Skeg position in following seas

The experts I’ve read state that in following seas, your skeg should be down all the way.

Paddle Lake Michigan this afternoon; winds were 14Kt gusting to 17 and waves two feet. Dominant wave period: 3-4 seconds. Whitecaps decorated the water.

With my skeg fully deployed and the wind and waves behind me, my boat feels lifeless (or maybe obstinate). Moving the skeg up to half position gave me some directional control with stern rudders.

What’s the consensus about skeg position in such conditions?

And how in the heck do you surf such quickly arriving waves?

Skeg can differ from boat to boat.
So whatever keeps you doing what you want to do. Angle of the wind will have a effect on how much you need.

Short period waves can be difficult to surf because it is hard to stay on a single wave.

The Samba is a fairly maneuverable boat as I recall, so it is going to want to turn as the push it is getting from the wave changes. At 3-4 second periods that push is going to change pretty quickly.

So in this case, you may be better off with half skeg in order to maintain the maneuverability you need for short period waves. 7 seconds can be a whole different ball game.

I am not sure what experts said skeg all the way down as a universal solution. It sounds like a bit broad of a generalization.

Whatever Works

– Last Updated: Aug-07-16 6:16 AM EST –


The effects of following seas depend on several factors, including wave height, period and direction (even a slight angle to the direction of travel makes a difference. Wind direction also has an effect and of course, the design of the boat is a huge factor. The bottom line is that there is no hard and fast rule and you need to adjust with the conditions to find the optimum setting.

Agree with whatever works
We’ve been out on Superior this last week. Depending if there were reflecting waves or no a rudder was or not useful

The waves were much shorter period than the ocean and coming at different angles so surfing did not work well

the stern paddle

– Last Updated: Aug-07-16 9:32 AM EST –

position is favored by experts, physicysts, and Tupperware paddlers.

with skeg up, stern directional paddle control strokes as stern rises gives optimal control.

short period steep following waves offer the opportunity for wave crest turn practice.

or interval speed paddler aerobic training going downwind.


the waves you're on are mainly up and down where there is forward speed available in the kayak.

idea is maintaining a speed, rhythm. or cycle of speeds eg paddle brace paddle paddle brace...

giving max position on the upper rising wave front, as you go.

developing a strong back paddle brace, a low brace moving to whatever you develop as a power back position ...lower stiff arm forward lever back with upper arm...paddle near hull...shaft near vertical at stroke hold position as wave passes under hull.

is essential ....'like' opposite lock n throttle control for a skid on the interstate during rush hour.

My wife and I were out in lower New York harbour last Thursday with a strong tide running one way and a stiff breeze blowing in exactly the opposite direction stacking the waves up. My skeg helped but I never really felt that I got it right.

I guess I need (a lot) more practice.

There’s more than one way.
If the waves aren’t quite right for riding a single wave, i.e. too close together, or whatever, I go for the whole tomato and just keep pouring it on and run over a bunch of waves. It isn’t as much fun as riding the crest, but it eats up a lot of water real quick.

That works for unidirectional

Not so for waves coming from multiple directions as often happens nearshore on the Great Lakes

I was going just fine with three foot waves. My hubby got two waves that converged behind him and he turned his head to see briefly a seven foot wave break on his head.!

Meanwhile I was oblivious I think he got close to a reef just below the surface

Dungeness Spit
out in the rip on Juan de against the Spit offers practice …

on the reef…Garmin’s marine charts gives warning …and observing local shore geology as you go.

one of the dynamic duo, gave a demo of wave topping as I watched from Skawacoma’s dune bluff.

I had pulled out n around from the creek beach after a loop up n back during the BIG WATER RELEASE.N 2 yaks come thru the twilight out of Astoria…and the river waza rolling with fairly large standing waves.

One yakker took out. He had problems seeing in the murk esp from DOWN IN THE TROUGH where he deftly banjo paddled a 360 n took out.

His partner in a strangly shaped yak egged Banjo on by speeding across waves standing against the bluff …like he was powered.

I was/am impressed. I have not that speed in a Solstice or anything else I can think of …

I like the advice "whatever works."
Not much wind today so picked a different location where there’s current and always some wind. But no waves. No skeg and the boat went sideways. That was my only experiment. Kept it halfway down for the trip out.

When on Lake Michigan, I’ll just enjoy the ride on the roller coaster of waves and concentrate on direction and keeping my bow from getting buried. The waves just come too fast to do much else - at least at my skill level.

I’m in awe of you paddlers who get out and surf the big ones.

Thanks for the help.

Keyhole stroke
Go light on the skeg, use the keyhole stroke to help control direction, works great with strong edging. More about finesse than keeping a super straight line, I often tend to zigzag but still get where I want.

Great stroke for surfing as well.

It’s not voluntary
Superior turns on quick and often there are miles of cliffs that make huge reflecting waves

Datakolls response amuses me. It’s hart to look at a tiny GPS screen while bracing in unpredictable seas

It’s easy while seated at a computer desk

Cool video series.
Thanks. I’ll play with that keyhole stroke - but don’t like the position of his shoulder. Maybe the video makes it look further back than it actually is.

Also looked at the video about edging into the wind. That was something I tried today against the current and wind back to my launch site. Not the easiest thing to do and power off both feet so I didn’t do it for very long. But, that’s something I can work on with or without wind.

Thanks for the link - lots of interesting things to view.

No single answer for all conditions
With the skeg up, the Samba has a fairly loose stern, which is great for quick maneuvering when you want it, but when I want to track straight, I usually have mine halfway down; sometimes (rarely) all the way down depending on the wind.

For surfing, though, it’s different. In non-windy conditions (wakes and such), I like a bit of maneuverability and will use little or no skeg. But if it’s blowing, the more skeg you add the more you pin down your stern and maintain direction with bow rudders, which I find to be more effective in these conditions that stern rudders. I’m the first to admit I’m not the world’s most technically proficient surfer, but I’ve caught some nice rides this way.

2nd whatever works
My skeg is usually not fully deployed in following seas. But it depends on the boat, trim and user.

Surfing great lakes waves works best when you can find an area with regular intervals, a few times we’ve found decent conditions at Sturgeon Bay in your area. Nice forgiving beach there also. When things are less organized it’s more of an exercise from hopping one short ride after another and trying not to bog down in troughs.

Yup, depends on you & the boat
Depends upon how your boat handles with varying amounts of skeg and the feel that you want. For instance I can’t recall ever using full skeg, even in my Pintail which is my “squirrelyest” boat. My other boats need even less to achieve the feel I prefer. I like a little looseness in the stern. The “anchored in” feel of full skeg bugs me. So experiment & see what you like in any given boat.

Something to play with

– Last Updated: Aug-08-16 6:27 PM EST –

Try using the stern rudder as sparingly as possible, instead play with controlling your direction with propulsion type strokes, in conjunction with lots of edging. Sweeps and that keyhole stroke with a decent amount of edge. Sometimes tricky to trust edges in deep bumpy water, but I think it will pay off in speed, and eventually boat control.

you find bigger waves
You can’t surf 2 foot waves on the Great Lakes. 3-4 feet are really required and at that height on the Great Lakes you better know what you are doing or be along a safe sandy shore if you need to bail.