Kayak Speed – How Can I Make My Kayak Faster?

Kayak speed

Kayaking is a great cardiovascular workout that works a variety of muscles, including the shoulders, abdomen, and glutes. It’s also an excellent choice for those who want to discover breathtaking landscapes and hidden gems. Understanding kayak speed is essential for properly scheduling your kayaking trip – and timing might be the difference between a successful and safe kayak excursion.

Because there are so many various kayak designs, the average speed of your kayak will vary greatly. For most paddlers, a speed of 2-3 knots (approximately 2.5-3.5 mph) is a fair average kayak speed for a basic recreational kayak measuring 12′ long and 30 broad. The breadth of the boat, the length of the keel, the paddling style, and the weather may all make a major impact.

What Is The Average Kayak Speed?

When paddling for many hours, most kayakers average roughly two miles per hour. You can plan longer kayaking adventures if you use this baseline. If you plan on paddling for 4-5 hours each day, you may anticipate traveling a maximum of 8-10 miles in that amount of time. Longer stays on land for restroom and eating breaks, however, will not be taken into consideration.

For a highly skilled kayaker, the average kayak speed in mph is roughly 3.5 mph. This implies a kayak that is at least 12 feet long and 30 inches wide. You may be able to attain a speed of 5 mph on your kayak if you’re highly talented and physically fit. Knowing your kayaking baseline speed will offer you a place to start as you try to improve your speed.

How Fast Can a Kayak Travel?

Kayakers who are experienced and fit may attain average kayak speeds of up to five miles per hour. That type of pace can’t be sustained for more than a few hours at a time, however. River flow aids paddlers of the greatest whitewater kayaks (which is usually measured in cubic feet per second, or CFS).

The shift of watercraft from the primarily hydrostatic lift, or buoyancy, to hydrodynamic lift, is known as planning. This theoretical maximum speed, also known as the hull speed, describes how quickly a kayaker may paddle before the kayak begins to plane. Strong winds or ocean currents might work to the paddler’s advantage, allowing him or her to reach a faster average kayak speed.

What Is A Reasonable Kayak Distance Per Day?

There are just too many variables that go into determining what constitutes an acceptable distance to set any hard and fast guidelines. If you’ve never sat on a boat for a lengthy amount of time, I’d recommend limiting your time on the water to no more than four hours each day. If you paddle for 4-6 hours at 3 mph, you may expect to go 12-18 miles in a day.

Factors Affecting Average Kayak Speed

Many kayak speed factors, including paddling technique, water conditions, and hull design. A beginner kayaker will paddle at a significantly slower rate than an experienced kayaker. A fairly competent kayaker traveling through calm seas in a 12′ long, 30′′ wide, plastic kayak can go at a pace of roughly 3.5 miles per hour.

The maximum hull speed (or theoretical maximum speed a kayaker may paddle before planning) is 1.34 times the square root of the hull’s length at the waterline. A physically strong paddler with good arm strength and seasoned tactics may paddle at speeds of up to 5 miles per hour. A rookie kayaker can anticipate going at a slower pace, perhaps about 2-2.5 knots. In this post, we’ll look at the elements that influence kayaking speed and give you an idea of typical kayaking speeds.

Kayak Weight

When evaluating your typical kayak speed, knowing how much your kayak weighs when fully loaded is critical. Lighter kayaks take more muscle and effort to begin going, therefore their typical speeds over long distances will be slower. In less-than-ideal paddling circumstances, certain heavier kayaks may attain greater average speeds. The disadvantage of a lightweight kayak is that it is more vulnerable to the effects of currents and strong winds.

Kayak Types

Your boat will travel quicker if the keel is longer. Instead of “planing” over the surface of the water like a speedboat, kayaks move by displacing water. The kayak generates a wave that spans from the bow to the side of the boat as it pushes the water out of the path. Kayaks with a sit-on-top seat are usually always broader than those with a sit-in seat.

