New to kayaking and slowest in the tours

rsevenic, you hit the proverbial nail on the head.
Right now I know only 2 people who enjoy kayaking and one of those is moving several hundreds of miles away so I anticipate many of my future trips will be solo. To me that means that I need to be knowledgeable, competent at least, and well prepared in my head and gearwise. But not necessarily fast.

You don’t mention who you did your tour with. Other resources I see in the MoCo area include Mark Sargeable at and also have heard some good things about the bunch.
Wife and I paddle Little Seneca Lake at Black Hill Reg usually. Speed isn’t a factor for us.

I went with Potomac Paddlesports. I think they’re good at what they do but I don’t see flatwater classes on their site altho they do offer private instruction.

When I go out with a friend, we’re at Black Hill too! And you’re right, speed doesn’t have to be an issue there.


I think if you focus on technique you will find the speed will improve. Although I wouldn’t worry about it when learning a new skill. In fact for instructional purposes you want to slow everything down and make it more efficient. Developing a good forward stroke takes time. If you are having to do corrections to go straight then you are slowing yourself down. I believe that to be true regardless of your style of paddling or paddlecraft.

On a commercial tour you are paying to have them wait, lead and teach you, so who cares if you are a bit slower? I’ve got no problem letting others know I need them to slow down.

Longer boats tend to be faster. I cheat a bit myself when keeping up with others. In ww I paddle a 12 footer and it helps me keep up with some younger folks. It also means I’m a little less tired on the flat pools. But none of that is really why I’m paddling a long boat (for ww). For me it was all about comfort and fit. I like the narrowness (with my legs less bowed out) and the length provides stability. As we get older comfort is more of a priority but in my case it just happened to come with speed.

I recently found myself at the put in waiting for someone to show up to put on the water. I sent the rest of the group ahead after waiting a while. After another 30 or 40 minutesfor the no-show I decided to paddle to the take out by myself. My hope was to catch the group and possibly meet the no show kayaker at the takeout.

I was quite impressed with myself. 4.9 miles in 43 minutes and I stopped to surf (waves on the river) twice. I’m not very good at math but I’m thinkin’ that’s about 6.8 miles per hour. I’m not in very good shape so I just really tried to focus on technique (good core rotation with a steady stroke rate) and because it was a river I tried to maximize my use of current. Physicality is only part of the story. Focus on technique and the speed will improve.

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four or five years ago I took my first instructor class. One of the participants was an employee/guide/instructor from potomac paddle sports and her paddling was far more advanced than the rest of us. I don’t know if that caliber is typical of their current staff but what I saw was primo.

A good light-weight paddle might help, too. But there’s no shame in bringing up the rear! Go at your own pace and enjoy.

Probably best to get eyeballs on your paddling even if it costs some money.

One thing to note, new paddlers often think that they have to deeply power their strokes. Which is a good idea once you have a better stroke. But for a new paddler that can result in highly powered excess stroke length. Which actually slows you down.

Just for chuckles, see what happens if you shorten your stroke and increase the rate, or cadence. Something to mess with while trying to hook up w advice.

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Good idea! I remember thinking that I should deeper. Good to know! Thanks.

You are in about the best place both for paddling and for instruction. Flat water, scenic water, white water, it’s all a short trip from anywhere in MOCO.
I have had two rounds of rec paddling classes with Potomac and they do mostly good work. And they support the paddling community.
Speed? Don’t worry about it. Technique comes before speed.

Probably the single best thing I learned: keep your paddle in front of your hips. Long strokes that go behind you tend to make the boat zigzag and cost you energy.

I’m 71 and took up paddling in 2007.

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Thanks so much. Sunny at Potomac suggested signing up for their beginning of sea kayaking classes and take the first one twice.

When I can’t get on the water, I use my Total Gym.
You want to work your back, lats and core muscles, rather than your arms.

Good idea. Thanks.

Hi phnx51
You are not too old!! I am 81 and still leading kayak trips. You can get some good technique lessons from youtube videos. My advice would be:

  1. Sit up straight. Beginners often slant their seat backs too much.
  2. Make sure your foot braces are set for you so your legs are partly bent and not lying straight out in front of you. Have someone show you how to adjust them.
  3. Push with your legs as you paddle.
  4. Rotate your torso with each stroke. Don’t just use your arms.
    Good luck and keep on paddling! You will get stronger!
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As TommyC1 used to say…“last one off the river wins.”

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Thanks so much for the advice and encouragement. I’ll watch some videos, try to put into effect the wide words I’ve been given, get some instruction and paddle paddle paddle!

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Practice will build speed. Muscle memory is built when practicing and will help with your speed.

whatever happened to him? That’s a good name from the PAST…

Really not sure. I quit canoes about 3 years ago, life’s a journey yada yada, but surprised I don’t see Tommy posting here. We didn’t paddle/pole together much, but had some fairly hilarious episodes biting off as much as we could chew a couple times. Poling with chunks of ice knocking the poles around one run, and another where we took turns getting swept 2-300 yards downstream after missing a plant with the pole. Think I knocked him off a ledge paddling one time as well, a lesser paddler would have flipped, but he found it helpful,though perhaps unexpected :thinking:
Used to paddle with Mintjulep as well. We were mainly ww, but had a good get together, Tommy from Boston, Mint from NYC area, Aaron and me from CT, and hosted by Spirit boat,once on the Hudson , another on the new Boston stretch of the Farmington.
Met Ness, camped in her yard (Primus show Niagara falls), she and Dave are awesomely nice people. Literally thousands of ww outings, and 2 months a year sailing…trying out land these days, and finding it requires less driving :hugs:

Hi! It’s great that you started paddling. You won’t find s better sport. In reference to your question; being slow is no crime. Think of it as getting to see more! However, I would advise you to find some reputable instruction (not your buddy Bob unless he’s qualified) and learn proper technique. Seeing you thinking that your arms aren’t strong enough tells me as a new paddler you haven’t gotten correct technique at all. With sound, efficient technique you won’t be as slow AND you’ll see your stamina increase significantly. Honest!

Thank you! I’ll get qualified instruction - if I don’t get the basics right, time on the water would be frustrating not a pleasure.