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How Far Can You Kayak In An Hour?

Whether you’re planning a day trip or simply want to calculate your fitness level, it can be helpful to know how fast you can kayak or how far you can go in one hour. However, several factors can alter your paddling speed. Adjusting for these factors and estimating your paddling speed can help you make an educated guess about how far you can travel in a kayak in one hour.

How Far Can You Kayak In An Hour?

How far can you kayak in an hour?

On average, most kayakers can travel between 2.25 and 3 miles in an hour. If you have a particular destination in mind for your kayaking outing, this average can help you estimate how long it will take to get there. It can also help you gauge how far you’ve traveled if you’ve been paddling for an hour.

It’s important, though, to remember that several things can increase or decrease your paddling speed, and while you can sometimes make adjustments to increase your speed, there are some factors affecting speed that will be largely beyond your control.

Number of Seats

Some kayaks have only one seat, while other kayaks were made for two people. Two people will almost always be able to travel more quickly and therefore cover more distance in a certain amount of time than one person. Two people can also trade off paddling duties so one person can rest, which can save energy and increase your overall speed.

2 people paddling a kayak

Fitness Level

More than anything else, your personal fitness level and kayaking experience will determine how far you can kayak in an hour. If you’re physically fit, you’ll have a high energy level and stamina, and your muscles will be able to work harder for longer periods of time.

This means that you can paddle harder, keeping your speed high, for a long time, so you’ll probably cover a longer distance over the course of an hour than someone who isn’t as physically fit.

If you’re an experienced kayaker, you’ll probably have developed muscle memory and kayaking habits that help you adjust to different conditions or make quick judgments about where or how to paddle. This can also help to increase your speed.


Most people can kayak between 2.25 and 3 miles in one hour.

Effort

How far you can kayak also depends greatly on how much effort you put into moving quickly. Some people use kayaking as exercise and prefer to raise their heart rate and push themselves when they kayak.

These people will go farther in an hour because they’re pushing themselves to paddle more quickly.

Other people prefer to kayak at a leisurely rate. Even if someone is very fit and all other conditions are ideal, if they want to paddle leisurely, they won’t be able to kayak as far in the span of an hour.

Instead, they might get to take in the sights or spot wildlife.

a person paddling slow in a kayak

Kayak and Gear Weight

One of the biggest factors that can affect how swiftly you can move through the water is the weight of your kayak, gear, and anything else you have packed into the kayak.

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The heavier the kayak, the more effort it will take to propel it through the water, even if you’re an experienced kayaker. If you’re traveling with camping gear or fishing equipment, you’ll need to factor the weight of those items into your speed estimate.

The heavier the kayak and your gear, the more energy you’ll expend as well, and this will gradually decrease your overall speed, so you won’t be able to go quite as far in an hour as you would if the kayak was lighter.

several kayaks leaning against a wall

Weather Conditions

If you’re planning a trip and you want to reach a certain destination while kayaking, make sure that the weather conditions are in your favor before you head out. Wind is the biggest deterrent to high kayak speeds.

If the wind is pushing against you, you’ll have to paddle much harder, expending more energy, to travel forward. Wind can also make the water choppy, and that can make paddling much more difficult.

Water currents can also alter how quickly you can paddle. If there are areas where you must paddle against the current, your speed will slow. On the other hand, if the currents and wind are pushing you forward, you may be able to travel much more quickly, and therefore much farther, in an hour.

If you’re planning to kayak on a hot day, heat can also be a factor. Doing aerobic exercises, such as paddling, in the heat of the day can sap you of energy, and this usually means that you won’t be able to move as quickly.

person in a kayak on turbulent water

Kayak Style

Some kayaks are built with more stability in mind while others were designed for speed. The type of kayak you have will determine how fast you can travel.

Shorter or wider kayaks are quite stable, making them a good option for beginners. These kayaks can also hold a lot of gear, so they’re often the choice for camping or photography enthusiasts. However, short, wide kayaks are much slower and have a lower maximum speed than other kayaks.

If your kayak is long and narrow, however, it will cut more easily through the water and will take less effort to propel. Racing kayaks are very narrow, and they have high top speeds, so they can cover a much greater distance in a shorter amount of time compared to other kayak types.

Racing kayaks, however, are not as stable, so they’re a better choice for more experienced kayakers. They can also hold less gear.

woman paddling a small kayak in rough water

Kayak Max Speeds

You can use a math formula to figure out what the top speed of any given kayak will be. This is the maximum speed it can go if the kayaker is experienced and fit, the gear is lightweight, and the weather conditions are ideal.

You can find this top speed by measuring the length of the kayak’s hull at the waterline in feet. Find the square root of this number, and then multiply this number by 1.34 to find the top speed. Your answer will be in knots. One knot is equal to about 1.15 miles per hour.

kayaks lining up for a race

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