Here’s an Xtranormal video with a not too serious look at the whole skegs vs rudders debate:
The best answer to the entire skeg or rudder question should be “neither”. If you learn how to paddle then you don’t need a skeg or a rudder! Having said that, there are certainly times when a skeg or rudder can make your life easier.
Both skegs and rudders serve the purpose of helping the boat go straight. Neither is designed to steer a boat but to offset the turning forces on it.
You should certainly be able to control your boat in all conditions into which you venture, even if your craft has a skeg or a rudder. Anything mechanical can break and it’s not as likely to break in the dead calm of the local pond as it is to break under rougher more challenging conditions when its failure can have more significant consequences.
Skegs are notorious for getting pebbles stuck in the skeg box, keeping the skeg from dropping down. If you’re with a group this isn’t usually a big problem as a friend can reach under and help the skeg release but if you’re by yourself, there’s no way to fix the problem without going to shore.
Rudders always seem to have cable issues. There are a lot of mechanical parts in a rudder and things do wear out. There are not many rudder mechanical failures that can realistically be fixed on the water.
Every time you paddle in conditions that make you feel like you want to deploy your skeg or rudder, postpone using it as long as possible to gain experience using the boat in conditions as if you were unable to use the skeg or rudder.
While it’s occasionally “nice” to have use of a skeg or rudder, if you find yourself consistently relying on it, why not let The Power Of Water help you free yourself from the need. We can give you the skill and confidence to be in complete control of you craft!