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How to Use a Kayak Rudder

All About Kayak Rudders

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How to Use a Kayak Rudder
Photo © by Susan L. Sayour

One of the coolest features on flatwater and sea kayaks are kayak rudders. There’s just something about operating a mechanical device like this that is intriguing. Excitement aside, kayak rudders can make touring and sea kayaking significantly more enjoyable if they are used properly. Most people assume that kayak rudders are used to turn the kayak. While they will aid in turning the boat, that is not their main function. The rudders on kayaks are primarily used to keep the kayak moving straight, otherwise known as “tracking.” Here are some tips on how and when to use the rudder of a kayak.

How a Kayak Rudder Works

Kayak rudders help to steer the boat. From a technical standpoint, whichever side the rudder is on will apply more resistance against the water while the opposite side allows the water to move by more freely. This gives the side without the rudder the appearance of moving faster than the side with the rudder. In short, the kayak will begin to turn to whichever side the rudder is on.

How to Deploy the Kayak Rudder

Kayak rudders generally rest on top of the stern of the kayak and can be deployed as needed. They often have an attachment that secures the rudder to the top of the kayak for the purposes of transport to the water. Release whatever device is securing the rudder in the immobilized position prior to getting in your kayak. The most typical kayak rudder arrangement has a cord that spans from the kayak rudder at the stern of the kayak all the way to the cockpit within arms reach. On this cord there will be a ball or knot or some other implement that will indicate where to grab and pull the cord. Upon pulling the cord one way, the rudder will take a circular motion from the top of the kayak into the water immediately behind the kayak. Pull the cord the other way to retract the rudder back out of the water.

How to Steer a Kayak Using a Kayak Rudder

As was indicated earlier, kayak rudders are used to keep the kayak moving straight despite any current or wind. They are usually attached through the inside of the kayak to the foot pegs. Pushing on one of the foot pegs will bring the rudder to that side of the kayak thereby causing the kayak to that very side or to counteract wind or current that wants to redirect the kayak to the other side. While this is the norm, there are other mechanisms that are used to move the rudder such as the hand activated lever on Hobie Mirage drive kayaks that are fitted with rudders.

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