I am having trouble grasping the basic elements of the stern rudder. Can someone out there explain it step by step? Just not getting it.

Advice and this link
First, please refrain from using all capitals in your subject line. In cyberspace that is considered to be rude because it is shouting. I don’t care at the moment, but if you keep doing it someone will make it an issue and reading your threads will require climbing thru stuff about capitals.

As to details of the stroke, here’s a link for info on that as well as other strokes. Some might get picky and suggest that the paddler in the second picture is not fully rotated, but then again it’s not a skinny young woman who can make like a pretzel. He is probably at a pretty typical angle.

Stern Rudder
The link that is provided describes both a stern draw and stern pry, not a stern rudder. Both the draw and the pry turn the boat, but they have a braking component. A stern rudder is more subtle, but doesn’t have this braking element. Especially important while surfing, as a brake could mean the difference between staying on the wave or not.

To do an effective stern rudder;

Rotate torso, drop the blade in the water in the stern quarter of the boat. The blade angle should be at least 45 degrees. This is because the longer the length of the leading edge the more effective the rudder will be. With the blade in the water, simply rotate the blade (pitch). Whichever way you point the top edge, the boat will turn.

I realize that many people do not differentiate between draws and prys and rudders, and i think this comes from whitewater where rudders are not commonly deployed.

I’ve heard this argument before, but not in a moment where I could really suss out exactly where the disagreement was. I think this describes the parameters of the difference.

What’s the problem?
I pull the cord, drop in the rudder, then use the pedals, right for right, left for left…how hard is that?..

Yuk Yuk Yuk…(okay, comic relief time is over, go on about the serious stuff again…)

How complicated do you want?
Here’s a stern rudder in Youtube.

and here it is to make your head spin in a Sea kayaker article.

I don’t know if your question is in depth or are you a beginner and have no idea what it is at all? I like the Youtube one because sometimes kayaking can get so complicated. If you put you paddle in next to your kayak along the stern on the left side - blade straight up and down and just gently angle it away front the boat a tiny bit, the boat will turn left. That’s the basic non-sophisticated, easy-to-use stern rudder that everyone uses. From there you can get very complicated with angles and boat leans etc. Unlike the Youtube video, you don’t have to loose momentum or turn that extreme.

There’s a Nigel Foster video that shows and explains all of the variations to the point of obsession.

The Youtube link is not a good example
Jaybabina, have a better look at the Youtube footage that you suggest… not exactly what I would call a stern rudder stroke.

It might look like one but it would have not turned the kayak much at all if it was not for the RUDDER that you can clearly see in the video.

To the extent that the paddler hesitates for a split second on which side of the kayak she should actually put the paddle in. The speed of the kayak is pretty slow and a stern rudder alone would have turned the boat only slightly.

In my world stern rudder is a bit more aggressive and used in conditions where a rudder would do little good, like surf.

After braking several rudders in the surf I got myself a serious British style kayak (skeg) and improved my skills out of sight.

Just after a month of paddling an new Impex I am starting to get decent control in the surf with a stern rudder. I know that rotation of the body is key and my flexibility is a bit desirable

1st example is just plain ol’ LAME-O. the boat rudder does all the work.

2nd example- yes you NEED more rotation. If you drop your paddle when doing a ‘proper’ SR it hits the water w/o touching your boat…rotate more!


thank you for the coaching
Flatpick, thank you for the pointers. I am working on my body rotation that should also improve my forward stroke… just a beginner at the sport.

Hey Osconnie…
I bet you thought there was a uncontroversial answer to this one! Welcome to the world of baby boomer sea kayaking… there just are so many ways to look at one thing.

Seriously, do you have a useable answer to your question yet? I tend to agree with Jay overall - get the boat moving and stick your paddle in the water by the stern, experiment with what happens to the boat as you change the blade angle.

BTW, I’d suggest that you stay within easy distance of shore at first. Balancing in the boat while you are looking behind you can lead to unplanned swims until you get used to it.

Now add some edging…
A stern rudder (rotating the face of the blade, rather than prying or drawing) can be even more effective when combined with edging the boat to gain additional control – think “top of blade to top of boat” to turn one way, and “bottom of blade to bottom of boat” to turn the other. Of course it’s hard to get the visual by just reading the words.

This requires very good torso rotation, and good balance as you can end up edging “into” the rudder with the paddle providing very little, if any support.

All good fun :-). My .02 worth.


Virginia Sea Kayak Center

YouTube is always good for a laugh! NM

A good answer Tom …

– Last Updated: Mar-14-08 12:13 AM EST –

and here's a little game to practice. Follow the leader a few feet behind him or her. The leader will paddle forward and use a stern rudder and will vary opening the face slightly away from the boat and towards the boat. It's difficult for the others to see this slight paddle angle the leader is doing because the blade is underwater, so you must make your boat follow what the lead boat is doing (i.e. slight turns to starboard or port). The leader then adds edging, varying between an inside and outside edge. You can see the edging, but still can't see the paddle angle, so it can be tricky to follow the lead boat. This all has to be done with some forward speed - paddle a few strokes and then rudder and edge, etc.

and from Falcon's post: "The blade angle should be at least 45 degrees."
I think you mean the shaft angle?

Stern Rudder Basics

Thank you for the lesson on cyberspace. I had no idea.

Stern Rudder Basics
Thank you. That is what I was waiting for. Needed to know what to do when you add the edge. Will go out again tomorrow - and practice - again.

"blade angle"
Thanks Wetzool I did mean shaft angle.

falcon check
you gotta stay on top of ol’ Falcon. he says things sometimes that just don’t make sense!