How Long Does It Take To Kayak a Mile? A Full Explanation

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Figuring out how long it takes to kayak a mile can be an essential part of planning your trip and having an overall rough estimation of how long it’ll take to complete a given journey. In this article, I’ll be delving into all the factors determining your kayaking mph and some crucial things to be aware of. 

It takes the “average” person around 30 minutes to kayak a mile – however, this can vary substantially depending on the person and what conditions they’re in. 

Key Takeaways

  • The average time to kayak a mile is 30 minutes, but it can vary depending on many factors such as experience, fitness, kayak type, and water conditions.
  • Wind conditions are the biggest factors affecting kayak speed, as they can either slow down or speed up the kayaker depending on the direction and strength of the wind.
  • Tide speed and current speed also influence kayak speed, as they can either help or hinder the kayaker’s progress.
  • Physical fitness and paddling technique can improve kayak speed, as they allow the kayaker to maintain a good pace and minimize fatigue even in challenging conditions.
  • Kayak length and width can affect speed as well. Longer and narrower kayaks tend to have higher speeds than shorter and wider ones.

The Average Person Will Kayak a Mile in 30 Minutes

The average individual will take 20 – 30 minutes to kayak a mile. This is not the same for everyone, though; this average speed can vary greatly, and there are things under your control (like skill and fitness) and things not under your control (like weather and water conditions) that will impact you significantly. 

It’s a good idea to understand these factors before you strap your life jacket on and get paddling. Learning what factors affect kayak speed will save you time and effort in the long run. 

Factors That Affect Overall Miles per Hour

While the average person will most likely get 2 – 3 miles done in an hour, there are some factors to understand first. 

A rough estimate of how much distance you can cover is handy for a leisurely paddle or an easier kayak trip, but the things mentioned below can drastically increase (or decrease) your mileage

Your Experience Level

Whether you love recreational kayaks or are an expert on sea kayaks, your overall experience level can play a role in your ability to cover mile after mile. Most kayakers are figuring out their mile time because it’s handy to calculate how long it’ll take them to complete longer trips

However, most experienced kayakers will have a higher than average mile per hour time. This isn’t solely because their paddling technique is better, as with experience you understand how to pace yourself better. 

A beginner kayaker is not likely to achieve a fast mile time because they’re still learning good paddling technique. 

The type of kayaking you do might also affect how long it takes you to kayak a mile – recreational paddlers might hover closer to the average of 30-minute miles, but an enthusiastic and experienced sea kayaker will hover closer to 20 minutes

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The Weather Conditions

When it comes to speed, the wind and wind resistance is the biggest factor overall – if you’re in a sea kayak on a rough ocean with heavy headwinds that are picking up, it might add an extra 10 or 20 minutes to your mile time. It might even slow you down to the point where you’re averaging a mile an hour.  

If the wind is at your back, it might actually increase your speed – as the power from the wind pushes you through the water much faster than paddling manually on its own. 

Wind resistance, wind speed, and overall wind conditions can slow you to a halt or greatly enhance your speed. Wind direction can either work for you or work against you, and it’s always a good idea not to count on the weather conditions, as they can change on a dime. 

The Paddling & Water Conditions

There’s more than just the wind to consider – there’s also the paddling conditions and conditions of the water such as tide speed and current speed

It goes without saying that paddling on any flat, calm water will produce fairly uniform speeds, but churning seas and turbulent rivers might prove more challenging. 

Incoming and outgoing tide speeds can greatly affect sea kayaks – you might find yourself having to paddle vigorously to make any progress at all. Timing your kayak trip so that you match the tides can save you from an exhausting start or return

Current speed applies to rivers – if you’re paddling upstream and against the current, you won’t be making great gains in distance any time soon, but going with the current speed will dramatically increase your one-mile time.

If you’re aiming for a fast trip then you’ll want to wait for calm waters, you don’t want strong winds and harsh weather as it will either slow you down or speed you up and give you an inaccurate view of your overall speed. 

Your Fitness Level

Physical fitness is another contributor to how many miles you can cover and how quickly you can paddle one mile. Kayaking is a physical activity so the greater your stamina, the more easily you’ll be able to maintain a good pace with good paddling techniques even in more challenging conditions. 

Generally speaking the fitter you are the better your paddling speed and the better your ability to get close to maximum speeds. You’ll be able to paddle faster and cover long distances while minimizing the effects of fatigue


READ NEXT: How Far Can You Kayak in a Day?

Your Kayak Length, Weight, and Type

A longer kayak has a higher hull speed than a shorter one. Thin-beamed race kayaks, for example, are optimized for higher mile speeds. Sea kayaks also tend to be much longer than the standard recreation kayak – which is optimized for better stability. 

Fishing kayaks and whitewater kayaks are both the slowest types – fishing kayaks are wider and built to handle heavier loads, which is the opposite of what you need. Whitewater kayaks are built to be pushed along by strong river currents – which also slows down their mile time. 

Recreational kayaks are middle of the road – they are narrower and longer than a fishing kayak but made for versatility and not fully optimized for speed. 

Another thing to note about sea kayaks – if you’re loading up for a long trip then this weight is going to affect how long it’ll take you to kayak a mile. 

Slower kayaks might add ten minutes to your mile, and the faster kayaks could potentially take ten minutes away from your mile.

Tandem Kayaks

Tandem kayaks tend to be much faster because there’s more than one kayaker in them (which is the equivalent of having a more powerful engine in a car) and relatively speaking, they’re thinner in comparison to standard recreational kayaks. 

However, it’s important that both paddlers are in sync otherwise you’d lose your speed advantage and your mile time would plummet. 

So, tandem kayaks will always have a higher kayak speed but it comes with a few caveats (like needing better coordination with your partner). 

sea eagle

How To Calculate Mph for a Kayak

Kayaks have a theoretical maximum speed or maximum hull speed they can reach – but it’s important to note that this is under ideal conditions, which rarely happens in the real world. 

To calculate your maximum kayak speed you take the square root of the hull length at the waterline level and multiply it by 1.34. 

So, for a boat with 18 feet of waterline length this calculation would be: 

1.34 x 4.2 = 5.7 knots per hour (this converts to 6.5 miles per hour). 

It bears repeating – maximum hull speed is not often reached or maintained by people in real-world conditions. Fatigue, wind resistance and so many other factors that act on your vessel will all but ensure you can’t maintain a higher kayak speed over the long run


To answer the question of how long does it take to kayak a mile – the answer depends. An individual’s fitness, experience, and the type of kayak they use can all positively impact kayak speed. However, weather conditions, the water, and other factors out of human control can have a tremendous effect on kayak speed – for better or worse

We hope you enjoyed this article, please comment or share with anyone who you think might enjoy the information presented here. 

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