Is there a big benefit to a rudder on a kayak, if yes, what is it.


– Last Updated: Jun-27-09 10:01 PM EST –

Rudders are helpful for maintaining your heading in a quartering wind or crosswind. Most kayaks tend to point up into the wind ("weathercock") and a rudder helps counteract the continuous tendency to turn when you are trying to make headway at an angle to the wind, so that you don't have to make continuous correction strokes. Rudders also help prevent you from getting "skated" sideways on the water in a crosswind.

A skeg will do much the same thing but doesn't allow you to turn the boat. Rudders are helpful on long tandem kayaks which can otherwise be difficult to turn.

Rudders do add drag, weight, complexity, and cost to the boat, however, can be damaged during capsizes in shallow water, and can injure a swimmer in a capsize. Beginners can also become dependent on the rudder to turn the boat, or to prevent the boat from turning when attempting to go straight, rather than learning proper paddling technique.

or in my words
rudders rule. I wouldn’t have a boat without one. No more sweeps and prys, no more leaning in waves, just pure paddling happiness. All paddle boats should have rudders, all paddlers who don’t have them should enjoy their rightful exhausted and soggy spot at the back of the pack. BTW, I race too, I use an overstern rudder, and it doesn’t slow me down. Don’t let people try to tell you they slow you down. Every racing kayak I know of has a rudder. Why waste your energy steering, when it could be used to go forwards?

I have been paddling for nearly 20 years, and after 14 years of rudderless paddling on everything from lakes to moderate whitewater, urban reservoirs to northern Canada wilderness, looking back I can only say a rudder would have been nice. Get one, and if you prefer to not paddle with it, pull it up.

When the crap hits the fan, at least you have it.

I cannot think of ANY reason to not have one, simply for the fact that if you do need it, you got it.

Depends on the kayak, uses, and users

– Last Updated: Jun-27-09 10:29 PM EST –

It's a tool. Great benefit in some instances, overkill on some, and a hindrance in others.

Typical benefit is to counter wind effects, providing a counter tuning force so you don't have to bias to one side with paddle strokes/edging and can be more balanced and efficient in body/energy use (skeg is another option for balancing in wind). Second benefit is for riding wakes and rollers and taking advantage of free energy of same more easily than without as you can hold a line more easily. Third benefit would be turning (I placed this last on purpose).

Drawbacks can be overall complexity, potential for equipment failure, potential to not develop general control and paddling skills as well, become dependent, etc.

Please note that only sea/touring/transitional kayaks have this sort of "optional" debate about rudders (and the add-on marketing aspect too). Many other types (and some sea kayaks) are specifically designed to either have them or not, based on what type of kayak/kayaking.

PS - Luckily for you the discussion level on this has improved a lot from what it was here a couple years ago. Used to just be more of a war zone of people defending their respective camps (rudder/skeg/nothing).

not for turning
You may have noticed that no one has yet mentioned using he rudder to turn your boat (change direction). That is because that is not what a rudder is meant to do (though that is what most people think it is for). It is much faster to turn a boat using sweep strokes than to use a rudder.

I thought racers used them for turning?

Amen !
You beat me to it.

I wouldn’t have a kayak without one.



OK, I’ll mention it
Rudders are for turning.

If you don’t think so, go watch a race that has some bouy turns in it, and then watch two racers, (one with a rudder and one without) who are equal engines approach the turn.

The one with the rudder will leave the other in his wake, while the one without is wasting his time doing sweeps, leans and rudder strokes.



race boats arn’t touring boats
Yes, racers use them to turn because slowing down to use a different stroke will lose you the race. But 99% of the paddling public aren’t paddling race boats. Poor excuse for learning to paddle.

Bill H.

so if slowing down to use a different stroke loses the race, then why is it ok to slow down and use a different stroke while recreational paddling? What about when the prize is your life, and the race is against tidal currents or dangerous river conditions? Want to slow down there?

Plus sailing is a lot easier with a rudder, and tons of fun too

Oh good, the tie-down thread was getting worn out. :wink:

I would use a rudder in a racing boat, no question.

If you aren’t racing, I think it comes down to preference. If you want to tool around and not have to concentrate on boat control so much, a rudder might be for you. If you are interested in gaining skills in the more technical aspects of paddling, and value an uncomplicated solution, go without.

I only have 2 hands!
I like having a rudder when taking pictures and fishing. Its hard to hold a rod or camera and make course correcting turns with the paddle since I only have 2 hands.

I agree
When fishing and taking pictures, a rudder is a wonderful thing. When paddling i find trying to go in a straight line requires CONSTANT small adjustments back and forth, so i find i actually go less straight with the rudder than with stroke adjustment.

see thread from a few weeks ago
i am a newbie kayaker who posted a similar question a few weeks ago (see ‘rudder: yes or no’ thread) that sparked a thorough and lively discussion that was very beneficial to me. i was inquiring because i was in the process of buying my first kayak and trying to figure out if i should spend the extra $$ for a model with a rudder.

i wound up getting a kayak with a rudder, but only because i was buying used and a ruddered kayak turned out to be the best deal for what i was looking for. but since buying the kayak i have barely used the rudder, and honestly have found it’s presence more of a distraction and hinderence than anything else. now, i am not saying i am anti-rudder, i am saying that i am just getting started and have found that just concentrating on my stroke is the thing i need to be doing right now. perhaps someday i will be happy to have a rudder, but i expect that will be about the same time i am ready to upgrade into a longer, ‘real’ sea-kayak (right now i am on a tsunami 145)

so, as a newbie who just went through this process, i’d recommend not getting a kayak with a rudder, or maybe the better way to phrase that is i’d recommend not spending any extra money to get a rudder. get a good, safe, starter kayak and focus on your paddling. save the couple hundred bucks and put that towards a good paddle, or save it for a kayak upgrade down the road.

Never thought about it for not turning…
My uncoordinated self could probably successfully implement a rudder for just maintaing course when otherwise would be weathercocked.

It seems the few times I used a kayak with a rudder, I am too uncoordinated and end up doing a good rendition of an oversized water snake.

That said, I wouldn’t paddle one without either a rudder or skeg for when you might really need it.

Bill G.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

Tsunami 145
The rudder on the 145 and more specifically the sliding rudder pedals are a big let down IMO. If you have a chance to swap the sliding pedals for a toe controlled pedals of some sort, you will undoubtedly find it a lot more useful. Coincidentally my first boat was the 145 and I chose not to get the rudder for 3 reasons - added cost, sliding pedals made it impossible to brace well or push against, there was less leg room somehow compared to the non-rudderedversion…

oh for crying out loud
There are plenty of people who don’t use rudders who could paddle rings around you.

But what do you do when your rudder fails?

(no horse in this race, no ego either)

The pedals don’t slide if the rudder
isn’t deployed, at least not if the rudder blade is in a V slot on the deck, as my Sea Lion Rudder is. They also don’t slide unless you when you press on them, even if the rudder is deployed, if you retain pressure on the other pedal also.

rudder controls
I have a fiberglass Arctic Hawk and 2 wooden kit homebuilt sea kayaks, none of which have rudders.

I have borrowed, or rented various kayaks which have had rudders, which I have very occasionally deployed.

I agree that the rudders with toe controls that still allow a firm brace against the foot pegs are better, at least for me. Even when the rudder is stowed, those rudder controls that are operated by sliding the entire footpeg still have a lot of “slop”. I find that to be annoying for people, like myself, who brace very firmly against the pegs when rolling.

Racing and sailing
is the only time I put a rudder on my kayak. And if there are no turns in a race, I probably won’t put the rudder on.