non-race efficiency observations, age 74

My usual paddle is between 8 and 10 nautical miles on the bays and ocean around San Diego. There is always some wind and tidal current to make conclusions from the GPS less than perfectly accurate. But here goes:

In my ‘slow’ Ikkuma 17, I average 3.8 kts over this distance at my age 74 moderate effort. If I switch to my ‘fast’ QCC 700x and paddle at the same effort I still average 3.8 kts. This using either my low angle AT Xception, or Werner Kalliste, or one of my GP’s. (All are about 220 cm.)

So at my strength/conditioning level a fast boat has the same speed as a slow boat.

If I use my Onno Wing, set at 208 cm, my average speed goes up about 0.2 kts with either boat over the distance. However, only if I use a good high wing stroke and concentrate on the catch. If I stop focusing on technique, my average speed with the wing is the same as with any of the other paddles.

A key point is that the wing works very well with the no rudder, lean to turn, Ikkuma as far as speed/efficiency is concerned. However, if it gets a bit rough I don’t have the confidence in my braces with the wing that I do with any of the other paddles, though my roll is just as good.

I might add that I don’t enjoy the wing as much as the other paddles, despite its being more effective.

I’m switching back to a shorter more efficient kayak that has a lower top speed but a faster cruising speed.

At the end of the day age and a bad shoulder makes the smaller boat faster than the long one.

Serious question - why would a shorter boat ever be faster than a longer one, other things being equal? Not sure I’m following that.

Interesting observations, OP. Which boat do you prefer to paddle?

In general
There are two kinds of resistance on a boat. The resistance of it moving through the water and the resistance from the waves it creates. At lower speeds, when the boat isn’t really making waves, most of the resistance comes from moving through the water. At higher speeds, when the boat is making waves, the wave making resistance starts to play a major factor.

Generally speaking a longer boat will have less wave making resistance, meaning it would be capable of reaching higher speeds since the wave making resistance won’t increase as quickly as with a short boat.

But at lower speeds, when wave making resistance isn’t really entering the equation, the longer boat, having more square footage in contact with the water because of the extra length, will have more resistance as it travels through the water.

In my experience with the boats I’ve paddled it really doesn’t make much difference in the real world. One boat might be more efficient at 3-4mph than another but it’s so easy to achieve those speeds it doesn’t matter much.


Power of the paddler…

– Last Updated: Oct-13-14 9:41 PM EST –

One day I loaned my 14' boat to a friends 10YO son who had been paddling one of his dads 17' kayaks.

Within a minute of paddling the 14 he exclaimed "Now this is a fast boat"

That 14 was very light and extremely efficient.

OP. Which boat do you prefer to paddle?
For the last 10 or 20 years I have always had one boat with, and one without, a rudder. I don’t have a preference between the Ikkuma and the Q700, though they are completely different from each other. I never paddle the Q700 without using the rudder.

I disagree with the shorter boat …
being just as fast.

With me the 18 footer with the plumb bow would be faster.

But I agree with you on the use of the wing. I much prefer my touring paddle to my wing.

However if I am racing I absolutely need the wing and will definitely go faster using it.

Jack L

That isn’t what he said
He said at HIS strength and conditioning there’s no difference. You as someone who has raced are able to use the race boats potential.

Since he and I are similar in age
and I assume strength I was simply letting him know my thoughts.

Jack L

Your strength & fitness is unusual for
your age and most folks 20 years younger.

You and Nancy are above average physical specimens, whether or not it seems that way to you.

I also have more difficulty paddling a “fast” longer (16’ or longer) boat at cruising speed for over an hour than I do an efficiently designed, sleek boat that fits me well. About 13.5" seems to be a sweet spot for me I don’t have the strength/ conditioning/ technique to push a long boat very fast for very long.

I sold my ultralight Advantage because I couldn’t average any faster in it than in my Curtis Lady Bug on my usual smallish lakes while following the winding shorelines and I felt fresher when done paddling the same route in the same time. The Advantage had too much skin friction for my cruising pleasure - too much boat for me.

It’s the same situation between my Epic 16X and Perception Sonoma 13.5, though I can sprint faster in the 16X and it’s cockpit fit is much better for me for longer seat time, the Sonoma 13.5 is a very efficient raising and exercise boat for smallish paddlers like me - 5’6" and 160 lbs.

some info here
This is from a fellow that post here occasionally, gnarlydog from his website,

he has some drag numbers from sea kayaker magazine.

