Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by mrcharly »

leighv wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 1:51 pm
mrcharly wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 1:43 pm

If you are trying to maximize paddling efficiency, a rudder is better than a skeg or no skeg. If you have to make steering strokes, you are wasting energy.
I can see why that’d be a consideration in a racing context, but the difference in a touring context would be so minimal as to be irrelevant, surely?

This also raises another issue. A rudder would primarily be for improving tracking in a beam or quartering wind, although of course paddlers also use them for steering. But that raises a potential issue: if a paddler has learned to paddle with a rudder and in doing so has always relied on it for steering as well, does that not make them particularly vulnerable if the rudder fails? In the aforementioned Reddit discussion that prompted me to post this thread, one user actually decided to outright block me when he asked how I steer without a rudder, and I replied saying that I use edging with sweeps or rudder strokes. It seems he couldn’t handle the fact that there are paddlers who don’t rely on a mechanism to steer, and I wondered if he was offended because he thought I was implying that I possess some skill that he doesn’t (or perhaps he was just a puerile internet idiot who couldn’t handle people with different opinions!).

And for what it's worth, I know there are plenty of paddlers out there who habitually use a skeg all the time while paddling too, which can be just as detrimental to developing a good forward paddling technique as over reliance on a rudder can be for developing your edging and turning strokes.
Not if you are paddling truly long distances on successive days.
The aformentioned Mr Coffey fitted a rudder to his boats because he was getting exhausted fighting crosswinds.

Some boats won't paddle in a straight line without a rudder - the hull shape is designed so that they are balanced including the rudder. So it is vital to be able to at least jam the rudder in a fixed position in the event of a failure.

If I'm paddling a rudderless boat, I rarely make steering strokes, but compensate by leaning, pushing harder on one side than the other with feet; it depends on the boat. If I'm paddling a canoe from the stern, I will use J strokes.

The person you were speaking with sounds like a puerile idiot. WW racing boats, built to go down rapids fast, don't have rudders. He might well lack the skill to handle such a boat!
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Owen »

mrcharly wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 3:36 pm
leighv wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 1:51 pm
mrcharly wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 1:43 pm


Not if you are paddling truly long distances on successive days.
The aformentioned Mr Coffey fitted a rudder to his boats because he was getting exhausted fighting crosswinds.


To be fair, he was paddling an old Nordkapp HM, have you ever tried paddling one of them? A real dog of a kayak, many people here also put rudders on them as that was the only way to keep control. Kayak design has moved on a lot from the seventies.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by on the rocks »

Fast Sea Kayaks (FSKs) like the Rockpool Tarran and Tiderace Pace obviously need rudders because they are optimised for speed with their long water line and no or minimal rocker which makes turning by edging much more difficult. I have tried a Tiderace Pace Action which has a rockered hull and a rudder, but it seemed a bit pointless to me; neither one thing nor another. However I did find that a rudder can make it easier to hold a bearing on a crossing with a significant cross wind . Recently I paddled a New Zealand made plastic kayak with a rudder when I was on holiday in Cape Town. Although the boat was relatively short, had a reasonable rocker and good secondary stability it didn't turn automatically or easily when on edge lime my Pilgrim Expedition does; although the shortened water line made sweep strokes either side effective.

My take away from this is that many US or antipodean kayaks aren't shaped to turn on edge the same way that rockered UK boats do an/or US paddlers aren't trained or don't learn to turn on edge?

The only time I (and many others?) use my skeg is on a downwind paddle, especially with a following sea. However some attention to loading and trim is needed to keep the boat relatively wind neutral and hence minimise the requirement to deploy the skeg. For other situations including cross winds edging and stroke tweaking works fine to control direction. However as above I agree a rudder can simplify things a lot on a long crossing with a side wind, it would be nice to have the space and budget for a FSK in addition to my Pilgrim Expedition for those sort of trips.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by MikeB »

In Canada, in 2000, the hire boats were all fitted with rudders. All of which were operated by the sort of sliding pedal that Leigh has referenced as being a problem when one wants something to brace off like a footrest or bulkhead. All of us stowed the skegs up, thus returning the pedals to a fixed footrest. The various other local and American paddlers we met were astonished that we could control the boats merely by edging. In fairness, those boats were nothing like as responsive as a trad British boat and really needed the rudder.

