Rudders have been used for years to compensate for inadequacies in hull performance, particularly in windy and rough sea conditions (and unfortunately to cover up a poor design effort). Beginners often like rudders because they feel they have control of the kayak more quickly, even though this often slows skill development. Rudders come with a price.
They add windage, increase wetted surface, and add wave and eddy making drag.
When used to “steer” or correct for wind or unbalanced loads, the drag is significantly greater. While Eddyline has used rudders on our single kayaks in the past (double kayaks will always need rudder assistance), we are now able to create hulls that are so well balanced in buoyancy and windage that rudder control is no longer necessary.
Today, we prefer the simplicity of a retractable skeg. This is a very different animal than a rudder.
Mechanically simpler, a skeg is a tracking device, not a steering device. It can be used to correct for any unbalance in loading and allows for the creation of a “variable” performance hull. This allows us to create a balanced hull that has more inherent maneuverability with the skeg retracted and still have great tracking with the skeg down. Skegs add a slight bit of wetted surface when used, but not the windage and other drags associated with rudders. Subtle adjustments of the skeg allow the paddler to eliminate the need for correctional strokes in variable weather and wave conditions, thereby focusing energy on getting to the destination.