Cruising speed?

I was wondering what kind of speed you folks are doing in your kayaks. I have been taking my GPS out with me lately. I am finding that I usually hold about 3.3 mph in relative calm conditions (no current). I can pick up the pace to about 4.5 mph but don’t think I would last very long. My max was about 5.5 mph today ducking a thunder storm. No way could I go like this for long.

3.3 is about what I can average for somewhat of a substained paddle. I’m in a 18.5 Chilco (seaward).

It is fun to see how you hold up for different speeds. Have fun.


You’re right on the mark!

Sea Kayakers generally paddle at an easy 3knots (3-1/2 mph) or a brisker 4kts (4.6 mph) - I can do the 4kts with a slow current, or for moderate periods, but there are a number of stronger paddlers who can maintain the 4+kts pace.

I’ve seen 5.5kts with a pretty strong current, but would never attempt to paddle that fast - I get cramping in my elbows, which is very painful

Peter McLaughlin

Plymouth, MA

P&H Sirius HF

when My wife and I paddle the long boats
we average about 4.7-4.5mph…

(but one time we were on a paddle and got to argueing prettyu heatedly, our average juped to a nice 6.3)

5+ mph over distance
I have an 17 mile loop I like to do (18 mile total trip) - last 3 times I averaged a little over 5 mph over the whole thing. Usually the first 3-5 miles are slower (4mph at best) as they are higher boat traffic areas and current/wind tend to be against there. Make it up on other sections, holding between 5.5 and 6mph over long stretches.

I’m in a QCC Q700 18’ x 21" and using a Greenland paddle. I keep a brisk pace - fast touring, but not what I’d call a race pace at all. Not breathing particularly hard and able to maintain that pace without breaks all the way around. FWIW, I do not consider this fast - and think I have a lot of work to do in the speed department.

Was on a group paddle a couple weeks a go and we did 3-4 mph. Nice for socializing - but it felt like half paddling half drifting. Nice for a change - but not as a regular touring pace. It’s just as tiring for me to go slow as I don’t get into a decent rhythm.

Since you asked

– Last Updated: Jul-03-04 1:38 AM EST –

I paddle a romany explorer and occasionally a seaward shadow. Neither are really fast boats and I am not a really fast paddler.

Over 4.0 knots in the ocean (mild chop) and I am working at it. I don't mind working some times. So I might average 3.25 on the way out and 6.25 on the way in (wave assisted of course) if I am working hard on a ten mile paddle. I will be hurting the next day.

Over 4.5 knots on flat water and it's the same thing. One of my buddies made me pace him at 4.5 knots for an hour. Doable. I cold do it for two hours but it's work.

All this is measured by
GPS which is way more generous than plotting out a point to point course on a chart and saying "it's four miles between these points. I'll do it in 55 minutes."

My speed
When paddling I normally think in kilometers pr hour.

Flat water:

8 km/h(4.3 knots) is crusing speed.

9 km/h(4.9 knots) is committed paddling(with favorite music on the mp3 player).

Faster than this and it’s hard work. This is in my Inuk.

Last week I got a rare german kayak, which is more like a racing kayak with a seakayak top:

When/if I get used to the tippiness, then I might be able to add half a knot to the above numbers.

My “Natural” Rhythm/Cadence
seems to be at around 4-4.25 MPH with my SOF. Under that, my stoke feels clunky. Heading towards 5 MPH, it becomes work like and weird spray patterns (compare to my production kayaks) come flying from the bow. I think the skin compresses and the ribs begin to slam into the water.

I sometimes go faster in a headwind. It’s like hunkering down, kicking into a higher cadence and pulling that “goal” (my destination) in. Going downwind, I can get lazy and just want to “surf” the wind waves. :slight_smile:



Can I borrow your wife…
…for the next race?

Just for a good argument and a good pace mind you!



q700: 6mph is very easy to hold for as long as i want (haven’t gone out for longer than 3 hours in a long time). 5mph requires no effort whatsoever- barely putting the blade in the water. very efficient boat.

mark 1 surfski: 6.9-7.1 seems to be the standard cruising speed, although i haven’t had the boat long enough to really get a good sense about this. 6 is lilydipping.


