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How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile?

Mark Armstrong
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When you’re planning a kayak trip, it’s good to know how long it’ll take so you can let others know when you’ll be home. But how long does it take to kayak a mile?

The answer to this important question can vary significantly. Factors such as paddler experience, water conditions, kayak types, and fitness levels all play a role.

Let’s check out some of the variables that influence how long it takes to paddle a mile so you have a better idea of how far you can travel on your adventure.

How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile?

On average, it takes around 20 to 30 minutes to kayak one mile in ideal conditions, for the average person could expect to paddle one mile in around 20 to 30 minutes. 

However, the average time it will take you to kayak a mile will vary depending on your physical capabilities, the weather and water conditions, and the amount of kayaking experience you have. It will also depend on kayak type and whether there are obstacles.

There is no definitive answer to this question because there are several factors that can affect kayak speed.

Average Kayak Speed

The average speed of most recreational paddlers is around 2 miles per hour. More experienced kayakers paddling at a moderate pace will probably hit 3 miles per hour or faster in ideal conditions.

Seasoned professionals will usually hit speeds of 5 miles per hour or faster.

The world record fastest kayak speed over 500 meters was set in 2018 by Roi Rodriguez, covering the distance in 1 minute and 35.149 seconds. His world record saw him traveling at an average pace of 5.25 meters per second or 18.92 kilometers per hour (11.76 mph). 

Important Factors That Influence Kayaking Speed

Type Of Kayak

The type of kayak you have will affect how fast you can go, as the kayak’s width and length affect its hydrodynamic performance. 

For example, the longer and narrower your kayak, the faster it will be. This is because long, narrow kayaks are typically faster than short, wide kayaks.

Recreational kayaks and fishing kayaks are generally built for stability on flatwater, which means they’re not designed for speed. On the other hand, touring kayaks, sea kayaks, and racing kayaks are designed to cover water quickly and efficiently. 

So, you will move faster if you’re paddling a sea kayak compared to a recreational kayak on the same body of water in the same conditions.

This could essentially mean the difference of around 10 or more minutes over a mile in a longer kayak compared to a shorter kayak.

> Paddling techniques explained

Wind Speed And Direction

The wind can play a big role in how fast you can paddle a kayak. The wind can either be with you or against you, either slowing you down or boosting your speed. 

Wind direction and speed can be a problem. If a strong wind is coming toward you, it can be very difficult to paddle and can slow you down considerably. If the wind is very strong, you may not be able to paddle fast enough to move forward. 

On the other hand, if the wind is behind you, this can make paddling easier as the wind can effectively push you along, allowing you to travel faster than normal. 

Crosswinds can also be a problem, as it means you may have to counter the effects of your kayak weathercocking so you won’t be able to focus as much of your paddling strokes on speed. 

Always wear your life jacket in strong winds and currents. But I don’t recommend paddling in adverse weather conditions.

Video: Paddling In Windy Conditions

Style Of Paddle

Not all paddles are equal. Some are designed for leisurely paddling and others are built for speed. 

The best kayak paddle for speed will generally be one with a wider blade and a shorter shaft. This will allow for a high angle paddle stroke which can deliver more power and speed as the shaft is more vertical on each stroke.

A kayak paddle designed for low angle paddling strokes will tend to be longer in the shaft and narrower in the blade to benefit a more relaxed horizontal stroke.

Low angle paddles are usually ideal for most beginners and recreational paddlers on calm lakes because of the lower-intensity pace. 

High angle paddles generally require more effort and a higher-intensity workout.

Water Conditions

The type of water you’re paddling in and the conditions of that water can be an important factor in how fast you can paddle and how long it will take you to paddle one mile. 

In rough water, it will take you longer to paddle a mile than if you were paddling on a calm, flat lake. Similarly, if you’re paddling on the ocean, battling currents and waves, your speed will be negatively affected. Even the fastest kayak will struggle against wind and waves.

Paddling downstream in a river will also be much quicker than paddling upstream. If there are fast currents, the speed difference could be significant. 

It will typically take you less time to paddle a mile downstream in a moderately-flowing river than it would for you to paddle a mile on flatwater. This is because the current in the river will boost your momentum and kayak speed.

Physical Fitness Level And Experience

If you’re an experienced kayaker with a reasonable level of physical fitness, you’re probably going to be able to paddle faster than the average person.

A higher level of physical fitness and stamina will help you paddle faster over a longer distance. 

Experienced paddlers will also have a more efficient paddling technique compared to beginners, which can mean kayak speed is further increased. 

New paddlers will often lack the upper body muscle coordination that develops with a paddler’s experience.

Maximum Hull Speed

No matter how fast you can physically paddle, there is a theoretical maximum speed for kayaks and other boats. This is as fast as a vessel can travel on water before the hull begins to plane.

This is aside from the other variables that can affect kayak speed. 

When your kayak starts to plane it travels along the surface of the water rather than through it, much like a surfer riding a wave on a surfboard. 

Maximum Speed Calculator

The maximum hull speed can be calculated for each vessel based on its length.

To find the theoretical maximum speed of your kayak in knots, multiply 1.34 by the square root of the length of your kayak’s hull at the waterline (LWL).

1.34 x √LWL = Hull Speed in knots

To find the maximum hull speed in kilometers per hour, use the length of the waterline in meters and multiply the square root of this by 4.5:

4.5 x √LWL (in meters) = Speed in km/h

Weight Of Kayaking Load

The lighter your load, the faster your kayak will go. If you have a heavy kayak filled with gear, it’s likely to move slower than one that just has one paddler and no gear.

