Kayaking is such a wonderful sport. From fishing to watching the sunset or any other beautiful scenery to taking pictures and just touring, there’s no shortage of things to do when you are on the water.
If you own a touring/recreational kayak and intend to embark on long-distance paddling, you should consider adding a skeg to your vessel if it doesn’t come with one. Why? This is because it’s considerably harder to paddle in open waters or windy conditions which are situations you’ll most likely encounter on long trips. You want to paddle straight and not fight the forces of nature.
A skeg will massively improve the tracking of your kayak as it keeps your bow in a straight line as you paddle. This keeps you from drifting off course and every stroke will count thereby maximizing your effort.
If you find your kayak skegless and are in need of one, you are in luck as there are several aftermarket skegs available today. You will find below a guide to help you choose the best skeg for your kayak, and how to install it. Enjoy!
Below you’ll find the benefits of a skeg, how to install one, and factors to consider when buying a skeg.
What Is a Skeg And Why Use One?
A skeg keeps the bow of your kayak in a straight line and improves the tracking of your vessel. In crosswinds, kayaks tend to act as weather vanes, a behavior referred to as weather cocking as your kayak turns or cocks into the wind. In high winds, it’s difficult to keep a kayak in a straight line and a lot of effort is required to stay on course.
You’ll especially need a skeg if you intend to embark on long trips in a windy area.
Skegs vs. Rudders
Skegs and rudders are not the same. Rudders are usually mounted on the stern of kayaks and can be operated from the cockpit either by your feet or hand. You can also move rudders from side to side and even up or down. And this offers the advantage of deploying rudders only when they are needed.
Skegs, on the other hand, are fins you attach under your vessel. They are fixed (although some can be adjusted) when on the water. And the longer a skeg, the greater its effect on tracking.
There’s a long-standing debate about the pros and cons of skegs and rudders. Rudders generally offer more control as they improve tracking and maneuverability. However, they are more prone to damage/malfunction and will be unable to maintain contact with the water as the stern rises in swells and waves.
Skegs are generally more durable and maintain better contact with water in heavy seas. However, they only improve tracking and not maneuverability.
How To Add Skegs To a Kayak?
On a Hard Shell Kayak
Generally, you’ll need sandpaper, cloth/rag, and marine-grade sealant/glue to add a skeg to your hard shell kayak (sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks).
The first step is to turn your vessel over and identify the best spot on the keel for the skeg to go. While the shape and type of your vessel will determine the best spot to place your skeg, the center of the keel works for most kayaks.
Sand the selected spot on your keel using your sandpaper. The reason for this is to improve the action of your sealant. Then, use a cloth or rag to remove the dust on the selected spot.
Apply the marine glue to the selected surface and then place the base of the skeg on it. Putting some weight on the base may help it adhere better to the keel. That’s it, you are done. And if your fin is separate from the base, you can attach it to the base anytime you go kayaking.
On Inflatable Kayaks
You can use the method described above for adding a skeg to your inflatable kayak. However, there are some inflatable kayaks that come with pre-existing mounts for skegs. In such a kayak, you just have to attach the skeg to the mount.
Where To Add The Skegs On The Kayak?
As I said earlier, the shape and type of your vessel will determine the best spot to place your skeg. However, placing skegs at the center of the keel works for most kayaks.
Adding a skeg to your kayak can be a convenient aid to paddling in open water where you’ll most likely encounter crosswinds. In such situations, a skeg will help you stay on course and make your paddling more efficient.
Now, you know more about skegs and are in a better position to determine if you need one or not.