There is no reason though why a rudder control can't incorporate some form of fixed footrest. My Aleut had a cross bar footrest, with the rudder control being a pivoting bar operated by the toes. It worked exceptionally well to trim the boat according to conditions.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Chris Bolton »

there are plenty of paddlers out there who habitually use a skeg all the time
They are probably thinking that the purpose of the skeg is to help the boat run straight, rather than to balance trim for the wind direction. I know an experienced river paddler who, when relatively new to sea kayaking, was struggling to hold a course upwind in Force 4-5, so put the skeg down and struggled even more. A rudder also affects trim, and creates drag if held at an angle to maintain a straight course. I suspect that using a rudder to counter weather helm on a badly trimmed boat may be more inefficient than a skeg.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

Mac50L wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 11:56 am

I think Freya Hoffmeister had stones in the skeg box problems when she circumnavigated New Zealand. She certainly didn't have someone available to fix things at sea.
But now you're splitting hairs. A few pebbles caught in a skeg box can still be fixed by stopped and cleaning it out.


Yes fixable but you go ashore and fix it and it happens again when you leave the beach again.... and again....

The point is, it's an entirely fixable problem. Sure, you'd have to land to fix the issue, and that can be problematic, but the same would apply if the rudder malfunctioned in some way. And rudders can and do malfunction, as they're not impervious to damage either.
Rudder pedals - mine are full foot sized and the hinges are level with the ankle.
I'm not sure I follow. Surely any pressure placed on the rudder pedals will affect the rudder.
Of course not. You put the pressure on the pedals, not change their angle. There are some kayaks with a small hinged pedal at the top of the fixed pedal so again, push as hard as you want to, it won't change the rudder angle.

Yes, the Canadians came up with sliding pedals, the worst idea possible.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

leighv wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 12:32 pm
I also find it interesting that rudders are rarely seen in the UK, but seem to be extremely common elsewhere, especially the US. There does certainly appear to be some cultural angle to it, but I am so curious as to why that's happened, and when it happened.
A couple of UK paddlers/manufacturers (Derek Hutchinson and Frank Goodman) became very vocal and rudders appeared to be a thing you didn't use.

If you follow paddlers in Tasmania you'll see rudders were considered mandatory.
I came from a yachting background and obviously you use a rudder, so it was logical to design and fit one to a kayak. Even more so if trying to keep up with stronger paddlers who had rudders.
A lot of the time we were wanting to get somewhere and if in the Sounds, the wind was from somewhere else numerous times an hour plus poking into the interesting bits without needing to slow down much.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

MikeB wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 7:46 pm
In Canada, in 2000, the hire boats were all fitted with rudders. All of which were operated by the sort of sliding pedal that Leigh has referenced as being a problem
As I've also mentioned, the worst design possible. A short day paddle in Australia a few years back really showed how bad they could be as the owner hadn't cleaned the sand out of tracks where the pedals slid. At least she provided a nice lunch on the island we went to. My partner and I had started the day in a double and the guide paddled the Canadian designed Puffin. I paddled it back.
There is no reason though why a rudder control can't incorporate some form of fixed footrest.
A lot of them do.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Sean_soup »

Mac50L wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 10:29 pm
If you follow paddlers in Tasmania you'll see rudders were considered mandatory.
If you've been following Fi and James Corfe's adventures in (around) Tasmania more recently, you'll see that they're not mandatory after all.
(SKUK Pilgrim Expedition and Explorer HV respectively - both 3-piece, with skegs not rudders.)

