It is true that knowing how to properly use a kayak rudder will make paddling a more enjoyable experience. However, knowing when to use a kayak rudder is as important as knowing how to use a kayak rudder. Implicit in this statement is the fact that just because a kayak comes equipped with a kayak rudder, it doesn’t mean this kayak component must always be used.
Many beginners think that a kayak rudder’s main function is to turn the kayak. While the rudder will turn the kayak that is not its primary purpose. Kayak rudders are there mainly to help the kayak to track straight in intermediate and above paddling conditions.Experienced kayakers should be able to keep their kayak tracking straight in the absence of wind or current without the use of a rudder.
Kayak rudders are mainly to be used in water with noticeable currents or during days with moderate to strong breezes. Sea and touring kayaks are made to move in a straight path. While the water and wind can cause them to veer one way or another, they do not however turn by paddle quickly. It is for this reason that when they get off course they take some time to get them going the right way again.
Things like current and wind can cause kayaks to move off course and can be difficult to counteract. When in these situations, kayak rudders will be very much appreciated. A good rule of thumb in making the decision to use a kayak rudder is under any conditions where you find yourself having to paddle continuously on one side of the boat just to keep the kayak moving straight. In these cases it is a no-brainer to use the rudder.
All that being said, it generally doesn’t hurt to keep the rudder in the water whether it is needed or not, but as mentioned earlier, an experienced kayaker should be able to keep his or her kayak moving in a straight line in windless and current-free situations without the rudder employed. Just remember if the rudder is engaged, the tendency will be to use it whether it is needed or not.