Using Your Rudder

I have just written a blog post - Does Your rudder Slow you Down at and have had some great feedback. I’m curious if anyone else has comments. Does you rudder slow you down? And if yes, which many people claim - Tell us why?

There is a simple answer to that
Or I should say two answers

  1. If your boat has a rudder then no it doesn’t slow you down at all.
  2. If your boat has a skeg or neither a skeg nor a rudder, you are a expert on what rudders do, and can say equivocally that they do slow you down.



Please allow me to make a gruff and over
simplified statement. Rudders SUCK! I know they are necessary for endurance/speed paddlers, tandems, and long low rocker boats, but I cannot get my head wrapped around those G damned things. For me it destroys the paddling experience. Now to answer your question, racers tend to use rudders and thus I would conclude that it helps them cover a distance in less time and thus they must be faster. Bill

Simply - yes
I have what you may call a long touring boat with very little rocker and a very pronounced skeg and forefoot. It has a rudder.

When deployed, it has a very noticeable effect on speed and efficiency. It also tends to get in the way for rescues, towing, re-entry, loading, unloading and Bladesesque Tom-foolery.

However, since I have not yet mastered any of the following:

a) Hands free bow rudder

b) Hands free sweep

c) Hands free stern draw

d) Hands free stern pry

e) Hands free sculling draw

f) Hands free hanging draw

g) Hands free forward stroke

I find the rudder quite useful for photography.


yes and no
Yes - anything you stick in the water that does not provide propulsion will slow you down.

No - if your kayak doesn’t require wasting paddle propulsion for corrective strokes you are going to go faster.

what kind of time loss are we talking?
I’m guessing for about a five mile paddle the rudder may cause a loss of about 15 seconds?

This argument is kind of like saying power steering in a vehicle affects it’s gas mileage because of the extra weight it adds…

Another question
First… anything that sticks down in the water is going to slow down the hull speed.

The question is: in spite of that slow down, does the advantage of no corrective strokes and leaning of the boat outweigh the effect of an appendage hanging down in the water. Yes. In my experience I find a totally dropped skeg more of a drag than a rudder on speed.

I think the article with Freya Hoffmeister in the latest Sea kayaker will do a lot towards causing more acceptance and positivity with advanced kayakers about rudders. Basically she loved it and said “why bother with all these bow rudders, sweep strokes if you don’t have to” - something like that.

I always enjoy stirring the pot !


I read the blog and would have come to a different conclusion. The more rear-mounted the rudder or skeg is, the more efficient it would be because the leverage you speak of would enable it to keep the boat more firmly in line with the direction of travel.

Imagine the other case, a rudder or skeg just behind the cockpit. It would need need to have more area to impart the same tracking stability, conversely a rudder of the same size would spend more of its time not aligned with the water flow, thus creating more drag.

The rear-mounted rudder may feel like it creates more drag simply because the more firmly-locked tracking results in a firmer paddle resistance, with less boat wagging.


on a river trip
with currents and 100 lbs of gear imparting various forces on your boat, it definitely can help your speed/distance & paddling efficiency.

In my Epic Endurance 18, I can go 2-3 tenths of a mile per hour faster with the rudder up. Trouble is I don’t get many chances to do this because there is usually a wind that tries to turn me. I need the rudder for directional control in a cross wind. I have done a few races with the rudder up on extremely calm days, but this is rare.

its more better
I am definitely slower without it. Waste too much time doing corrective strokes, but then again, I don’t really play in surf, etc. Mostly long distance stuff and racing. I haven’t had any problems with rolls, rescues, etc simply because I never have to roll or be rescued.


Compared to what?
Rudder vs. no rudder? Or rudder vs. skeg? I don’t want to start the rudder/skeg wars again but in my skegged boat I put the skeg down just a little bit. I never need corrective strokes and the drag is undetectable. But I am not racing so my strokes are not as powerful. They are touring strokes and have less effect on the boat. I have tried partially deploying the rudder on my wife’s boat and that does not work.

Ever try a rudder…
deployed part-way?

Sticking straight out the back?

Seems to work pretty well. I feel less drag than when having it sticking straight down.

Anyone else try this?

Of course I realize it wouldn’t catch any water in really lumpy stuff. Most of my need for a rudder is in windy shallow areas. The chop is rarely two feet.

Then again, it may be further proof I’m nuts.


[I haven’t had any problems with rolls, rescues, etc simply because I never have to roll or be rescued.<br /> ;)]

Sooo… you’re telling us that you never practice rescues? I have never had to be rescued but I practice them both solo and with my paddling friends.