What Is A Kayak Skeg? Pros & Cons – Rudder or Skeg

What is a kayak skeg?

When initially heard, the language and jargon associated with kayaking may sound pretty alien. A kayak has several components with odd names. stern, keel, chine, and bow. The list continues on, and often even the names of these kayak components are not self-explanatory. A kayak skeg is a different word you may have heard, but what is a kayak skeg?

What Is A Kayak Skeg?

A kayak’s skeg is a little blade that is attached to the bottom stern of the kayak’s hull. For tracking aid in high winds or choppy waves, the kayak skeg may be deployed as needed. Depending on the situation, the skeg will either be fixed in place or will be able to extend and retract within the kayak hull.

The Distinction Between Rudder and Skeg

The placement and operation of the skeg and rudder on kayaks determine how they vary from one another. The kayak’s stern will support an externally mounted rudder. The blade will be up and directed upward when the rudder is not submerged in the water.

After that, the rudder blade may be lowered into the water like a skeg. A rudder and a skeg differ primarily in that a rudder may move from left to right. When necessary, the kayaks may be effectively navigated using this left-right movement. For additional information on a complete kayak rudder system, see here.

Skegs Benefits and Drawbacks

There will always be some who favor not using a skeg. They may not like the concept of having the skeg blade below the waterline, where it may be vulnerable to damage when deployed, or they could prefer a rudder instead. Always, there are arguments in favor and against. Here are the skeg’s benefits and drawbacks:


  • Less moving components than comparable add-ons, such as a rudder system.
  • When not in use, the skeg may be kept within the hull and out of the way.
  • Installing a skeg is simpler than setting up a rudder system.


  • A skeg prevents the kayak from being “steered” in the wind.
  • The skeg chamber, often known as the “skeg box,” may cause drag on the hull.
  • Skeg will need storage space at the stern of the hull.

How Can Kayak Skegs Be Useful?

A skeg’s primary function is to aid in the kayak’s ability to track straight in the water. This indicates that paddling the kayak straight is simpler with the skeg deployed. You generally don’t need a skeg if you’re using a recreational kayak to sometimes paddle about on the lake, and that’s OK. However, some kayaks, such as ocean-going touring kayaks or kayaks that often navigate windy and choppy seas, may profit from a skeg.

Weathercocking a Kayak

The kayak’s bow, or front, cuts through the water while it is being paddled through it. The force of the water is “pinning” the bow down, preventing it from moving as it cuts through the water. Why is this advantageous? Because a crosswind or quartering wind won’t force the kayak’s bow to deviate from the line it is following through the water.

The pinning effect is less severe in the stern (rear) of the kayak. More turbulent water is present towards the kayak’s stern. It is more likely to move because of the turbulence at the stern caused by a crosswind. The stern of the kayaks will often be propelled downwind when this crosswind actually hits it. While the kayak’s bow will be pinned. As a result, the kayak veers off course and turns towards the wind.

Weathercocking is the term used to describe this phenomenon. It might be difficult to steer the kayak when weathercocking occurs. It may be challenging and stressful just to attempt to remain on course while adjusting paddle strokes.

How Weathercocking Can Be Helped by the Skeg

The kayak skegs will be useful in this situation. Your kayak may experience a crosswind that might push you to the right or left. More surface area may be created by dropping a skeg into the water, and the fact that the skeg itself is extending deeper into the water helps to stabilize the stern of kayaks.

This works because the skegs themselves provide additional underwater resistance for the wind to push against when it is stretched down into the water. This prevents the kayak’s stern from drifting downwind and decreases the impacts of weathercocking.

Kayak Skegs Using

Your kayak will probably have the choice of either a rudder or a skeg, regardless of whether it is an inflatable kayak or a hard-shell kayak. The skegs are only used to assist in keeping your kayak straight when a rudder is utilized to steer. Other details are also crucial to be aware of in order to obtain the most performance out of your kayak. We’ll go over some crucial information about utilizing kayak skegs down below.

Utilizing skegs can help keep your kayak on course while perhaps requiring less effort from you. It may greatly improve the kayak’s maneuverability and paddling comfort. The skegs are most helpful while paddling a kayak in the wind and/or waves, particularly when the wind is on your back and the waves are coming at you from the side. Your kayak won’t likely have much problem staying straight if there is no wind or wave action, and the skegs won’t help much either.

When is it necessary to utilize the skegs?

The effects of the wind and waves will vary for various kayak types. Other types will unquestionably need the skeg to keep the kayak straight, while certain models can handle weather conditions far better. You can rapidly determine how well your kayak withstands the weather by doing a little study on it. In windy conditions, inflatable kayaks often need a skeg.

The way your kayak is loaded may also affect whether you require a skeg. For instance, if the bow of your kayak is being more impacted by the wind than the stern, you may reduce the impact of the wind even without a skeg by changing the weight of the kayak so that the stern is heavier than the bow.

