How fast can pedal kayaks go?

A pedal kayak can go fast, up to about 8 mph depending on weather, type, size, and person. A racing model is slower than a touring or fishing one. A composite is faster than a plastic.

The pedal propulsion system of pedal kayaks has made them increasingly popular amongst kayakers. This mechanism not only makes it easier to control the boat but also generates a lot of speed. Therefore, pedal kayaks are an attractive option for kayakers as compared to paddle kayaks. Their speed makes them suitable for fishing and racing as well. This article discusses the speed of pedal drive kayaks and the factors affecting their speed.

Speed of a pedal kayak

Pedal kayaks can go faster than paddle kayaks as most people have stronger legs and feet than arms. In general, an average pedal kayak can go 3.5 to 4 knots. Some can even go as far as 7 knots(8mph).

The average speed of an outback pedal kayak was 3.5 knots. GPS tracking showed that the Hobie Mirage pedal kayak maintained a figure of 3.5 to 4.5 mph. A fastest hundred meters sprint had a distance record where the pedal power brought the kayak up to 18.5 kilometers.

Fastest flat-water peddling had a record of 245 km in a single day. This record was made using a carbon fiber hall and a rotational propulsion system with a propeller.

Factors affecting the speed of a pedal kayak

There are many factors that affect the speed of a pedal kayak.

Kayak type

The speed of a pedal kayak varies depending upon the type of kayak. Some examples of different kayak types with different speeds are :

  • Race pedal kayaks

Pedal kayaks made for racing usually have thin beams. They have a beam of about 20” or less. They are also very long and have a very high speed.

  • Sea kayaks

Sea kayaks are usually made of fiberglass or carbon fiber and are designed for kayaking in the sea. Their length is about 15’ and their beams are 23”-24”. They cover long distances very quickly

  • Touring kayaks

Their beams are 26” and they are usually quite fast. Guide.

Hull material

The speed of a pedal kayak depends upon the material that goes into making its hull.

  • Plastic kayak

Plastic kayaks are slower than fiberglass kayaks. They pick scratches and imperfections that reduce their speed.

  • Composite kayak

Composite kayaks are usually faster than composite kayaks and include fiberglass kayaks.

Length, weight, and speed

The speed of pedal kayaks depends upon the length and size of the kayak. Longer pedal kayaks with narrower beams are faster. Their hulls are made of composite materials that can slice through the water producing acceleration. Lightweight pedal kayaks are faster than heavier ones.


The most important factor affecting the speed of a pedal kayak is the weather. The lighter a pedal kayak is the more it is affected by the weather. Larger and heavier pedal kayaks are more resistant to weather. Side winds can blow off pedal kayaks from their course and tracking line. A 10 mph headwind can increase the speed of a pedal kayak but a 20 mph headwind can slow it down.

Tide speed

Another factor affecting the speed of pedal kayaks is tide speed. An outgoing tide can make it impossible for pedal kayaks to make headway.

Fishing pedal kayaks

There are pedal kayaks that are specifically designed for fishing because of their speed and efficiency. They are a big advantage for fishermen as their speed allows fishermen to reach the fishing destination in a shorter time. It also saves their time and money.


The speed of pedal kayaks also depends upon the purpose they are to be used for. This is why it is advised that kayakers address their needs before deciding the type of pedal kayak to buy. Racers would buy racing pedal kayaks that have the necessary acceleration needed to win races. Fishermen buy kayaks designed for fishing as they have greater speed and they also feature fishing accessories. If a kayak is needed just to relax out on the waters than slower pedal kayaks are preferred. Sea kayaks are designed to be faster.

This accounts for the speed of pedal kayaks. This article shows that the speed of pedal kayak is dependent upon many factors and that different types of pedal kayaks have different rates of speed but they are all faster than paddle kayaks in general and are easier to control as well.

The most important factor that sets pedal kayaks apart from other kayaks is speed. Pedal kayaks offer much greater speed as compared to paddle kayaks.

The physics that generates this speed

A paddle kayak requires much more effort and uses upper body strength and muscles. Paddle kayaks do not have much speed as rowing is a very slow process in general. Pedaling only depends on the lower body strength and muscles of our legs and feet. Our leg muscles prove to be more powerful than the muscles of our arms and hands. This exerts a greater force on the pedal mechanism which makes pedaling easier as compared to paddling and also generates far greater speed.