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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by EK Sydney »

Just when you think ‘surely not?’
A skeg v rudder debate.
I’m off to measure the width of my deck lines and start up a proper meaningful thread.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

Sean_soup wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2024 9:52 am
Mac50L wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 10:29 pm
If you follow paddlers in Tasmania you'll see rudders were considered mandatory.
If you've been following Fi and James Corfe's adventures in (around) Tasmania more recently, you'll see that they're not mandatory after all.
Note the word "were". We're talking 40 years ago.
You might also note they come from the non-rudder UK.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by leighv »

Mac50L wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 10:29 pm
I came from a yachting background and obviously you use a rudder, so it was logical to design and fit one to a kayak.
But why is that "logical"? A yacht is a totally different craft; the main source of propulsion on a yacht is the wind in its sails or its engines, whereas a kayak is propelled and manoevred by your paddles and body. Whilst they're both water vessels, they're so different that to suggest a feature on one should logically be on the other feels like an odd way of looking at things. By the same token, you could say it's logical to use a sail on a kayak.
Yes fixable but you go ashore and fix it and it happens again when you leave the beach again.... and again....
Sorry, but if you keep doing that to your skeg again and again, that's due to paddler error, not a fundamental issue with the skeg itself. I always launch with care when launching from sandy/pebbly shorelines, and check that my skeg is properly working before heading out.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Owen »

If you float your boat before getting in your skeg won't get grit in it. Saves on gelcoat as well.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by leighv »

Exactly. I also usually launch the boat by lifting the stern and pushing it into the water, so that the skeg avoids contact with the shore as much as possible, before climbing into it once its afloat.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

From the title of the thread, it isn't just the Americans having the number of rudders per paddling population. Maybe in should have been "Why are British paddlers the ones most likely NOT to have rudders?"

A rudder or skeg should be looked at as, "What's your preference, what's your paddling style?" rather than the "You shouldn't use a .... because we don't"
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by leighv »

Mac50L wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 11:05 am
From the title of the thread, it isn't just the Americans having the number of rudders per paddling population. Maybe in should have been "Why are British paddlers the ones most likely NOT to have rudders?"
I titled the thread from my perspective as a Brit looking at American paddlers.
A rudder or skeg should be looked at as, "What's your preference, what's your paddling style?" rather than the "You shouldn't use a .... because we don't"
You'll have to point out where I or anyone else suggested this.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

leighv wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 12:05 pm
Mac50L wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 11:05 am
Why are British paddlers the ones most likely NOT to have rudders?"
I titled the thread from my perspective as a Brit looking at American paddlers.
Agreed.
I'm also pointing out it can apply to the rest of the world too.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by mrcharly »

Ok, after a less-good experience today, I want to amend my description of rudder.

Utterly useless if you need to go backwards. Yes, you can paddle backwards, but the steering is very difficult to control. This can be almost dangerous if you are in a tight spot between rocks. Wave surges in narrow places can change the water flow direction and really chuck you around if you have a rudder.
Worse than useless if trying to backwards through dense seaweed.

So - rudders; good for long distance cruising and racing. That's it.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

mrcharly wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2024 4:30 pm
Utterly useless if you need to go backwards. Yes, you can paddle backwards, but the steering is very difficult to control.
So why didn't you pull it up?
The same with a skeg, retract it.
Easy enough to do.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by mrcharly »

You can't pull up an under hull rudder. Also, not all over stern rudders can be lifted from the cockpit.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Ceegee »

Rudders are downright dangerous. I've had nicked paddles, chipped gelcoats and sliced fingers off the damn things, all other peoples, who don't seem to be able to control their boats despite having them.

