Kayak Technique – The Right Way to Use a Rudder


Probably the most interesting features of sea kayaks and flatwater are rudders, in which its use is a bit intriguing. Kayak rudders certainly make kayaking, as well as touring, significantly more fun, long as these are used the right way. While most people regard rudders as mechanical devices that turn the kayak, that’s not entirely its purpose. In case you aren’t familiar, kayak rudders keep your kayak moving as straight as possible.

In this post, we will be discussing the kayak technique – the right way to use a rudder. Not only is this device very useful for every kayaker, but it also has other benefits, which will be discussed in the later sections. Hopefully, once you have reached the end of this post, you will be able to apply this new learning when the opportunity comes. Now, let’s proceed with the discussions.

Why Do You Need a Rudder?

To be able to answer this question, you must first know the kind of kayak, how it will be used, and in what conditions will it be used. Other factors also include the paddler’s skill level, as well as their personal preferences.

Kayak rudders are normally mounted on the kayak’s stern. When it is lowered into the water, the rudders are then controlled by foot pegs inside the kayak’s cockpit, allowing you to correct your course hands-free. The main advantage of rudders is that you can easily turn them, providing you with better control over weathercocking, in a wide range of water conditions. And when you don’t need to use rudders, they’re often raised from the water, which protects them from the impact, especially during launching.

Simply put, kayak rudders are perfect for kayakers who wish to paddle on open water, which is exposed to waves and wind. In addition, rudders would also be perfect if you have a longer kayak. However, keep in mind that the more you progress in your kayaking, stroking, and paddling skills, the lesser you would want to incorporate the use of a rudder.

How Do Kayak Rudders Work?

In case you didn’t know, there could be more drag on the kayak’ side where the rudder is. Thus, the rudder does its part to slow down the side while the other remains at speed. While this device makes steering a lot easier for the paddler, it does consume your momentum. With this, it makes you work a little harder than you have to just for you to reach to another point.

The rudder works as the steering wheel of your car, in which it draws proper from your vehicle’s engine, allowing you to never use a single muscle to steer the wheel. And as with power steering, it does appeal to many paddlers, as it’s a good trade.

The use of rudder, specifically in kayaks, is relatively a recent innovation. Some of the old kayaks didn’t use any, in fact. Kayakers nowadays don’t really adhere to this innovation and instead, remain faithful to the simplicity of kayaking rudderless. While most kayakers don’t need a rudder, the proper strokes during paddling alone can provide you with all the control you need. So, basically, the skills can literally replace the use of rudders. Modern kayaks now come with a rudder option while some of them already come with one, included in the standard package.

How Do You Deploy the Rudder?

Generally, the rudder rests on top of the kayak’s stern and it can be easily deployed when needed. The rudder often comes with an attachment, which secures it at the top and acts for the convenience of transporting the kayak onto the water. To deploy the kayak rudder, here’s what you should do:

  • Release the rudder while it’s in the immobilized position, right before you get in your kayak. Typically, the rudder is secured by a cord, in which the length spans from the kayak’s stern up to the cockpit, but still within arm’s reach.
  • You will find in the cord a knot or a ball that indicates where to pull it.
  • Once you have pulled the cord away, the rudder usually takes a circular motion, starting from the kayak’s top to the water just behind your kayak.
  • Pull the cord the opposite way in order to retract it back and out of the water.

How to Steer Your Kayak Using a Rudder

As mentioned in the earlier section, kayak rudders benefit you in a way that it keeps your kayak moving in a straight pace, despite any wind or current. Kayak rudders are normally attached through the kayak’s insides up to the foot pegs. To know how to steer the kayak using a rudder, here’s what you should do:

  • Try pushing one of the foot pegs so that the rudder will be brought to the kayak’s side. This action will cause the kayak’s side to counteract the wind or current.
  • This is commonly the norm but there still are other ways to move the rudder such as a hand-activated lever.
  • You may also use the foot pegs to control or adjust the rudder for various strength, as well as wind directions. This will cause your kayak to steer to different angles, as you prefer.


Knowing how to properly steer your kayak using a rudder is a very useful skill, especially if you find yourself battling against strong winds and currents. It would also be a great addition to your kayaking skills, as it allows you to steer your kayak in a straight pace, instead of using it to turn your kayak.

Now that we have reached the end of the discussion, it is vital that you take note of the instructions to be able to use the kayak rudder accurately. We do hope that once you’re in the water, you’ll know what to do. Just refer to this guide in case you have doubts on how to steer your kayak using the rudder.

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