No one likes to fight the elements just to paddle straight. The problem is that once that wind starts blowing even the most experienced paddlers have trouble keeping their bow pointed in the direction they are heading. Sure, there are a number of ways to prep a kayak to lessen the effects of a windy day (like distributing weight along your kayak, packing items below deck, and bringing the right size & shape of boat, etc.) but even after doing all that there’s one feature to consider when shopping for a kayak — the skeg.
To those who aren’t familiar, the skeg is similar to a rudder (more on this here) in a lot of ways. It’s a small blade built in and deployed beneath the rear of the hull (ex. see the Liquid Logic Remix XP below). Unlike a rudder however, the skeg does not pivot from side to side. In fact many skegs only offer two settings, deployed and not deployed.
So what is it good for?
What it comes down to is tracking. Tracking is a term that refers to keeping your bow in a straight line as you paddle. The skeg helps you track by lessening the effects of wind or rough waters as they push on the hull by connecting it to deeper, more stable water.
So why do some kayaks have them and others not?
Not every kayak has a skeg built in. Skegs are usually found on those that are meant for touring or longer distance paddling and for boats that need the extra assistance. Some kayaks such as the Liquid Logic Remix (pictured below) offer it as on option for boats that may be used for playing around rapids but may also need help for long distance paddling. If you happen to find yourself skegless and in need of one, you aren’t necessarily out of luck. A few of our kayaks do offer optional skegs that can be purchased and installed separately (like the Diablo Chupacabra skeg pictured above). Another, more common optional feature is a rudder, which can offer even more directional control of your kayak.
In the end, whether or not a skeg is right for you can be a personal preference. For first time shoppers, consider the benefits and for long time paddlers who find themselves consistently frustrated and over exerting oneself just to keep straight, a skeg might be something to consider when deciding on your next kayak.
Thanks for reading and happy paddling! – Joseph@ACK
PS. Came across this recent video from Necky Kayaks explaining their unique skeg system. Enjoy!