Note to Germans who were ALL the aforementioned culprits: try sticking them in the water where they belong, instead of adorning your back decks. I don't think I've ever seen one actually being used. Also, they make rescuing you extremely hazardous, they invariably get broken in the process, and I'm not going to bother next time.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

mrcharly wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 6:56 am
You can't pull up an under hull rudder.
Bad design.
Also, not all over stern rudders can be lifted from the cockpit.
Bad design.
All of the many rudders I've made and all I've used on a range of kayaks can all be lifted from the cockpit.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

Ceegee wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 7:43 am
Rudders are downright dangerous. I've had nicked paddles, chipped gelcoats and sliced fingers off the damn things, all other peoples, who don't seem to be able to control their boats despite having them.
I've never in my 40+ years of kayaking ever had those problems.
Also, they make rescuing you extremely hazardous, they invariably get broken in the process, and I'm not going to bother next time.
Eeerr? How? OK, there are people who are stupid enough to drag one kayak over another but if you do a rescue sensibly and well under half a minute (15 seconds?) then how do you get a rudder into a breakable position?

And Yes, I've done rescues where it is "get it right or someone drowns".
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by mrcharly »

Mac50L wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 9:44 am
mrcharly wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 6:56 am
You can't pull up an under hull rudder.
Bad design.
Also, not all over stern rudders can be lifted from the cockpit.
Bad design.
All of the many rudders I've made and all I've used on a range of kayaks can all be lifted from the cockpit.
How the heck do you expect an under hull rudder to be retractable?

Frankly, I wouldn't trust a design that was retractable; it wouldn't be strong enough. I paddle in conditions where over half my boat is airborn. The forces when slamming down and serious (lightweight carbon skis have broken in half in those conditions, another reason why I paddle a heavy PE ski).
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

mrcharly wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:51 am
How the heck do you expect an under hull rudder to be retractable?
Skudder or Skeg Rudder – by Hebal, Germany, dates back to 1980s or earlier and by Don Currie 1990s Don designed and fitted a couple to British Valley Skerray kayaks in New Zealand.
https://canterburyseakayak.wordpress.com/rudder-types/
Frankly, I wouldn't trust a design that was retractable; it wouldn't be strong enough.
Any rudder or just the underhull type? If paddling in the conditions you quote, obviously retract the rudder.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by mrcharly »

And then, as I stated above, my boat has absolutely no steering.

Some boat hulls are designed to be balanced including the rudder. Remove it and the boat has no directional stability.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Ceegee »

Mac50L wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 9:51 am
Ceegee wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 7:43 am
Rudders are downright dangerous. I've had nicked paddles, chipped gelcoats and sliced fingers off the damn things, all other peoples, who don't seem to be able to control their boats despite having them.
I've never in my 40+ years of kayaking ever had those problems.
Two incidents that come to mind were a 20km "fun" paddle through Berlin where a ruddered tandem overtook me against the bank, then swerved, taking a 50p sized chunk out of my bow, and a sea kayak symposium in Spain where a ruddered kayak surfed backwards onto me, requiring a hand to fend off and a gashed finger. I mean seriously, who goes rock gardening in a boat with a rudder? Both were raised btw.

The damage was a face-down rear deck re-entry (side scoop failed) where the victim tangled the various external crap, pouches and buckles attached to their PFD with the rudder release line which required judicious and embarassing application of my rescue knife, and little sympathy.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by RichardP »

Leigh you really stirred the pot on the use of a Rudder

Have it on My Tiderace Pace action and i Love it. Best of both worlds. Great cruising with rudder, useful for weather cocking, & when i want to PLAY !, up it goes
whatever Kayak you have everyone ...Enjoy

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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by Mac50L »

Ceegee wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 1:41 pm
The damage was a face-down rear deck re-entry (side scoop failed) where the victim tangled the various external crap, pouches and buckles attached to their PFD with the rudder release line which required judicious and embarrassing application of my rescue knife, and little sympathy.
Design, design, design.... nothing will stop bad design messing things up. All my lines are below the deck and come out a rudder blade length from the stern.

As for the double hitting you, bad captain.
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Re: Why do most American sea kayaks seem to have rudders?

Post by on the rocks »

I think skegs combined with hulls optimised for turning on edge may be more popular in the UK because our generally shorter swell periods and access to fast tidal streams gives more opportunity for enjoying rock hopping / gardening and tide race play, conversely less popularity of long journeys detracts from benefit of rudders? Or have I got this wrong?
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