The quickest boats are long, sleek touring kayaks, followed by shorter leisure kayaks and finally broad fishing kayaks. Sit-inside kayaks are faster than sit-on-top kayaks (which raises your center of gravity, allowing for more wind resistance).

While a lighter kayak may accelerate more rapidly, it is weaker overall and hence does not go as fast in windy circumstances. Depending on the materials used, some kayaks that are fairly light may yet retain a good speed.

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The majority of the quickest kayaks are 22 inches wide or narrower. The majority of longer touring kayaks have a greater average speed. A kayak’s hull shape and cockpit design might have an influence on your average speed. Round hulls are common in whitewater kayaks because they provide the least resistance while paddling at high speeds.

Travel time

Long-distance kayaking should not be approached with a surge of energy. Instead, focus on maintaining a regular stroke that you can sustain for an hour. If you’re going on a multi-day kayak excursion, keep your endurance in mind the whole time. After the first day or two, you’ll probably be out of energy, so plan to go at a slower pace.


If you’re doing a multi-day river trip, for example, the river’s flow will help you cover more ground each day. The only thing that can help your average kayak speed while you’re paddling on flat water is the wind. Heavy winds, on the other hand, may blow across certain lakes, allowing you to paddle back more quickly than you went out.

Those interested in kayaking on calm coastal waters will typically encounter less wind than those paddling on the open sea. Because these areas will be lots of flowing water, your kayak will be propelled along without you putting too much effort. In such sort of setting, however, the issue will be applying effort to safely steer and navigate through, over, and around rapids.

Wind Conditions

A paddler’s greatest friend or worst adversary is the wind. It all boils down to the air currents’ strength and direction. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into paddling if you’re paddling downstream and facing head-on wind gusts. If the wind is blowing in your favor, paddling a mile may take less time than normal.

Water Conditions

When it comes to deciding how quickly you can kayak, the sort of water you’re paddling on is also vital to consider. Kayaking across turbulent, open water, for example, is much more difficult than paddling along a calm river or stream. When paddling against the stream, your speed will be greatly reduced. When you move with the current, you can go at a quicker rate than your normal pace.

Your speed capabilities may vary depending on whether you are paddling with or against the wind. Paddling into the wind, on the other hand, will be a considerably slower journey that will demand more energy to go the same distance. Most rookie kayakers will not be deterred by wind speeds of less than 10 knots. If the wind is blowing at 20 knots, a beginner paddler may very much expect to remain motionless if they are paddling into it.

The weather, as well as water conditions, obstructions, and currents may alter your paddling speed by 1 to 2 miles per hour. Paddling downstream will assist you to acquire momentum, allowing you to paddle faster and quicker every mile. If you want to be quicker on the water and create a personal ‘paddle a mile record, keep an eye on those two criteria.

Paddle Design Type

Even the greatest kayak paddles under $150 will be less efficient than more expensive paddles. When you’re doing longer journeys and trying to enhance your average kayak speed, investing in a high-end paddle will become a must. A lighter paddle will reduce tiredness and enable you to paddle for longer periods of time while maintaining powerful, steady strokes.

You’ll be able to average a faster pace across distance if you can continuously put more energy into your paddle strokes. Your paddling technique, in addition to your fitness level, will influence your speed. You’ll paddle more effectively if you rotate your trunk properly and don’t bring your blade back too much before commencing your next paddle stroke.

A kayak paddle should be appropriate for your height, shoulder breadth, and the width of the kayak. You should anticipate to pay more money if the paddle is lighter. Switching from plastic to carbon fiber paddles may improve your endurance and technique significantly. If boosting speed is a priority, it might be the difference between success and failure.

Paddle length will naturally be greater for wider and taller paddlers, so utilize a chart or guide to discover the appropriate paddle length for you. Paddle blades with narrower blades are the tortoise to larger blades’ hare. They cut through the water more effectively because they are smaller. Feathering is one of those little tweaks that, although seemingly insignificant, can make a big impact at the end of a hard day.

