Will a different rudder help me?

12 years 3 months ago #9992 by Warwick
I have a shark fin rudder on my ski that is commonly found on beginner skis. I find that the ski tends to wander when paddling straight on flat water, also I struggle to stay on the slip of a boat in front because my ski wanders off. I also seem to broach very easily when paddling downwind.

I heard somewhere that changing my rudder might help alleviate these problems. Any advice from any surfski gurus out there?

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12 years 3 months ago #9997 by waterbornewarrior
Warwick: The wandering could be result of your hull's shape (and how you displace it), your stroke, the rudder, or some combination thereof. Regardless, you should absolutely try a different rudder. The shark fin isn't necessarily problematic - although I don't believe it's the optimal shape - but there is certainly some issue, whether it be the overall size, the quality of the leading edge, the foiling (or lack of foiling), etc. Try a rudder that is bigger and more vertical, and you should be pleased with the results.

As for your hull, some skis wander more than others. For example, a ski with more rocker will usually wander more. What I meant about displacement is that if you're well below the hull's design weight, the waterline is not as long and deep as it's supposed to be, resulting in a "turny" feeling. (60kg and 110kg paddlers will experience any given ski very differently.) As for your stroke, you should evaluate whether your stroke is more horizontal or more vertical. A horizontal stroke (low top hand) will tend to turn the boat more. If this is the case, work on getting it more vertical.

Good luck!


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12 years 3 months ago #9998 by Markmyword
I have an Epic V10 Sport and i just recently swapped my standard fin (triangle one) with a new surf rudder (spitfire wing shape) and the change in the boat is amazing. I now have more more control in waves and I feel more stable. Not sure what effect it has had on my speed yet but it certainly feels much better than before. I wish i had of done it earlier.

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12 years 3 months ago #9999 by latman
A bigger area rudder will give you more control (faster downwind) but more drag (slower every other time) assuming the X sections are similar IMO cheers Lats

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  • patrickswitz
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12 years 3 months ago #10000 by patrickswitz
Replied by patrickswitz on topic Re: Will a different rudder help me?
Warwick: Don is right, it's probably your skills and not the rudder. Do check the rudder to make sure it's straight when your pedals are evenly aligned. Check also the pedal angle compared to the angle of the footboard. If the pedals are tilted towards the paddler, it's easy to press them accidentally with each stroke and make the boat zig zag.

Broaching: Definitely a skill issue. The reason experts never broach is that they never put the ski in a position where the tail wants to go faster than the nose. If the nose is getting pushed underwater, it slows down. The momentum of the ski unweights the tail, and you spin out. Simple, and your rudder cannot save you. Imagine driving fast on a wet road, then jamming your front brakes. Same thing. The trick is to keep the boat high on the wave, right in front of the spot where it feels like you're teetering back and forth, about to fall off the back. Takes heaps of practice.

It's true that some rudders stall more easily than others, however in the big scheme of things your rudder performance is only a small contributor to the broaching problem. As a beginner, I had very high hopes that a big "surf rudder" would solve my problems. After I upgraded, and didn't notice any change, I had to admit to my ego that I wasn't going to be a badass downwind guy anytime soon. The sooner you realize how little the equipment affects your performance, the sooner you can buckle down to the lifelong process of paying careful attention to what you're doing on the water and making gradual improvement.

That being said, be careful about getting a big, deep, narrow-aspect rudder when you're already having problems keeping the boat on line. This sort of rudder will be extremely responsive/twitchy/easy to stall, which is basically the opposite of what a beginner needs in the surf. If you're looking for stall resistance, you want it long front-to-back with a nice fat foil.

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12 years 3 months ago #10001 by Warwick
Thanks for all the responses. I have had a closer look at my rudder and have noticed there is a bit of play in it before the pedal actually moves - therein could be my problem. I have only been paddling for a year, so accept it more likely is my skills that may be to blame, I am not sure I want to put on a big surf rudder and compromise speed.

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12 years 3 months ago #10007 by [email protected]
My 2c:
- The difference the rudder makes to broaching varies from boat to boat. An elliptical rudder transforms the Fenn Mako6 which has a huge propensity to broach without it. On the other hand I've paddled other skis that broach easily no matter what rudder is hanging off the back. The Mako Elite doesn't have a basic propensity to broach - but IMO, the elliptical rudder still improves manoeuvrability.
- The elliptical rudders make manoeuvring in general easier downwind compared with the sharkfin rudder (ala Fenn) which tends to tighten up at speed. This is because the meat of the sharkfin rudder is behind the pin. The elliptical rudders tend to be far better balanced, which is why I prefer them - not so much to stop broaching but so I don't have to stamp on the rudder pedals at speed if I want to turn the boat.
- The elite guys can apparently steer skis by tilting them from side to side and I've been told that you should use the rudder as little as possible. Well, that might make sense for the top elite guys, but most of us humans, even though we use the rudder as little as possible, still need a responsive rudder. Steering with the rudder doesn't mean making massive inputs - you can still be gentle/subtle steering with a rudder, and it's much easier with a balanced rudder than a sharkfin.


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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