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Rudders Vs. Skegs

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What’s better, a British ‘Skeg’ style sea kayak or a North American ‘Rudder’ style sea kayak? When choosing a sea kayak, we’re often asked this question, as its one of the first decisions paddlers should consider. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of each type.

Skeg Style Sea Kayaks

A skeg is essentially a “triangle-shaped fin” which deploys from within the stern section of a kayak’s hull. Unlike rudders, skegs are NOT directional devices – its purpose is to aid in tracking (the ability to go straight) in adverse conditions and add stability.

Skegs adjust easily up or down by sliding a hand control forward or aft. When fully deployed, the skeg enhances the kayaks ability to turn downwind; when lowered halfway, the kayaks tendency is to turn crosswind. When raised completely, maneuverability increases and the kayak naturally turns upwind unless countered by edging.

Skegs force paddlers to learn to control their kayaks through paddle and body movements (edging), which change hull shape on the water to give the boat direction. Skeg designed kayaks provide builders greater flexibility to increase the amount of rocker (curve) in their designs. Additional rocker enhances the kayaks ability to maneuver and turn quickly. Negatively, the skeg box that houses the skeg inside the stern hatch does minimize storage of longer items like tents.

Rudder Style Sea Kayaks

A rudder is a stern mounted mechanism which is lowered or raised by the use of a hand controlled pulley system. Foot pedals in the cockpit operate this directional device, and when deployed, the rudder blade normally sits 4 to 6 inches in the water.

Beginners and experts alike often misuse rudders, as they tend to rely on them to steer. As such, they do NOT develop their paddling skills to the same degree as those using skegs. Problems become apparent when kayakers encounters big water situations where the rudder blade may no longer reach the water. Paddlers who have not learned to control & steer their craft without one may be subjecting themselves to situations beyond their capabilities!

Rudders restrict the amount of rocker (curve) to a kayaks hull making them less maneuverable due to the boats longer waterline. A rudder can be a great choice, but we highly recommend you learn to control your kayak confidently without one!

The Two Rudder Types

Sliding Foot Pedal Rudder Systems are normally found on less expensive models and more dated designs as they limit the paddlers ability to brace and steer at the same time. Smart or Gas Pedal Rudder Systems are vastly superior as they enable paddlers to both steer and brace independently without sacrificing one function to perform the other.

Still confused? No worries, come visit our on-water paddlesports centre and we will show you the differences – then you can see for yourself by test paddling!

Rudder vs. Skeg – Paddler Fit

British Skeg Style sea kayaks tend to be narrower, have lower decks, and more cockpit contact points (adjustable hip & thigh pads, etc…). A snug fit is essential in skeg style sea kayaks, as paddlers tend to shift their body weight to edge (course correct and maneuver) their kayak. Like a running shoe, the better the fit – the better race you can run.

North American Rudder Style sea kayaks are slightly wider, have higher decks, and fewer contact points as paddlers focus is more on paddling with their hulls flat on the water rather than on edge. As such, ruddered kayaks tend to have a wider fit range than those with skegs. 

Summary

While there’s ‘NO PERFECT CHOICE’ for every water condition, your kayak should be an extension of your own personality and demeanor. Both skegs and rudders increase a kayaks resistance and slow forward progress. By developing proper kayaking techniques you will paddle more efficiently without using either devise.

To find out which is type of sea kayak best suits you, we highly recommend you enjoy the opportunity to test paddle new Skeg & Rudder Style Sea Kayaks at our waterfront Paddlesports Centre. Choose from over two hundred of the world’s finest and make your decision the right way… on the water!

For those who would like to refine their kayak skills we teach a full compliment of kayak clinics, courses and private lessons right on site. Click Here to see a full listing of the courses we offer!

If you have any questions or recommendations on how to improve this article, please call 613.376.6220 or email [email protected]

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