I do a lot of paddling in the intra coastal in South Fl. It is about 100 yards wide & there can be a lot of boat traffic in the afternoon.

When I encounter a wake I try & meet in head on, but if I can’t is it better to put my rudder down for more stability or to leave it up?

Up, Down, Doesn’t Matter…
just relax your hips and keep paddling. If the wake is decent size, say at you head level, as it comes at you on the beam, just lightly stick a low brace into it. Then keep paddling on your way.

Biggest thing is to stay relaxed, especially in the hips. The boat can handle it. Don’t mess it up by getting all stiffed (and top heavy) on the boat.



Playing with the rudder
instead of paddling the boat is the surest way to capsize.

when I am in a situation like that.
I immediately put the rudder down just in case I need a quick response.

I can paddle all day long without the rudder, but there will be that one occasion every so often, where no matter how I lean or use paddle strokes, the extra quickness that the rudder gives is a big help.

My criteria on big boat wakes, if I am head on, I don’t need the rudder.

If I am sideways to the wake and if it is not breaking, I’ll just continue on the same course.

If the boat is passing me from the rear, and his wake is going to catch up, I’ll turn away from the direction that the wake is coming from so that it comes at me from the rear, and then on most occasions the rudder is not needed even though I will have it down.

No two wakes are the same, and handling them just seems to come with experience.

I didn’t give the answer you are looking for, so for me sometimes it stays up and sometimes down.



Be thankful
that the kind motorboats are providing you a free ride and some fun.

Practice in small surf
Go find a spot with waves breaking 1 -3 ’ and let the waves hit you broadside, practice letting the waves roll under you, side surf you, brace off of them. Once you get a feeling for what your boat can handle boat wakes will not give you much problem, when you get reflecting, rebounding wakes you want to learn to relax and stay loose and let the boat do the bobbing. A rudder does not provide any real stability, and turning the boat quickly in rebounding reflecting waves isn’t really going to win you anything.

Rudder DOWN = more fun riding.

draw stroke
Unless the wave is breaking, which means a low or high brace, an aesthetically nice and effective way to handle a wave coming from the side is to use a draw stroke. Slide into the draw from a forward stroke so that your paddle is on the back side of the wave and once the wave slides underneath you slice the paddle forward and then back into a forward stroke–seamless. Best to learn this by seeing it done and then practice. I hardly ever use a standard low brace anymore.

Learn to just hold your course…
… an take wakes for any angle.

Turing to meet wakes head on is a bad habit. Constantly adjusting course for wakes is just evidence you’re not comfortable in wakes and not able to control you kayak in them. It can also force you to head in directions you don’t want to go in some of the narrower areas. Besides, at some point some are going to come, or reflect, that you don’t see, aren’t ready for, or can’t react to as you’ve already found. Then what?

Follow the other’s advice about loose hips. You really don’t need to do much of anything for most wakes. Starting with the smaller wakes just keep paddling normally - without steering into them, and see what happens. Actually what DOESN’T happen.

Wakes can only flip you if you overreact. They can broach or side-surf you a bit. No big deal if you stay loose and over the kayak.

Also, it’s no so much the size but the steepness and angle. Some of the smaller boats give wakes that are more likely to broach you than some of the bigger that just roll under.

Best thing I can tell you is to learn to roll and do deep braces. Not because you’ll need to do either because of wakes, but because your boat control and confidence will jump up considerably and you’ll ignore the same wakes that make you take evasive action now.

Can’t really comment on the rudder as my ICW cruising is all done without. I kind of like mintjulep’s take on it above.