How to measure paddling speed /distance?

Do you use GPS to track your paddling speed and distance?

Is there any other devices that help to keep track the speed and distance, besides GPS?


pretty much two choices
1) GPS. More accurate for distance and gives you speed over land. Also has the obvious ability to do mapping, etc. Personally, I never use that function, but lots of people swear by it. My own recommendation for a fitness-oriented GPS is the Garmin Forerunner 201 or 301. You will get lots of other good suggestions.

2) Speedmate or similar: I think Speedmate went out of business, but you can still find them pretty easily. There is another similar, more expensive product, but I forget its name. These work by placing an impeller under your boat, with a receiver on the deck. The main advantages are that they give you speed in the water (ie, you know exactly how hard you are working, regardless of whatever push/pull you are getting from the water) and they are more sensitive to small speed variations, again useful for fine tuning a racing stroke, etc. The disadvantages are that they are somewhat more difficult to set up correctly, they require calibration, it is very easy to knock the impeller off the bottom, and they are dramatically impacted by high tension wires, if you ever paddle under one (although it is cool to see your speed go up to 12mph or so).

I used a Speedmate for a while and got fed up with it. Now I use a 201 and am very happy. If you were really hardcore about tracking your speed for training purposes, you could even use both.


GPS is the way to go.
You can get a Garmin model for less than $100. I’ve had mine for several years and take it hiking, climbing , kayaking. I use it on real ocean crossings in fog. With any GPS distance, and average speed will be quite accurate. the speed you observe while moving is quite accurate, the feature that says maximun speed often has errors at low speeds because of uncertainty of location at close time intervals.

Just yesterday I cursed my …

– Last Updated: Jun-17-07 6:02 AM EST –

GPS during a training paddle when I was trying to break 7.0 in a sprint and couldn't get it to hold on it.
It had to be the GPS's fault and not the engine's.
I wouldn't recommend the little yellow Etrx (I have one).
The Garmin Map-76 has a much bigger read out.


I have a Garmin Fortrex that goes on my wrist and is waterproof.

But IO found that my speed would shift between 2 and 5 mph until I realized I was going ‘faster’ when that arm went forweard to paddle and ‘slower’ when that arem went back

So I put it on the ddeck and then did a gentle, easy paddle I could keep up all day. THAT is my paddle speed.

I also did a power stroke to see how fast I could push the boat. That is my race speed.

So when I demo a new boat, I lay the GPS on the deck, do my two speeds and compare the readings on those boats to see which goes faster with my normal gentle paddle.

I use the Etrx( little yellow one)

– Last Updated: Jun-15-07 4:18 PM EST –

That I use for training, how far, how fast, top speed, ect and I agreee that it is hard to read when paddling. I just wait till I am done and then digest the information. At the launch site someone did ask if I thought I was going to get lost on a lake you could see across. I replied " I hope so."
If nothing else it makes me honest in my logbook entry.

That is interesting about the speed
change with the wrist one.

Had a similar thing in the canoe a few weeks ago.

I was race training in our tandem rec canoe with my wife.

I had the GPS on the floor. I normally have it on a mount on my cross foot brace, but the sun was blinding, so I put it on the floor right in front of me. The darn thing kept quitting and telling me it needed a clear view of the sky.

It finally dawned on me that I was causing it every time I switched sides, and my hands went over it.

We were at about a sixty second cadence, and I was switching about every six or seven strokes which translated to about every six or seven seconds.

Maybe one of you techno-weenies can explain how long the signal can remain uninterupted or maintained without interruption.

I think in my next life time I’ll switch to a heart rate monitor.



Tape measure & a stop watch

– Last Updated: Jun-15-07 6:35 PM EST –

but the GPS is the easiest and best. I use a Garmin 76CS and it does everything but cook. There are less expensive versions but you will need to decide how much information you will ultimately want. I will not live long enough to understand all that my GPS is capable of doing.

Have fun and enjoy

Garmin Forerunner
I also have a Garmin Forerunner, the 101 version. I like the speed/time/distance all on the same screen, and the auto-start/stop features. I set the speed for walk, jog, run, sprint, and it tells me when I need to speed up. Next best thing to a personal trainer.

The wrist computer gang just came out with the “T” series of fitness watches. The T3 sells for $150 and comes with the heart rate monitor. The T series works with a bunch of “PODS” one of which is a GPS pod (also $150). You can mount the GPS pod remotely and read speed and distance on your watch comparing it to heart rate so not only do you know how fast you are moving but also how hard you are working. Suunto is also doing a foot pod for runners and two different bike pods so your watch becomes a great training tool.

I guess I’m gadget deficient
I look at my watch when I launch and when I land.

When I get home I eyeball the trip in Google Earth with the measure path tool.

I bought a Garmin Geko 201 and Magellan Explorist on ebay,both new. total shipped, 160$ canadian. sold the Geko 201 for 120$ locally. Net=new Explorist 100(very very basic) for 40 bucks. so far used it for a season and it’s been pretty good.i keep it in a little pocket drybag with a clear window, for extra waterproofness and so it floats if dropped in.

Another reasonably accurate way is to use a map/chart and time yourself, but you pretty much need to go in a pretty straight line or you’ll throw the calculations off.

That’s a blessing
I was a lot happier before I got some of these damn toys that are 10X smarter than I am. I’ll never figure them out and spend way to much time with them. I sometimes wonder why I even fool with them. They aren’t really important. Does it matter if you paddle 15 or 15.8 miles as you long as you have fun?


Etrex Legend
I like my Etrex Legend 'cuz I can select large fonts. Makes it easy to read (even for these “older” eyes!).