Rudder ??

So I’m looking for my first kayak. Thanks to help on this board and email with a member I lean heavily towards the NC kayaks. Most likely the 19 foot version.

I know the skeg vs rudder debate has been beat to death and the NC has neither.

However I have a question about rudders for my education.

Any truth that use of a rudder will impair proper edging technique as the user will rely on the rudder to turn? I always thought the rudder was to minimize weathercocking but how do you rudder users avoid slipping into “bad” technique and wind up relying on rudder to turn? Also why do the high performance boats like Epic use a rudder? I would think the skeg would be better to help tracking and not impair the ability to edge.

Just wondering?


Just don’t use it
Leave the rudder up when you are learning edging. Paddle without it as much as possible when you are working on this kind of thing. You have a very high degree of control over this…

Go paddle some boats …
Try some boats with skegs and rudders in wind and waves and see what works for you. It’s best to try several boats and rent a few before spending a lot of money on a new seakayak.

I’m wondering where you are going to paddle a 19’ expedition kayak, that’s a lot of boat for beginner, unless you have a long trip in mind?

won’t automatically impair, but…
Having a rudder doesn’t automatically impair edging or other skills, but overly relying ion it would. As mentioned before, keep the rudder up. When I had a ruddered boat, I would only drop it and use it when the winds were causing me to weather cock too much. Other times, it was up.

Added benefit, in the up position it was in a metal bracket, which meant the foot pedals provided more support, allowing me to better edge, use the legs for power, etc.

Any time someone said “rudder impairs learning technique”, I keep thinking of the saying “TV impairs thinking”.

Yet, not all thinking people live without TV. Nor all people who watch TV can’t think.

You can always turn that darn TV off, or retract that rudder.

If some who can’t turn the TV off, having rudder is the least of their worry! :wink:

little impact on desired skill set
Those that want to learn edge control, and going hand in hand with edge control, a very natural paddle blade angle control, will learn it if they have the ambition, continued interest, and physical ability to go with it. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take extraordinary physical ability. Relaxed, very natural feeling blade angle and hip control is what will allow you to catch yourself when you go off balance without “throwing a brace”. I’ve heard people that prefer to refer to the hip control portion as knee control, and really it’s both and whatever thought process works for you, but it really is the hips that have to twist back up underneath you whether edging, rolling, bracing, or just a quick little twist when you feel your balance tilting too far off.

I don’t seem to witness a terrible lot of skilled edge control among kayakers whether in a skeg boat or a ruddered boat. Those that can demonstrate it, should be able to demonstrate it in either type.

I started learning in ruddered kayaks, but also have skegged kayaks. For whatever reason, likely what I read and who I talked to when I got started, I have always opted to use neither. It’s never made a lick of difference to me whether I’m in a skegged or ruddered kayak in terms of skills development or anything else. I’m in the minority though. Most make good positive use of whichever they have.

Using the rudder means you’re getting help with tracking and/or turning.

Likewise, skeg users put their skegs down for help with tracking, and lift them so they don’t have to turn that straighter tracking kayak they created by putting the skeg down.

It’s easy to argue that you’re cheating with both tracking and turning with both, or to argue that you’re just intelligent enough to use the tools available to you to make your life more efficient or even just plain more pleasurable. Maybe I have some wierd sort of purist appreciation for hull design, and that’s what makes my time on the water more pleasurable?

If someone wants to forgo directional control and/or edging skills and use a rudder to turn or go straight, or pull up their nearly permanently deployed skeg for a moment of decreased directional stability while they fumble with ineffective sweep strokes or use unedged stern rudders, I have little problem with it either way. I find it largely to be a silly argument that rudders hinder edge control development. If you want to learn kayak control, you learn kayak control. Nothing about a rudder prevents you from learning edge control.

rudders are good
>Any truth that use of a rudder will impair proper edging technique as the user will rely on the rudder to turn?

None whatsoever.

I always thought the rudder was to minimize weathercocking but how do you rudder users avoid slipping into “bad” technique and wind up relying on rudder to turn?

If you have a rudder, you should use it to turn. It makes turning very easy. Except for 180 or large shifts in direction. Then use both edging and the rudder.

Also why do the high performance boats like Epic use a rudder? I would think the skeg would be better to help tracking and not impair the ability to edge.

Performance boats use rudders because they save considerable energy paddling in wind and chop. No need to use any energy to steer and turn.

