How Long Does It Take to Kayak a Mile?


Kayaking trips—whether it be battling against river currents or meandering leisurely over the tranquil waters of a lake—is one of the best ways to visit those natural wonders we can’t get to on foot. There are many things to consider when preparing for a kayaking trip, one of which is how long does it take to kayak a mile. Knowing the answer to this question can help you determine how fast you’ll need to paddle to get to your destination or get back to your starting point.

Several factors will influence how long it will take you to cover a mile in your kayak. These factors include—but are not limited to—the following.


A kayaker’s experience will play a huge role in how fast he or she can cover a specific distance. A physically fit paddler with significant arm strength and polished paddling technique can reach kayak speeds of 5mph. Seasoned athletic paddlers with top of the line racing kayaks can go even faster.

On the other hand, less experienced recreational kayakers will take a longer time to cover the same distance. Paddling can be very exhausting, and beginners can usually only paddle for a while before their arms become sore. Also, recreational paddlers will stop a lot to take pictures or have a gulp of water, or munch on some snacks. All these put their average kayak speed to around 2 mph.

Wind Conditions

Despite the lack of sails, kayak speed will also be affected by wind conditions. It has been observed that ten-knot winds can add or subtract one mile to a kayaker’s average speed.

For instance, kayakers who average 5 mph can increase their speed up to 6 mph when paddling with the wind behind them. The paddlers going against the wind might notice their speed drop down to 4 mph.

Water Conditions

One of the biggest factors that affect a kayaker’s speed is the water condition. Choppy waters with strong currents such as in the sea or a running river will significantly reduce your speed. Consequently, you’ll be able to travel much faster in calm waters such as that of a lake or a wetland.

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Kayak Design

The type of kayak being used is another factor that will affect how long it takes a paddler to kayak mile. All else being equal, a touring kayak is much faster than a fishing kayak with the difference mostly due to their inherent designs.

Touring kayaks are narrower and longer. This streamlined design allows the kayak to easily move over the waters. It also allows them to continue going in a straight line even if you stop paddling.

On the other hand, fishing kayaks are wider and shorter. Since they are “boxier” they have a more wetted area (hull area in contact with water) which creates more drag and increases surface friction. Plus, their design isn’t efficient at slicing through the water.

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So, back to the question, “how long does it take to kayak a mile?”

As you may have guessed by now, there is no clear cut answer to the question. It will depend on various personal abilities and environmental factors, as well as the kayak being used. It may be safe to assume that in perfect weather and water conditions, an experienced and well-equipped kayaker should be able to cover a mile in as little as 15 minutes, whereas a beginner—with the same equipment and under the same conditions—will need at least 30 minutes or more.

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