A no frills Q&A formatted overview highlighting what a kayak rudder is, what it is for, how it is used and how it works.
WHAT IS A RUDDER AND WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
A rudder is an optional kayak accessory designed to help you control the direction of your kayak. Without a rudder, you typically need to exaggerate your paddle stroke to steer your kayak left or right or to keep it in a straight line (tracking) when dealing with windy conditions or strong currents. Using a rudder to help maneuver your kayak significantly reduces paddling fatigue. A rudder can also help keep your kayak positioned at a certain angle when drifting along the bank.
WHAT DOES A RUDDER SYSTEM CONSIST OF?
It consists of a "blade" in a housing unit that is directly installed to the rear of your kayak combined with two foot rests with pivot toe controls that are mounted in the cockpit area of the kayak. The two foot rests are attached to your rudder via cables that feed through tubes inside the kayak. In addition, there is an up-haul rope attached to the rudder through a different tube allowing you to release and retract the blade as needed.
HOW DO YOU OPERATE A RUDDER?
You start by releasing the up-haul cord to drop your rudder blade into the water. To turn the rudder blade, you simply push the upper section of the foot rest corresponding with direction you want to go in or adjust to. In other words, left for left or right for right - simple as that!
ARE THEY WORTH BUYING AND ARE THEY EASY TO INSTALL?
We are certainly partial but yes, it is. Any paddler that has a rudder will tell you that once you go with a rudder, you'll never go back to not having one. They are fairly easy to install but it is very important you follow directions step by step. You should give yourself at least two hours of time for proper installation. Many Feelfree Kayaks are rudder ready, meaning they are pre-plumbed with tubing for ease of installation.
WHICH KAYAKS ARE COMPATIBLE AND HOW DO I OBTAIN ONE?
You can see which rudders are available for specific models and make a purchase here or find locate a dealer near you here.