Fenn Elite S rudder recommendation

5 years 2 months ago - 5 years 2 months ago #33946 by atlanticsup
I've recently purchased a Elite S after having a Swordfish S for 18 months.  The Swordfish S has been great, but I just decided to see if I could get used to the Elite S and was pleasantly surprised. In the rough stuff does not feel that much off the Swordfish though admittedly I needed to change my remount technique (haven't fallen yet but I tried a remount after my 2nd paddle and found I could not remount at all. So quick look online and a new method has made it pretty easy).

So the Elite S is magic, it just seems to have that extra to hop waves. Only thing I still am not convinced about is the rudder, and I feel that it is not ideal for heavy downwinders. I've had recommendation to change to an Orka Elliptical and seen some paddlers use this and rave about it. I have also been recommended an Orka Sharkfin by a top paddler as he reackons the Elliptical may be a bit overpowering (this rudder tends to lean into direction of steer) and not needed (and I suspect also more all-rounder in flatter conditions). 

I suspect the answer is to try both and see which suits me best but would appreciate anyone's experience on the Elite S and trying different rudders.
Last edit: 5 years 2 months ago by atlanticsup.

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5 years 2 months ago #33947 by [email protected]
I paddle a Swordfish S, but used to paddle an Elite, and have paddled a friend's Elite S a couple of times.

For the stuff that I do (more or less constant downwinds in choppy water), I'm bullet-proof in the Swordfish S and have several of my best times, including my best two times in the Swordie - so I have no feeling of FOMO when it comes to "elite" level boats, except in the most flat of races - which occur very seldom anyway.

My buddy who paddles the Elite S swears by the elliptical rudder - says the boat tracks straighter and, at low speeds, turns better.  If you're a super-elite hero paddler who can turn 360 degrees by leaning at just the right time, then no, perhaps you could stick with the shark-fin rudder, but in my observation, those paddlers are few and far between and have paddled all their lives...  by far the majority of paddlers will primarily use their rudder to turn.

On the Swordfish, I use a DK rudder from Don Kiesling in the US - it's even more effective than the elliptical rudder and I recommend it to the hilt.  The best thing about the rudder is that it keeps the boat super-straight...  Even on the flat, I think it increases my speed - perhaps by reducing the amount of fish-tailing when I'm really paddling hard.  

You never want to use a lot of rudder at speed - as your friend says, an efficient rudder will induce roll in the boat if you stamp on it when you're moving fast.  The shark-fin rudder is almost useless at speed anyway - the meat of the rudder is behind the pin, so it becomes harder and harder to turn, the faster you're traveling. It also has a horrible-shaped, flat cross-section, so it stalls very easily.  The elliptical rudder is easier to turn at all speeds because it's balanced - but that also means you can over-use it at high speed and induce roll.  The elliptical has an airfoil cross section so it stalls less easily than the shark-fin.

The DK rudder has the best of both worlds, being super-effective, but also balanced so that it does tighten up a little at speed - so it's difficult to over-use it.  

So IMO, it's definitely worth putting a more effective rudder on the boat - try it for yourself.  And if you can, try the DK rudder, it's awesome.  Get hold of Don at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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  • MCImes
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5 years 2 months ago #33948 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic Fenn Elite S rudder recommendation
Ditto to everything rob said.

The shark fin shape is junk. Do not bother with it
Elliptical is slightly better but still inferior to the airfoil shape of DK rudders
I highly recommend a DK High chord rudder in whatever length makes sense for your conditions (~9" for downwind is a pretty good start)

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5 years 2 months ago #33951 by DMax
I also want to second all the Rob says about the DK rudder.  I replaced the stock standard rudder on my Stella SR with a 9inch DK surf rudder and it was like paddling a different boat!  I have recently done the same on my Swordfish S, primarily for tracking and stability when paddling downwind and in confused refracted ocean waters off the Sydney coast.  When paddling in flat or calmer waters in Sydney harbour, with the DK rudder, I've found no reduction in boat speed.  I couldn't recommend Don's rudders highly enough!

Cheers, Dave

Current boat: Fenn Swordfish S (Hybrid layup).
Previous boats: Epic V8 (Performance layup), Stella SR (Excel layup).

Location: Sydney, Australia.

"The sea lives in every one of us" - Robert Wyland.

