rudder question

Picked up my first kayak a couple of days ago, actually 2 as I got one for my wife as well. The one I have came with a rudder and as I tried it out I found that I didn’t like it yet. I found that I did a not bad job of keeping it straight just using the paddle. It came in handy on sharp turns but other than that I didn’t use it. I pulled it up cause I spent too much time trying to figure out how to use it. Do you who have rudders use them a lot, or just occasionaly. My kayak is an OT 16’ XL Adventure.

Maybe I just need to get used to it, but was wondering if practice makes pretty good or if it’s just nice to have once in a while.

boat control …
personally, i’m not a fan of rudders … i think it’s always best to learn how to control your boat using the paddle, rather than relying on a mechanical device that may break just when you think you need it most.

A rudder will slow you down but also makes your kayak more stable. In heavy seas it could come in handy.

That’s why racers like rudders!

For general sea kayaking
the rudder is used to maintain a course without having to resort to proper boat and paddle control. There are 3 camps in sea kayaking (speaking in general terms) about aids to course correction.

The rudder camp (mostly the go fast guys) correctly states that not having to edge or adjust paddle strokes allows them to concentrate on their forward stroke and allows them to travel from point A to point B in the quickest most efficient manner.

The skeg camp (of which I confess to being a member) believes that edging and paddle control makes one become closer to being one with the water. For several reasons kayaks are trimmed to weathercock into the wind. The skeg allows the paddler to adjust the trim of the kayak to counteract that tendency thus allowing the paddler to travel at angles to the wind without constant edging and paddle stroke adjustments. In very rough seas the location of the skeg partway up the kayak allows it to stay submerged over waves that would expose the rudder, thus turning the rudder, momentarily, into a sail.

The “purist” camp does not feel the need for any tracking aids whatsoever. The best of these have their boats trimmed so as to have neutral handling in the wind. They will gladly point out to you the folly of depending on a mechanical device that may fail. I have personally witnessed some of these paddling “gods” in action and I must confess my awe of them.

Chime in guys, Just give me a moment to don my asbestos boxers…

You Will Learn
that a great many people do not like rudders, or even skegs. Some will tell you that they make the boat slower. Most people will tell you that you should learn to control your boat without a rudder or a skeg.

I own two boats with rudders and I would put one on if it was not there having paddled awhile with one. I fully agree that everyone should learn to control their boats without the assistance of a rudder or skeg. Ease of boat control without a rudder or skeg varies according to the boat. All boats, (I think), can be controlled using your paddle with various strokes and learning to cut turns.

On the other hand there are instances that I really appreciate having a rudder. Yesterday I was returning to my put in and had a fifteen mph wind on my nose and a max ebb that I was fighting the entire three and a half miles. Under those conditions, my boat(s), are much more controlable using a rudder.

Newer rudders and skegs are shaped to actually provide lift. The same type of shape used on a sailboats keel. I wonder how much of a speed robber a foil shapped rudder actually is. The rudder would provide some lifting force essentually countering some of the weight of the boat and paddler and would tend to make the boat faster. The drag would of course slow it down. The differance of these two would be interesting to see.

A rudder also provides a boat, (mine), with additional lateral stability which can be nice in squirly water.

All that said I would estimate that I use my rudder close to half the time that I am paddling.

happy paddling,


I would never purchase a boat with
a rudder. A skeg, is nice to have, but my sirius has not shown any need for the skeg in the three years I have been paddling it. My next boat, I beleive will have neither the rudder or skeg.


I have one boat with a rudder,

– Last Updated: Sep-05-05 2:43 PM EST –

a Prion Calabria, that really does need a rudder. In any type of following sea condition it is nearly impossible to stay on course without HEAVY edging and even back paddling. Even with the rudder deployed the paddler must constantly stay on top of it to maintain any kind of course. It is a fun boat for exploring up in creeks and streams and newbies like it because in calm conditions it is stable yet responds well to edging. So yes, some boats are better ruddered....