Kayakers Skills and Experience

Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a novice, your physical talents, as well as good form and technique, influence how quickly you can propel your kayak over the water. Experienced kayakers cannot compete with first-time or novice paddlers who have yet to develop their paddling muscles. As your muscle coordination improves, particularly with the help of kayak-specific gym exercises, your paddling speed will increase, and the time it takes to cover a mile will decrease.

Onboard Weight

Keep everything as light as possible in your kayak if you want to go quicker. The lighter the weight in your kayak, the faster you’ll go. Regardless of your efforts, the additional weight works as an anchor and slows you down. The entire weight you’re carrying, which includes the kayak’s weight, equipment, and any extra passengers, is also a factor in how long it takes to kayak one mile.

Overloading a kayak reduces its agility, speed, and stability by lowering it in the water. Because they often need a lot of gear, touring and fishing kayaks typically have the largest load capacity. It’s important laying out and weighing everything on your packlist to see how close you are to reaching the maximum capacity of your boat.

Kayaking Tips to Make It Easier

Getting an additional 0.5 miles per hour out of your boat might add up to three more miles each day. Finding those small edges that add a little more to each stroke is the key. You don’t have to break a new Guinness world record to get the benefits of learning to kayak faster.

Read more: Canoe vs Kayak

Make Use of Your Bigger Muscles

Before entering our kayak paddle, we move energy from our feet through our core, shoulders, arms, and hands using perfect technique. Kayaking provides a full-body workout for this reason, but only if you concentrate on working your major muscles with each paddle stroke.

Make Improvements To Your Body Position

You may recline and loosen up your kayak seat if you desire a slow and relaxing paddling. However, if you want to paddle quicker, you should sit up straight to make it simpler to utilize those bigger muscles. For starters, make sure your feet are softly pressed against the cockpit’s foot pedals or footrests. Make sure your back is straight and your knees are slightly bent before continuing.

Make Use Of More Blades

An extra blade sunk into the water at the end of your kayak paddle will also help you produce additional force with each stroke. The most effective approach to achieve this is to elevate your hand higher on the side of your paddle opposite the blade you wish to insert. This will raise the angle of the whole paddle shaft in reference to the water’s surface (closer to 90 degrees).

Let Go Of Your Grip

There’s no need to hold your paddle shaft like you’re driving through the night on a winding road with hairpin twists. While pushing your paddle with your lower hand, it’s simplest to concentrate on relaxing your grasp on your upper hand. As you relax your fingers, the palm of your upper hand will be more than capable of gently pushing that side of your paddle forward.

Learn To Use A Feathered Paddle

Large forward strokes are used to control a kayak using swipe strokes. These huge strokes, if done alternately on each side, would be the key to how to enhance kayak speed. If you’re interested in kayak racing, you’ll need to do some muscle training to match the huge paddling of dragon boat teams. Because you must twist your torso to produce tip-to-tip arches on the water, this stroke will need upper body strength.

Use A Blade With A Bent Shaft

The majority of paddle blades are straight, however bent shaft versions are more ergonomic and need little practice. So don’t go out on your first trip with your new paddle for a 20-mile day; you’ll need to get accustomed to it.

Be Familiar With The Area

If you’re new to the region, get advice from a local or a tour guide. Pay attention to the interaction of the wind, weather, and tide. A lee, an eddy, or a sidestream may often take you in the wrong direction. If one is available, pick up a paddling handbook for the region.

Invest in a GPS device.

I like seeing my speed and track in real-time. It may also aid you in planning your journey and determining your average speed.

Make Your Itinerary As Flexible As Possible

Even if things don’t go as planned, having prospective camping places noted on a map gives you the courage to keep going.

How Can I Speed Up My Kayak? How Can You Quicken Your Kayak Speed?

How Can You Improve Your Kayak Paddling Technique To Increase Speed?

Improving your strength and paddling technique can help you increase the speed of your kayak significantly. Selecting a longer, narrow-hulled boat with lower friction and wave resistance may aid in speedier tracking. Your body will need to create roughly 0.02-0.03hp if you wish to track at a moderate speed of 3 knots (about 3.5mph) (horsepower). This effort is comparable to walking and may be sustained for many hours.

