Making your kayak track in a straight line needs the right skill and equipment. You must know how to twist your torso to be in line with the paddle blade when paddling. You should also use a skeg or rudder when paddling in rough waters and have the right size of paddle for your kayak.
Tracking in the kayaking world refers to a kayak’s ability to hold its course when it’s underway. A kayak that has excellent tracking will stay on its course even when faced with a turning force. Tracking can also be determined by observing the boat’s motion after you stop paddling. If it continues in the same direction when not paddling, it has high or good tracking performance.
Some kayaks are designed for excellent tracking, meaning you don’t require much effort to keep them in their course. Some others don’t do so well, and they need modification and special skills to keep moving straight. It might be disappointing to paddle in choppy water or windy weather if you have such a kayak. However, all is not lost as you can improve a kayak’s tracking by making a few changes. This article takes you through some tips that you can use to make your kayak track better. Keep reading!
Top 6 Tips That Will Make Your Kayak Track Better
1. Deploy the rudder when the wind is blowing the kayak from the rear
Most large tandem kayaks have a foot-operated rudder that helps the boat stay on course. You can also install a rudder on your kayak if you are prone to paddling in windy areas. Sometimes, the boat may turn or change course when paddling through a crosswind or in windy weather. Deploying the rudder and moving it side to side affects the water flow, thus making the kayak stay on course. If you want to turn your kayak in a specific direction, you need to apply a force on the rudder to that direction. (If you turn the rudder to the left, the boat turns left). Installing a rudder to your kayak is one of the effective ways to improve tracking.
2. Install the skeg all the time
If you’ve noticed that your kayak struggles to stay on course, we recommend paddling with the skeg installed every time. A skeg is a fin-shaped tool that comes attached to your kayak or can be installed when needed. It helps to anchor your boat’s stern from the forces that push it sideways.
When the skeg is installed on your kayak, it is easier to control your vessel’s direction and keep it tracking straight. A skeg is the most straightforward way of improving the kayak’s tracking performance. The only instance where you will not need to include a skeg on your vessel is when you are paddling in shallow waters. Shallow water tends to have obstacles that can ground your kayak and damage the skeg.
3. Use a proper paddle
The choice of your paddle significantly impacts the kayak’s tracking and performance. Since your adventure will involve thousands of paddle strokes, you will need to ensure you have the right paddle. When choosing a paddle, consider the length and shape of the blade and the type of shaft.
a) Paddle length
The length of your paddle has a direct impact on your kayak’s tracking. You need to choose the right size of paddle for your vessel if you want good tracking. A wide boat needs a longer paddle and vice versa. The paddler’s height also plays a huge role in determining the correct paddle length. When buying a paddle, ensure you check the brand’s website for the recommended paddle length.
The table below is the recommended paddle lengths for different size paddlers and their boat width from Werner paddles. Other brands may vary in specs, so check the brand you wish to purchase for the correct paddle length.
|Paddlers Height||Width of the boat|
|Under 23″||23″ to 28″||28″ to 32″||Over 32″|
|Under 5′ tall||210cm||220cm||230cm||240cm|
|5′ to 5’6″ tall||215cm||220cm||230cm||240cm|
|5’6″ to 6′ tall||220cm||220cm||230cm||250cm|
|Over 6′ tall||220cm||230cm||240cm||250cm|
b) The shape of the blade
When choosing a paddle, consider the shape of the blade since it also impacts how your kayak tracks. Most paddles these days have an asymmetrical blade with a dihedral shape. These paddles have a rib down the center that allows water to flow evenly and smoothly over both blade halves. Blades that lack this rib tend to flutter more, making it difficult to track straight.
c) Type of shaft
We recommend going for bent or feathered shafts when choosing a kayak paddle since they help reduce wind resistance when paddling. This, in turn, improves performance and makes the kayak track excellently.
4. Lean in towards the direction you are turning away from
A paddler’s weight also impacts the kayak’s tracking performance. When paddling, always ensure you lean or edge your boat to shorten the length of the waterline since this helps to turn the boat more effortlessly. Experts recommend that paddlers should lean in a way that ensures the hull is one-third on its side of the water.
If you want your kayak to go left, you should lean to the right and paddle on the right.
5. Use robust and well-thought-out strokes
Sometimes, powerful strokes are all you need to make your kayak track better. You need to learn and practice different strokes to know which one will work well in a specific situation. There are two popular strokes that most paddlers use to keep their kayaks on track.
a) Sweep strokes
Sweep strokes are a favorite among paddlers because they help to keep the boat from going offshore and set it back if it loses track. If your kayak is going off course, you will need to deploy a sweep stroke in the opposite direction to get it back on track. For instance, if you apply a sweep stroke on the right side of the boat, the vessel will tilt to the right, getting you back on course and able to paddle in a straight line.
b) Rudder strokes
Rudder strokes steer your kayak towards the direction of the blade, thus slowing it down and changing its direction without much effort. This stroke needs some skill level because it might cause the vessel to reverse to another direction when force is applied.
6. Keep practicing to improve your paddling skills
One of the most overlooked methods of making your kayak track straight is the paddler’s skill level. It would be best if you focused on sharpening your paddling skills to know which stroke to apply in which situation. Ensure you practice different techniques that will keep your boat straight. Paddling practice also strengthens your muscles to ensure you can paddle even in windy weather without getting fatigued. Remember, it takes numerous practice sessions for paddlers to master straight tracking.
Professional guidance and numerous practice sessions come in handy when you want to improve your kayak tracking skills. Sometimes, you need additional features such as a skeg and rudder to keep your vessel in a straight line. Your choice of the paddle will also impact how well your kayak tracks. We recommend starting with the basics to figure out why your kayak goes off course.
Ensure you are confident of your paddling skills before you start buying expensive accessories. Choose the right paddle and control your body movements to get the best tracking. Apply these tips from paddling experts and enjoy an improved tracking performance on your kayak. Don’t forget to tell us what works for you.
Briggs is from Chandler, Arizona, USA. Besides riding on his dirt bike on Grand Canyon – he loves fishing and often go kayaking in Colorado River with his best friends Mike. A cute dog named Ketty gives the company while Briggs kayaks alone.