I like racing on unlimited boards with rudders. The rudder makes these long, straight tracking boards surprisingly nimble and fun in the bumps. I avoid using the rudder when trying to catch a bump as it creates extra drag. Once planing on the bump though, using the rudder can help to follow the bumps or change direction without noticeably slowing the glide. You can step back with one foot to lift the nose of the board while keeping the front foot on the rudder. On steeper bumps you want to step further back with both feet off the rudder to reduce the wetted surface and allow higher speeds.
With both feet off the rudder, you can surf the bump off the tail by using the rails like when surfing. When the front foot is off the rudder, it goes to “neutral”, the straight position that the rudder is supposed to return to when the pedal is released. To minimize drag from steering, the rudder should be in “neutral” most of the time with most steering being small adjustments from the straight position. Doing a downwinder on an unlimited board with the rudder not straight in neutral is awful, it’s like trying to play nice music on a guitar that’s out of tune. I’m surprised how many people suffer through downwind runs on boards that cost thousands of dollars with their rudder systems completely out of tune, or worse, dropping out of a race because their screws got loose 😉 (I won’t mention any names here).
If you live on Oahu and would like to have your rudder system tuned professionally, bring it to Blue Planet Surf Shop, for everyone else here is a do it yourself guide to fine tuning your rudder system. The pictures are of a SIC Bullet that my friend Evan Leong (standuppaddlesurf.net) is kindly letting me use in a race tomorrow. The basic concept can be used on any board, all rudder systems allow for a way to adjust and fix the neutral position.
Guide to tuning the rudder system
The SIC ASS system (Advanced Steering System) is notorious for the adjustment screws getting loose and out of tune. I don’t like to tune the rudder on a regular basis, so I put some loctite (red) on the screws before making the adjustments for a semi-permanent fixed setting that should not get loose or need any more adjustments for at least a season or longer. While you are at it, also put loctite on the screw in the center that holds down the pedal, I have heard of those coming loose as well.
The cables should be snug but not overtightened.
Let the Loctite cure overnight, then get on the water and most importantly, have FUN….