DIY Surfski rudder weed guard – deflector of the Sargassum!

Coming to grips with

my weed problem.

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I love paddling my Stellar SES surfski in the ocean.
Summertime brings calmer seas however with it comes an unwelcome infestation.
The End (of sunburn) – my total UV block solution!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The simple beauty of surfski ocean paddling: My body, my boat and the blade. 🙂
The launching of the Grey Ghost (Stellar SES Multisport surfski).

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Sea kayakers and casual paddlers might never think about drag when paddling unless they are towing somebody. Surfski paddlers on the other hand experience drag all the time because of the under-stern inset rudders used. This design is excellent for maneuvering and keeping the ski going where you want it to under most ocean conditions. Unfortunately the modern high aspect foil rudders can often snag and trap things on or just under the surface. Things like twigs, weeds and even bits of trash or fishing line. Most of the time it’s just a minor annoyance, but sometimes this persists and gets worse and ignoring it no longer works~! This has been the case for me paddling my Stellar SES ski aka, the “Grey Ghost” the last couple of summers.

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Step 0 – Denial (Ignoring the problem).

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

Sargassum weeds are the infestation that washes up all summer long on South Florida beaches!

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Step 1 is admitting that I have a problem!

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

The problem is that large floating mats of Sargassum also clog the water along the shoreline. It’s like paddling through a mine field. The rudder snags and traps constantly and is literally a drag!

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The amount of Sargasso along the coastline varies each day, I don’t know of any way to predict it. It’s usually hit or miss, some days may be almost clear, others choked. The live streaming web cams on the beach can help to assess the daily situation such as the one at Dania Beach Pier:

https://daniabeachfl.gov/1640/BeachPier-WebCam.

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Step 2 is to propose a solution.

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A small section of this curved leftover fiberglass cut out piece worked great for my surfski weed guard base.
Open deck surgery on the front kayak hatch – the ultimate upgrade!

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

The solution comes in the form of a weed guard or deflector. There are commercial models available but I chose to make my own from some scraps. The yellow fiberglass piece is curved and leftover from cutting out a large front hatch on another kayak.

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Step 3 is to fabricate the solution!

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

The weed guard fin was shaped from a lexan surfboard fin I had laying around and epoxied to the base.

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Sargassum is a type of seaweed that grows in large patches throughout the world in warm waters. Off North America four ocean currents converge forming an ocean gyre called the Sargasso Sea, named for the brown seaweed. Closer to home in South Florida, these weeds wash up during the summer all along the Atlantic coastline and clog up the shoreline waters.

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

I painted the weed deflector gray to better match my surfski “Grey Ghost” (Stellar SES).

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In open water the Sargassum patches support marine life and provide a refuge for many smaller organisms. Unfortunately owing to their web-like structure the weeds also trap lots of marine trash. Sargassum has always been a part of South Florida life, but the last few summers have really seen an huge increase in the amount of the weeds that wash up. This has actually been a problem throughout the Caribbean and there seems to be a never ending supply of the weeds!

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

I shaped the weed guard fin into a foil shape and it’s pretty stout to fend off the thick Sargassum mats!

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The weed guard or weed deflector has been around for a while and works by redirecting the weeds to flow down and away from the actual rudder blade itself. There are many commercial designs available in various materials. Being a tinkerer and a DIY kinda guy I decided to make my own design from some spare material laying around. Primarily I used a lexan surf fin and a small (curved) fiberglass section left over from a kayak hatch enlargement project. The curved part closely matches the hull contour on my Stellar SES hull to which it is epoxied.

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

The weed guard base was drilled through to allow epoxy to seep into the fin for some mechanical support. The base was cut from a leftover fiberglass deck piece from a kayak project on my big touring and camping “Banana Boat”.

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Step 4 – try out and evaluate effectiveness.

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

Finished surfski weed guard epoxied in place on my ski. It’s probably a little bigger than it needs to be and I’m ok with that.

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The Grey Ghost on the beach in Dania, Florida with a summer storms in the background.
Summer in South Florida equals squalls, storms, thunder and lightning (sometimes)!

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My DIY weed deflector is very light but quite stout to fend off the thick Sargassum weeds. It may be bigger than it really needs to be, but I shaped it to a foil shape to improve flow. It definitely works great near the hull where previously weeds would get caught between the rudder and hull. I would actually have to back up or dismount to remove them! That does not happen anymore. However the standard Stellar 8 inch foil rudder blade still catches on the lower end because it doesn’t have enough rake to easily shed the weeds. So it’s an improvement in that now I only have to slow down, but almost to a crawl to dislodge. Not exactly ideal, and the best solution will be a different shape rudder.

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

Testing out the surfski weed guard deflector in a patch of Sargassum weeds.

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

The weed guard is a big improvement and weeds no longer get stuck between the rudder and hull. However the shape of the blade still snags and the next step is a more swept back rudder.

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Step 5 – reassess and reevaluate!

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

Two rudder shapes side by side. The swept back “barn door” rudder on my old ski never snags on anything but isn’t nearly as efficient as the modern foil blade.
A tale of two surfskis 20 years apart (Stellar SES vs Findeisen Shearwater).

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For more than twenty years I paddled my old surfski ONE WAY (Findeisen Shearwater) and never really had a weed problem. So I am crafting custom foil rudder blades with a similar rake and leading edge profile to the original aluminum design. I will not be using the “barn door” style however!

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Closer look at the old school meat cleaver like aluminum surf rudder.
Surfski center stringer repair and the Findeisen Shearwater resurrection!

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Step 6 – take additional measures.

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

Custom carved swept back foil rudder blade to match my Stellar SES. The better to shed off the Sargassum weeds!

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flex maslan kayakfari stellar surfski sargassum weed guard deflector rudder grey ghost kayak paddle fitness

My new “weed” rudder blade installed with deflector in front. Unfortunately the stock Stellar square-key rudder post leaves a lot of play in it and I am investigating a better overall indexing system!

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Step 7 – improve rudder yoke setup.

(* stay tuned! *)

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So my weed problem continues, though with fewer symptoms. For summertime paddling, the weed rudder I crafted will work great once I setup a better rudder shaft indexing system for the yoke. As it is, even with the stock Stellar foil rudder there is more play in the square key that I’d like. I’m thinking of maybe going to a flat slot with a set screw to finally eliminate any and all play in the steering. But I am open to suggestions!

Another way to deal with the weed minefields is to go with a different boat. I’m using my K1 trainer “RGB” (Kirton Tercel) more and more throughout the summer. It’s rudder design is still under-stern but the opposite of the Stellar in that it’s very low profile and shielded with a short keel section. There is no way to snag anything with it and I also get to have my legs covered from the sun while working out. 🙂

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flex maslan kayakfari k1 everglades kayak florida bay fitness paddle east cape kirton tercel 420 trainer RGB rudder

This K1 trainer rudder design has minimal draft, does not snag weeds and is protected as compared to a typical surfski used for fitness paddling!
Easter 4/20 exploratory coastal fitness paddling a K1 trainer on Florida Bay.

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! BLESS – Feel Irie

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With that said..
Blessings friends!

🙂