What to do if your Surfski or Kayak rudder cable snaps - Emergency Steering

Some of you know the feeling.

Most of you don’t. And we hope you never will.

But just in case, here is how to get emergency steering and direction if the rudder line or cable of your surfski or kayak snaps.

Confusion. Realization. Frustration. Panic.

It’s confusing at first.

But then confusion turns to realization.

Realization then slowly turns to frustration.

And frustration could end up in various degrees of panic depending on your situation.

Very quickly the conditions; the distance back to shore; and your proximity to other paddlers, becomes quite apparent.

When your rudder line snaps, your surfski or kayak immediately turns towards one side, the side to which the cable or line is still attached. You lose almost all steering and can’t turn to one side. Effectively you’re paddling in circles. Without steering or direction you are literally just floating, and it is impossible to make any headway.

Breathe. Calm down. Think.

To ensure that you get back to land safely you will need to be calm and think clearly. Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, calm down and follow the steps.

These are the steps you should follow if you lose steering on your paddling craft:

Step One: Alert those paddling with you that you need help. Get a fellow paddler to raft up next to you. If you’re alone, talk out aloud to yourself on what to do next. No-one will think you’re crazy; it’s only you (and your guardian angel) out there anyway 😉

Step Two: Notify someone ashore that you’ve lost steering, give them your position, and let them know you will be attempting self-rescue while waiting for assistance. If you don’t have comms then we assume you told someone where you are before you left the shore; they should realise soon enough you’re not back yet. DONT FLOAT & WAIT! Be active in your rescue.

Step Three: You need to secure the rudder in such a way that you can steer or go in a straight line. Use what you have at your disposal on-board (foam, duct tape, chocolate wrapper) to wedge the rudder straight, or use an emergency steering cord.

(Steps Four to Seven describe the use of an Emergency Steering Cord. If don’t have one, KEEP READING because you can get ideas OR, you can purchase one here: https://mockepaddling.co.za/products/emergency-steering-cord

Step Four: Get your emergency steering cord out from where you stored it in your lifejacket or equipment hatch.  Place the noose over your wrist; you don’t want to drop it!

Step Five: Have the paddler you are rafted up with open the access hatch to your rudder tiller or steering mechanism at the back of your craft. If you’re alone, you will need to do get in the water and do it yourself. Remain leashed to your craft!

Step Six: Slip the noose of the emergency steering cord over the tail and hook the stainless steel hook onto the rudder tiller ON THE SAME SIDE WHICH IS STILL CONNECTED TO THE PEDALS. The cord will pull the rudder back to centre (or just past centre) and you will be able to steer.

Step Seven: Slowly begin to paddle the quickest route back to land.

Hopefully that is the last time you ever have to use emergency steering 😉