Tug of war competition pedal vs paddle

A series of tests was performed to get an idea of the speed of pedal kayaks and compare it with that of paddle kayaks. Paddle kayakers and pedal kayakers were pitted against each other in a tug-of-war competition and the pedal kayak always won out. Although it was not a perfect test because it did not tell the actual and exact speed of the pedal kayaks but it proved that pedal kayaks are indeed faster and more efficient than paddle kayaks.

Push pedal system

The push pedal system is considered to be the fastest amongst the propulsion techniques used in pedal kayaks. The feet of the people are strapped to the pedals and they pull back and push their feet against the pedals in one direction.

This causes the kayak to move and generates acceleration as well. It is helpful in winning races and therefore much preferred by racers. Pedal kayaks with rotational pedal systems are easier to control and generate a good amount of speed. They work using a bicycle-style-mechanism.

A propeller underneath the kayak provides the thrust to the kayak and generates speed. When the pedal is rotated the propeller also rotates. The faster the propeller will move, the faster the kayak will go. The rotational pedal system helps cover greater distances.

Helpful in emergencies

Kayakers tend to use pedal kayaks as they are not only fast, easier to control, and comfortable but they also prove to be extremely useful in emergencies. In case of an emergency people can quickly kayak back to shore in lesser time as compared to the time it would take them while kayaking in a paddle kayak. Because rowing is very slow and in case an emergency occurs the kayaker would find it difficult to reach shore in time. The speed of a pedal kayak plays an important role in getting out of an emergency.

Size, shape, and weight of a kayak

The speed generated by pedal kayaks depends upon the size, weight and shape of the kayak. The heavier the kayak the more it tends to sink and hence gets slowed down in the water. Longer and lightweight kayaks are faster as they face lesser resistance in the water because their weight is more spread out. Sea kayaks generate a lot of speed because of their long, narrow, and lean build.

Also, the materials used in their construction are fiberglass or carbon-fiber both lightweight high-quality materials that make for greater speed.

Speed for anglers

Pedal kayaks are very popular in fishermen because of their high speeds. They can find a spot with fish in very little time. Paddle kayaks are very slow and are not a good choice for anglers. It is hard to find good fishing spots using paddle kayaks and take up the fisherman’s time and money.

Pedal kayaks are the most impressive and effective advancement in kayaking. They are not only durable and easy to control but their speeds also make them the ideal choice for kayaking.

It will take about 15 minutes to kayak a mile. Different factors will determine how long it will take. Things such as the type of kayak you will be using, how fast toy can paddle and the weather conditions will play a huge role in the length of time it will take to cover a mile.


How fast can you paddle?

You need to paddle to propel the kayak. The faster you can peddle, the faster you will be able to cover a mile. The kind of paddles you use will also determine how fast you can paddle. Also, your stamina will play a huge role in speed. Opt for a lightweight paddle so that it doesn’t tax your stamina as you paddle.

Weather condition

If you are presented with good weather conditions and you have good stamina and lightweight paddles plus a good kayak then you should be able to cover the considerable distance on the water. Paddling in windy conditions may slow down your speed thereby slowing down the time it will take to cover a mile.

Additionally, the presence of strong currents on the water will also affect how fast you can paddle on the water.

Type of kayak you will be using

Not all kayaks are designed for speed. Take a look at the kayak design to determine whether or not it will help you cover a good distance in a short time. If the kayak is longer and narrower then you will be able to swiftly paddle through the waters.

You should opt for a sit-in kayak if you wish to reach one mile in a short time. Race kayaks are the fastest since they are designed for racing. Fishing kayaks will not take you a mile in a short time.

Additionally, the weight that your kayak is carrying will determine whether or not it will move swiftly on the water.

The kind of paddle you will be using

With so many paddles to choose from, you may be lost for choice. However, it is important to note that the type of paddle you choose will determine how fast you can use it. Go for a lightweight paddle, more so one that is made using fiberglass and you will stand a better chance of paddling faster.

When considering a paddle, you should take into account its weight. The heavier it is, the harder it will be to maintain momentum on the water as your arms and wrists will get tired fast, especially if you are paddling through strong winds and currents.

Kayak weight

You want your kayak to be as light as possible if you are to kayak fast. If you load it with plenty of gear and your food or supplies then you should expect to paddle slowly on the water.

How long it will take to kayak a mile will depend on different factors such as the type of kayak, its weight, the type of paddles you choose, and your speed. It will also depend on weather conditions and kayak length and speed.