Fastest Kayak?

What in you opinion is the best choice of kayak for speed ie racing???

What environment – flatwater, open ocean, downriver?

What distance?

What is your skill level?

You need stability before speed, otherwise you will spend more time swimming than paddling (to quote big Oscar, “No one is very fast when upside down”).

Epic has an interesting article on kayak speed at:

In flatwater, either the K1 or a surf ski will probably be the fastest, depending on your skill level.

I’m still learning to master an Olympic K1, and that has been an enjoyable process. I am faster in it for short sprints, in dead-calm water. However, if there is any chop, and for longer distances, I’m faster in my V12 surfski, and the ski is much more stable than the K1.

Greg Stamer

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– Last Updated: Jun-30-12 1:58 PM EST –

Most people will look at "efficiency" with all
its variables and nuances but it really comes down
to length/beam ratio.

In general, the higher the length to beam ratio,
the faster the kayak.
Short rec boat might be a 7 compared to
a l6.5 for high performance kayaks.

As you approach 6 mph in a kayak, shape/form will
make a difference in speed, handling, performance.

Loki, Huki, Nelo, Epic, Thunderbolt, QCC,
Seda, Nomad, Seward Quest, etc., etc.

World class marathon racers go around 8 mph
for maybe 3 - 4 hours in their kayaks.
Sprinters can achieve more mph on flat water courses
but will be completely spent and out of gas real quick.

Rule of thumb :
Paddling hp needed doubles from 5 to 6 knots

A boat can still be fast made of poly

Compare to

It comes down to a few percentage points +/-
and the human powerplant on any given day

Boats aren’t fast
paddlers are.

Speed doesn’t come for free with fast boats but it’s there for taking if you have the technique, strength, and stamina. I was sorely disappointed the first time I took out my WSBS Thunderbolt to find it wasn’t much faster than my QCC 600x. It took a lot of seat time and training to get to the point I could average 6.5mph or faster over 6 mile course. This is A LOT slower than the top paddlers in similar boats and it boggles my mind how much better their technique, strength and endurance must be compared to mine when I see the speeds they maintain.

Before I quit paddling seriously I could hold 7mph for a mile or so and could sprint to 8.5mph in my Thunderbolt. I hear of top paddlers holding 8mph+ for extended races but don’t if that’s a bunch of BS or if they’re really that good. I felt like 7mph was doable. 8mph seemed unreachable in anything but a sprint.


No one takes a dragster for a tour of a park

  • it all depends on what purpose or end result.

    Tippiness may be a hindrance in relaxing and

    actually being quick in certain water conditions.

Epic V-12 Wins 4 Straight Molokai
Races and owns those bragging rights. For years, the Molokai kayak race was the de facto standard for which kayak was the fastest. Now three different paddlers have won the race using it the past four years. Second place was another V-12 and third place was an Allwave CX. Perhaps next year, it will be a Huki, Nelo, Vajda, or Fenn?

good place to start.
Now if only I could sit on one. Without getting wet that is.

Ryan L.

Prijon Barracuda is a fast polykayak

that is impressive!

I have yet to see anyone keep up with a Mokai.

But it can be tempermental.

I do not know which kayak is fastest, but I found putting the gps on the spray skirt and trying for my best speeds has improved my paddling technique a lot.


Absolutely log it in

– Last Updated: Jul-01-12 3:45 PM EST –

I'm a big fan of taking my old Garmin GPS 60
and dumping the data into this website.

Basically speed comes from keeping the paddle
the paddle in the water and spinning rapidly
stopping little for breaks, gear adjustments,
turning around buoys, etc., etc.

Garmin Connect is great for seeing where the time went
and logging it in for reflection/evaluation
--Example of an old plot

the fastest kayak
is prolly in the hull of a 747 or other jet.

total package
The west side boat shop boats are amazinglt fast and versatile. # years in a row bushnell won blackburn challenge ocean race with the same boat he used to win flatwater races. I aded small out of way thigh braces and rear bulkhead for safety to avoid tipping at the start.

To race fast you shoud spend time at flatwater raceclub such as they have in canada such as ottawa or ganonoque. Elite athletes start at age 10 for the whole sumer and can stand up in tippy boat. I started racing at age 48 so I still love the eft or thunderbolt as the best all round race boats, after you add small out of way thigh braces.

I also race a $4,000 van dusen mohican ski with tiller steering- bettre than epic gas pedal steering. Try jumping high from your heels. Olympic tiller steering is superior to epic gas pedal rudders but you must be stable or you tip at start. A graphite west side eft at 33 pounds with kick up steering is in the touring class of usca. It wwon the 90 miler kayak class. Twice I did blackburn with eft in 3.3 hours for the 20 mile ocean race around cape ann.

The epic ultras are often paddled by racers who started in tippy boats at age 10. My 18 in wide ski is too tippy for me to reneter in whitecaps. The west side t-bolt is better because of solid thigh braces that I added .

A GPS is a good teacher.

Kinda like asking
which car is fastest. The answer depends on the motor (you) and the environment it will be raced in. A drag racer probably isn’t going to wil a Grand Prix and vice versa.

And it somewhat depends on your size. Big, powerful guys will probably get more out of an 18 to 20 ft kayak or ski whereas a 130 lb female might be faster in a skunny 15 footer. The mantra that longer is faster has limits based on the power available and there is a point where the additional length just adds more wetted surface area (more drag), more mass, and more freeboard to catch in the wind.

In general though, you are probably looking at long, skinny boats that feel quite tippy at first. For most folks it takes a few hours before they start to feel stable.

a ‘wide’ ski is a good place to start

– Last Updated: Jul-02-12 3:50 PM EST –

The 17" wide surfski is going to be the fastest general purpose boat. K1 are faster but limited to flat water. However, if you are looking for a fast boat start with a wide ski like a Epic V10 Sport, Fenn XT, Think EVO2 or similar 19" wide boat. A wide ski will serve you well from everything from flatwater to big ocean swells. 17" boats are just too tippy to start off in and lead to lots of bad habits. I regularly beat guys in 'faster' boats because they can't put down the power without losing stability.
Wide skis are still fairly tippy and you can count on swimming occasionally especially in a beam wind. All race boats take some serious seat time to get to point that you can put down some power.
I took a clinic from Greg Barton(owner of Epic) recently and he pointed out lots of technique flaws (loss of speed) in those paddlers in too tippy a boat. He also said until you are averaging 7.5 or better you are not going to see much benefit from a narrower boat.You may actually be slower depending on conditions.
I raced yesterday against some fairly fast guys. Winning time was 64 mins for a 9.6 mile race with a 8-10kt tail wind.

Fastest Kayak?
Thank you Everyone for ALL your comments!! Very insightful

Ever hear of “hull speed”. The design and shape of the hull most definitely does have a great deal to do with achievable speed. Take any given paddler and put him/her in a flat bottom, wide beam, short rec boat and then put that same paddler in a k1 sprint boat and then tell me the boat does not matter. Of course it does, probably 50% of the equation.

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