As a relative newbie
I am a purist and have only needed a rudder once in my multitudinous 1 1/2 years of kayaking (and I kayak fairly often). I can easily turn my boat (sharply) by leaning or adjusting my stroke; even in heavy winds.

The one exception- a week ago the Mrs. and I were on Lake Superior and the waves kicked up in late afternoon. The tandem sea kayak we rented was seriously weathercocking the yak away from shore. Even when we both paddled only on one side we could barely direct the yak in the proper direction. Unfortunately, the rudder was stuck and we could not lower it. Long story short- a strenuous late afternoon.

I have never paddled with a skeg either but I think I would prefer it to a rudder because (experts- advise me on this please) I push fairly hard on the foot pegs which, in the boat we rented, controlled the rudder movement.

It all depends on what kind of kayaking
you’re doing. If you kayak only a few miles on flat water, on calm sunny days, you probably don’t need a rudder. If you kayak 15 miles in 20 knot winds on big water with any regularity, you probably will appreciate a rudder or a skeg after paddling 6 miles in a beam wind. There are rudders (SeaLine Smart Track, begin one) that have fixed foot pegs that let you firmly brace and still have a rudder when you need it. It really is just personal preference. I personally have a Smart Track rudder on the boat I paddle most frequently. I doubt that I use it even 5% of the time. But for that 5%, I’m glad to have it.

thanks for the info
I could see me using it sometimes but not always. that is pretty much what I gather from your comments. See question on paddles for next advice request.

thanks again.

Rwven–Calabria Thanks
Thanks for assuring me that a rudder might help me with my Calabria: i have one on backorder from My Calabria is a treu disappointment for tracking… it blows like a whirling dervish in semi-windy conditions. While I agree with other reviewers that say one should learn to paddle without a rudder, I for one feel that paddling is a rather natural state, and by definition, when one is weathercocking like a copper rooster on a weathervane, they will learn to paddle pronto. I am hoping that my Calabria will track better when I have the rudder. I can take a lesson from Bruce above too, and maybe I am leaning incorrectly or something. Perhaps I will have the rudder soon and can tell you about my experience. But in any event, I think rwven might be correct; some boats just plain need a rudder. Sure beats hot gluing a series of plastic milk jugs to the bottom to form a poor man’s skeg.

by golly…
I don’t think this topic has ever come up here before. (!)

PS: What model does Prijon make that doesn’t need a rudder?

Capri Tour (nt)

My Prijon Capri does not need a rudder at all. It’s 2.5 foot longer big brother, Calabria, tracks worse. Cna you imagine. I am looking at a 17.7 foot older Solstice SS Current Designs fiberglass that a guy near me is selling that is supposed to track like a son-of-a-gun. I paddle sometimes on large central IL recreational lkes and need some tracking.

I became a more serious paddler when a bad back & knee took me out of caving. With serious cavers, the key word is redundancy in regard to safety. I see a rudder as a safety device if nothing more. If I get caught in open water with high wind, I want a rudder.


Unique Rudder
I recently saw a very shiney, very expensive looking composite kayak on top of a car going in the opposite direction. I looked for a name or a logo but did not see one. What did catch my eye, was the rudder. rather than the usual contraption attached to the deck or transom, it was an intagral,faired portion of the hull pivoted in a cutout of the stern. I had never seen such a thing and am very curious as to the make and model. If this design works well, I would think it might eliminate some of the objections that some have to rudders. If anyone can identify this boat, I would appreciate it.


God Bless you man.
I made that same statement here (“A rudder being a safety device”) about four or five years ago and got jumped all over for it.



Mirage perhaps?
Aussie boats in 3 hulls named by meters. 530, 580 and a tandem. All feature integral rudder as you decribed. Was paddling with some mates yesterday in them. Check their website of

Integral Rudder
Thanks Andy! that may well be what I saw. as I recall, the rudder blade didn’t project below the keel line so it may have been a 580 with the racing rudder option. They look like great boats but I wish the website had larger pictures. I assume that the prices listed are in Aus. dollars and, if my memory serves me well,or at all anymore,that would make them a pretty good deal. Of course that would depend on weather or not they have a U.S. distributor and dealer network.