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The Best Kayak Rudders On Sale in 2020

Updated On June 21, 2020

“A real kayak doesn’t need a rudder”, “Kayak makers add rudders to compensate for design flaws” and such statements are only a few of the many things you’ll hear in a debate about kayak rudders which has been going on for decades. Certain kayakers are considering themselves purists, and, even though they will acknowledge the benefit of using a skeg which is retractable, they have a solid “no” when rudders are being considered. Skegs, unlike rudders, are a non-turning fin usually located near the stern, and it helps improve tracking in some conditions, such as with rockered kayaks, off-the-wind legs and quartering seas. If you’re a beginner and you start asking yourself whether you need a rudder, the first question you should get answered is what is a rudder, and what does it do?

rudder on the back of a kayak

The term by itself, rudder, will have you thinking of a device that steers the boat. Even though this would be correct, rudders are instead usually used to keep the kayak on a straight path, rather than helping it turn. However, there’s much more than “a part that keeps the kayak going straight”, so let’s dive into the details and see what parts the rudder is composed of, how do they work, their pros and cons, as well as those of a skeg, and will you need or want one for your kayaking experience.

Quick Summary: Top 5- Best Kayak Rudders This Year


Our seasoned editors have picked and rated these products for each specific category and area of expertise to recommend you the best models and products we can. We receive commission from some of these affiliate links.
Best Overall: 1. Crack of Dawn Kayak Rudder with Mounting Kit
"Find optimal steering with high build quality in the Crack of Dawn kayak rudder."
Runner Up: 2. Perception Kayaks Rudder Kit
"Increase maneuverability with this well built kayak ruder from Perception Kayaks. "
Most Versatile: 3. Borogo Kayak Rudder
"As a nylon glass fiber kayak rudder, The Borogo is built to be durable!"
Best Build Quality: 4. Ocean Kayak Rudder Kit
"From the major Ocean Kayaks, this easy to install rudder kit is simply amazing."
Best For Large Kayaks: 5. Walmeck Control Steering Kit
"If you are looking for something on the bigger side, The Walmeck is the way to go!"
Best Overall
If there’s one issue with most of the kayak rudders you’ll come across, it’s the fact that many of them aren’t compatible with the kayak you’re using. If you’d like a product that solves this, you should be looking at the kayak rudder by Crack of Dawn – it’s a great choice that fits most of the major brands of kayaks. 

The rudder itself is actually built really well. The profile is well thought out and it performs admirably in a variety of situations. However, where the kit excels is in its ability to be mounted to just about any kayak you can find. There is plenty of mounting hardware included, and you can easily set it up on just about any kayak.


When it comes to using it, it’s honestly a breeze. Turns are quick and easy, and the entire operation is as close to hands free as you can get with a rudder kit. If you’re looking for a kit that’s going to work well without any issues and you can be sure that you can mount it on just about any kayak, this is the one to go for.

Runner Up
Users of a Perception Kayaks kayak will find that this is the kit they should be going for when it comes to installing a rudder on their kayaks.

Note, however, that this kit does have limited compatibility, because it’s made to work with solo kayaks that have a molded rudder post hole on the stem. Before you get it, it would be wise to check if your kayak fits this description and not potentially waste money.


If you’re okay with that, the rudder itself is excellent. It will greatly improve both the tracking ability, and the ease of maneuvering of your kayak, and it’s built really well so it’s going to be a durable option. The spectra cord rudder control cables only add to the durability, and make sure that it won’t break easily.


To add to this, you’ve got all the necessary parts and mounting hardware included with it, so you don’t have to buy anything extra, and you also have pretty detailed instructions that allow you to mount it rather easily. It’s certainly the best option for users of a Perception Kayaks solo kayak that’s compatible. 

Most Versatile
Another option that’s meant to be as versatile as possible, the Borogo is a nylon glass fiber rudder that works with a wide variety of vessels.

Yes, it’s built for kayaks primarily, and you can use it on anything from a sea kayak to a fishing one, but it also works with canoes. And fortunately, it does work well in just about any scenario, so you can use it with any type of kayak you want.


