Surfing -- skeg up or skeg down?

Recently had my first taste of catching some waves. Nothing too dramatic, these were 2 foot rollers in 15 knot winds. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on whether you prefer skeg up or skeg down in these instances. What gives you a better ride? What gives you more control? I tried it both ways, but didn’t come to any definitive conclusions. Either way, sometimes I’d get a good ride, other times I’d get pushed around. With some stern ruddering, I was able to avoid broaching altogether, but again, these were not huge waves. Thanks.

generally up for me
If I’m in any sort of waves that can actually lift me and let me ride without paddling (i.e. very good wind waves or real coastal surf) then I rely more on paddle stokes and edging. My main reason is first the paddle strokes work well there and I may want to suddenly change direction and the skeg may interfere with that.

Now if I’m on gentle wind waves that I just almost can catch if I paddle hard then I find the skeg can help a bit since I’m trying to put all my paddle work into being fast enough to catch the wave.

Little difference in 2 ft waves
Also depends a lot on your boat. Length, hull shape etc.

Could make it easier to stay on a wave. Don’t bongo slide with your skeg down.

Generally I would
suggest keeping the skeg up while surfing. The broaching forces in wave riding are a lot larger than the wind related weathercocking forces that skegs are really designed for. A lowered skeg might help a little at some point, but will certainly get overwhelmed quickly. Often being able to quickly change the direction of the kayak is the only way to keep surfing and/or turning back up and over a wave before it breaks. In those situations a lowered skeg is really more of a hindrance.

I have found myself a couple of times in certain wave conditions (short steep chop) where there was a tendency for the kayak to turn one way or the other just as I started to catch a wave so I never could get lined up for a good take-off. In those conditions sometimes lowering the skeg allowed me to stay just straight enough to get a good take-off. Of course then it was harder to make adjustments when on the wave so the rides were kind of hit and miss.


Why is it that surf boards have skeg?
I am reading with interest only because I hope some day to get out in some surf and I wonder why it might be that surf boards have skegs generally and yet a skeg may not necessarily be all that helpful in a kayak?

keep the stern loose
The bow of sea kayaks is pressurized from each side as it is moving forward. This makes the bow hard to push from side to side, so it’s generally easier to push the stern around to steer the boat. This is particularly true in surf, where the goal is to keep the stern clear sticking out the back of the wave a bit. With skeg down you’ll lock the stern, and have little chance of making corrections to boat direction on the wave.

Surf boards are flat-bottomed planing craft, so no pressure on the bow. The whole board is loose, except for the skeg.

skegs on boards
A kayak has a pointed bow and stern end which has a sharp V shape below it that keeps it tracking. The board has no pointed ends or V shape so the skeg keeps the back end back but still allows the surfer to lean the board and still cut extreme corners. Also all of the surfers weight is above the board in one place not distributed as your legs are forward in a kayak. Dedicated surf kayaks are also short, flat and highly maneuverable compared to a sea kayak with it’s pointed ends.

Not sure if I agree with the other posters entirely. Many sea kayakers who surf use their skegs in my experience. My kayak is long, narrow and no skeg and I can broach on shorter waves unless I use a strong stern rudder.

I see -
makes sense.

always up
I always have up, but the comment about just barely able to catch wind waves makes sense, so I may try that some time.

Not to hijack the thread, but here is a video compilation of some surfing I did last weekend (with a deck mounted camera facing me):

not down.

When I’ve surfed my Tempest 170, I put the skeg down to surf and pulled it up to paddle back upwind. I tried up, but the boat did better down.

Any chance of hitting bottom?
Then rudders and skegs are always up for me.

I’ve surfed between islands before in deep open water with rudders and skegs down, but that’s because I was being opportunistic. I was going that way already and didn’t mind trying to catch a free ride now and then. If I didn’t catch it, the blade was still set for weather, no worries.

I have also surfed in boats with fixed/molded skegs and did not like the results; as said by others, too much being pushed around from behind. Surf kayak designers do their best to get of the stern of the boat altogether these days, or make it flat and slicey.