Stern Rudder

Use the stern rudder to maintain or adjust your line in following seas, when paddling down-wind, passing through a narrow passage, or in the surf. You must have forward speed for the stroke to work.




Set up

  • Start with your normal hand position. 
  • Rotate your torso.
  • Place the paddle parallel to your kayak. 
  • Fully immerse the working (rear) blade vertically in the water towards the stern.
  • Keep looking forwards. 
  • Keep your elbow on your hip to protect your shoulder.


  • The stern rudder affects the back of the kayak. 
  • If your paddle is on the right and you want to steer towards the right, push the blade away from the stern. To steer towards the left, pull the blade towards the stern. Do the opposite when your paddle is on the left.
  • The stroke will become more effective if you drop the edge of your kayak on the opposite side to which you want to turn (edge on the left when steering to the right and vice versa).


  • It helps your rhythm to link the stern rudder stroke to the end of a forward stroke on the same side.
  • In calm conditions you can keep your forward hand low.
  • To get more power out of the stroke in dynamic conditions (e.g. in a following swell, strong tail-wind or surf), lift the forward hand to create a higher angle. This will position the working blade deeper in the water.


  • Protect your shoulder from injury by dropping your elbow on the working side to your hip.

Common mistakes

  • Inadequate torso rotation exposes the shoulder of the working arm to injury.
  • If you push away too much, you will lose speed and ‘over-cook’ the turn, creating a greater change in direction than you wanted.
  • Facing the working blade instead of looking forward.


  • Have a partner give you a push off a gentle shore and experiment. Don't forget to work on both sides.
  • Steer between and around fixed objects in a totally safe environment.