As far as the rudder itself goes, the build is primarily nylon glass fiber and stainless steel. The durred is around 17.7 inches long, which is a good midway size for a variety of kayak sizes. The stainless steel pin is around 1.8 inches in length, which is something to keep in mind when you’ll be mounting the rudder.


An interesting addition to this rudder is the locking system. You can lock it when you don’t want to use it, and it stays out of the way in the position that you set it in. Not many other rudders offer this, so it’s definitely a nice addition.


Overall, if you’re looking for a versatile rudder that works on a variety of kayaks, and has a locking mechanism, by all means go for it. 

Best Build Quality
If you’d rather get something that’s made to work with your specific kayak, and you’re the owner of a Trident, Prowler T, P13, PBG or Tetra kayak by Ocean Kayaks, this kit is the one you should be going for. Oh – they do mention it works with most models from 2013 and onward, but the aforementioned are the ones that will guarantee the most compatibility. 

​Aside from the compatibility, the rudder itself is actually really well made. It’s made to be durable, which is immediately obvious when you take a look at how it’s built, but there’s also a strong emphasis on performance, too, and it shows. Maneuvering is a lot easier when you need it, but when left alone, the rudder does have quite the impact on maintaining direction.


Installing the kit is a piece of cake. It comes with all the hardware you’ll need, as well as pretty detailed instructions that show what goes where. You’ll really have no problem at all installing it. While it isn’t compatible with too many kayaks out there, if it is compatible with yours, you won’t find a better option. 

Best For Large Kayaks
Last but certainly not least, we’re taking a look at Walmeck Canoe Kayak’s rudder steering kit. It’s a simple option that doesn’t have a lot of complications, but is built pretty well and works admirably in a variety of scenarios. It’s also priced pretty competitively, so if you’d like to save a few bucks, this might be the one to go for.

To begin with, there’s really not a lot to the kit. You get the rudder itself, which is quite long and better suited for larger kayaks, as well as the strings that you use to turn it. The strings are designed to be used with your feet, of course, so you get hands-free maneuvering when necessary. Installation of the kit is rather simple, with a pin that you attach to the back, but you will need to be careful with string routing if you want it to perform at its best.


Performance is on par with most of the other kits you’ll come across, which is pretty much what you would expect from a simple and effective kit. If you don’t need anything special and would like a budget option, by all means go for it.

What Parts Does a Rudder Consist Of?


When you’re in open water, you will notice that the wind, waves and currents will try to push your kayak around, altering your path and direction. To combat this, a rudder blade is used, and it acts in many ways similar to the feathers of an arrow that allow it to fly straight.

kayak-rudder-sizes

The rudder is a blade located at the stern of the kayak, and is made in such a way that it pivots from side to side, and that is controlled by foot pedals in the kayak’s cockpit. Those foot pedals are connected by cables, usually made of stainless steel, or made from super-strong cordage materials, such as Spectra. In order to turn the rudder, you push on one of the pedals, on the side you want to veer towards, and you relieve the pressure on the other pedal.
This action turns the rudder blade and compensates for the wind or wave or currents’ attempt to try and steer you away. Another important thing that most of the rudders available today usually employ is a so-called lift line. This allows the paddler to deploy the rudder, as well as pull it back inside the stern, and all this while he or she is sitting in the cockpit.

Pedal With Wire Connected to Rudder

While you might think that this is nothing more than a gimmick, you will find that it’s actually very useful when you’re landing or launching, and especially when you’re crossing shallows which would otherwise hit the rudder and either damage it or break it off completely. The lift line is usually a long loop which is knotted near the cockpit. There are a few knots, and the one to pull is always the one which is farthest back, and this is important to remember because the knots change their position each time you raise or lower the rudder.


You should also remember that the rudder may come with a keeper cord, which is meant to lock the rudder down to the deck for storage and transportation, and this should be off before you launch. This option of the rudders to be lifted or lowered also means that when you have any kind of submerged obstacle, the rudder can lift itself over it when you’re going in a forward direction. Keep in mind that this can’t happen when you’re going in a reverse direction. Some kayaks, however, such as surf skis, will come with a through-hull rudder. This is mounted close to the stern, and not at the far end, and protrudes from the bottom of the hull. The cables are on the top of the back deck and usually concealed with a cover plate. What you should know is that this kind of rudder can’t be raised and lowered, and you should take special care when in shallow waters, as well as when you’re launching and landing.
The last part of the rudder are the foot control pedals.