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5 years 2 months ago #33957 by atlanticsup
I'm going to try borrow an elliptical rudder, as the DK fin is not really around here and I have not seen anyone else using on on an Elite S. On my swordfish S, the elliptical transformed the ski so much and has made it a really fun (and fast) ski (can't imagine if I would feel the difference on the DK rudder but there must be something to it).

I would love Fenn to take a bit more effort on the rudders though as they are doing themselves a disservice to their amazing skis - interestingly I have tried the Sharkfin rudder (admittedly in flattish conditions) and found it much more responsive than the standard Fenn rudder. 

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4 years 5 months ago - 4 years 5 months ago #35860 by atlanticsup
So I managed to get hold of a DK rudder for the past 6-7 months. I personally find it the best choice for me and am keeping it. The Elite S is still super feels the most stable with the DK and steering has a lot more bite.

I do find it interesting that the top paddlers just keep the standard Fenn rudder but I still prefer the DK which allows for a lot more control in DW conditions. 

I've been swapping between my swordfish S (with an elliptical) and elite S (with DK rudder) and still think the swordfish S with the elliptical is the way to go as it makes the ski very direct and I really enjoy the slight lean when steering. Elite S with DK though feels right in this case, ski feels the same vs the standard rudder but just steers better in DW conditions.
Last edit: 4 years 5 months ago by atlanticsup. Reason: better use of words after some questions in the forum

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4 years 5 months ago - 4 years 5 months ago #35861 by tve
Which size DK rudder did you get?
I like the "elite ski" and "super stable" in the same sentence oxymoron :-)
Last edit: 4 years 5 months ago by tve.

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4 years 5 months ago #35863 by LaPerouseBay
atlanticsup, glad to hear you got a DK.  Fenn Elite S paddlers here on Maui are all on DK rudders.  
I've heard that the customer service at DK is excellent.  I've heard that you can get him on the phone and chat about local conditions etc.  That's what this sport needs.... 

tve, just to clarify, I'm not sure how serious you are when you describe "elite ski" and "super stable" as being an oxymoron.  IMO, the V12 2nd generation is indeed "super stable" in downwind conditions.
I'm an average paddler, I spend the majority of my time in my v8 pro.  But when conditions warrant, I'll hop in my v12 gen 2 and go downwind.  The boat is nearly impossible to fall out of.  It may sound odd to some readers, but that's how it is.  I've asked our local experts to explain to me why the new 12 is so magic.  It's the rocker.  For me, it changed the sport.

 Sidewind chop? flat water? North shore in the winter? Reverb waves? 

Forget it.  I'll take the 8pro.  I'll have more fun and get a better workout.   Relax, situate that pelvis, (no slouching!), feel those pedals, breathe, drop that blade deep, give a little kick, rotate that blade out of the water, all that good stuff.  An elite boat is way over my ability in shitty water.

Cool thing about the 12 is that I can practice in the 8 and hop into the 12 and have fun.  Yep, those rockered elite boats are indeed rock solid stable in downwind conditions.  All the reviews agree.  Never a word to the contrary.  That's why your comment caught my eye.  atlanticsup was talking about downwinding too....  Go have a look at what Cryder wrote about his new 12.   Or me, or Zachhandlers test.  All the same...  Zach says the same about Kai's new Vega...  

downwind dilettante

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4 years 5 months ago - 4 years 5 months ago #35865 by atlanticsup
Ok super stable in context of the Elite S, I probably should not have used those words - I should have said that the DK made the elite S feel the most stable and predictable. In the order of most stable and predictable - DK, then Fenn rudder, then elliptical.

On the swordfish, because it is so much more stable (primary stability), I really like the lean when steering on the elliptical, but it does not seem to work as well on the Elite S.

But like everything, best to try yourself. I know of a paddlers here who use the elliptical on elite s and love it, and then the majority are still on the standard fenn rudder, are of an order of magnitude faster than me on downwinds.

I'm using the standard DK rudder - think it is 7"
Last edit: 4 years 5 months ago by atlanticsup. Reason: adding clarity

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4 years 5 months ago - 4 years 5 months ago #35867 by Fath2o
OK, I am going to provide some defense here for the original shark fin rudder, even though I wouldn't use one. Granted they don't work well for downwind paddling, they do have some advantages. If you regularly compete in races with beach entries and exits, the shark fin rudder is less likely to be damaged by grounding or being washed up in the surf zone to the beach. They work fine in calm conditions and shed weeds and logs better too. I would also assume Keith gets a lot fewer warranty and damage claims with the shark fin. Smart guy!
Last edit: 4 years 5 months ago by Fath2o.

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