How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile & 9 Impactful Factors

by Jason | Last Updated:   May 18th, 2022
How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile & 9 Impactful Factors


Have you ever wondered, “how long does it take to kayak a mile?” Or are you trying to figure out how long it will take you to reach your touring destination?

Knowing how long it will take to paddle your kayak mile is very important, especially if you’re going on a long journey.

Think about it this way:

You’ve made all your plans with your friends, you know where you’re going, the route you’re going to take, and you’ve even given a driver your arrival time.

The problem is:

You don’t actually know how long it will take you to paddle that distance. You know how many miles are ahead of you, but you don’t know how long it takes to paddle a mile.

So…

The following sections will explain how fast a kayak goes, the factors that affect your paddling, and finally, how long it takes to paddle a mile.

If this sounds like what you’ve been looking for, don’t go anywhere:

How Fast Can A Kayak Go?

When you’re asking the question, “how long does it take to kayak a mile?”, you first need to think about how fast you can go in a kayak.

And here’s the thing:

Most people think there’s no speed limit to kayak, but there is. And this all comes down to the hull speed, which outlines how fast a kayaker can paddle before it starts to plane.

Planning is where the kayak’s hull lifts to the same level as the water, making it appear to glide on top of the water instead of pushing through it.

And if you want to do the math, you can work out the hull speed with this formula:

Maximum Hull Speed = 1.34 x (Square Root of the Length of Kayak’s Hull at the Waterline)

Of course, doing the math to find out the theoretical maximum speed (or maximum hull speed) isn’t easy, so I will try to make it easier for you later in this article.

But…

Before I get into that, I wanted to explain some of the factors that can affect how fast your kayak can go.

The 9 Factors That Greatly Affect Your Kayaking Speed

How Long Does It Take To Kayak A Mile

A kayaker can paddle a mile in around 20-30 minutes in perfect conditions. But as I said, everything has to be perfect.

And…

If you’ve been kayaking for a while, you can safely say that getting “perfect” conditions is rare.

And this is because there are so many factors that can affect your paddling speed. So in this section, I want to walk you through a few of them:

#1 The Type Of Kayak You’re Using

If one thing goes hand in hand with your kayak’s speed, it’s the length of your kayak, which I mentioned previously. 

To understand how long it will take you to paddle your kayak one mile, you first need to understand the different types of kayaks and how the design will affect your performance on the water.

  • Thin-Beamed Race Kayaks: They are usually around a 20” beam; they are also extremely long and very speedy.
  • Touring Kayaks: They are usually around 15’ in length and have a beamwidth of approximately 26”, making them pretty fast across the water.
  • Sea Kayaks: Usually above 15’ in length with a beamwidth of 23”, which allows them to cover long distances quickly.
  • Recreational Sit-Inside Kayaks: They are usually 10’ in length, and have around a 28” beam which gives them an average speed.
  • Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayaks: By far one of the slowest kayaks you can use, but they are stable.
  • Whitewater Kayaks: They can be pretty slow on calm waters due to their design. They were built to be propelled by the speed of the water, not the paddler.
  • Fishing Kayaks: Very slow kayaks; they were designed with stability in mind, not speed.

As you can see, the shapes and sizes of the different kayaks vary greatly, and so does the speed.

The average recreational kayak can do one mile in around 20-30 minutes, give or take.

But as the length of the kayak increases, you can probably shave around 10 minutes of the time, which is excellent. On the other hand, if you use a wider kayak, you’re probably going to have to add an extra 10 minutes.

#2 The Type Of Paddle You’re Using 

One thing many people tend not to think about is their kayak paddle. I mean, it’s just a kayak paddle, right?

Well, not really. Using specific types of paddles can actually make a huge difference when it comes to the overall speed. 

The first thing you need to do is choose a kayak paddle that’s right for you. This means looking at your height, shoulder width, and the kayak’s width. But they’re not the only things you need to think about.

When it comes down to it, you have two options to choose from:

  1. Low-Angle Paddles: They have long but narrow blades specially designed to cut through the water with minimum effort. These paddles are best suited for recreational kayaks with a broader beam.
  2. High-Angle Paddles: They are designed to capture the water and hold it, which allows for more aggressive strokes and pushes you through the water quickly. The paddles are shorter and broader, making them best suited for narrow kayaks built for speed.

As you can see, choosing the right kayak paddles is very important when you’re trying to shave some seconds off your mile and paddle faster.

#3 The Material Of Your Hull

Another factor that can significantly affect the speed of your kayak is what material was used to make your kayak.

And there are two that I want to point out to you, plastic vs composite kayaks:

Plastic Kayaks

Plastic kayaks can be rotomolded in one piece or thermoformed from two pieces of plastic. But, they tend to be a lot slower than composite hulled kayaks. 

Not only that, but a recreational polyethylene kayak is more prone to pick up imperfections, gouges, or scratches, which can lower your kayak’s speed even further.

Composite Kayaks

Composite kayaks are by far the faster of the two styles; in fact, you have about a 0.5-knot advantage over plastic hulled kayaks. 

