How to Add a Rudder to a Kayak

How to Add a Rudder to a Kayak
Sea kayaks come in a variety of styles, designs and hull dimensions. Some sea kayaks come with rudders, some with skegs (rudders housed internally on the inside bottom of the kayak). Many sit-on-top sea kayaks or hard shell touring kayaks do not come with rudders, but have attachment points to install after-market rudder systems, making a rudder installation a quick add-on to the boat. Adding the rudder makes the sea kayak more stable and easier to maneuver.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Kayak rudder blade
  • Sea kayak installation kit
  • Power drill
  • Epoxy
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Vice grips
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife
  • Work bench
  • Wedges or chocks
Step 1
Set the kayak on top of a work bench, positioned with the cockpit facing up. Look at the aft of the boat for the two rudder line fids and cable runners.
Step 2
Grab one rudder cable from the installation kit and thread through either of the cable runners and fids. Walk to the cockpit and reach into the kayak and find the cable. Pull the cable through the fid and runners, leaving at least 8 inches exposed out of the rear fid on the aft of the kayak. Repeat this with the other cable so both rudder cables are threaded through the kayak.
Step 3
Take the rudder blade and the mounting fixture and locate the attachment points on the aft of the kayak. Take the installation kit screws and screw in the mounting fixture and rudder onto the attachment points, keeping the rudder blade and housing parallel to the kayak top.
Step 4
Grab the eyelet attachments from the installation kit and with the pliers attach to the end of the exposed rudder cable. Repeat on the other cable. Take the ruder cable screws from the install kit and screw the rudder cable eyelets to the rudder housing.
Step 5
Looking from the cockpit end of the kayak on the inside of the boat, measure and mark where you wish to place the rudder foot pegs. Drill holes on the kayak where the foot pegs will be placed. On the outside of the kayak insert the screws and washers into the rudder cable runners/foot peg housings on the inside of the kayak and screw in as tight as you can. Repeat on the other side of the kayak with the other runner/foot peg housing.
Step 6
Epoxy the holes after the rudder foot peg housings have been installed, placing a healthy dollop of epoxy on each hole drilled, both in the kayak and on the outside. Let the epoxy dry, which makes the drilled holes watertight.
Step 7
Reach into the kayak and grab the rudder cable and screw the end into the foot peg housing attachment. Repeat on the other foot peg housing.
Step 8
Go to the back of the kayak and check to see how much slack is in the cable. Loosen the screw attachments on the cable eyelets and tighten the cable so there is no slack on either side of the cable attachments.

Tips & Warnings

Work on the kayak thinking "symmetry." Screw or attach fids and housings on one side, then proceed to the other.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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