How Far Can I Paddle?

Hope this isn’t a really dumb question.

First off, I know the answer to the question above is VERY subjective and also changes based on lots of variables. But I’m hoping there’s some “average” answer that might help me plan my day-trip distances. Here’s some of the variables that might help with coming up with an answer:

I’m a woman (5’3" 140#) in her late 60s in pretty good physical condition. I’m new to kayaking (been out a total of 5 times, one of which was a 4-hour kayaking class). I have an Ocean Kayak Venus 11 and an AquaBound Stingray carbon/carbon paddle. I usually paddle solo.

I currently try to plan my day-trips on Sarasota Bay for days when boat traffic, wind, and waves are at their lowest. Of course, I realize any or all of those things can change unexpectedly mid-trip.

Right now, in the Summer heat, I find that I’m ready to head back to my launch spot after a couple of hours - not because I’m too tired to paddle any more, but because I’m too HOT to paddle any more (even with my feet dangling over the side in the 85+ degree water). I’m looking forward to Fall, Winter, and Spring, when the sun and humidity won’t be quite so intense and I can stay out longer. The trade-off is that there’s more traffic on the water during the cooler months.

So the question is how far can I reasonably expect to paddle in a day trip? And I’m asking because there are lots of destinations in the bay (bird rookeries, interesting islands, etc.) that turn out to be somewhere around a 4-6 mile round trip. I will probably paddle pretty intensely on the way out because I’ll want to get to my destination relatively quickly to have time there for leisurely paddling and taking pictures. Obviously, I don’t want to get really far from my launch site and then find I am exhausted.

So, any ideas for how to judge this (other than the obvious and time-consuming method of going on longer and longer trips until I know my endurance)?

Thanks for any help in estimating this!

Do you have a GPS ?
If yes, time yourself for a mile or so at a pace that you think you can maintain, and that should give you a good idea.

Four or six miles should be doable for you when the weather is cooler.

Any more than six at this stage in your paddling is a bit too much, but by the end of the winter you will probably be able to go eight or even ten if you have been paddling on a regular basis

Jack L

Unfortunately, I do not have a GPS, and only use my smart phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 4) and Google Maps. I do have a kayaking map book of Sarasota Bay, which is not really detailed but does have some distances between points of interest.

Does anyone know if there are good ways to use Google Maps on a smart phone to calculate 1) distance between points on the water, 2) distance paddled from a specified point, and 3) directions back to a specified point (i.e., my launch spot)?

I use an app called Sports Tracker, it even has an option for kayaking not that it really matters. I LOVE this app, shows distance, uses Google maps if you have signal to give detailed maps, shows speed (average/max etc), gives you an exact GPS trail of your journey, it does everything I need. They even have a website that is synced to the account you use on your phone. I went back recently to look at trips I took last year I couldn’t find on my phone but they were on the website.

I found out recently you can stop the app and shut your phone off, change the battery, and restart the app and it picks up where it left off, amazes me.

Often times I don’t have internet service where I am but all the app really needs is GPS service. Once it finds you, you are good to go.

2 miles per hour is a leisurely pace on fairly calm waters with stops for photography with a boat such as yours. So if you can tolerate 2 to 3 hours of it you are likely paddling 4 or 5 miles already. Naturally you have to account for wind and currents which will affect distance both positively and negatively. Once the weather cools you may be pleasantly surprised how much distance you can cover in a half day.

Most recently I paddled 13 miles on a large flatwater river in 5 hours (which included a 40 minute lunch stop) but I have a longer boat, the air temperature was in the pleasant mid 70’s, it was overcast and half the trip was paddling downstream with help from current. On a hot sunny day I usually keep day outings down to half that distance.

For coastal paddling you can get maritime maps which will help you plot routes and mileage. Of course you also have to take tides into account where you are. Talking to other folks in the area including the people at kayak outfitters is a good way to get a sense of how long your should allow for certain trips.

I would suggest not getting hung up on mileage, but concentrate on how long you want the trip to be based on conditions.

I can do 30 miles a day down a slow river

I’m good for 10-12 in a good surf. More than that is a workout

My wife needs two days off after 8 miles on flat water

4 miles round trip in a chop seems to be her salt water limit

Hope that clears everything up!

Willowleaf has easiest approach
Figure out what your pace is in terms of miles or knots per hour, that includes time to stop and refresh. Double it for distance out and back. That will tell you how far you can go in two hours, add portions or multiples of that to figure how far you can go in 3 or 4 hours.

If you have tidal influences that you can use, you can shave time by riding a tide in or out. But Florida has a fairly low tide compared to where I am used to paddling on the ocean, so the force of the tide may not have as much effect. You can also save time by putting wind at your back, but of course that usually means you are into it for the otehr part of the trip so things kind of even out.

Learn your waters…
it’s not always the distance. Learn your tidal currents. It may not be an issue in Sarasota Bay, I’ve never paddled there. But paddling with the tide is a lot easier than fighting it if you have channels and islands to consider. Start with short trips and learn what is right for you!


Learn water, tides and wind
I think you might be too goal oriented at this point. For the next five or so paddles, just work on getting used to paddling for an extended time of two or three hours and see how far you go. As mentioned above you need to learn what to expect in the waters where you are , incoming and outgoing tides and when the wind picks up.