The problem is:

Having this extra speed advantage can come at a considerable cost. And that’s because fiberglass/composite kayaks are much more expensive to build than plastic hull kayaks.

#4 Kayak Length & Width 

I already mentioned that the length and width could affect the speed of your kayak. But I really want to enforce it in this section:

A longer, narrower kayak tends to be a lot faster in the water than shorter, wider kayaks. So, if you want a faster kayak, you need to make sure it’s long and thin, like a sea or touring kayak.

#5 Wind Conditions 

When it comes to how long it will take you to paddle a mile, one of your biggest enemies is going to be the wind conditions.

But…

It can also be your best friend; it just depends on the direction and speed of the wind.

Let me put it this way:

If you’re paddling downstream with the wind blowing in your face, you’re really going to struggle to pick up any momentum. There’s too much wind resistance, and it will really affect your kayak speed.

On the other hand:

If the wind is blowing in your favor, it could actually reduce the amount of time it takes you to paddle a mile. It is in this kind of situation that a skeg or rudder comes in handy.

#6 Water Conditions 

Another thing you need to think about is the water conditions you’re going to paddle on. Of course, currents and tides play a factor, but we will talk about that in the next section.

For now, I want to talk about the type of water you’re paddling on. For example, if you’re paddling downstream, you’re going to get a helping hand in momentum.

And if you’re paddling on calm water, you won’t get the speed boost, but it’s going to be a lot easier to paddle. 

Another thing that might slow you down is having to navigate rocks or fallen trees, but that’s just part of the game. If you’re aware of the obstacles and make minor adjustments early on, you won’t lose as much speed.

#7 Currents & Tides

When you’re paddling, one of the biggest challenges you might come across is currents and tides. So, in this section, I want to explain what you can expect from both:

Tides

One thing many people don’t think about is the tide shift. You might head out, and everything is going fine, but when you turn around, you notice you’re struggling to get back in.

And this could be down to the tide going out. It can make it nearly impossible to get back to dry land, even if you’re paddling hard.

So, you have to keep in mind when the tides turn when you’re paddling at sea, especially if you’re not a strong paddler.

Currents

How fast the current flows when you’re paddling can affect your speed. If you’re paddling with the current, you’re not going to worry too much; you’ll just end up reaching your destination a lot quicker than you expected.

On the other hand, if you’re paddling against a strong current, it will feel like you’re not moving anywhere. So, you need to keep in mind the speed of the current and how fast you can paddle.

#8 The Weight You’re Carrying 

The weight you’re carrying on your kayak trip can also play a part in how fast you can travel one mile in a kayak. And when you’re traveling long distances, there’s a good chance you’ll have a lot of equipment.

All the extra weight will work like an anchor weighing you down.

So, if you’re hoping to go faster, you’ll need to keep things light. The lighter the load, the quicker you’re going to be able to paddle. You can check out the ultimate kayak camping checklist here to find out what you’ll need.

#9 How Much Paddling Experience Do You Have

The final thing I want to talk about is how much paddling experience you have. Let’s put it this way:

If you’re a beginner kayaker and you’re trying to paddle upstream, you’re going to find it a lot more challenging to pick up speed. But, if you’ve got some experience, you’ll have a lot more power and technique to propel the kayak across the water.

New paddlers should really pay attention to the weather and water conditions they’ll paddle in.  

So, How Fast Can You Paddle A Mile?

So, if you haven’t picked it up throughout the article, it will take about 20-30 minutes if you’re paddling at the average kayak speed, which is around 2.5 knots per hour.

But, as I’ve been mentioning, many factors could either increase or decrease that time. 

Final Thoughts & Takeaways 

Okay, I hope this has helped you understand the challenges you’re going to face paddling a mile and how long it will take you.

The two most significant factors for increasing your speed are having the right kayak and the right paddle. 

On the flip side, the two things that will slow you down are the water and wind conditions. If either is against you, you’re really struggling to keep to a 30-minute mile pace.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Fast Can A Pedal Kayak Go?

If you’ve got a pedal kayak, you might be able to hit a mile in less than 20-30 minutes reasonably easily. 

And this is down to your legs being stronger than your arms, so you can pedal faster than you can paddle.

Again, the speed you can pedal is very much down to your personal fitness. But, on average, you can pedal at around 3.5 to 4 knots, which is at least one knot faster than you can paddle.

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 3 Miles?

It will take around 90 minutes to paddle 3 miles, but this really depends on your stamina.

And, of course, if the weather conditions are with you, you’ll be able to shave some time off. If it’s against you, you can expect it to take you a little bit longer.

How Long Does It Take To Kayak 10 Miles?

Paddling ten miles on a kayak trip is no easy task, and it will probably take you at least 5 hours of paddling. Of course, you’re not going to be able to paddle at a 2.5 knots per mile paddling speed for 5 hours.

So, in that time, you’re going to have to take a few water breaks, stretch your arms and legs, and maybe have a snack. Make sure you add around 10 minutes for every hour you’re paddling at your 30-minute mile pace.

Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.