How Fast Can You Go on A Kayak?

Many people enjoy kayaking as a way to relax and get some exercise. But how fast can you go on a kayak? Is there a limit to how fast you can paddle? And how do you increase your speed while kayaking?

In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and provide some tips on how to kayak faster.

Man kayaking fast

What Is the Average Kayak Speed?

Kayakers often average speeds of two miles per hour when paddling for hours on end. While it’s possible to achieve faster speeds over shorter distances, this is a healthy and safe baseline speed for kayaks.

For newcomers to the sport, this average speed may seem quite slow. However, with practice and experience, kayakers can gradually increase their speed and endurance.

For example, advanced kayakers may be able to average speeds of four to five miles per hour over long distances. In general, the faster you paddle, the more energy you’ll expend. As such, it’s important to find a balance between speed and endurance that works for you.

With time and practice, you’ll be able to find your ideal kayaking pace. It’s also worth noting that wind and water conditions can affect your kayaking speed. For instance, strong winds can create waves that make it difficult to paddle quickly.

Conversely, calm waters will usually allow you to move more swiftly. As such, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and adjust your speed accordingly. Ultimately, the average kayak speed is two miles per hour.

How Fast Can You Go on A Kayak?

Kayaks are designed to move quickly through the water, and how your speed will depend on a variety of factors. You might be able to reach average kayak speeds of five miles per hour, but that number will vary depending on the conditions you’re paddling in.

If you’re kayaking in open water, you may be able to go even faster. But if you’re paddling against a strong current or wind, your speed will be affected.

When it comes to moving quickly in a kayak, the design of the vessel is key. Kayaks are slim and sleek, which allows them to slice through the water with ease.

They’re also usually outfitted with fin-like Skegs that help stabilize the boat and keep it tracking in a straight line. All of these design features come together to make a kayak that’s built for speed.

Of course, even the best-designed kayak won’t be able to reach its top speed if the conditions aren’t right. If you’re paddling in choppy water or strong currents, your speed will be affected.

The same is true if you’re paddling against a strong wind. In these cases, you may have to work a bit harder to maintain your speed. You may even have to paddle in short bursts to make headway.

But if you find yourself in open water with calm conditions, you may be able to reach some pretty impressive kayak speeds. Many kayakers report being able to average five miles per hour or more when paddling in ideal conditions.

And some experienced kayakers say they’ve been able to reach speeds in excess of 10 miles per hour. All in all, it really depends on a variety of factors, but with a little practice, you may be surprised at how fast you can go.

Factors That Influence Kayak Speed

Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes, and with that, they have different speeds. Some kayaks are designed for racing, while others are made for touring or recreational use. So, what factors influence kayak speed? Here are 8 of the most important:

Hull Design

The shape of the kayak’s hull will have a big impact on its top speed. Kayaks with narrow, long hulls are designed for speed and tracking, while wider hulls are more stable and better suited for recreational use.

This is why racing kayaks are often long and skinny while touring and recreation kayaks are shorter and wider.


Generally speaking, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be. This is because a longer kayak has a greater waterline, which means it can displace more water and thus travel faster.

It is worth noting, however, that longer kayaks are also often more difficult to maneuver, so it is important to find a balance that works for you.


Wider kayaks will also tend to be faster than narrower ones for much the same reason as length. A wider kayak has a greater waterline and can thus displace more water, leading to a higher top speed.

However, wider kayaks can also be more difficult to paddle and may not be as maneuverable as narrower kayaks.


The weight of the kayak will also affect its speed. Heavier kayaks will require more effort to paddle and may not be as speedy as lighter kayaks. On the other hand, heavier kayaks are often more stable and better able to handle choppy waters.


The material the kayak is made out of will also have an impact on its speed. For example, kayaks made out of fiberglass or carbon fiber will be lighter and faster than those made out of more traditional materials like aluminum or wood.

Paddle Length

The length of your paddle can also affect your kayak’s speed. Longer paddles provide more leverage and thus more power, leading to a higher top speed. However, longer paddles can also be more difficult to control and may not be as maneuverable as shorter paddles.


The location you are paddling in can also have an impact on your kayak’s speed. For example, if you are paddling downstream, the current will help to propel your kayak forward and increase its speed. Conversely, if you are paddling upstream, the current will work against you and slow you down.

Your Technique and Fitness

Finally, your own technique and fitness level will also affect your kayak’s speed. If you are a strong and experienced paddler, you will be able to generate more power and go faster than if you are a beginner.

Likewise, if you are in good shape and have good stamina, you will be able to paddle for longer periods of time and thus cover more distance.

