Rudder, Skeg or Skudder on the kayak?
For a beginner kayaker there are many things to ponder about-kayak selection, how to paddle, costs, paddle selection, do my feet have to be stationary, and other accessories to think about when making purchases. The more advanced paddler already has most of the gear and has learned to paddle with the equipment available.
Paddling is a lifetime skill and it takes a lifetime to be knowledgeable and to be a great paddler.
For Sea kayaking there has always been a big philosophical difference between paddlers and manufacturers of the UK and North America about the rudder vs the skeg system and now the Skudder system.
I paddle on the Bay of Fundy and I have paddled skeg boats and rudder boats, never a Skudder boat. My first instructional Seakayak was the NordKapp a kayak of a very large following. I also paddle the large open waters of the SW Coast in Newfoundland. Over the years I have become a great believer in the rudder system and stability of a kayak with great water proof hatches and an accessible day hatch. When paddling my feet are on fixed footpegs as a three point contact is necessary to have proper boat control, for paddling, rolling and bracing.
This blog is to show the points of the rudder system vs the skeg and skudder.
To do this one must review some of the basics to how a kayak turns and also consider large wave action caused by heavy winds, currents, surf and landings.
What is a rudder?
The rudder is basically a blade that is lowered into the water so that it is straight down at the stern of the kayak and is able to move left to right by using the feet so that the blade can put on some forward resistance to make the kayak stern slide to the port or starboard and change the forward direction. So the kayak can be steered using one’s feet. The rudder blade when not in use can be raised out of the water and locked into place on top of the deck. This is the surf rudder system.
What is a skeg?
How does a kayak change direction?
A kayak or any displacement boat changes direction by side slipping the stern. Let me clarify. The kayak when in a forward motion creates a bow waves like a V. The bow wave V is like a notch and holds the kayak in place. The stern on the other hand is not locked in place and can slip sideways. When the stern slips sideways it is usually caused by the side wind and so the kayak will turn up wind. This is called weather cocking. A good kayak in case of strong winds will weather cock and really is a safety feature as wind and waves normally come from the same direction.
If weather cocking persists you can decrease this. For a skeg system on your kayak you can adjust the skeg to go down further until a right balance is felt. This is accomplished by using the slider on the side of the kayak using your hand while paddling. This will have to be adjusted manually as the wind changes
With the rudder system you may have to angle the blade so that the stern slips more up wind. This is done while you are paddling but you are using your feet.
More than likely this is not all. If you are in strong enough winds you will have to use your edging and sweeps. For a skeg fitted kayak this is more demanding than for a rudder fitted kayak normally.
White water boats today are almost as long as they are wide.They are stable but low in volume. These are notgood for paddling on any water for a distance. These kayaks are meant for moving with the flow of the water and being held in place on a wave by gravity and drag. These kayaks are manoeverable, turning,rolling,and surfing. Not meant for distance or carrying gear. These do not have any type of tracking system. Their bottoms are curved and flat.
The Sea kayak is just the opposite. These are longer and designed around 17ft. Hull shapes vary for purpose. A longer water line provides higher speed and better tracking. A more banana shaped hull will have more playboat capability-turns faster or is more manoeverable and wider in the cockpit area. These will not be as fast on the long run.
For the longer kayaks a rudder will work best. On the more banana shaped hull both systems will work but the skeg maybe all that is required or may not be able to fit a rudder system.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a skeg, rudder, and skudder.
The skeg and rudder are both used for trim. The paddle and edging are used to steer. I use my rudder on my kayak to steer as well and use my paddle for forward propulsion more so. When using your sweep strokes and paddling on one side and edging to put the kayak on course paddling rhytm is upset and this results in covering ground in less time and exhausting the paddler at the end of day.
When the lop gets high enough you will see your kayak stern be in air instead of water. In this case the rudder will also be in air and not be effective until it hits the water again. I have found this to be true with skeg boats as well. This however is not a big issue as the response time for the boat to change direction is much larger than the time out and back into the water. I do not find this an issue.
I believe that the novice should take an introductory course in the fundamentals of kayaking, trying