My paddling buddy and I hold right around 6 mph in the mornings on our “training” run (little to no current, out & back trip, about 6.5 miles in length). We probably max out around 7.5 or maybe a touch more, but can’t hold that speed for long. I’m in a glass Arctic Hawk with a Greenland paddle, he’s in a carbon USCA marathon boat. We probably average about 5 mph when we’re in standard class cruisers. I’m certainly slower when I’m off shore or in a lot of heat, the nice cool weather early in the mornings has spoiled me a bit.

I own a Sirocco and 4.5 mph is very doable for long periods, 4 mph feels downright easy.

Similar to afolpe,
With same boat as Andrew (Q700), 18 miles flat, no current, 6.1 to 6.2 average. West Side EFT, 10 miles, flat, no current 6.9 to 7.0 average.


In my QCC-700
Last Saturday- 3.1 mile race - out and back on a calm lake - 6.3 MPH.

I wouldn’t have been able to hold it much longer, but then I am over the hill.



Greyak, I think you don’t give yourself
enough credit! That is a pretty respectable speed when paddling that distance in the ocean, even if it’s relatively flat. Longer trips require a different pace than short races.

Do you ever do any interval work and then check your speed on your shorter, race like jaunts to see if your times are improving? With all of your endurance work, I bet you are, if you are doing some interval work as well.


– Last Updated: Jul-01-04 1:10 PM EST –

Over the hill?!?!? Yeah right, I wish I was that "over the hill"!!!!!

Out of cruiosity I have started taking
the GPS out with me when rowing and paddling. It’s really hard to gauge the speed on a trip because when touring there are natural breaks in the paddling, especially with a group. I think that’s where they come with the 3.5 to 4.5 average touring speed.

When I am actually paddling comfortably, I seem to paddle 4-4.75 mph, when touring locally in the ocean with our typical 2-3 ft swells. I have recorded much faster times in the shearwater for short distances. I think max speed is somewhere around 7.3 mph, but I don’t recall what I was doing, or what the conditions were:) However, my actual speed for a trip is often somewhere around 3.5 mph due to stops for whatever reason.

Like some of the others have mentioned, I don’t like the physical feeling of paddling much slower than 4.0-4.5 mph, when actually paddling because it feels unnatural. I don’t race, but continually work to improve my endurance, general fitness and forward stroke so that longer paddles are more of an option for me. Also, it seems many of the paddlers willing to paddle longer distances are relatively faster paddlers, so since I like to paddle longer distances, I have been working on my improving my touring speed for whan I paddle with these folks.

I am total newbie at rowing, and still very inefficient and clumsy with bladework, but was astonished to find our speed in a double easily reached 6+ mph. I don’t really like moving backwards on the water, even though I love rowing, and plan to continue. I suspect if I am going to have an on the water aerobic workout (not just talking about touring speed here), I will end up with a ski, so that I can just hit the water and go!

See other’s speeds in same boat below!
Right now - what I od is fine as I have no real race related agendas.

Respectable touring speeds yes, but puts me in and odd category. The pace I set and distances I consider a good workout is more than many want to do - and too slow to do training paddles with the more serious folks like Hex, Ice, and afolpe.

I am in the same boat,
so to speak, except that I am over here on the left coast:)

Have you given any thought to looking for paddling partners through a local sea kayaking club? I am finding there are more likeminded paddlers than I had imagined. People who aren’t into racing, but are fit and enjoy longer, more challenging paddles.

It’s sort of like when I go hiking. I don’t set any records, but I do like to go a little further than many other “day hikers.”

Hey Guys! Wait For Me!
I have a feeling most of the people that responded to this are the faster boaters.

May not be representative of your average kayaker.

I have no idea how fast I go, but I know I spend most of the trip looking at the back of Chuck or Pams heads…