Kayaking Technique Forum

Find advice on all aspects of kayaking and using small boats on big water

Surfing downwind without skegs

Hey all.

I have a Night Heron, without a skeg. I paddle a lot by myself, and it doesn't bother me to spend time doing corrective strokes, depending- in following or quartering astern it can get a bit hairy. Such was the case in early 2011- but then I spent most of the season doing whitewater. I built a skeg and a box over the winter before the 2012 season, but didn't get it installed before a big trip on open water first of June. Lo and behold- we had some following seas, and instead of slogging at the back, I was at the front of the pack. It felt a lot more comfortable after a summer of mostly whitewater. So- I ditched the plans for a skeg.

Here's my question. I had another group paddle a few weeks ago with crazy tailwinds (20 knot) and 2-3' chop. I'd catch some waves- but I developed a habit from another summer of heavy whitewater paddling. With short boats on standing river waves, a rudder will frequently slow you down enough to push you off a lot of waves, so I spent a lot of time correcting course on waves with forward strokes. I found myself doing this with my sea kayak- and also found myself far outpacing the group.

I started throwing in some stern rudders, which frankly gave me a lot more control than forward strokes. My toes are crammed all the way to the end of my whitewater kayak, so it's a lot easier to combine forward strokes with throwing my legs around in that boat than in my sea kayak, which has an entire whitewater kayak's length in front of my feet. I didn't seem to loose much speed compared to the group, but the period between the waves was really short, usually less than the length of the boat, and I felt like I was loosing a lot of forward momentum using rudders.

What's the hot tip from you guys? I have no philosophical problem with stern rudders. In fact, I had to break myself of the habit when I moved from sea kayaks to whitewater, so now it looks like the other way around may be a consideration. I had a chance to paddle some 5-7' waves near shore and that boat is amazing- no problem using stern rudders there, but then again I wasn't on a 16 mile one-way paddle that day, I was just out to play.

And mostly- I was wracking my brain trying to think of something to post on this part of the forum so that it doesn't languish again. Who's reading this? You want to comment on duck hunters suddenly opening fire on non-existent ducks when paddling past their decoys? That's cool too.