The kayak skeg may be the most misunderstood piece of kayak equipment. Many people think the skeg is used to make the kayak track, but its function is to "trim" the boat when conditions affect its performance.
The skeg should be part of the kayak design, not an addition to fix a poorly designed boat. Kayaks with skegs should be designed to slightly weathercock (turn into the wind).
With the Skeg up, the kayak weathercocks.
With the Skeg down, the kayak turns downwind.
With the Skeg half way down the kayak turns crosswind.
Watch the Flash Lesson above for a visual lesson on how a skeg works.
The dominant force (Wind or Current) influences how the skeg works i.e., down current is the same as down wind.
The two main types of skegs are rope controlled and cable controlled. The rope controlled skeg is more reliable, as it does not damage easily and can be fixed in the field. The disadvantage of the rope controlled skeg is that you can't fine tune the skeg position. The cable controlled skeg is easier to fine tune, but it is more vulnerable. If you leave the cable skeg down when you run up on land or over an object, the cable can kink. Most cable skegs are easy to fix with tools and an extra cable, but you don't usually carry these in the field. If you own a kayak with a cable skeg, you should always have an extra cable at home to do a repair. Our personal preference is the cable controlled skeg, for the fine tuning that it offers.
A skegged boat can be packed a bit bow heavy, since the skeg will help to compensate, but a trimmed kayak is always best.
Atlantic Kayak Tours, Expert Center
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