Heavy cargo weighs your boat down. This creates drag because the kayak will sit lower in the water, which will take more effort to power the kayak through the water, which will affect its average speed over a mile. 

A racing kayak, for example, rarely has any gear on board. And the kayak itself tends to be made out of lightweight materials to keep the overall weight low. This, along with hydrodynamic materials, helps experienced kayakers reach faster speeds with increased glide.  

A fishing kayak, on the other hand, is usually heavier than an average kayak to begin with and when it’s loaded with gear it’s even heavier. All of this negatively affects the kayak’s speed. However, most anglers aren’t looking to race. 

How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile Downstream?

How long it will take to kayak a mile downstream will depend on how fast the current is flowing and the type of kayak you are in. 

On average you should expect to kayak a mile downstream in the same length of time that you could paddle a kayak on flatwater – roughly 20 to 30 minutes, but usually a little less if there’s a stronger current.

A river with a moderately fast pace generally flows around 3 mph, which is roughly the same speed as an average kayaker. So if you’re also paddling at an average pace of 3 mph, you could potentially paddle a mile in half the time. 

Are Pedal Kayaks Faster Over A Mile?

Pedal kayaks are typically faster than most traditional kayaks. This is because they use leg power instead of arm power. 

Most people have more strength in their legs than their arms, meaning most people could pedal faster and cover longer distances more easily than if they were paddling. 

Pedal kayaks can travel around twice as fast as standard kayaks so it can take less time to travel a mile in a pedal kayak compared to a paddle kayak.

Some pedal kayaks can reach speeds of around 8 mph in ideal conditions. By this estimate, it would take 7.5 minutes to travel a mile in a pedal kayak, as long as there was no wind or currents. 

Common Questions About Kayaking A Mile

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 2 Miles?

In ideal conditions, it will take around an hour to kayak two miles. But this will depend on how easy it is for you to maintain your pace over the entire distance.

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 3 Miles?

It should theoretically take around 90 minutes to paddle three miles. However, you may find you want to stop for a rest or at least slow your pace during a 3-mile paddle. This means your speed may not be consistent to cover three miles in 90 minutes. 

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 5 Miles?

Maintaining the same speed throughout, a 5-mile kayaking trip should take around two and a half hours on calm waters. However, unless you’re paddling flat-out the entire time, it will probably take you closer to three hours depending on the conditions.

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 10 Miles?

In calm waters, the average paddler will probably take around five to six hours to kayak 10 miles. However, to cover long distances like this, you will probably need to take a rest stop along the way, which can add to your overall time. A 10-mile kayak trip will typically take all day.

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 20 Miles?

Experienced paddlers could manage 20 miles in one day in a long touring kayak if the conditions were right. This would require maintaining a high-effort pace for most of the time and would often require two paddlers in a tandem kayak. 

Other paddlers might want to split a 20-mile kayak trip into two days of paddling.

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11 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile?”

  1. I have been kayaking for just about a year. We live on a lake. I can kayak 4.14 miles in 59 minutes would you consider this good. I kayak every day I’m addicted I just want to be faster.

    • [email protected]
      What is good for one maybe slow for another or fast for someone else. Kayaking is a wonderful workout! If your more interested in speed and competing than sightseeing while kayaking than you may need to upgrade you boat and paddle. My current setup is a Carbon fiber West Side Boating EFT 19’ 30 lbs kayak and Epic “Wing” paddle. In comparison I typically average a 9:30-10 min mile. I compete a four mile race every year and average about 40 min to do. Out of about 25 kayakers this time places me 3rd or 4th. If comparing yourself to others your time would be in the back of the pack. 46 min seems to the average. As you can see there are so many levels of speed out there. After all said, the main thing is to continue what you love… kayak

      • Wow that is the best advice I have gotten yet. I am in a Hobie 13. Not a good paddle either. I’m set up to buy a new kayak. I would love a suggestion. I flat water kayak about 4-5 miles a day on a lake for exercise love it want more speed. Would love to maybe do a little 4 mile race someday. My budget is about 1200. That doesn’t include a good paddle. Would also buy a used one. Saw a used Epic v7 thought that might be a good fit. I love this sport. I am so fit after just a year. Any suggestions from you would be awesome

  2. Without knowing your boat specs (length, width, hull shape) or paddle (greenland, epic wing?) it sounds like you are on top of your game.

    • Hi Alan. Thanks for commenting.

      This is more of a “Rule of thumb” type article. We hope it’s useful for those who aren’t going to be competing in events or endurance distances.

  3. Guess I am doing pretty well. I do 5 miles in 50 minutes when it’s calm on Narragansett Bay. Rough conditions with a complex swell adds 3-5 minutes. I have a (poly) North Shore Atlantic. Poly is a good material around here because of the numerous submerged rocks. I kayak @ 330 days a year.

  4. Take it easy on those tendons now. Wear gloves, keep loose hands. I actually prefer sailing gloves (Harken) and Ice Climbing gloves in Winter. There is an optimal boat speed beyond which additional speed requires diminishing marginal returns of effort. Find it. It is when you can paddle easy and maintain good boat speed, but you will need to develop a feel for finding it. You will quickly discover this point once you are aware. Link up those strokes, quiet in, quiet along, quiet out. Smooth and continuous. It will not take long to develop this. To go faster, don’t paddle harder unless you are fully conditioned and experienced about how and when to do it(takes years), paddle faster.


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