Winds in a sit on top are an important issue so observe what the wind does on different days … lots of places it’s best to get up and paddle when it is just getting light, so you are off the water by the time the mid-day winds kick up. Mid-day and afternoon winds can shift from on-shores to off shores on a peninsula, so pay attention to not have to fight a heavy off shore wind or a heavy wind blowing against you. With time you will learn the best time, tide, and wind conditions for your paddles. I would just work on extending how long you can paddle in a session by about a half hour each time you go out and not worry about distance and trip itinerary until you have some seat time in the boat.

Don’t Make Too Detailed Of A Plan
Start by heading in a general direction that you’re willing to alter. Have a turn around time. No matter how far you go make sure you get back. Bring enough food and drinks that you’ll have some left over when you get back for just in case.

You might take off and find something of interest that you want to watch. You might want to go swimming. Keep an open mind. Remember that getting is the most important goal you’ll.

it actually has a lot of effect
Coastal waters I have paddled in Florida are shallow and the tide comes out as fast as most of Maine… Just cause its a paltry three feet does not mean its less forceful… The ebb is particularly strong.

Add that to the effect of the drag in shallow water and its quite harder paddling in Florida than Maine.

Cant comment on other areas as those are the ones I a most familiar with.

too hot
was out solo and got very overheated- ran out of steam- couldn’t cool off even by getting in the water. Couldn’t paddle but a couple strokes at a time. (this was after a twenty mile paddle in 95 degree heat, sun beating down and no shade and no breaks for 6+ hours…long story but taught me a lot). Would suggest, considering your post regarding getting too hot, that you take a small cooler with two frozen bottles of ice or Gatorade. If you get in a similar situation as mine, place those bottles inside your PFD in the arm pits and that will cool you off. Also can place around the carotid arteries. Doesn’t take much to get quick relief and to re-energize. As a matter of information, in my case, another paddler came to my aid and gave me a bottle of water to hydrate some more, but it wasn’t until a pending thunder shower dropped the temperature about 10 degrees that I found immediate relief. It is a serious concern. Take frozen bottles and don’t push too hard as you learn your perceived limits.

So Glad I Found This Forum!!
You guys are amazing - such great, practical advice. I’ve been so anxious to get to the really good photo op spots, but after reading your posts, I see that I need to get that “seat time” and learn the conditions in Sarasota Bay and the limits of my own endurance within those conditions.

I think I’ll change gears (from photography) and go out with the goals of:

  1. enjoying being out there instead of trying to get to a certain destination;

  2. practicing the techniques I learned in my kayaking class (including capsizing and getting back on - which should cool me off a bit); and

  3. becoming more familiar with the conditions on the bay, such as heat, tides, winds, boat traffic, etc.

    I have a lot to learn, and am looking forward to every minute!

    Thank you all!!

Sports Tracker??
I downloaded Sports Tracker on my Android phone, but can’t see how it would be used for kayaking… Do I have to subscribe to the Premium version or are the kayaking features only on the desktop (which I haven’t yet downloaded)?

Can you give a few more details on how you are using it for kayaking?


take the camera. There are photo ops all around.Watch the water…reflections.

Kayaking and photography are natural. You may well work up to 14-15 miles in an outing even in a rec kayak.

It will come naturally. I used to do 14 miles three times a week in a rec kayak some fifteen years ago. Even after four months of chemo spent in bed, six weeks later after working up to it by paddling most every day starting with one mile , I was able to paddle 17 miles into a 10 knot headwind.

You’re just starting. Give it time and enjoy the journey with your camera.

Just use the walking or hiking option
Really doesn’t matter. The app doesn’t know or care if you are on foot, or a bike, or a kayak.

Hot weather
is a real liability to the paddler and Florida’s gulf coast is a very warm, humid place for summer paddling and deserves a place as one of Dante’s circles of hell. Your fitness level is probably good enough for paddling at least 5 or 6 miles and more when the temps begin to ease in September. Keep yourself well hydrated and if you feel yourself getting over heated find a shallow place and get into the water. And don’t take everything you read on too seriously.

Never assume
the wind will be always coming from the same direction just because that would make one leg easier…

the wind is a prankster.

Tide has charts, but wind direction only has hourly probabilities and exceptions…

Becoming familiar with all the possibilities, including the crazy-azzed stuff of windy rotation with thunderstorms in the area, so you always turn around at the halfway point with enough energy for the worst-case scenario (wind in face AND opposing tide) will give you the best outcomes.

cooling suggestion
I have a couple of the endothermic cooling scarves, like this:

which have gel beads inside that are activated by soaking the scarf in water. The wrap stays surprisingly cool for hours and I find that having it wrapped around my neck does help on hot days (and I tend to get very hot and flushed above the neck). I also have a baseball cap with the beads in the forehead band but it is not quite as successful a product.

Too early to answer the question, and…
You took one class and have gone paddling 4 other times. That is just too early to know what you “can” do, other than the distance you already covered.

Rather than focusing on numbers and wishlists, for at least a few more outings it would be more useful to focus on how you feel while you are paddling, and on drinking enough fluids. You might not be gettting enough fluids and electrolytes. I tend to do this despite having years of experience. I hate having to find a place to pee! But seriously, this contributes to fatigue and limiting endurance.