Kayak speeds?

Hi, I am a new but enthusiast kayaker. I recently purchased a Cobra Escape 10’ 3" sit on top. I am extremely pleased with it in all respects. I regularly hit my West Florida favorites places ranging from quiet freshwater lakes to brackish tidal salt marshes, to open Gulf near-in islands. It does wonderfully.

Being a power boat guy, I am wondering, in general terms, kayak speed potentials. My Cobra Escape seems to cruise comfortably at 2.5 to 3mph. Really digging in, I might hit 3.9mph (as measured by GPS). My question is, what is a realistic range of cruising speeds for longer, thinner kayaks? In terms of speed, are sit on top styles at a disadvantage? Any thoughts or opinions?

good question
I know top speed depends a lot on the person paddling, but i’d like to here what is feasibly possible on a long touring boat on flat water. Assuming i’m in good shape (which I am) and assuming I have good technique (which I don’t).

Tempest 165
I’m an old bicycle person. Good legs and lungs. Mediocre arms and shoulders.

3.4 mph = chatting away.

4.4 mph = working some but still able to talk.

5.4 mph = working hard and breathing hard. Not sustainable (by me) for more than an hour or so.

(This boat was not designed to race).

kudzu…not built to race?
and here I was thinking I was going to win the bogie and bacall race with my tempest 170



Old Fart in a QCC-700
In good conditions I can hold 5MPH for pretty much all day (that is working)

6 MPH in a 5 or 6 mile race

7 MPH in a sprint.

Did a 15 miler last Friday at what I call a nature watching pace and the moving average was 4 mph.

The B & B is a fun race, especially when the weather is blowing like it was in the Bacall two years ago and like it was in the Bogey last year.

See you there in Feb.



I Tole Brother Flatpick

– Last Updated: Aug-21-05 7:57 PM EST –

he needs to design me a racy yak. The 165 is a great coastal boat but I'd like to have a 2nd, lightweight, run-down-to-the-lake yak that could compete with the QCC crowd. Sure like my day hatch. Hint hint.

Wonder how this would fare??

Sit On Tops
You didn’t exactly buy the fastest SOT or the fastest Cobra for that matter. There are sit-on-tops that can blow the doors off of common sit-insides. Check into surf skis if you are interested in fast sit on top boats.

Sea Kayak
If you can hold 6 mph for 10 miles in a sea kayak like a C.D. Extreme you would be competitive in a race. There is a big difference for me between 5.5 mph and 6 mph. Its called pain.

Take Care

Build yer own
This one’s a bit faster than that one too:



or one of these…

My speed

– Last Updated: Aug-21-05 10:57 PM EST –

I consistantly average 4.8 MPH in my Dagger Specter 15.5 . . . for 2 to 4 hour paddles. That's with waves and wind, on large lakes.

Common speed
For touring, longer day paddles, 3 - 3.5 miles overall is a real common speed for paddling while being able to talk, take photos, look at the birds, generally get around fairly efficiently but still stop and enjoy your environment.

Many maintain faster speeds, but it really comes down to why you are out there. The biggest single diff between a motor boat and paddle boats is how much more you see, and hear, of what is around you.

In an Impex Currituck (17’)
at my regular cadence of paddling, I go about 4.4 mph as measured with my GPS. My highest measured speed without really giving it my all last Friday was 6.1 mph. It is tough for me to go much higher than 5 mph for very long, and fairly easy to keep the speed above 4 mph.

All the above speeds were measured when it was somewhat windy and the water had a little “texture”. My 4+ mph speeds were also measured quartering into a 10 to 20 mph wind. I will need to repeat the test on flat water on a calm day to see how much it might change things.

In my Old Town Adventure XL 139, my speeds were about 1 mph slower on average than those mentioned above using the same paddle and the same cadence.


I Guess
Im going to have to shop around and get a GPS. I dont think I will add it to my normal take it with me stuff. But, it would be nice to see what kind of speeds I am producing. I would also like to see what differances there are between the QCC 700 and 600.


Hull speed
One thing - a lot of kayaks have a certain speed at which they pretty much hit the wall, and going faster than that is quite difficult. That point is somewhere between 4 and 5 knots for a lot of sea kayaks.

I don’t tend to count just speed over the water though - for tripping I need to include the time for pausing to shooting photos etc to have a realistic time estimate.

10.1 knots
Really!! Coming around Hell’s Gate in the East River last weekend. I was cruising at my normal paddling pace at around 8 knots, which is typical for this section of the river, but decided to see how fast I could push it. I almost reached that on the way back, too, because of a strong ebb, but was tired after a long paddle and didn’t have the energy to really push.


Normal for me is about 4 mph

– Last Updated: Aug-22-05 8:08 AM EST –

When My buddy and I go out for a paddle, our normal speed is about 4mph (Garmen e-Trex GPS) on FLAT CALM water. it is a pace we can keep up as long as we need to. I own an Impex Assateague, and he has a QCC700.

We both can do 5 or 6 mph, but the effort needed increases as the speed does. We like to go out and paddle 7-9 miles, so speed is not as important as endurance, and having the ability to chat between us and look for wildlife.

The thing I found of more importance that "Speed", is Ease of paddling. As a longer, narrower kayak may have the capability to go faster, it then becomes easier to paddle at "cruising" speeds, what ever yours may be. easier then translates (for me) into more enjoyment, or a longer paddle distance.

If speed is important to you, try trimming your kayak, front to back, for optimum speed. My last kayak made a huge difference, and I found my Assategue is even somewhat effected by front to back trim. I am a big guy, 270 Lb, big boned, and have very muscular legs. I found by putting my 5 Lb kayak cart all of the way to the back of the rear compartment (back to the skeg box), the Assateague is easier to paddle and it will go a little faster too. The glide speed and distance was improved too.

I read an article on the internet about kayak trim for speed. They suggested putting a 5lb sandbag, or a water jug first maybe in the back, then in the front. Paddle an exact course with the weight in different spots, and see how it effects your boat. You can use a GPS for speed, and a stop watch for time. The article was in a lot more depth than what I wrote, but that was the "gist" of it. When my friend and I stop paddling, and I have my kayak cart in the rear compartment, my Assateague and his "700" have identical glides. Without it, he passes me in a "glide".

Happy Paddling!

Ten knots is very fast for any kayak. You may have been reading speed over the ground as would be the case with a GPS, and you may have been getting some assistance from tide or current.

Others have more knowledge I sure, but kayaks do have displacement type hulls. These hull shapes do have hull speeds which was talked about earlier. And as stated, the additional force required to push a displacement hull beyond its hull speed is logrithmic. I am unaware of any yaks with a hull speed above the high sevens. Most sea kayaks have hull speeds in the sixes.


Hull speed…
5 to 6 knots seems the top efficient range for many sea kayaks. Between 5 and 6 knots the drag increases dramatically for many boats. Sea Kayaker Magazine posts drag figures up to 6 knots.

The lowest drag figures of any touring boat at 6 knots that I have seen is the Epic Endurance.

Surf skis and racing kayaks are another matter. If paddling fast is very important, this may be where you should be looking.

Saturday or Sunday?
Did you go Saturday or Sunday? I know somebody that was out Saturday (nominally with YCC).