Many of you looking at this will probably see ‘Rudder’ and think to yourself that a rudder is not an essential piece of kit. Until recently, I would have tended to agree with you. Many kayaks simply do not need rudders and they can track perfectly well without them. You would be right to a certain extent. Shorter kayaks do not need a rudder but after stepping up and getting into longer boats, a rudder makes paddling a craft of this length infinitely easier.
Rudders are added to kayaks to help the paddler keep the craft moving in a straight line. They are not, as most people assume, an aid for assisted turning when paddling. Granted, they will allow tighter turning but that is not their primary function. When paddling a longer boat and especially across the breeze, the wind can catch the stern of the boat and start to move it off to the side, thus pushing the bow in the opposite direction and resulting in the paddler having to make corrective stokes on one side to keep the kayak travelling in the intended direction. This wind action is known as ‘weather-cocking’. Deploying a rudder allows the paddler to keep paddling in a standard manner and all direction correction is controlled by the kayaker via the rudder.
For those that paddle a longer kayak and have difficulty keeping a straight line in a breeze; try a rudder. The difference between using and not using a rudder on a long kayak has to be experienced to be believed. Once you try using a rudder you will be very reluctant to remove it.
Rudder conversion kits are available in Ireland through the Canoe Centre.