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What Is A Skeg On A Kayak?

If you are still kind of new to kayaking, you have probably heard other people mention something called the ‘skeg’ on your kayak.

What Is A Skeg On A Kayak?

The thing is – what exactly is a skeg, and what does it do?

If you want to know what a skeg is on your kayak but too shy to ask anyone else, then we have got you covered. 

We are going to look at skegs including what they are, what they do and how you use them while kayaking. This way, you can save face and still know all the ins and outs of your kayak like a professional should.

So – let’s take a look at the skeg of a kayak!

What Is A Skeg?

A skeg is a long, blade-like piece of plastic or metal that sticks out from the hull of your kayak. If you tip your kayak over, it is the bit that looks almost like a small fin on the bottom of your kayak. That fin is actually called the skeg. 

Most skegs are actually retractable. They can be stored in a skeg box which is embedded into the stern. You can pop the skeg in and out of the full by using a slider from the cockpit of your canoe.

This is because you don’t always need a skeg on your kayak.

The reason why a lot of kayaks have skegs is because they are used to help keep your kayak on track.

This is why when they are no longer needed, you can just retract the skeg back into the skeg box until you need it again. Whenever you are paddling with a crosswind, you can keep your kayak straight by using the skeg. 

Because of this, skegs do not move side to side. Instead, control comes from how deep you set your skeg. The deeper you set your skeg, the more steady and sure your kayak will be in windier weather. 

Skegs are only really used for tracking long distances, so most recreational kayaks don’t have a skeg. Skegs are more likely to be found on touring or sea kayaks. 

Skegs Vs. Rudders

A lot of people often mix up rudders and skegs when in reality, the two are very different.

A rudder is a blade attached to a boat that can be pivoted from side to side. It is controlled by foot pedals in a cockpit which connects to the rudder through a series of steel cables or a single strong cord. 

Pushing on the left pedal will turn the rudder and the boat left, and pushing on the right pedal will turn the boat right. Rudders are designed to lift out of the water by using a cord system. 

However, a skeg is a retractable blade which drops out of a slot on the hull of the boat. It does not pivot. It is lowered and retracted by means of an actuator.

What Is A Skeg On A Kayak?

Both skegs and rudders are used to help assist your paddling whenever there is a change in the conditions.

You don’t always have to use them and can retract them out of the water so you can paddle without the aid of a skeg or rudder.

They are primarily used just as assists – and this is where the similarities between rudders and skegs end. 

Rudders can pivot side to side, but skegs cannot. 

A common misconception is that rudders are used to help steer the boat and while this can be one of its uses, rudders are primarily used to help keep your kayak on a straight path.

A skeg, on the other hand, is not used to keep your kayak on a straight path but helps it stay trimmed when bad weather and wind can often turn your kayak off course.

There is often a lot of debate amongst kayakers about which system is the best – rudders or skegs? 

However, both clearly have different functions and are more helpful to different kinds of kayaking.

Sometimes, you might not even need to use either at all but it’s important to have them there so you can make a decision depending on the situation you are in and if you need assistance. 

How To Use The Skeg

It’s very easy to use the skeg on a kayak as all you have to do is move the slider. You should use the skeg when it is windy as it will help your boat turn straight and or trim with the wind, depending on what you want to do.

When you move the skeg up, the boat will turn into the wind. 

When you lower the skeg slightly, the kayak will be trimmed so it will handle crosswinds. 

When you lower the skeg down fully, the stern of your kayak becomes pinned in the water and the kayak will turn downwind instead. 

You can use the slider to adjust your skeg to suit your needs depending on the conditions you are paddling in. You don’t always have to use it but if you ever need the assistance, the option is there for you. 

An important thing to remember with skegs is that they often need maintenance to be fully operational. They are prone to mechanical problems due to small stones getting stuck in the skeg.

Trying to un-jam your skeg with the slider can often lead to more issues, so if you ever find that your skeg is unresponsive while out paddling, it is most likely jammed due to small stones. 

To fix this issue, you will have to wait until your kayak is out of the water. Take a look in the skeg box and start cleaning out the system of any debris. 


So – a skeg is the fin-like blade that appears on the bottom of a kayak. It is retractable and is sometimes used to keep your kayak on track.

This is done by helping your kayak either turn with the wind or remain trimmed in windy conditions.

Skegs are also very different from rudders as rudders are capable of pivoting and are used to keep your kayak straight. Although some kayakers may prefer rudders to skegs, both are very useful to have and use as an assist in windy conditions.

Hi! My name is Adele Stevens, and I have a big passion for water sports. I love nothing more than traveling to my favorite kayaking spots on my days off and spending hours out on the water.

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