They usually consist of a foot peg, which is mounted on a rail with graduated slots in order for you to be able to adjust the pegs. This allows for a variety of leg lengths to be able to fit. That rail is mounted on a track which lets both the foot peg, and the rail, slide forward and back and pull the cable. To make the rudder turn, one peg goes forward and the other one goes back, as mentioned above. This system of movement has one fundamental issue, and that is that it requires the paddler to bend, and then straighten the legs, which affects the paddler’s grip and fit on the kayak.
If you’re paddling in a sit-on kayak, you will feel your knee straps getting loose, and if you’re paddling in a sit-in kayak, you will notice less contact with thigh brace pads. All in all, both types of paddlers will inevitably feel a decrease in control over their kayak, as well as the ability to lean and brace. This is one of the key factors when looking at rudders, and has a lot of paddlers avoiding rudders due to the fact that a loss of lean control can lead to a tip over, which is a problem for the paddler.

(1) Left Rudder Pedal (2) Right Rudder Pedal

This problem, however, has actually been solved, as we’re seeing more and more kayaks being equipped with toe-control foot pegs which means that you only need to move your toes and not the whole legs, thus maintaining your control over the kayak.

How does a kayak rudder work?

The mechanics of a kayak rudder are very simple. The foot pegs pull or release the cable, thus making the rudder turn on one side or the other, depending on which peg you’re pushing on, and which one you’re releasing. However, there’s a little more to it than just the pushing and pulling. When you turn the rudder on one side, you create more drag on that side of the kayak, and consequently you slow the side down. The other side maintains its speed. This causes the kayak to turn towards the slow side, and compensate for the change of direction caused by either winds, or currents, or waves. While this kind of “steering” is easy, you will notice that it consumes a big part of your hard-earned, forward-moving momentum, and requires more strength and paddling to get to where you’re going. A good comparison would be power steering in your car, it draws some power from the engine in order for you to not have to muscle the steering wheel, but you will get less miles per gallon. Another reason why this is a good comparison is that, like power steering, you will find that loss of strength to be a well-worth tradeoff, especially when you consider the benefits.

Using Foot Pedals Moves The Kayak Right Or Left

The rudder itself is a fairly new innovation, as the originators of the kayak, the Inuits, didn’t use rudders. As mentioned earlier, there is a significant number of paddlers that go along with the simplicity of going rudderless, and prefer saving some strength that would otherwise be wasted on drag when the rudder is in the water. And, even though most kayaks don’t actually need a rudder, and proper paddling strokes can provide more control than you need, it is a fact that having one can be of great assistance in many situations. You will find that a lot of today’s commercially available kayaks come with a rudder option, or have a rudder included in the standard package, while some come with a skeg. The skeg is an interesting alternative to those who prefer going rudderless, as it helps keep the kayak on a straight course as well.

What are the pros and cons of a rudder, and what are those of a skeg?


If you find yourself at this point where you need to get a rudder, you will undoubtedly have certain paddlers, those mentioned at the beginning, that will either try to steer you away completely from such a solution, or get you to use a skeg instead of a rudder. In order for you to be able to make the final decision on your own, here are the most important pros and cons of both rudders and skegs, and hopefully they will help you decide what works best for you. We’ll start with the rudders first.

Rudder  

Pros:


- They make the kayak much easier to control, it requires much less edging in order to maintain the course, and it’s a lot easier to turn the entire kayak.
- A rudder will give you more space in the stern compartment of your kayak.
- Many rudders can be pulled up and made retractable.
- When surfing, you get much more control, as the rudder does the steering, and not the paddle.

Cons:


- They cost more than a skeg to find and install.
- Rudders come with a lot of moving parts, and losing one of them, such as a nut or a screw, and you’re left to rely completely on your skill. Even worse, you might have to fight a rudder you have absolutely no control over, which can be very bad depending on the conditions.
- When stowed, they might act as a small sail and provide drag.
- If you forget to unlock the keeper cord, you will need another paddler to do that for you once you’re inside the cockpit.
- Can be easily damaged and if struck while moving backwards, they’re very susceptible to damage.

