fast kayaks

Iam a new paddler just finishing up my first year. I was wondering what exactly constitutes a fast kayak? Is it top speed? Cruising speed? Wouldn`t all that be relative to the paddlers ability? I have a P&H Capella 163 and one day over the weekend logged over 16 miles with an avg. speed of 4 mph in varying conditions. With wind against wind, with tide against tide. Would I have been much faster if I were paddling say a Epic 18x or Impex Outer Island, two boats known for speed? I really like the Capella but was wondering if it would keep up with paddlers in longer faster boats.

depends on the goals of your group. 4mph is plenty fast for most “paddle club” paddles.

Do the paddlers in the longer
boats have the motors to make those boats go faster?

seem to be fast, depends on the motor

"keep up with"
you won’t keep up with Greg Barton if he was in a Capella 163. If you were in a race you wouldn’t keep up with racers in your Capella or in a racing kayak. In other words if you’re paddling with people who want to paddle together you’ll get over those .1mph differences and paddle together. If you don’t, you won’t as it doesn’t take much time for small differences in speed to result in paddling alone.


– Last Updated: Nov-23-09 4:36 PM EST –

of variables, but all other things being equal, I'm faster in my glass Nordkapp LV than my plastic Capella 166. Or another way to look at it, I am much less spent after a paddle in the Nordlow vs. the same paddle in the Capella. (YMMV)

I’d say you’re doing just fine.
If your goal is to keep up with the average group of paddlers, and you’re truly averaging over 4 knots for a day, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.

You can always find boats and paddlers that can go faster than you or your boat, but what counts is that you can get where you want to go at a pace that is comfortable for you and your group.

In my experience, 3.5 knots in mixed conditions is a good average speed for group paddling. 4 knots if we’re pushing it (or being driven hard!)


There are a lot of variables to “fast”, including theoretical maximum hull speed, paddler ability, efficiency at cruising speeds, speed in various sea conditions, etc. A 20’ x 19" surf ski won’t be fast for you if you keep falling off, or don’t have the strength to use the top end.

Long hulls tend to have lower form drag – more important at high speeds – but more surface area and skin friction, which dominates at low speeds. That’s why a smaller boat can be easier to paddle at moderate speeds than a “fast” one, and why smaller/weaker paddlers don’t do well in longer boats.

but what if the fast paddlers
slowed down? Then he’d keep up.

Absolutely accurate post, one caveat
My guess is thise who purchase an Epic 18 or similar design do so because speed is a focus. Experience tells me that such paddlers like to go as fast as they can and are often pushing each other. Assuming they are reasonably fit a relative nemby in a Capella aint gonna keep up.

If I’m wrong and it’s a case of wallowing along at a comfy 3.5 knots any boat will do, and yeah the smaller hull could even be more efficient.

Nice to read accurate commentary such as your post above.

you would have been much faster
In the Epic 18 which is a tad faster then the QCC-700.



fast kayak
I guess what I am trying to get at in my original post is, will I have trouble keeping pace in a paddling group if I can sustain 4 mph? Being somewhat new to the sport I have worked pretty hard on all skills this past year mostly alone and was thinking of joining a paddling club in my area. I have only just begun reading kayak magazines and have not seen any articles on what is considered a good pace.

Technique Counts For a Lot

– Last Updated: Nov-23-09 5:48 PM EST –

Two of us recently whooped up on a stronger guy in a 'faster' kayak because he 'arm paddled' and didn't hold a straight line.

another ‘no’ with additional info…

– Last Updated: Nov-24-09 2:08 AM EST –

The most often average speed cruising in a sea kayak I've seen cited is 3 knots (3.5 mph). At 4 mph (3.5 knots) you are already paddling a faster average than most.

Most sea kayaks produce very similar drag to up 4.5 knots (5 mph). Those which are known as faster boats (i.e. Epic 18x, QCC700, etc...) actually produce MORE drag at speeds under 4 knots (4.6 mph) than many 'slower' boats.

As noted by Salty and others, the paddler makes the biggest difference.

The match of boat and paddler is more important than the boat itself. You will be faster in a boat you feel comfortable paddling.

As an aside: When Sea Kayaker tested the Valley Rapier 20, they noted that it was the fastest sea kayak they'd ever tested. My experience has been that the Nordkapp LV is the fastest boat pushing through lumpy waters of any I've paddled - YMMV.

No, not if they are enjoying the paddle
As a matter of fact, that is a tad fast for a touring pace with all the different people I paddle with.

If you can comfortably paddle a 3.7 or there abouts pace, that should keep you with most groups.

If they are trying to out paddle each other or race that is a whole different ball game.



Fatst Kayak? Well define fast.
Everyone knows that a longer boat is faster than a short boat. At least that is what I was always lead to believe.

When I started designing boats and learning more about hull design I started to read things that made me question this. I quickly realized you have to define what fast means. It sounds obvious, fast is top speed. But what about the typical paddler that never paddles at racing speeds for more than a thirty seconds at a time? Does top speed potential really matter? Maybe that isn’t really the best way to look at it.

How fast a kayak goes is directly related to the paddlers strength (the motor). The better shape your in the faster you can paddle any boat. But top speed doesn’t really tell you anything since every paddler is different. A better comparison (I think) is how much effort it takes to propel a boat at a given speed. If you knew that then you could compare one boat to another and that would actually tell something useful about the boats performance the way you paddle.