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Recognizing how and why your kayak responds to the weather

If you are paddling quickly ahead and the wind is spinning your kayak, it is because the stern of your kayak is moving sideways relative to the bow. It will seem to you from where you are seated that your kayak is turning into the wind (i.e. the problem will seem to be with the bow). The stern, however, is really sliding in the water in the same direction as the wind considerably more than the bow, which is the actual issue. Because of this, you must use your skeg to prevent sliding from the stern.

How your kayak’s route will be impacted by how it is loaded

Your kayak’s ability to navigate in the wind and waves and how effectively your skeg works will all be directly impacted by how you load it. The stern (rear) of your kayaks will experience greater sideways wind resistance if you have weighted it such that the rear is heavier than the front. When this occurs, your kayak’s bow (front) will have less sideways resistance and will probably point into the wind.

The front of your kayaks will experience greater sideways wind resistance than the rear if you have weighted it such that the front is heavier than the rear. In response, your kayaks will turn toward the wind. If you are navigating rough waters, it is best to load your kayaks with more weight from the center down and less weight up front.

By employing your skeg, you may increase the rear of your kayak’s sideways resistance, allowing the front to have less resistance and assisting you in paddling with the wind rather than against it. A skeg may still be extremely helpful in directing your kayaks and helping to lessen the amount of work you must put out, which is always a good thing. This is true even if your kayaks handle various weather situations with ease.

Should I Skeg or Not?

Here is a brief overview of both, with an emphasis on skegs. Skegs are used to help a kayak track straight in crosswinds and following waves. The performance of the kayak is unaffected when the skeg is hoisted back up within the boat when it is no longer required. Skegs are controlled by a single cable on a slider system or a small-diameter rope and bungee on a spring locking system.

Rudders are intended to assist the kayaks to be maneuvered, but they may also be used to help in tracking. When a kayak and rudder work together well, the hull speed and efficiency rise, in part because fewer corrective strokes are required. The rudder does have two drawbacks, however, as it encourages the paddler to become more reliant on a mechanical system.

You could give up a little hull speed and economy, but you’ll finish up with a more adaptable paddler. The key line is to utilize your skeg as little as possible when learning to paddle. Over time, you’ll gain greater self-assurance when kayaking. Before giving you the luxury of adjusting your boat with a skeg, they want you to master corrective strokes.

You’re ready to start experimenting with your skeg when you can correctly and confidently steer your kayaks in calm and challenging situations. The quantity of skeg deployed affects how responsive your boat is to the specific circumstances you’re paddling in. Even if you can correct your course with a few sweep strokes, it’s not always fun to paddle ten miles against a strong crosswind.

A few years ago, I was in charge of a voyage off Florida’s Gulf Coast and one of my customers experienced some issues with her skeg. What was the remedy? the skeg was raised until it was just partially deployed. The skeg then assisted in locking the kayak’s stern into position while still allowing the paddler to maintain the course.

It’s crucial to experiment with different skeg placements in all kinds of situations since every boat reacts differently. Always be cautious when entering dangerous situations by paddling in a group of kayakers whose abilities and judgment you can trust. You’ll not only save your energy and effort but also take full advantage of the excitement of rougher water.

FAQs About Skegs For Kayaks

How Should a Kayak Skeg Be Used?

We now understand the potential need for a skeg on a kayak. But how does one use a skeg? The slider that engages the skeg from its place within the kayak’s hull is often found near the cockpit. Keep in mind that, unlike a rudder, a skeg can only move up and down. The skeg will be raised and lowered using the slider.

How deep ought the skeg to be?

The skeg may be positioned in the water at different depths, acting as part of the kayak’s anchor system. How far away from the skeg to leave your kayak will depend on how much weathercocking it experiences in windy situations. The impacts of weathercocking are lessened when the skeg sinks farther down into the water, doing more to anchor the kayak to the deeper, calmer water, often making it a component of the best kayak anchor system.

Consider your kayak to be the minute hand of a clock as a basic guideline for skeg depth placements. The kayak’s bow is constantly turned away from the center and the direction of the wind, which is from 12 to 6 o’clock. Upon grasping the concept of a kayak skeg, it’s important to distinguish it from another pivotal tool in kayaking navigation – the rudder. These two components, although integral in steering and stabilizing the kayak, fulfill distinct roles and possess their own individual features.

Kayaking Skegs Conclusion

A skeg is a relatively simple design and idea, so it won’t need a complex network of wires and foot controllers to function (looking at your rudder). Additionally, utilizing a skeg in windy or choppy circumstances to provide some help won’t fully eliminate the spirit and challenge of kayaking in such situations. Additionally, employing a skeg for that little bit of support to keep you on the course might make your time on the water more pleasurable and productive for a beginner paddler who hasn’t yet learned all the abilities they need.

Read more: What is oil canning kayak?

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