A skeg, unlike the rudder, is a fixed blade which is found at the bottom of the hull, usually behind the cockpit. Skegs can also be deployed using a control cable and actuator, and they’re usually added to a kayak in order to compensate for poor trim or give some newer paddlers added assistance. A skilled paddler, however, can compensate for the stern being pushed sideways by deploying a skeg, because the skeg itself adds a lot of resistance to the sideways motion. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of such a system.

 

Skeg


A skeg, unlike the rudder, is a fixed blade which is found at the bottom of the hull, usually behind the cockpit. Skegs can also be deployed using a control cable and actuator, and they’re usually added to a kayak in order to compensate for poor trim or give some newer paddlers added assistance. A skilled paddler, however, can compensate for the stern being pushed sideways by deploying a skeg, because the skeg itself adds a lot of resistance to the sideways motion. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of such a system.

Pros:


- Less moving parts and connection points than a rudder.
- When stowed, it doesn’t affect the wind.
- No muscle groups are required to steer.
- If you strike something, they usually fold in the skeg box.
- They’re cheaper to install.


Cons:


- They don’t provide any yaw control.
- Skegs take up too much space in the storage compartment.
- A skeg box will create more drag than a clean hull.
- They’re not good for novice paddlers as they require skill in order to be able to turn and control the kayak.
- Rocks and pebbles may jam them if you drag the kayak down the beach.
- They’re easily damaged if something strikes them sideways.


Aftermarket Kayak Rudder/Skeg Options


There are a few options out there for people that already have a rudderless kayak and want to install their own. Usually these do require some installation so you can do one of two things, pay a professional handyman or do it yourself. There are a few reputable brands out there and kits that offer a clean install, these include sets from Pygmy, Kayak Sports, Sealine, , Wildwasser, Feathercraft, Mirage and Ocean kayak as well as other less known brands.

A final option is creating your own, this is usually much easier with skegs, with rudders you may battle a bit since you have to include the moving parts of the foot pedals for rotating the skeg.


FYI: Alot of different kayak models such as Hobie, Native Watercraft, Ocean have their own rudder kit designed specially for your kayak.

Hobie Kayak Rudder
, Watercraft Rudder, Ocean Kayak Rudder, Advanced Elements Skeg, Seyvlor Skeg, Wilderness Systems Rudder Kit

Aftermarket Tracking Fin


Another option if you don't want the retractable option and are looking for something fixed or easy to install is the tracking fin. These can be easily mounted on the bottom of your kayak and will make your kayak track totally straight like a flat water boat. This is definitely the cheaper option for a kayak and is great for fisherman that know the turmoils of having their boats face the wrong way! The one downside of a tracking fin is that once its mounted its there forever and can cause some issues with storage and dragging the kayak into the water if your launching from an awkward position, but the trade-off is easy installation and great tracking.

Here are some options of tracking fins if your in the market off amazon.

Conclusion: do you want, or need one?


While rudders are undoubtedly of great assistance in a number of situations, you will find that whether you need one usually depends on what kind of kayak you use, how you use it and in what conditions. Other factors that may affect this decision are your skill, and last but not least, your personal preference. If you’re paddling on open water, where you’re usually exposed to both wind and waves, you will most likely want a rudder to help you with keeping your direction.

If you have a longer kayak, a rudder is very likely to come as a standard piece of equipment, as longer kayaks require much more skills for you to be able to paddle them and a rudder is a good thing to help you with this. However, if you invest much more time in learning the paddle strokes, as well as improving your skills, chances are you might not need a rudder after all. The best thing to do is to check in real-life conditions, both with and without a rudder, and decide for yourself whether you can use one and if it helps you in what you need it for. At the end of the day, it’s your hard-earned money that buys the rudder.
How To Create Your Own Kayak Rudder and Skeg Resources


Instructables Make your Own Kayak Rudder Step Guide - http://www.instructables.com/id/Kayak-rudder/
Make a Kayak Rudder Paul Larsen Youtube Guide - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nsk6ydMnGrA
Written Do It Yourself Rudder Guide From Trails (No Pictures)https://www.trails.com/how_12710_do-yourself-kayak-rudder.html

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