with it. I guess I really don’t have an opinion. Bill

Not mentioned so far
Rudders can complicate a cowboy re-entry depending on the position of the rudder, the size of the paddler and boat. From no problem to Ouch.

For a guy doing a cowboy…
“complicating” is a VAST understatement