My Curlew design is 15’ long and it was designed to have the lowest resistance within the design goal limits at the typical speeds we paddle. Meaning under 4 mph. When I hit the water with it I could tell I could keep up easier with the group than in my 18’ boat. So does that meant it is fast at slower speeds? It sure takes less effort to paddle. Of course in a sprint you feel like there is anchor behind you. I save my energy and let the youngsters have their fun. It’s to short for good sprint speeds But at my normal amount of effort/speeds it is fast.

I know it will never happen, but I would love to see drag figures for all the boats in the 2-6 mph range. It would make picking a boat for your style of paddling some what easier. So many people buy long boats because they are ‘faster’ yet in reality they are putting out more effort to maintain the slower speeds where they spend 99% of their time paddling than a shorter ‘slow’ boat would have.

And yes there are exceptions and everything is a compromise before you tell me I am wrong.

Faster, but may not be by much

– Last Updated: Nov-23-09 9:51 PM EST –

My GPS trails show me that 4 mph average over 15 miles is easily achievable for me in my 13.5 foot long Perception Sonoma. Even if it is bumpy. If I am in a hurry (fast exercise pace, not race pace), I have clocked 4.5 to 4.7 mph average over 12-15 miles distances.

However, trying to go just a smidgen faster becomes *very difficult* in that short-ish boat, even though I can bring it up to close to 7 mph in a very short sprint. For instance, 5 mph for only 5 miles non-stop requires all my focus and strength in that boat.

On the few trips with others, usually they do not go faster than 4mph average, so most any kayak would do. Unless the "others" want to push it or are trying to race.

Anyway, contrast that 4.5-4.7 mph average with my times in a "fast" boat. Rapier 18. That is probably comparable to the QCC 700x or the Epic 18x (perhaps b/w the two in terms of speed). In that faster boat in the same conditions where I average 5 mph all out for 5 miles in the Sonoma, I add a full mile per hour to my average speed. I can do 6mph for 5 miles with a little may be even a little less effort than it takes me in the Sonoma to maintain 5 mph over the same distance of 5 miles.

However, over 15 miles my average speed in the Rapier drops significantly. There it is only a little faster for me than what I can do in the Sonoma - I just do not have the engine to drive it over long distances nearly as well as I can for shorter. Still, in my last amateur race (I do not race much, but that was fun and exhausting 15 miles), I beat all but one person in the sea kayak division, so a fast kayak does help and will give you an advantage if the others are in inherently slower boats. That one person that beat me, even though she's a woman 50lb lighter than I am, is a serious racer and she runs marathons, where I can hardly run a couple of miles at a slow pace if my life depended on it -;). So it comes to show the paddler is more important (we had comparable boats, her's was probably a bit faster for her (KayakPro Nemo). To be fully honest, another paddler would have also beaten me by a little, but he took the wrong turn, paddled an extra mile and bonked a mile before the finish and I was able to pass him by quite a bit. Only the surfskis were really faster, so yes, a faster kayak is an advantage - especially if you can handle it better than others: there were folks in fast kayaks that capsized in that race due to the strong winds and choppy water, so for them the "fast" kayak was actually a liability since they could not handle them well enough to capitalize on their potential.

At the end, if it is just to "keep up" on tours/outings, I think it does not matter much what one paddles, unless it is one of these 12 foot long by 36" wide fishing thingies, of course -;)

This table may be of some help in measuring your kayak relative to others at various speeds. Pick yours and a few other representative boats and plot them in Excel for even a better view. There is also some good reading at that page:
And, yet an even more comprehensive list giving you "the best" for a variety of speeds:

My observation
Is that people on this site are getting a lot smarter!

More factual commentary Vs long held dogmatic untruths. Nice thread.

love to see drag figures…in the 2-6mph

– Last Updated: Nov-25-09 7:14 PM EST –

Here are some drag figures for 8 boats from Sea Kayaker from 2 to 5 knots (2.3 to 5.75 mph) listed from most drag to least at each speed:

at 2 knots:
Valley Rapier 20 = .97
Epic Edundrance 18 = .97
NDK Explorer = .94
Chatham 16 =.93
Tempest 165 = .91
Foster Legend = .9
Avocet = .9
Nordkapp LV = .9

at 3 knots:
Valley Rapier 20 = 2.04
Epic Edundrance 18 = 2.03
Foster Legend = 2
NDK Explorer = 1.96
Chatham 16 = 1.93
Avocet = 1.92
Tempest 165 = 1.90
Nordkapp LV = 1.88

at 4 knots:
Chatham 16 = 3.89
Avocet = 3.74
Foster Legend = 3.7
Tempest 165 = 3.65
NDK Explorer = 3.63
Epic Edundrance 18 = 3.55
Nordkapp LV = 3.52
Valley Rapier 20 = 3.45

at 4.5 knots:
Chatham 16 = 5.58
Tempest 165 = 5.57
Avocet = 5.4
NDK Explorer = 5.25
Nordkapp LV = 5.24
Foster Legend = 4.9
Epic Edundrance 18 = 4.73
Valley Rapier 20 = 4.45

at 5 knots:
Avocet = 8.65
Tempest 165 = 8.59
Chatham 16 = 8.45
Nordkapp LV = 8.04
NDK Explorer = 7.92
Foster Legend = 7
Epic Edundrance 18 = 6.47
Valley Rapier 20 = 5.81

The drag figures given are the Winters/KAPER and are calculated assuming flat water.