Tracking Question.

Hi everyone!! I’ve tried searching, but the vast amount of information is a bit much for me to process right now, so I figured I’d just ask my question.

I have a 10 foot long inflatable kayak. When I’m out paddling it, I can get it to go where I want it to go, but it gets there in a sort of zig-zaggy fashion.

Is this normal for a shorter kayak??

I have never paddled a kayak before, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect. I would RATHER not add a skeg to this boat because I want to learn correct technique in order to get it to go where I want it to in the most efficient way possible.

The boat has four small fins on the bottom that are supposed to aid in tracking…and I guess I don’t know what “good tracking” would actually look like.

I guess the bottom line of my question is this: Is it normal for the boat to zig zag a little bit while travelling across the water??


it’s called freedom to yaw. a boat with lots of freedom will yaw ALOT and a boat with a longer skeg area will not.

sometimes it’s more effecient to not yaw so much so a retractable skeg could be more better to keep ya online.

IK’s are notorious for this ziggerzaggin’.


…is this something that would be a good idea for me to make some kind of skeg for it?

I will be paddling almost exclusively on lakes and slow moving rivers…no whitewater at all.

I have been thinking of a few design ideas that could work to add a skeg to the boat if that is something that would be a good idea.

Yes it is normal
any short boat will zig-zag.

You will probably do like most other paddlers that get hooked and eventually move to a longer kayak.



…I know.

I’ve only been out a couple of times and I’m already looking for my next one!!! It’s fun.

My only issue with my “next one” is the fact that I’m basically resigned to getting inflatables due to storage and transportation limitations. Storage being the main thing for right now, I simply don’t have room for some big hardshells.

I’ve been looking at the boats that have the rigid frames though, like the Advanced Elements Expedition.

so…any short boat will zigzag?

I beg to differ with you.

Pungo 10 (10 footer) vs Tempest 180 (18 footer)

which one tracks better and zigzags less?


the ying and yang of yaks that yaw
Yes its normal and yes it can be improved with skegs and rudders etc, and yes it can be alleviated with longer boats and harder shells - all the advice given so far along those lines is good and stuff you should know.

In addition, you should also know that the yaw or wiggle problem is a result of your paddle stroke, and you can affect it greatly by modifying your stroke. Now, whether you want to do this or not depends on your future plans, and your own propensities. If you are pretty serious about progressing as a kayak paddler, and this is just a starter boat that you plan to rapidly move beyond to other craft like long hardshells, then maybe you should ignore the yaw problem and focus on the “correct” way to paddle.

On the other hand, if you’re just playing around, and you want to both get the most out of your current craft and learn as much as you can about how water and small craft and paddles work, then try this:

Go out by yourself to a small, calm little pond, or other convenient practice area. If possible, you might borrow a single-bladed canoe paddle to start with, or otherwise just use one end of your regular paddle. Now, very slowly, execute your stroke and observe what each part does to the heading of the boat. Then begin to modify the stroke so that the boat stays in a straight line. What you will come to is a C-shaped stroke, with the open end away from you. As you get the stroke down, start adding a little speed and then start using both ends.

Try at first to make your path as exactly straight as you can, until you get that down. Then start giving up a little straightness for increased power and ease of stroke, until you reach a happy medium that you’re comfortable with.

I guarantee you can come up with a modified stroke that will keep that boat (any boat) tracking as well as you want. However, you will probably have a stroke that will horrify experts and cause instructors to weep about all the bad lessons you are reinforcing in yourself. At that point, you can decide if you want to buy a more normal boat and relearn your paddle stroke.

Thank you for such an in depth response there.

I am interested in moving up to a bigger/better/higher quality boat in the future, but for now I will be sticking with this little guy for a while. I may begin looking for something better next fall when it’s the end of the season. That way I’ll have a whole season under my belt and at that time can decide if it’s worth it to go with the hardshell and just deal with the space constraints or to move up to a higher quality inflatable (which is what I’m CURRENTLY leaning towards).

With that said, I have a couple of ideas for a relatively inexpensive skeg option that I might try out on the boat. Before that though, I’m going to take it out a few more times to try and get a better hang of it. As I paddled on today, I noticed that I was getting better at not zig zagging quite as much…I’d rather not develop bad paddling habits though, so if a skeg it must be, then a skeg it will be!!!

might want to poke around…

There are quite a few options for folding kayaks esp. if storage is an issue.

Not sure what you are saying.
I didn’t say anything about “tracking”

But on the “zig- zag” I have never seen a short boat (10’ or less) that doesn’t zig zag more than a longer boat.



I saw one of the folding ones the other day online…it was made by Bic Sport. I never even knew that Bic made anything other than lighters!!!

Looked to be pretty cool.
you could do a lot worse than to make or buy a folder

I’ve seen those bics…meh. Seem to combine the worst aspects of a both a hardshell and an inflatable. The coolest inflatable hybrids around are the Yostwerks…but they’re not for people my size.

It’s quite normal for my stearns spree to wag it’s nose back and forth quite a bit when starting out, but once I start moving it levels out and goes straight. Same with my Helios 1. Both boats also tend to spin around when stopped. A skeg will help with that.

Let me know how your homemade skeg solution works out!

…will do paddlesheep.

I have a few ideas for one…and how to mount it. It probably won’t be a “deployable” one. It will always be down, but it will be easily detachable, so it would be able to be taken off and put back on really quickly.

However, the tough part may end up being finding some way to remove it/put it on while I’m actually in the boat…but I do have some ideas, so we’ll see how it goes.

Go to
the “guidelines” section on the home page, and check out the ‘Strokes/ Braces tecnique’ - Forward stroke.

And, generally, the closer your paddle is to your boat, the less zig-zagging you’ll do. That is, if you use a low, wide, stroke where your paddle is out to the side more, it has more turning effect than when your off hand is higher, causing the paddle to be closer to the boat.

zig zag IS tracking
a zig turns ya right and a zag turns ya left. ain’t that what ‘tracking’ IS?



Feng Shui steve


Is that tracking
… or course correcting ad nauseum?

“gag me
with a rudder!” (with Valley girl accent)



"I beg to differ with you.

Pungo 10 (10 footer) vs Tempest 180 (18 footer)"

Flatpic you saying the Pungo tracks better then the tempist? yow that tempist must have some kind of huge skeg is thats the case… L