What Is an Average Canoe Speed ?

Whether you want to organize a canoe racing competition or test your paddling strength, you’ll need to get to know the basics. Canoe speed is a relative term that can be explained only in a particular context. 


The average canoe speed is 3 mph (4.82 kph) if two paddlers are riding it and there are no strong water currents and wind. The size matters too, as longer canoes are faster than shorter ones. And if you’re in top-notch physical condition, you’ll be able to go faster than if you weren’t.


This article will explain what affects canoe speed, what kind of canoes are the fastest, and the fastest the canoes can go. 

Factors That Influence Canoe Speed 

Numerous conditions influence the canoe speed, and many of them are under your control. Before investing in a canoe, think about your own goals and wishes because there are many things to consider. 


Here are the 7 biggest canoe speed influences: 


  1. Canoe size
  2. Canoe material 
  3. Wind
  4. Weather 
  5. Water condition
  6. Number of canoeists 
  7. Canoeist physical condition  

1. Canoe Size

Canoeists choose the size of the canoe they want to own. Whether they are trying to have a professional career in canoe riding or have a weekend hobby, they will buy a canoe that fits their needs. 


Longer canoes, for example, 16” (4.87 m) long ones, are much faster than shorter ones. They tend to have a flatter bottom that glides through the water easier and straighter. 


Shorter canoes are slower but easier to handle. Fewer people can fit in them, and they are lighter than the long canoes, but the surface that touches the water doesn’t glide as quickly as the longer canoe’s bottoms do. 

2. Canoe Material 

Canoe materials are essential for canoe speed. There are various materials from which make canoes, and these are their classification:


  • Aluminum canoes are an inexpensive option for recreational canoers, but they are heavy and can produce a lot of noise. They can last decades because the material is durable, but they need to be fixed by a professional in case of any damage. This is not the best option if you want a fast canoe. 
  • Fiberglass canoes come in every shape and design. The material is very durable, easy to fix in case of scratches and holes. Canoes made of fiberglass are fast and easy to navigate. 
  • Wood canoes are expensive, heavy, and require a lot of maintenance. They are not the fastest option, and it’s best to leave them to the recreational canoers that don’t care about the speed. 
  • Plastic canoes are made of polyethylene, a particular type of plastic shaped by high temperatures. They are cheap and durable but not high-performing in terms of speed. 
  • Canoes made of kevlar, a synthetic fiber infused with resin, can be shaped in any shape imaginable. They are lighter than fiberglass canoes, durable, and easy to maintain. They effortlessly glide on the water surface, and with just a few paddle strokes, you can quickly achieve the desired speed. 

3. Wind

Little to no wind is a perfect condition to achieve the speed of the canoe. If it’s too windy, it’s challenging to maintain the direction you’re going in. Water can splash in your eyes, which can cause mistakes and it can be tiring. 


Though it’s possible to paddle when it’s a little windy, it’s much harder, and you’ll have to expend much more energy as opposed to if there’s no wind. 

4. Weather  

Besides the wind, rain and other precipitation can affect the canoe speed. It’s not the most enjoyable thing to go canoeing while the rain or snow is falling. It can be dangerous to go canoeing while there’s heavy rain or a storm because you will not see clearly, and there’s a lightning threat you’ll want to avoid at all costs. 

5. Water Condition

Calm waters without a strong current are the best possible condition for easy pedaling and the canoe to achieve and maintain the speed you want.


Whether it’s the calm sea or lake, the smooth surface will make your speeding easier. A river with a strong current is a bit harder to maintain, but with a good paddling technique, you can speed up more than the average 3 mph (4.82 kph)

6. Number of Canoeists

Even in canoeing, it’s better to be in pairs than alone. Two pairs of hands paddling will increase the speed even when the current is strong. 


Being alone is not the best option if you want to travel fast because the company will make the paddling experience much more manageable. Having more than two people in a canoe can cause a stir and even make you go slower than anticipated because the different dynamics can affect the paddling and the speed. 

7. Canoeist Physical Condition  

The active lifestyle of the canoeist can be of great importance when it comes to the speed of the canoe. 


If you’re living a healthy sportsman’s life, then you won’t get tired quickly when paddling. Navigating through the strong current or wind can take up a lot of strength, so it’s essential to know how to save up energy and not get tired fast while peddling.

What’s the Fastest Canoe Speed?

According to the Boating Guide, the canoe’s fastest speed is 12 mph (19.31 kph), a world record in canoe riding. The average canoer can speed up to 9 mph (14.48 kph), much more than the average canoe speed.


These results are affected by the conditions they are achieved in, and recreational canoeists should be aware of all the circumstances. 


The canoes racers use to compete are specially made and equipped for competition. Specially made canoes are expensive, and you don’t need them to enjoy your canoeing hobby. If you want to go 9 mph (14.48 kph), you can use an average fiberglass canoe. 

Key Takeaways

The average canoe speed is measured in ideal conditions and may vary in different waters, weather conditions, number of canoeists, and canoe types. Consider investing in a better canoe and your physical strength to speed up your canoeing.  


Be mindful of the weather conditions because you need to align your objectives and stay safe while having fun.

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