Slight clarification

– Last Updated: Oct-14-14 1:29 PM EST –

It isn't so much that longer boats have less wave-making resistance. The actual wave-making resistance will be about the same, as I understand it. However, the speed at which wave-making resistance becomes greater than the paddler's ability to make propulsive force, occurs at a greater speed with a longer boat than with a shorter boat, so the the ultimate maximum speed of the longer boat is greater. However, to reach the maximum speed of a long boat requires greater strength on the part of the paddler than achieving maximum speed with a shorter boat, since even if the wave-making forces were the same at sub-maximum speeds, the longer boat also has more skin friction. And you are right that at moderate cruising speeds, where wave-making resistance isn't a major factor for either boat, the shorter boat will require less effort.

And as an additional note, not directed at Alan or anyone in particular, which most folks here already know: If the boat is too short, even traveling at a typical cruising speed might force the boat to be within that range where wave-making resistance becomes a big issue, so saying a shorter boat travels more easily at moderate speeds isn't necessarily true for all comparisons. I think it's a pretty sure bet down to about 12 feet in length though (and maybe a bit longer for faster "typical cruising speeds").

slight mis-interpretation
My point is that if you paddle a given distance at 3.8 kts in a ‘slow’ boat, then repeat AT THE SAME EFFORT LEVEL in a ‘fast’ boat, you will go at the same 3.8 kts.

If you try this comparison at 4.5 kts, or above, there will be a big advantage to the fast boat.

further food for thought clarification
The shorter is easier to move at below hull speed also is assuming the 2 boats being compared have similar widths, roughly the same hull shape, etc.

My girlfriend had a Dagger Alchemy and sold than and upgraded to a Valley Gemini RM. The Gemini is 2" narrower, and 10" longer, with harder chines. She doesn’t push the boat, but always paddles at her cruising speed. That cruising speed did increase in the Gemini (as noted by me having to increase my effort level to stay with her).

But if we compared her Valley Gemini to my Valley Aquanaut (both 22" wide, similar chines), the Gemini would likely be easier to move at slower speeds, but the Aquanuat would have a higher hull speed.

Also keep in mind that the shorter the boat goes, the more effort needs to be put into keeping it going straight. This is probably why when you get down to white water boat lengths, they do take more effort.

I know that each of us has considerable affection for the virtues of the Caribou but, like you, I’m also thinking of switching to a lighter, more efficient boat and I’m curious to know what you have in mind as your next boat.


– Last Updated: Oct-14-14 4:51 PM EST –

My first real kayak was a Pygmy Arctic Tern 14 that I built 12 years ago. I loved that little boat but I was at it's max weight load and I wanted to do some camping so I bought the Bou based on it's similar hull design.

Years went by and I gained about 35lbs. and now the Tern14 was really overloaded. A friend wanted the 14 for surfing and I sold it. My friend also ended up a little heavy for the boat but his wife and kids loved to paddle it.

I happened to mention that I had lost the 35lbs. and my friend said that no one was now using the 14 and that he would return it.

It's been back about 6 weeks and I am in love with it all over again. I am not camping much now days and the 14 is a very efficient day tripper.

Since I built the Tern, Pygmy has come out with some low volume touring boats that look very interesting.

I'm still keeping the Bou however....

BTW, Along the way I was seduced by a sexy European model and the Bou was also sold.
Big mistake! Fortunately I was able to buy the Bou back.
Now everything good is back in their proper place and my world is back in order again.


seems to have expanded their line since last I looked. I’ve never put a kit boat together and, at 73, wonder if I’d complete the boat before growing too old to paddle. I recently tried out an Epic GPX and was surprised with its performance. Though I had no GPS with me, the little boat seemed to move along about as well as my Caribou and with very little effort. Nice! It was a bit squirrelly in quartering waves, though, with a significant tendency to weathercock and would probably require the installation of a small fixed skeg. Very comfortable cockpit and 31 pounds makes a big difference out of the water. The search continues…

I hear ya…
I’m just a couple of years behind you.

I built three Pygmys but don’t have the room nor desire to do another. Just tickled pink the 14 came back.

The Bou is great when things get gnarly but I don’t think I’M up to gnarly anymore…

I’ve heard that the Epic GPX is efficien
for such a short boat. Try to find an Epic 16x to try out.

Great link
Thats a great link. It shows exactly what other have said with some objective data…

Going slow, a short boat is easier to paddle because it has less resistance due to wetted area

going fast, a long boat is easier to paddle because you have a higher hull speed.

Physics has the answer to everything! I love science.