All of these factors play a role in determining a kayak’s speed. Some, like hull design and length, are determined by the kayak itself. Others, like weight and material, can be influenced by the paddler.

And still, others, like location and technique, are entirely up to the paddler. By taking all of these factors into account, you can choose the kayak that is best suited for your needs and paddling style.

Things You Can Do to Help Increase Your Kayaking Speed

While it can be a challenging sport, there are many things you can do to improve your kayaking speed and make the experience even more enjoyable. Here are some key tips for increasing your kayaking speed:

Get a kayak that fits you well.

This is important for both comfort and speed. Make sure the kayak you choose has enough room for you to move around comfortably and that it suits your height and weight. This will help you paddle more efficiently and with greater power.

Use the right paddle.

Again, this will help with both comfort and speed. Choose a paddle that is the right size for you, and that feels comfortable in your hands. This way, you won’t get tired as quickly, and you’ll be able to paddle more efficiently.

You might also want to consider an adjustable paddle so that you can change the length depending on the conditions.

Dress for the conditions.

Wearing clothes that are too loose or too tight can slow you down. Choose clothing that is comfortable and allows you to move freely. In warm weather, light, breathable fabrics are best. In cold weather, you’ll want to layer up to stay warm, but not so much that you feel bulky or restricted.

I’ve created a guide on how to dress appropriately for kayaking. I recommend you check it out if that’s something you’d be interested in reading. You can find it by clicking here.

Warm up before you paddle.

Just like with any other physical activity, it’s important to warm up your muscles before you start kayaking. A few simple stretches can help get your body ready for the activity. You may also want to consider doing some light cardio to get your heart rate up.

Use proper technique.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when paddling: keep your strokes even, use your whole body (not just your arms), and keep your paddle close to the kayak. This will help you paddle more efficiently and with less effort.

Build up your endurance.

The more you kayak, the better your endurance will be and the faster you’ll be able to go. Start by going on shorter trips and gradually increase the distance as you get in better shape. It’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it – you don’t want to end up injured.

Take breaks when you need to.

If you start to feel tired, take a break. It’s better to paddle at a slower pace for a longer period of time than to try to push yourself too hard and end up taking a long break (or even having to turn back).

Build up your upper body strength.

Stronger muscles will help you paddle faster and longer. There are a variety of exercises you can do to target the muscles used in kayaking. You can also try using resistance bands or weights when you paddle to help build strength.

Insert more blade.

A properly sized blade will allow you to paddle with less effort and generate more power, which can help you go faster. If your paddle is too small, you may want to consider switching to a larger size.

Use a higher cadence.

Paddling at a higher cadence (or rate of strokes) can help you go faster. This is because it takes less time for each stroke to propel you forward, so you can cover more distance in a shorter period of time.

Relax Your Handgrip.

Gripping the paddle too tightly can lead to fatigue and decreased efficiency. Instead, try to relax your grip and let the paddle do the work. You may also want to experiment with different paddle grips to find one that is more comfortable for you.

Stay motivated.

Set goals for yourself and focus on improving your kayaking speed little by little. Having a positive attitude will help you paddle faster and enjoy the experience even more. You can also try paddling with friends or joining a kayaking club to stay motivated.

Keep practicing.

The more you kayak, the better you’ll get at it and the faster you’ll be able to go. Make an effort to go kayaking on a regular basis, and before you know it, you’ll see a big improvement in your speed.

With these few tips, you can increase your kayaking speed and make the experience even more enjoyable. You can also try different things to see what works best for you. There is no “right” way to kayak, so experiment and find what works best for you.

The Bottom Line

We’d strongly urge you to get a GPS or even a GPS watch if you’re planning a long kayaking excursion or are interested in kayaking racing. These will make it simpler to track your intended routes and get an instant estimate of your kayak’s speed.

In addition to that, it can be useful to establish a weekly training paddles routine if you want to set a Guinness World Record yourself. Also, paddling on a variety of waterways will help you identify your personal kayak speed in various environments.

Being aware of your average kayak speed will simplify the planning of a kayaking camping excursion considerably. It can also assist you in lowering your stress levels regarding whether or not you will be able to reach camp before the sun goes down.

Hopefully, you’ve found the information and intriguing factors in this post useful for enhancing your expertise when it comes to kayaking. We wish you the best of luck and success with your kayaking adventures throughout the next season!

Vanessa Hopkins

Hi, I'm Vanessa. Long-time kayaker who's proud to be part of this community. I strive to provide our visitors with insightful guides with the aim to improve their kayaking experience. I've been working with SunshineKayaking for over 5 years, providing world-class services.

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