Paddle Speed?

So what are average speeds for kayaking?

For example: This past week 3 of us went out on a training session and covered 5.77 miles (via GPS). I was solo in my kayak with a standard paddle and it took me about 1:15 to go out and back, so an average pace of 4.6 mph… The other two were in a canoe w/ wing paddles and covered the same distance in 1:04, averaging 5.4 mph.

I really don’t know relative speeds/paces to compare it to… Thoughts?

  • AA

today I saw
Today I saw four 12’ rec boats going about 7mph, at 10pm when I stepped outside for a sandwich and then again at 12:30 when I was having lunch with colleagues at a waterfront restaurant.

I saw them go by at 10 riding the flood tide and said to myself that I hoped they didn’t plan on returning before ebb tide. Well at lunch I was watching the tide rip by on the way out and wondered if those kayaks would be coming back by. Yep, about the time the entres showed up they were riding the tide back out.

Determination of “good” speed really does require knowledge of boat type and water conditions.

I checked a bunch of GPS tracks, and I seem to be averaging 3-3.5 mph over a whole bunch of distances. This is always in touring kayaks and we are out for enjoyable paddles (not races).

3-4 mph is what our group usually
does on a relaxed trip

Train harder my friend and
and you will beat them.

Of course the boat helps but it’s all about the motor and hours and hours of maintenance.

Paddlin’ on


Not everyone finds 3mph enjoyable
I’m not fast by a long shot, but 3mph is not fun for me.

It either means there’s a headwind/current or I’m lily dipping. That becomes a recipe for poor technique for me (too slow to get into and maintain a rhythm) and that makes me more tired and sore than when I go 4-5. Begin getting those comfort issues they sell all the gizmos for. Adding 1-2mph and I suddenly don’t seem to need anything but the most spartan of cockpits and get out more flexible than I got in.

Harder to sell 1+ mph than seat pads, thigh cushions, and tall backbands…

3 knots most comon

– Last Updated: Apr-04-08 9:51 PM EST –

The most common stated average cruising speed for sea kayaks I've encountered is 3 knots (3.45 mph).

BCU 4* assumes ability to maintain 4 knots (4.6 mph) cruising.

The speed at which sea kayaks start to evidence notable difference in drag is 4.5 knots (5.17 mph).

The 'maximum' efficient speed for sea kayaks is often given as 6 knots (6.9 mph).

All of your boats are built for speed.
It’s not too surprising that you cruise at a higher speed than many.

If at 10:00 a.m. a Kayak
Left New York traveling west at 4 m.p.h.

…and another kayak left Los Angeles at 12:00 noon traveling east at 5 m.p.h.

assuming all portages are at the same relative speed

…how long will it take the two kayakers to collide???



I agree, there are a lot of variables to consider. However, from what you said, I think the reason for the difference in speed is most probably the horsepower issue. You paddled a kayak by yourself, the canoe had two paddlers in it. They had, roughly, twice the horsepower. Even if your hull is more efficient, twice as much horepower makes a big difference.

On our trip from Miami to Key West last year - - we had two guys in a CD tandem. It wasn’t easy to go faster than them, and my kayak is relatively fast.

Pedro Almeida

Paddling Speed
No one can give you a base speed for you. Sea Kayaking speed especially is determined by tides, rips, wave action, and wind direction and speed.

For sea kayaking touring long distances with a full kayak speeds will go down. Length of Kayak and configuration will change the speed.

I will go out on my limb and cut it off and say a paddler with moderate experience sea kayaking should be able to sustain 3.5-4.5 mph. in most situations.

White water kayaking speeds are determined much

by the river flow. It would be my guess that most whitewater kayakers do speeds of 5-8 mph.

Put them on flatwater and they drop down to 3 mph

Canoeing speeds for solo paddlers should be about 3mph. on flat water. I have covered as much as 47 miles in five hours of solo paddling with a loaded 16’ canoe on the Upper Missouri. That works out to about 9.4mph, but the river was at maximum spring flow which made paddling easy.

My suggestion is that you not worry about speed. Paddle at a rate that you feel comfortable with and that you can sustain for a whole day of paddling. Your personal physical condition and amount of time you are spending on the water will alter year to year which will alter your comfort level.

I paddled over 4 on my SOT too.
It was 28" wide and weighed a ton. Faster boats have just made me weaker and lazier!

It ain’t the boats in my case, it’s what feels comfortable over a few hours in the seat.

Different for everyone, but I do have to wonder if a lot of the comfort issues so many have aren’t from the overwhelming preference for lily dipping. Limping along of doing more floating/drifting than paddling limits circulation/rotation/stretch/etc. All recipes for discomfort and worse. It’s not like you can’t talk and see the sights just as well going 1mph faster…

I like getting into a nice rhythm, too.
I’ve only GPS’d myself once in a sea kayak over much of a distance and I mesured 4mph over 7 miles in my composite Sea Lion and I was paddling as well as I could at a pace that I thought I could sustain for a couple hours. I could go over 5mph in a sprint, but that wasn’t my objective. I can get my canoes close to 5mph in a sprint, but can’t sustain it long. It was my first time paddling over three miles this year. The water hasn’t been liquid very long.

When I’m out by myself, I’m usually paddling about as fast as I think I can go to for the amount of time I’m planning to paddle without over stressing my poorly conditioned muscles and joints. I’m not lillydipping, I just can’t go any faster for very long without hurting myself.

I’m fairly new to sea kayaking, so I’m sure that my technique is a limiting factor as well as my conditioning and I might not have a big enough motor for the boats I have.

My impression is that you are a pretty experienced and skilled paddler.

We all have different abilities, goals and gear.

Happy paddling.

were you on a river or flat water?

Wing paddles in canoe? Cool.
Any video?

Great Feedback!
Glad to hear from so many of you…

To clarify, we were on a relatively calm river, not too much wake from passing boats; I was in my Bic Scapa (SOT) and the other two guys were in a Wenonah (sp?) Sundowner.

I’ll be studying my Brent Reitz Forward Stroke DVD and hopefully picking up a nice & light wing paddle for myself in the near future. Combine the average 8 - 10% advantage with a wing paddle and simply improving my technique (hopefully) - maybe I can keep up with them!

  • AA

I immediately caiught that too
I paddle both canoes and kayaks.

I paddle my canoes with a bent shaft ZRE and I paddle my kayak with either a wing or a touring paddling and never the twain shall meet!

I love nature paddling my QCC 700 at a pace between 2.8 and 3.2 MPH and enjoy it day in and day out and all day.

On the other hand I also enjoy racing and on a flat water course or when I am traing can average just about 6.0 for a seven or eight mile course



right with you there
"“and never the twain shall meet”"

I do 99% of my paddling in ICF Kayaks but if you put me in a canoe, any canoe, I want a canoe paddle.

Knee Straps?
Well, this past Tuesday I managed a 5mph flatwater pace (6.58 miles / 1:18.56) - not too shabby based off your responses.

Who out there is currently using (or has used) knee straps? I’ve read some decent write-ups on them, but of course the dealers/manufacturers are going to be a bit biased.

I’m simply looking for another way to squeak out more speed, but have concerns with transition times while racing. Are they a pain to get in and out of? Do they really even help that much with speed and/or overall control?

I’d be mounting them on my Bic Scapa…


  • AA

I won’t leave shore in my SOT
without thigh straps. They connect you to the boat so you have more control and more power in your stroke.