How to Use a Kayak Skeg

While looking at different types of kayaks for sale, I kept seeing the term skeg mentioned. Some said fixed, and others said removable skeg. Having sailed and kayaked in the past, I know what a skeg is, but I’ve never properly investigated how to use a kayak skeg.

So I decided to do a little research into the different types, how to use them, and the skeg’s benefits. This brief article should help you decide when to use one and whether you need one at all.

What is a skeg?

Before we look at the reasons to use a skeg, let’s clear up what it is first. A kayak skeg is a small extension from the hull’s underside that is an aid to straight-line tracking. It is usually towards the stern of the kayak and can be fixed or removable.

Fixed Skeg

As the term implies, you cannot remove this type of skeg. The disadvantage of this type is that it may catch on underwater debris in shallow waters.

Removable Skeg

Removable skegs vary. Some are simply removed completely, while others can be adjusted to give different depths. Some are attached to the kayak’s underside, while you can pull others up from inside the kayak.

How do Kayak Skegs Work?

Kayak skegs need forward speed to make them useful. The amount of speed required will vary depending on the kayak design. Kayaks with a V-shaped hull will track more naturally, but this, in turn, makes turning more difficult, so there is a trade-off.

Using a skeg or multiple removable skegs allows the paddler to adjust the balance between straight-line tracking and quick turning ability.

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When do You Need a Kayak Skeg?

When you are kayaking on flat water, with little to no wind, a skeg makes very little difference. The skeg aims to help prevent the kayak from slipping sideways. But with no wind or waves acting on the kayak, straight-line stability is not really an issue.

With wind and waves pushing the kayak sideways, the skeg reduces the workload required to keep your kayak pointing in the direction you want.

An advantage of removable skegs is that you can vary their depth as you paddle. If you are continuously making correction strokes to keep the kayak pointing in the right direction, then adding more skeg will help.

Adjusting the Skeg for the Right Position

When you are out on the water, finding the skeg’s right position is a matter of trial and error, adjusting as you go. Imagine you are paddling forwards, and the wind is coming from the righthand side. You find the bow is turning to the right, and you are continuously having to adjust. In this case, the stern is sliding, being blown by the wind, and you need more skeg to compensate.

In contrast, if the bow is being pushed to the left by the wind, then you need to reduce the skeg to balance the kayak.

Conclusion

This brief article has covered the very basics of skegs and how to use a kayak skeg when you are out on the water. Hopefully, it has given you a little insight and the interest to learn more.

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This article was last updated on April 22, 2021 .

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