Kayaking 101: Drop the what? The Kayak Skeg Defined

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!


Converting a Hobie Mirage into a Paddle Kayak w/Rudder

Picture 1.

My 2007 Hobie Adventure Mirage recently died from a hull crack where the mirage drive plugs in. It leaked a lot of water as the pedal stress opened up the crack with every push. It was already out of warranty by a year but Hobie was kind enough to sell me a replacement hull at a nice discount. The old hull still looked good for paddling as the crack was easy to seal but I wanted to make the rudder useable with foot controls. (Note: All Hobie’s with Mirage Drives use a hand-controlled rudder.)

Picture 2.

An Internet search led to purchase of a pair of Smarttrack Toe Pilot Foot Controls sold by Austin Canoe and Kayak. I mounted them as shown in the Picture 1. Pretty straightforward, but the leg length adjusters need to be able to slide back so I mounted them at a slight downward angle towards the bow. The front mounted directly to the hull but for the rear I made a small bracket out of aluminum as shown in Picture 2.

Cabling the rudder was somewhat tricky. The foot controls come with a nice long stainless steel cable that will reach the rudder without any splices, but getting it back there required a few extra parts. I bought some cable housing to fit the 1/16” diameter cable (which is much larger than bicycle cable). Turns out the ultralight airplane community uses this stuff on their throttle systems, so I ordered the cable housing, ferrules, rubber boots, feed-throughs, and clamps from Green Sky Adventures in Hawthorne, FL for about $50.

Picture 3.

I used the cable housing to go from the foot controls to the feed-throughs, which were in different locations for the left and right sides. I picked places to enter the hull so the cables had a straight shot toward the back of the hull. I also put a rubber boot over the feed-through assembly as shown in Picture 3.

Rudder Assembly

Inside the hull, I removed the old rudder control, cut the cables, and pulled them out the back. I then lengthened the stock poly tubes that run from the rudder toward the bow. This is easy, just use some 3/8” tubing to splice on another foot or so of ¼” tubing. I then put some tape on the end of the cables and pushed them through the poly until they came out the back. Sounds weird pushing instead of pulling but it worked fine (I did it twice). You need to have all the cable-housing fittings in place before running the cable back to the rudder; otherwise you will end up doing it twice. Next, I attached the poly tubing with cable to a couple of choice places inside the hull just to keep them out of trouble. The stainless steel cables then attached to the rudder just like old ones.

I patched up all the holes and went down to the beach to try her out. The controls worked great! In fact, the Hobie rudder is more responsive than the one on my OK Prowler and only required minor adjustments with my toes to turn the boat. My only complaint is that the foot controls make the hull too narrow about halfway up your calf. I think I will mount some pressure pads on the aft end of the foot controls. On a wider-hulled boat, it might not be an issue.

If anyone wants more details, I can post the part #s for the cable housing supplies. Also, I have leftover cable housing for two or three more boats if anyone wants it — leave a comment. I’m curious how well this stuff holds up in the sun and salt water and will post an update after a few more outings.

ACK Customer:
Mark Parsons