Solo Canoe Speed Vs. Kayak?????


This post is pretty closely related to the one below…my question is how does the speed of a decent paddler in a solo canoe compare to that of a decent paddler in a sea kayak?

I am a kayaker and really enjoy it, but I think that solo canoe might be pretty cool too and might get one some day, but was under the impression that they would be a lot slower.

How do they compare with all things being equal (same paddler, relatively grade of equipment etc)??

Fool’s game
Apples to oranges. Too many variables.

What specific paddler? What model canoe, What model kayak.

The only info you’ll get that will be on any use would be from someone who owns both a fast solo and a fast sea kayak - and has purposely done multiple time trials with both. Anything less - all guesswork and emotions.

It’s still impossible to find equivalent hulls. They’re designed for differnt things. Closest you’ll get is if you take this to exremes and narrow the question to OC-1 vs. Surf Ski. Both are made to do about the same thing in same conditions. The gap has narrowed there - but at the top of the top - the ski still has a slight edge.

I don’t have the data
in front of me, but i checked out the results of the recent olympics for the 500 meters races for both kayaks and canoes, solo and tandem and kayaks were substantially faster to their canoe counterparts.

Yes, I was interested to see that

– Last Updated: Oct-28-04 2:19 PM EST –

the woman's 500-meter double kayak posted a better time than the men's 500-meter double canoe. Those races just happened to be shown in quick succession that day. May be the case in other classes too, don't know.


this is where i am coming from…
I have done a lot of kayaking in the last four years-and just got a canoe. My latest kayak is an NDK Explorer which I paddle around the 3 to 4 mph on a typical outing. I can maintain 5 mph for a while (crossing a channel, etc). I can hit around 6 in a short sprint. My new canoe, which is not a solo, but can be paddled solo is slower for sure-but… I don’t really know what I am doing yet. Plus, my canoe when keeled over picks up a lot of wind. I suspect that if I ever try a dedicated solo-I should be able to paddle it around 3-4 mph like the Explorer.

-I’ve been using my GPS on and off to help me figure out how to improve my forward stroke.


who cares?
this is an age-old debate, or a troll. some people like kayaks, some like canoes, some like both. if you want a solo canoe, buy one. there are plenty of fast canoes out there, just like there are plenty of slow ones. if you’re not racing against kayaks in a canoe there’s no reason to worry about speed. you can go plenty fast in either craft.

probably is an age old debate…
but, that’s why forums like this exist; to share knowledge.


a lot of variables

– Last Updated: Oct-28-04 6:30 PM EST –

You have to know which boats you are comparing. If you are comparing a rec kayak to a racing solo canoe, the canoe is faster. If you are comparing a Thunderbolt to a rec canoe, the kayak is faster. A fit canoeist should have no trouble averaging 4.0-5.0 mph for an extended paddle, and a really fit canoeist should have no trouble averaging 4.5-5.5 mph if (s)he has a decent boat. The last paddle I checked was a 25 mile lake paddle and I average 4.3 mph, and I took it pretty easy the first half of the trip. I was running 5-5.5 the last few miles. That was in a Bell Magic, and I'm not in particularly good shape.

In a kayak (Prijon Barracuda or WS Epic I'm lucky to average 4 mph, and can only paddle 10-15 miles. I assume that is because I don't spend much time in a kayak, as the boats certainly are capable of going faster and farther.

Did you have some boats in mind that you would like to compare?

hydrodynamics favor the yak
theyre more narrow. ergonomics may favor the canoe. more powerful paddling position. i’d love to find one in between. how narrow can a canoe be and still be reasonably stable?

What about the use of more muscle groups

– Last Updated: Nov-02-04 9:37 AM EST –

This is a topic I know little about, love to hear some comments. I heard a discussion recently about how Hobie Craft's new power transmission using flipper like device was able to out gun two famous American world champions in a tug of war. The explanation was the Hobie person was able to use his legs and could generate more power than even two efficient hulk like champs using mostly their upper bodies.

What are the differences if any in ability to generate power and to sustain it, endurance, etc. between the same paddler equally proficient skill and technique wise kayaking and canoeing. Assume that both canoer and kayaker use the exact same stroke rate.

on seat height, design, paddler skill, etc. given that, i haven’t seen many solo canoes narrower than 28 inches or so at the widest point.

that is not a kayak …

It’s not fast either!

How do people figure…
…canoing uses more muscles?

Good kayak paddlers use torso and leg power more than arm. It can be a whole body exercise quite easily.

How do canoeists use leg power seated in a chair-like position, or kneeling? I’m having a hard time visualizing that.

i am not sure about more muscles used for canoeing, but a lot of solo canoes also have a foot brace, similiar to kayaks. I paddle both a solo canoe as well as a kayak, I can get a work out in both. i am faster in the kayak, but for general cruising and touring I can keep up no problem in the canoe, this is over up to 20 miles. Now top end speed goes to the kayak. This is comparing a NDK Explorer and a Swift Shearwater. Both have their places in my fleet, but I tend to take my canoe most often. They are both fun, so choose what ever makes you happy.

canoeing power
"How do canoeists use leg power seated in a chair-like position, or kneeling? I’m having a hard time visualizing that."

You can utilize alot of leg power…just ask outrigger paddlers…chaffing is a problem for alot of OC6 paddlers.

As for kneeling… Here’s a video:

I wish was up, they have some great C2 footage of absolute paddling power.

Have both…
I spend significant time on a larger river and am on my own so paddle upstream before enjoying a laid back return ride. The current speed varies but runs from 4.5-6.5 mph.

When I want a good workout I take my kayak, a 16.5 ft Boreal Design Fjord. I get into the middle of the river, drop the skeg and paddle hard. After an hour (or less) I am ready for a break, but know that I have had a great workout.

I also like to paddle my solo canoe (15.5 ft Clipper Solitude) even though I am not enough engine to make much headway running directly upstream. However I love moving upstream utilizing eddies that I would be challenged to use with the kayak, moving from one side of the river to the other and generally enjoying the trip.

It takes me about twice as long to go the same distance as with the kayak, however I am more refreshed. I do love the art of canoeing and the challenge of making headway utilizing currents, eddies and occassional outright grunt work.

So for me, both are very enjoyable but in different ways.


having your cake and eating it too
Jim that was a brilliant posting. love em both to bits, and relish the different ways to get to the same places. using the river features in a canoe is an art developed over time.


Interesting discussion…
Thanks for all the information. I am glad that there is some interesting discussion here. I was a afraid I might get a whole lot more of the “apples and oranges” type comments.

I ask this question because I am intersted in getting a solo canoe someday, but I really don’t want something that is a dog in the water. I derive a lot of enjoyment from going fast. I have been disappointed with the speed of my former tandem canoe when I paddled it solo and thought that a solo canoe might do a lot better. I was mostly concerned about knowing if the solo canoe could keep up with a kayak reasonably well and it sounds like it can (although it is still not quite as fast).

I am also interested in getting a good workout. I have found kayaking a great workout. Can you get a reasonably good workout in a canoe in about the same time as well???



When I pay attention to my stroke in a sprint I will be bearing down with my leg on the side I am paddling on. I haven’t mastered it yet but it does give a few more percent power…