Looking for tips to paddle faster

Any tips to paddling fast and maintaining 5mph over a 2 hour period on a 18ft sea kayak (Current Designs Solstice GTS with Werner Cyprus paddle)? I was not exhausted after 2.5 hours of paddling at what you see in the video so that just means I did not paddle hard enough.

I put the paddle forward as much as I can reach and I pull it out of water before it gets behind me. I do not grip the paddle tightly. I try pushing my left and right leg opposite to my stroke motion but didn’t see much effectiveness so I just end up locking up my leg solid against the foot peg. Occassionally adjusted my hip weight when the mini waves were kicking me around a little bit.

Here’s some raw recordings at what I think is 4.5mph avg according to Strava & mapmyride in a 10 mile trip in ~2hours10mins

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I’ve looked at some of these but gave up following the technique; at my age my pecs are never gonna grow that big. I do switch to push mode when my muscles get sore but only for a few minutes. https://www.youtube.com/@ultimatekayaks6499

Better would be to find someone who can video you from shore or another boat so we can see how you are moving.

Locking your legs prevents you from bringing those muscles into helping you paddle forward. May also be limiting that amount you can bring your core muscles in through limiting your torso rotation. The more different muscle you can bring in to propel you forward, the less energy each individual muscle should be using and the longer you can go.

You might want to see if you can find a local coach who could spend a half day or day fine tuning your stoke (should involve videoing you).


In addition to assessing your stroke, which is good advice, switching to a paddle with larger blades will require more effort (assuming the same cadence) because it moves more water with each stroke. And because of Newton’s Second Law, some of the extra energy expended in moving more water backwards will translate into increased forward motion of the boat. As an example, your Werner Cyprus blade has a surface area of 610 sq cm, while their Corryvreckan is 721 sq cm, almost 20% more.


My first question would be why do you want to go that fast.
According to some sources the average sea kayaking speed is about 3 knots.


Training for a recreational race. Also just for the once in a week workout sprint. I do the same route literally every morning so just want to sprint through to reach my target destination and back in time for work.

On other days, I’ll go the casual pace to soak in the sceneries, natures, and play in rock gardens with other folks.


Makes sense. Like @Buffalo_Alice said, going with a larger area paddle helps. Also, as a beginner I used to pull the lower blade thru the water, then later I focused on pushing with the upper hand mostly (80-20 pushing-pulling), but when I want to go fast the paddle goes almost vertical and I push-pull 50-50.

Bigger paddle reach forward more even a stabbing reach to lengthen your stroke. Make sure your paddle exiting at your hips and you’re not lifting water. Most of your power is more towards the beginning portion of the stroke in my opinion. Hip rotation and locking you legs drives all the power from the paddle through your body and to the hull.

Entering and exiting the blades as clean as possible helps being efficient. Pushing and pulling evenly will give to more speed especially over a long haul.

Averaging 5 mph for 2.5 hours without aids of current and wind is a fast clip but doable.

Pull your rudder up but it usually may make your course longer in any kind of conditions.

If you really want to go fast you need to train at least every other day not once a week.

Wet sand to hull with 1000, 800 or 600 grit wetordry for the race.

The length of you paddle is? Do you feather the paddle?

Disclaimer old man self taught by doing it and watching YouTube. Lol I do have a decent pace. I :thinking: think.

Pull the blade parallel with hull close as possible. Don’t bury the blade keep it within two inches of the surface.

Don’t cavitate the paddle. Pull boat to blade not blade to boat. If I take my biggest paddle and pull it so hard the water behind the blade is not there it’s not helping. Then I’m pulling blade to boat for the most part.

I’ll think of more in a bit on the race.

No hat in race and tight clothing. Size up the competition paddler and hull. Stay near them you need not sprint ahead and burn out prematurely.

Straightest course is the shortest don’t follow others.
Pace yourself and cadence. Practice the length of race you’re going to be in. Don’t get messed up in the turns with other competitors. Look for clean water with a good view. Don’t get stuck behind slower boats at the start give yourself good position .

Don’t be looking back it will take power from your stroke. If you get passed you’ll know soon enough and have to decide to keep up or on your pace.

I like paddle wax on the paddle even with gloves. Personal preference but try it if you don’t now.

Use mapmyrun or Strava to check your pace at short intervals.

Eat and hydrate properly two days ahead. Waiting for a race all year then getting sick because you may have got food poisoning somewhere would suck.

Keep blades in water as much as possible. Paddles that are to long prevent that and you’ll tire faster reaching higher to not submerge blade to much.


Displacement hulls move a lot of water. At 5 mph your level of effort is at a high level and not very efficient even with an 18 foot boat. Using the muscles in the torso, the back and abdomen improve efficiency. Shorter strokes are much more efficient than reaching all the way forward.


In a race start or sprint I like bit longer stroke. 2.5 hours l would say no. Need side shot video to see.

This video may give some tips, from a racing perspective:

(3) Ivan Lawler Racing Kayak (Canoeing) Technique Masterclass - All - YouTube



Listen to the banjos playing.


Your height and inseam?

Well, not always. For example, on a river/stream if you hug the shore here and there, shallow water will slow you down - big time. You must also watch the current flow on such waters. It’s good to have the opportunity to train on the race waters.

I am very good at this. I am intuitively able to seek out what makes me the slowest paddler alive. I don’t even beat all the dead paddlers.


He won’t be racing in a stream on Long Island. Peconic Bay possibly or Long Island Sound.

It takes more energy to go fast than to not go fast. Raising the speed you have will also raise the demand of your muscles for sustenance.

It has been a long time since I used a Euro paddle, but speed is generally a function of cadence, not blade size. Blade size is all about the muscles needed to work it.

To keep cadence up, use your elbows less and get your core into it. That means working in your leg muscles to give your core some torsional stability.

The forward speed (distance/time) of the boat is directly related to the volume (or, more correctly, mass) of water moved in the opposite direction over a given amount of time. Increasing cadence moves more water; so does holding cadence constant and increasing blade area. Both are important. So is technique. Water splashed up, pushed down, or pulled to the side contributes little to forward speed.
Banjos contribute the most, though.


Excellent video I have probably watched ten times at minimum. Good to watch it again as things tend to slip away as I get complacent or lazy. Paddle, watch, then paddle again, and watch.

I did win a few, back in the day. I made sure that my blade had plenty of area, and learned that each stroke is a pull and a push, the arm that is higher pushes as the lower arm pulls.

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Yes, I find reviewing it from time to time very helpful. Hard to keep all the details he covers in mind all at once. And, as I learn and implement more, I understand some things better, then can refine things even more effectively.

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