Broken Rudder and Basic Turning

Our rudder broke on us twice in the first month. The first time we brought it back to the store and they fixed it, but the second time my husband fixed it himself.

It probably broke from pushing too hard on the rudder peddles, putting too much tension on the wires. By learning to turn the kayak with our paddles our rudder has worked fine ever since.

A rudder is supposed to be worked gently, mostly as a tool to keep you straight. If you’re using it for turns it will work but it might just break.

Normally you will be going forward, pushing your paddle on one side then the other. A forward stroke.

The therapist in me has to point out you need to use your big trunk muscles (yes, they’re still big even if they’re covered with some extra tissue) to power the stroke, rather than your shoulders. Shoulders have a wide range of movement (think about how much distance you can cover while playing ping pong) but that means they lack stability.  So you don’t want to use something unstable to get all your power, or you’ll end up with shoulder pain and need a physical or occupational therapist for more than kayaking advice.

Instead to turn you can both stroke on the same side while you’re moving forward (both on the right side until you turn as far left as you need). Or if you’re at a stand-still and want to turn completely around (to the left), the front person strokes on the right (front to back) and the rear person strokes on the left (back to front). Start this video at 1:50 to see. It’s simple, as long as you both agree on the same direction.

There’s also something called edging, where you lean to turn the kayak while paddling forward by leaning the kayak. But especially for shorter distances and just getting out there and having fun, just being able to turn is enough technique to start.

Speaking of which, I mentioned my husband gets to ultimately decide where we go. It would be really annoying if he was giving me marching orders of “left, left, left, right, left”, for each stroke, right? When he says “left” I know we want to go left, so I put my paddle on the right until he says “straight” (or “okay”). It sounds simple but it takes a little practice, especially if you’re concentrating on the basics, like not crashing into a branch while taking pictures.

Turtle on a log at Green Lake in Seattle.
Turtle on a log at Green Lake in Seattle.

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