Rudders - at last a manufacturer takes 'em seriously...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 06:44 | Written by 
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Rudders - by Think Kayaks Australia Rudders - by Think Kayaks Australia

Rudders are a critical part of any boat’s design – and in my opinion many of the rudders on surfskis are sub-optimal, to put it mildly.  But at last a manufacturer has got off their butt to offer a wide range of rudders for different conditions.

Swept back v Elliptical

The importance of the rudder shape was driven home for me a few years ago when my regular ski was a Fenn Mako6.  I had spent about six months paddling other skis, some good, some bad but none of them as comfortable as the 6.  I had missed paddling my beloved ski but the great day finally came, and we set off on a cracking downwind run.

To my horror, I found myself broaching, not just once or twice, but frequently.  The Mako6 was/is notorious for broaching – especially in the kind of conditions we often get here where the swell is wind generated with short and steep faces.

Not only that, but the standard Fenn rudder is quite radically swept back with the rudder shaft positioned near the leading edge.  This means the bulk of the rudder behind the shaft; it’s unbalanced and the faster you go, the harder it is to turn.  Screaming down a run, you have to stamp on the rudder pedals.  Not great and apart from anything else, it puts strain on the rudder pedal mechanism.  A broken rudder line I can do without.

Elliptical Rudder 

Since this photo was taken, I've fitted a new carbon elliptical rudder from Orka

To my rescue came my paddling partner and craftsman extraordinary, Dale Lippstreu who built an elliptical rudder based on, but slightly smaller than the Epic V10 rudder.

Effective

It has two specific features that make it extremely effective: the rudder profile has a proper airfoil shape – and the shaft is positioned so that the rudder is balanced. 

The airfoil shape reduces drag and reduces the tendency of the rudder to stall.  The balance means that no matter what your speed, a light touch on pedals turns the rudder.

The rudder absolutely transformed the Mako6 – and I strongly recommend anyone who owns a 6 gets hold of one if they’re into downwind paddling.

It has to be said that not all skis benefit to the same degree by fitting such a rudder; it seems that the inherent properties of some hulls cause them to be prone to broaching to the extent that the rudder doesn’t seem to make much difference.  (Not only that but manufacturers are catching on, and rudder design is improving.)

Too much of a good thing?

It must also be mentioned that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing…  A highly effective elliptical rudder can make a ski more tippy – if you stamp the rudder pedal, you’ll roll the ski right over.

To get an elliptical rudder for a Fenn ski, contact the folks at Orka Paddles or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (who also makes custom rudders for just about every ski out there.)

Think Rudders

So here’s what sparked this rant: a blog post on the Think Kayaks Australia website.

They offer not one, not two, but seven different rudders for different conditions.  Good on yer, Think!  Here’s what they have to say about them:

Think Rudders

One of the great attractions of owning a surf ski is that it can be paddled in all sorts of conditions, and water types. From surfing down huge ocean swells, to paddling on a flat lake, a surf ski handles it all. However, different rudder shapes are sometimes not ideal for various conditions, and with that in mind, Think Kayak have an extensive range of fins, to suit every condition. Here’s a run through what we can offer you.

  • #1 This fin has been designed for flat or shallow water conditions. It is a favourite amongst river paddlers, where weed is an issue, and multi sport racers, where shallow rivers can pose a threat to longer fins, sometimes breaking them off. It has a 3inch depth

  • #2 A fin designed to perform on flat water, where a little more steering is required, such as a harbour or river race, requiring more steering inputs to remain on the optimum position on the wash of competitors. The rake also works well in weedy conditions. It has a 5inch depth.

  • #3 The 7inch fin is targeted more at ocean conditions. It is the preference of athletes who prefer a more neutral feel to their steering, rather than the very reactive feel the larger, more elliptical fins offer. It is also the rudder of choice for races in weedy oceans, with the rake ensuring weed won’t put a stop to you achieving a good result.

  • #4 The 9inch elliptical fin is a favourite amongst the downwind addicts. It offers very responsive, and accurate steering, allowing for quick changes of direction when chasing from run to run.

  • #5 The 10inch is our “Big Berta”, designed to work in the most extreme downwind conditions, when you need maximum steering capabilities in the toughest of conditions.

  • #6 is our original “Surf Fin”, offering a nice neutral feel, similar to the 7inch fin, but with a little more surface area for those requiring a bigger fin face.

  • #7 was our very first rudder fin. Intended as a one size fits all, the more we learned about the various conditons our skis were being used, and what athletes demanded of our craft, the more we were aware that we needed to expand our range to cater for varying conditions, and indeed the athletes themselves.

All of our skis come with a 7inch or 9inch fin of your choice, as standard. Any of the other fins can be supplied upon request. If you require any further information on our rudder fins, just drop an e-mail toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will get back to you quickly with an answer to your queries.

Stewart O’Regan

Think Kayak Australia

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