The Differences Between kayak Rudder VS. Skeg & Which One Has More Advantages?

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 5, 2022
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Skegs and rudders both have advantages and disadvantages, and choosing between either of them might seem simple, but in the real sense, it is not. You have to be careful when choosing, for it will affect the satisfaction you will have with your kayak.

Key Takeaways

  • Whether you need a rudder or skeg depends on quite a few things like the design of the hull, the length of the kaya, and the purpose of the use
  • Kayaks with skegs are primarily designed to perform well in dynamic or challenging environments
  • Kayaks with rudders are usually slightly longer and have a lot of storage
  • A rudder is used most of the time due to the nature of control that it brings along

Why Are Rudders And Skegs Needed?

In most cases, rudders and skegs might not be needed to aid in steering a kayak. If you are stable and everything is okay, then you will not have any use for either of them. However, some conditions might force you to deploy or use a rudder or a skeg. Nature is unpredictable, and sometimes there might be strong winds or tides, and you might need to stabilize your kayak.

When faced with such circumstances, you might need the aid of either a skeg or a rudder to steer you in the right direction. If you are good at paddling, your kayak might still go straight, but to avoid the trouble, it is advisable to deploy either a skeg or a rudder. They also help you to save a lot of energy that would have been otherwise used is trying so hard to steer your kayak properly.

Why Do Some Kayaks Have Rudders While Others Have Skegs?

Three main factors can determine whether a kayak should have a rudder, a skeg, or neither of the two. These main factors will contribute immensely to the kind of stability that a kayak requires hence the need for their consideration. They include:

1. The design of the hull

2. The intended use

3. The length of the kayak

Kayaks with skegs are primarily designed to perform well in dynamic or challenging environments. Due to the amount of rocker that they possess, the paddler has better control and can stabilize the kayak more efficiently and easily. They are considerably easy to navigate due to the amount of rocker and the design of the hull. They are suitable for coastal environments with a lot of moving water.

Kayaks with rudders are considered by many to be the most efficient ones. They are usually slightly longer and have a lot of storage. From the design, they are built to be able to paddle in a straight line with ease. The rocker is fairly less compared to that of a skeg kayak. Due to their length, a paddler might need a rudder to aid in steering the kayak. They are ideal for long-distance paddling. However, they might not be suitable for dynamic environments.

There also exist some kayaks that have no skeg or rudder. They are usually short compared to others. Since they are short, it is easy for a paddler to control them. 

Is It Okay To Have Both A Skeg And A Rudder On The Same Kayak?

Yes, it is okay to have both the skeg and rudder; however, they perform almost the same functions. They are similar even in appearance. Nonetheless, there are some slight differences, the main one being the position. Even though one might not need them simultaneously, they are still important for even the steadiest kayak might veer off course once in a while.

A rudder is used most of the time due to the nature of control that it brings along. It is important to be able to have control of your kayak more proficiently. A rudder is, however, prone to damage, and you might need a skeg in the process. It is more straightforward since it does not need steering once deployed.

Both the rudder and the skeg are very important, but if you are not struggling to keep control of your kayak, then they should both be kept up. Having them is very important.

What Is The Difference Between A Rudder And A Skeg?


A rudder is a long narrow fin-shaped blade that is found at the stern end of a kayak. They extend into the water. Rudders are operated by foot pedals that are found in the cockpit of a kayak. When deployed, rudders are operated by moving them from side to side to steer the kayak in the desired direction. The blades determine the direction in that you want your kayak to move.


A skeg, just like a rudder, is a fin-shaped blade. The only difference with a rudder is the location. Skegs are located centrally on the keel of the kayak. Skegs have different models; some can be retracted and stored when not used and only deployed when there is a need. Other designs are incorporated into the design of the keel. A movable or retractable skeg can be deployed either partly or fully and can only be moved up and down but not sideways like the case of rudders. This means that they cannot be steered.

Skegs and rudders are almost similar in terms of appearance and functions. The only difference is their location on the kayak.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Skegs And Rudders?

Making the right decision on whether to settle for a skeg or a rudder depends on learning the main differences; advantages and disadvantages.

Just like any other item, they both have their pros and cons. These are discussed below:

Advantages Of Rudders

1. Rudders are fairly easy to operate compared to skegs. Beginners, therefore, may find them easy to use and understand.

2. Due to the side-to-side movement, a ruder can enact a huge change in direction. This may enable a paddler to change directions drastically as compared to a skeg.

3. Due to its reliability, a rudder can compensate for a lack of skills from a paddler as it can make the kayak move in a straight direction, especially in dynamic environments.

4. Since a rudder cannot be retracted and stored, kayaks with rudders have a lot of storage space left in them.

In case of a breakdown, parts of a rudder are easy to repair compared to a skeg.

Disadvantages Of Rudders

1. The movement of the rudders from side to side when steering can cause a significant drag, therefore slowing down the kayak

2. Rudders can cause a sense of overdependency on the part of the paddler, hindering them from gaining more paddling skills.

3. Rudders involve a lot of moving parts, and this may lead to a constant breakdown of the parts, which in turn means constant repairs.

4. After a while, the pedals might not be firm enough, making it hard to steer.

Advantages Of Skegs

1. Skegs have fewer moving parts compared to rudders, and this means that they are not prone to breakage.

2. Due to their retractable nature, when not deployed, there is minimal wind resistance, and this means fast movement.

3. Once deployed, skegs do not require steering. This gives the paddler ample time to concentrate on paddling and maneuvering the kayak.

4. When fully deployed, since it can only move up and down, a skeg offers less drag resistance than rudders.

5. Skegs are also fairly easy to operate, therefore, suitable for learners.

Disadvantages Of Skegs

1. Skegs cannot steer a kayak; they can only assist a kayak in moving in a straight line than rudders aid in steering a kayak.

2. The skeg box where retractable skegs are stored takes up a lot of space on the kayak leaving minimal storage room.

3. The parts of a skeg, in case of breakage, are harder to repair compared to rudders.

4. The cables that hold the skeg can sometimes malfunction, making it hard to deploy into the water or retract.

Choosing between a skeg and a rudder may not be a walk in the park. In the real sense, it is not even a matter of choice as there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to the two. Most people make choices depending on their experience, and some by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Final Thought

The information provided above is not biased and does not lean on either side. The main aim of the content is to help you make a sound decision. It is also important to note that the information is not subjective, and you are, therefore, not obliged to make your decision based on the insights provided above. The content is just but a guideline.

They say experience is the best teacher. You can, therefore, make better decisions based on experience. Settling for rudders or skegs might just come as a result of trying both of them. It is for this reason that some people own more than two kayaks. Try out different kayaks and find the one that best suits you!



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