I have always had both ruddered and non ruddered boats. For traveling long distance in wind and conditions, a rudder is a tremendous aid.

One of your assumptions is not right.

– Last Updated: Jun-12-12 5:44 PM EST –

You wrote (paraphrasing) "rudders are for preventing weathercocking".

Actually rudders are for preventing weathercocking and for turning the kayak.

Why would you want a device for turning the kayak? Although it is not universally accepted, most paddlers who want to go fast believe that the corrective strokes and edging used to turn kayaks with no device or skegs reduce the power they can apply and thus cause them to go slower than if they use a rudder. In long distance races with lots of waves, the wave forces can repeatedly force you off course and require lots more course corrections than you would anticipate having to make even if the course is a straight line.

A second problem with using a skeg is that they have to be adjusted by hand (at least all I know of) so you have to stop paddling if you need to adjust them. With rudders you can continue your paddle cadence while adjusting the rudder with your feet. This would be important in short distance flat water racing where even a slight pause might not be overcome. In longer open water races this is probably less of an issue, but changing winds and/or course direction changes could require enough skeg adjustments that you would lose time.

It should be noted that racing kayaks have rudder systems specially designed to have minimum drag (foils) and solid (non-sliding) footrests which tranfer full leg drive to the kayak. Non-racing kayaks often have much cheaper but less efficient rudder systems and might actually be faster if paddled with edging and corrective strokes rather than using their inefficient rudders.

Epic kayaks designs tend to the racing side espeically for offshore racking in waves and thus come with rudders.

I own one kayak with a skeg and another with neither a skeg or rudder. I never have been a go fast paddler and do really enjoy the more technical way of making my kayak go the direction I want it to go. For some reason I never enjoyed working on the more technical way of making it go faster (wing paddles and good wing technique).


"The high end performance kayaks like

– Last Updated: Jun-18-12 11:55 AM EST –

Epic have rudders", because it just so happens that Greg Barton knows that it is a shame to waste time with leans when you can still be paddling full tilt with a rudder.
Put two of the same engines in the same boat and have one of the boats with a rudder and the other a skeg, and let them duke it out on a windy day or around some bouy turns and the engine with the rudder will be the one out front.

Jack L

Wow, p-net has progressed, I reckon. Lots of good feedback and almost no contention on this rudder thread.

This thread has a lot better info that the NC kayaks FAQ, by the way. A lot of silly BS re: rudders and materials, and hard-to-swallow claims about their big fat hull seam, er, ‘performance flange’. All this stuff needs to be taken with a shaker of salt.

Note that NC considers rigging for a paddle float rescue to be a $65 option, which is ridiculous. But they have multiple paint schemes as options, so I guess that makes up for it.

Thanks for saying that Carldelo + 1
Right on all counts …

NC kayak

I take it you are not an NC fan? I lean towards NC as it has gotten good reviews (as have most other kayaks) and seems like a good value. I looked at Delta 17 for example. Thermoformed, did not seem at all rigid and same price as NC

NC kayak
BTW, Carldelo:

I do agree with you re: NC statements on carbon and kevlar. I suppose all materials inc. fiberglass have potential problems. If Kevlar and/or carbon were nightmares than i don’t suppose they would be used as much as they are. Still I take NC claims with 2 grains of salt but they are IMHO a “good deal” are they not. No dealer=lower pricing.

Also I see very few manufacturers use epoxy resin which is as i understand it far superior to vinyl ester. I imagine that the “average” kayaker does not need such strength and that is way we only see epoxy resion in very high end compitition boats.

Look, the prices seem reasonable for what you get, and I don’t know about their designs one way or another. Personally, I’m not a big fan of pointy boats with overhanging bows, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. I’ve admired the NC15 in the past, but have never paddled one.

Anyway, my problem with NC is the outdated and mostly incorrect info in their FAQ, which is not an indictment of their hull designs. But that ‘performance flange’, yeesh…

I’m surprised you’re looking at a 19’ boat, frankly, and unless you’re big and strong, I think it will be tough to drive in normal touring. It’s heavy, too. They say it’s fast, but as has been said here a million times, a very long boat is only easier to drive at sprint speeds - at normal touring pace it will have much more drag to overcome than a shorter boat. Again, this is not to say the design is bad, I just think it’s quite a bit longer than anyone but an expedition racer needs.