The speed you can travel in a kayak will affect everything else about your trip.

Whether going on a day trip or an outdoor adventure for multiple days, you need to know how far you can go to plan your excursion accurately.

Several factors will affect kayak speeds, and you need to consider them when planning.

Kayak Travel

Several factors affect the speed your kayak will travel. The average speed for a kayak to travel one mile is 20-30 minutes. This estimates your travel across calm, flat water. That is a rate of about 2.5 miles an hour. This is a reasonable speed for a kayaker who has some experience.

Factors Affecting Speed

Numerous things change how fast and far you can travel in your kayak. This is an essential part of getting to your destination in a timely way, or at least knowing where you may need to stop and camp on a multi-day trip.

Also, kayaks have a top speed. It may not seem like it, but they max out. This is quantified as hull speed.

The hull speed is the point that the kayak’s hull is even with the water, and the kayak appears to sit on top, not cut through it. The formula to figure it out uses the square of the hull length at the water line multiplied by 1.34.

Type of Kayak

There are more types of kayaks than you might think. They are made to suit the user’s specific needs, and they cover a wide range of sizes and functionalities. For the most part, there are about 7 types of kayaks to be aware of.

  • Thin-beamed Race Kayak – a 20-inch beam, extremely long, meant to be speedy and slice through the water
  • Touring Kayak – 26-inch beam, 15-foot length, speedy but easily handled
  • Sea Kayak – 23-inch beam, 15-foot length, made to cover long distances quickly
  • Recreational sit-inside Kayak – 28-inch beam, 10-foot length with an average speed
  • Recreational sit-on-top kayak – the most stable kayak, but also slow. Made for a beginner.
  • Whitewater Kayak – made to be propelled by a current, not a paddler, somewhat slow in calm water.
  • Fishing Kayak – built for stability when pulling fish from the water, not meant for any actual speed.

A recreational kayak is the type of kayak that will travel a mile in about 20-30 minutes. Also, remember that, in general, the longer and narrower a kayak is, the faster it will be inclined to move through the water, and the more quickly you will reach your destination.

Material Kayak is Made From

The material the kayak is made from will also increase or decrease your travel speed. The two main choices are plastic and composite hulls. A plastic hull is more affordable but will be slower.

A composite hull is much speedier, but you will pay a much higher price for the better material. If you’re a novice, stick with plastic.


The paddle you decide on will also significantly affect the speed you can travel through the water. There are two basic paddle choices, a low-angle paddle and a high-angle paddle.

The low-angle has longer, narrower blades that make paddling more accessible, while the high-angle blade captures and holds the water and provides much stronger forward momentum.

If you want to travel a longer distance more quickly, then the high-angle is the paddle you should go for.

Wind, Water, Currents, and Tidal Conditions

These factors significantly affect how fast you can paddle a mile in a kayak. You need to know the wind and current direction about the direction you are traveling, when the tide is coming or going, and what other conditions you might encounter in the water.

It is essential to know these factors as they can significantly affect your overall speed and the amount of work you will have to do as you continue on your trek.

Paddling into the wind or against a current slows you significantly while paddling with either of those will help to increase it.

Weight of Your Kayak

If you are planning a trip that is a multi-day adventure as you kayak through some beautiful natural locations, you are probably going to have gear stowed with you in the kayak as you travel.

The amount of weight you carry will determine what speed you can go. Generally speaking, the lighter you are, the faster you go.

If you are hoping to travel at a fair rate of speed, then you should aim for the lightest kayak possible to maximize your mile times.


While not the most critical factor about speed, the amount of experience you possess will help you travel in your kayak.

Experience means that you may have a stronger core, allowing you to paddle for longer without as much fatigue.

Experience also enables you to understand better how water, wind, and currents affect you. This alone allows the ability to predict speed more quickly.

What You Should Remember

The significant points that you need to remember about kayaking a mile are these:

  • It takes an average of 20-30 minutes to go a mile.
  • Check the weather before you go so you know wind speeds and direction.
  • Get the appropriate equipment for your needs and experience level
  • Know your route
  • The lighter you are, the faster you travel.

These simple tips will help you maximize the kayaking trip that you are on. Whether for a day or several days, kayaking is a great way to enjoy nature, get some physical activity, and spend time with friends or family. A kayak is an excellent vessel for an adventure if you prepare correctly.