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Inflatable Kayak Speed: How Fast Are They And Do They Track Well?

Nicola Burridge
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Inflatable kayak speed can vary between models and brands of kayaks.

It can depend on the types of materials that have been used in the kayak’s construction, as well as the recommended inflation pressure.

This can also have an effect on tracking performance.

But to give you an idea of the speeds you can expect from an inflatable kayak, we’ve put together this quick guide, along with some tips on tracking in open water.   

Inflatable Kayak Speed: How Fast Are They And Do They Track Well? - Pinterest ImagePin

What Is The Average Speed Of An Inflatable Kayak?

Inflatable kayak on the riverPin

On average, an inflatable kayak should be able to travel at speeds of around 2-3 mph.

However, the speed of an inflatable kayak will depend on the conditions, such as currents and wind, as well as the paddler’s abilities and the quality of the inflatable kayak.

Some inflatable kayaks that feature drop-stitch construction may be able to reach speeds of up to 6 mph.

However, there are other factors that can affect the speed of an inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks can be particularly susceptible to wind. This is because they are lightweight by design and filled with air.

An inflatable kayak also tends to be less aerodynamic than most hardshell kayaks. Sidewalls can be higher than comparable sit-on-top kayaks, which can catch the wind more easily.

The reduced aerodynamics also tends to result in reduced hydrodynamics, which can also affect the overall speed of an inflatable kayak, as it tends to be less efficient on the water in general because of the increased drag.

How To Make An Inflatable Kayak Faster

Inflate To The Correct Pressure

One way to make your inflatable kayak faster is to make sure it is inflated to the correct pressure.

The correct pressure for inflatable kayaks will vary between brands. But inflating your vessel to the recommended pressure is important for speed and glide, just like it would be for a stand-up paddle board or the tires on your car.

If you have a drop-stitch inflatable kayak, this will need to be inflated to a higher pressure than a standard inflatable kayak. Drop-stitch kayaks will be more rigid than standard inflatables, which can mean faster speeds.

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Install A Motor

Another way to increase the speed of an inflatable kayak is to add an electric motor. Installing a motor on an inflatable kayak will increase the boat’s power and let you move across the water hands free. 

There are various ways you can attach a motor to an inflatable kayak. Some inflatable fishing kayaks have mounting points that are designed for motor mounts. Others will need to have a separate motor mount attached to the kayak.

However, there are some innovative products out there, such as the Electrafin for inflatable kayaks. The Electrafin is designed to work with inflatable kayaks and paddle boards. It can be mounted to the fin box under your inflatable kayak. Remove the detachable fin and attach the motor’s propeller.

The motor can be controlled via a wireless remote control. And it can let your kayak reach speeds of up to 5 mph, depending on the conditions and your particular inflatable kayak.

Remember, if you install a motor, you may need to register your kayak with the relevant authorities in your state.

Paddle More Efficiently

Learning how to paddle a kayak effectively and efficiently could help you to move at a faster pace. Our guide to paddling inflatable kayaks may help you out.

Make sure you are holding your paddle correctly and sitting with an upright posture with your back straight. Rotate your torso as you paddle and as you pull back your blade in the water, push the shaft with your other hand to make the stroke more effective.

Larger blades can be more powerful and help you move through the water more quickly and efficiently with each stroke.

Video: How To Paddle Fast And Efficiently In A Kayak

Do Inflatable Kayaks Track Well?

Inflatable kayaks are generally not known for their excellent tracking. Because of their typically wider hulls with flat bottoms, they tend to be more difficult to paddle in a straight line.

They also usually have added rocker in their hulls to improve performance over rapids and rough water. The upturned bow and stern can make tracking less efficient, as less of the kayak is in the water.

What makes most inflatable kayaks perform well on whitewater is a downside when it comes to tracking and speed on flatwater.

Most inflatable kayaks have a removable fin under the hull, like a paddle board and some surfboards. The fin is designed to improve tracking and control in a similar way to a skeg on other kayaks. A skeg on a kayak can help with directional control and help anchor the stern in the water.

However, some inflatable kayaks are built for speed and tracking, with sharp, rigid bows and V-shaped hulls to cut through water efficiently. These boats will tend to track a lot better than other inflatable kayaks but they may not be able to perform very well on rapids and narrow rivers.

How To Improve Inflatable Kayak Tracking

One way to improve tracking on inflatable kayaks is to add a tracking fin or skeg if your kayak doesn’t already have one. Most will come with one but this is often removable so that you can detach it if you plan on running rapids.

For flatwater paddling, a fin can be essential for an inflatable kayak.

You could also install a rudder on some inflatable kayaks. Some models of inflatable kayaks have mounting points that can be used for attaching a rudder kit.

A rudder could help with paddling in open water as it can be deployed to counter the effects of both wind and currents, helping you to paddle in a straight line. Unlike a skeg, a rudder can swivel to either side, depending on the conditions and your intended direction.

Conclusion: What’s The Verdict?

While inflatable kayaks are not known for their high speeds and tracking performance, there are some factors that can affect how fast an inflatable kayak can go.

Inflatable kayaks of a higher quality, with drop-stitch construction and a narrower, V-shaped hull will generally be able to move a lot faster than standard inflatable kayaks with wide, flat-bottom hulls.

If you want to increase your speed, you can always install a motor. And if you want to improve your kayak’s tracking performance, make sure you have a skeg or tracking fin installed.

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