The Advantages of a Skeg vs. a Rudder

July 29, 2020

At Eddyline Kayaks, we believe the best way to equip our lightweight kayaks is with a retractable skeg, here's why. 

For many years, rudders have been used on kayaks to compensate for inadequate hull performance, particularly in windy and rough conditions. Unfortunately, they’ve also been used to cover up poor designs. Beginners often lean on rudders because they feel they can gain control over their lightweight kayak more quickly, even though this often slows skill development. At Eddyline Kayaks, we believe there’s a better way and prefer to equip our lightweight kayaks with a retractable skeg instead. Find out why we feel this offers a better design:

Rudders Come With a Price

Found on the sterns of lightweight kayaks, rudders are blades that can be dropped into the water and pivot side to side. They are controlled by foot pedals located in the cockpit, which are connected to the rudder by steel cables.

Rudders on lightweight kayaks come with a significant price for paddlers. For starters, they add windage, increase wetted surface, and add wave and eddy-making drag. When used to “steer” or correct for wind or poorly balanced loads, the drag created by a rudder is even greater.

At Eddyline Kayaks, we’ve used rudders on our single lightweight kayaks in the past but have found that we are able to create hulls that are so well balanced in buoyancy and windage the rudder control is no longer necessary. This makes it possible for us to use a retractable skeg instead. However, it’s important to note that double kayaks will always need rudder assistance.

For those models of Eddyline Kayaks that still use rudders, we often use a navigator rudder design. This design easily slides down and retracts onto the deck. The rudder blade locks in the lowest position automatically, and releases when lifted up. This innovative and secure mechanism prevents the blade from rising out of the water when paddling at full speed or in surf.

The Retractable Skeg

A retractable skeg is a completely different animal than a rudder. For starters, a skeg is built into the hull of a kayak, dropping and retracting using a slider. Mechanically simpler, a skeg does not pivot and is used as a tracking device, not a steering device. What does this mean for the paddler? It means that it can be used to correct for any unbalance in loading and creates a “variable” performance hull. This allows us to create a balanced hull that is inherently more maneuverable with the skeg retracted and has great tracking with the skeg down. Skegs on lightweight kayaks add a bit of wetted surface when used but avoid the windage and other drag associated with rudders. A paddler can make subtle adjustments using the skeg and eliminate the need for correctional strokes in variable weather and wave conditions.