Your body will need to create 0.1-0.2 horsepower to attain speeds of 5-6 knots. World-class marathon paddlers create roughly 0.3 horsepower for up to 4 hours. This equates to around 8 miles per hour (and it’s awful!). While skill and fitness might help you increase your kayak’s paddling speed, the ceiling may be lower than you think.

Sitting properly gives the most mobility to the upper torso. With your thighs placed on the thigh braces, bend your knees in a diamond form (if you are paddling a sit-in). Paddle using your whole body, not just your arms. This is a fantastic way to keep your shoulders securely in place. Remember the Paddler’s Box while practicing technique.

Maintain the Paddler’s Box and depend on your core strength while you paddle. As you paddle, use the balls of your feet to push on the foot pegs. This will give the torque required to successfully twist your torso. You can track faster through the water for longer periods of time while expelling less energy by engaging both your pushing and pulling muscles.

To get a straighter track, increase the angle of your paddle. Striking closer to the hull is more efficient, resulting in greater forward thrust and less zig-zag. Relax your hold on the paddle. When you grasp a paddle shaft firmly, your forearms get fatigued faster, and blisters may occur. When you put your paddle in the water, keep it vertical.

Gel Coats should be applied.

If the dents on the kayak are too large to be removed with sandpaper, a gel coat may be used to smooth the hull. This reduces the friction that the boat experiences throughout a paddling excursion, allowing for speedier tracking. Applying gel coatings, on the other hand, requires specialized equipment and skills, so it’s best to leave it to the pros.

Choose a Right Paddle

You’ll need to upgrade to a quicker paddle if you want to boost your kayak speed. The swing-weight of the highest-quality paddles is usually the smallest. Consider this: during the course of a mile, you’ll make around a thousand strokes. The quality of the paddle you use will determine the comfort and effectiveness of those strokes.

Low-swing-weight paddles are made of lightweight materials. Carbon fiber is used to make the lightest shafts. You’ll need a bigger paddle blade to attain faster speeds. The majority of kayakers need a blade that is between 50″ and 60″ in length. The size you need is determined by your height, arm length, and the height at which you sit in your kayak.

Make the Most of Your Trolling Motor

A kayak trolling motor system consists of a shaft, propeller, motor, and a console where the battery can be monitored and the kayak’s speed adjusted. Some versions of this engine have a remote control mechanism that allows you to glide across the water with ease. This requires a lot of engineering, and the boat’s user weight capacity will also determine whether you can install one.

Equipping your kayak with a trolling motor offers an advantage in velocity, making far-reaching destinations more accessible. The best kayak with trolling motor entails a grasp of the force it produces, the duration of its energy reserves, and its fitting alignment with the kayak’s architecture. This thoughtful choice stands as an investment in augmenting your nautical pursuits, infusing both pace and practicality into your travels. Reflect upon the kayak’s burden, proportions, and the particular requisites of your maritime expeditions when pinpointing the impeccable kayak outfitted with a trolling motor.

Select The Appropriate Hull For The Job

Because the bottom of your kayak is in direct touch with the water, it will have a significant impact on tracking speed. A rounded hull has less water resistance, which means it will go faster. The V-shaped hull, on the other hand, is employed to improve the kayak’s ability to cut through the water. This hull is quicker than the rounded hull, although it is a little more tippy.

The Kayak’s Bottom

You may as well use 400-grit sandpaper to sand the kayak’s hull. Taming the dents would restore part of the hull’s smoothness, which would increase speed while on the water. Some kayakers believe that a little roughness on the bottom of the boat might help to equalize friction and make it work for you. Mineral accumulation may be stored in dents, which can not only slow you down but also harm your kayak in the long term.

The Longer Kayak

The water’s drag on the hull of a long kayak is lower. The most effective technique to make your boat faster is to invest in a long yet thin watercraft. The thinner the kayak, the fewer surfaces with which the water will come into touch and cause friction.

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