Fastest kayak

Hope this isn’t like a who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman kind of question but here goes…There’s a paddle/race in my neck of the woods and I was debating on which of my boats would be the fastest? The choices are a 16’ 10" fiberglass Current Design Gulfstream, a 16’ 4" Necky Elaho, also fiberglass, or 14’ 4" Stellar S14S made with their composite material. The Necky seems to be the most nimble but the event is pretty much a 12 mile drag race so the slightly heavier Gulfstream might have the momentum. Just curious on what some of you would say, thanks for any input.

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I confess I have no experience with any of those boats. What I have experienced is that different water and wind conditions favor different boats. Your choice may be dependent on your race-day weather.

Superman would definitely lose if kryptonite was nearby.

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Go with the Necky!

Your weight?

Sound Rowers Boat Classification gives these scores:
Gulfstream 8.5 (fastest)
Elaho 7.5
Stellar 6.94

I don’t take these scores as definitive at all, but there they are.

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The absolute fastest boat is the Van Dusen Mohican.

Beyond that longer boats are faster than shorter ones. There are a couple of exceptions, but on the whole that rule works.

Just remember that we are talking waterline length here, not overall length.

I would probably choose one of the boats with a rudder. That way you can just focus on paddling, not on control strokes. I’m assuming the Elaho has a rudder? For me I think it would be a toss up between the Elaho and the Stellar.


The S14S isn’t a particularly fast boat. I have no trouble keeping up with sea kayaks but we don’t race.

Replying to a couple of post…I’m 6’ 1" about 176 lbs. Sound Rowers Boat Classification had a Current Design “Slipstream” not a “Gulfstream”, so not sure if that’s a typo or there is a boat called a Slipstream. The CD and the Necky have drop down skegs while the Stellar has a rudder. I prefer the skegs. It seems like I’m always having to “drive” the Stellar by making course corrections a lot. I’m leaning toward using the Necky for a number of reasons, one being a lower profile in case of cross winds. Wish there were more races in my area (Fla panhandle). A chance to meet fellow kayakers and motivation to train. Thanks

CD made a Slipstream model decades ago, allegedly intended for lighter paddlers. It was narrower than than the Gulfstream, which accommodated big people. Both skegged.

Use what you know best, especially if it is a straight course without many obstacles. If the Stellar uses a gas pedal type of rudder and you cannot propel it without zigzagging, you are not used to it. Having to correct direction constantly is inefficient.

Elahos came with either skeg or rudder, IIRC. The one I rented had a skeg and was delightfully maneuverable.

Sound Rowers lists the Gulfstream at 8.5 and the Slipstream at 8.1. I have a Slipstream, definitely for smaller paddlers. At 16’ it is also narrow enough (and with the skeg box) not roomy enough for an expedition, unless you are a backpacker. Great for day trips.


9.50 and 9.70 I’m happy. Never saw this or heard of it before.

For rent :laughing:

I think you answered your own question just now when you said you’re leaning towards the Necky. The actual speed differenct between the Necky and Current Design is probably pretty small. If the Necky gives you a mental edge in confidence or comfort that’s probably make it faster than the Current Design.

Another site that uses a formula for length and beam for racing classification lists the Gulfstream at 8.5 and the Elaho at 7.5, with the higher number considered faster. The Steller being a recent design, is not rated, but I think the shorter length would rule it out. Using their formula the Stellar come out to 6.82.

The numbers might vary a bit using actual waterline length.

In part it depends on the race you are thinking about. If they have any classes for the boats it will depend on the competition to know which one is best.

Most town, or celebrations, put in to class distinction. I would do the boat you are most familiar with. The fastest boat, for you, is the one you are most comfortable in and can paddle well.

I had to quit doing most local races that aren’t divided by classes. I paddle a boat that has a 15.7 rate on that strange scale and it wasn’t fun to beat people who thought they were fast.

The last local race I did was the Alafia Challenge, because they had an Elite category and an Elite Double category. Even though I waited four hours for my # to be called I ended up third overall. I only lost to an Australian doubles team that was touring the world as racers and an almost friend in a Van Dusen.

Have fun.

Damn, I’d just about settled on the Elaho and now you come along and toss a monkey wrench into the works. Does the Sound Rowers equation take into account hull shape, aerodynamic drag due to higher profile, etc. or is waterline length the only criteria?

Not all that but they said they do use physical testing data derived & compiled by Sea Kayaker on some boats. Hard chine hull is slower.

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Nazz, I didn’t mean to hit you in the face with a wrench.

Racing is a journey, and it took me years to be comfortable in that boat. During those years, and a few others, I learned that there is always some bigger, faster, or stronger than I am. The battle is always with yourself.

I got into racing because of that same Alafia Challenge. When I first heard of it I was in my first kayak, a Perception America. I entered and sat through the long wait to get started, they only let three paddlers at a time start.

I saw some boats like I had never seen and talked to a few of their owners. They told me that they would be the last to start because they were classed as Elite.

An hour or so later they passed me and I saw what a fast kayak or canoe could do. I was hooked and it took me a while to get to winning state championships.

Then I went to the Nationals and it looked like I was back in my first race, with that Perception America.


I come from a bike racing background and my favorite type of race was time trails. I just liked the discipline of getting right next to the pain and staying there. It just seems like a kayak race would be just what the doctor ordered.


Then there is always the practice runs to confirm your choice. If time allows between now and race day, take them out on the water for a known distance in similar waters. iIt need not be the full distance. Maybe 4 miles or more will give you the numbers you need to compare.

Your choice of paddle is also very important.