Many kayakers would do anything for speed. They would install trolling motors, practice different paddling techniques, and have their boats’ hull customized for better tracking. Knowing how to increase kayak speed is every paddler’s pursuit and it’s like the Holy Grail of sailing with a kayak. But the process is beyond optimizing these things. There are other secrets that I’ll give you (which is no longer a secret) so you can also be at the top of the speeder’s game.
But before you read through, remember one thing: the speed of kayaking lies not only on the equipment but also on the skills of the paddler. After all the reinforcement accessories are placed, the next thing you need to do is to master it to your advantage. It may take time but that’s how great kayakers are made!
To keep you going, I listed eight of my tried and tested methods in speeding up a kayak. Some are just minor changes but it could have a big difference compared to not doing it at all.
1. Maximize your trolling motor
Nothing beats a kayak with a trolling motor. This is switching from manual to an electric-powered boat. A trolling system includes a shaft, propeller, motor, and a console where you can monitor the battery and adjust the speed of the kayak. Some types of this motor come with a remote-controlled system so you can effortlessly glide through water.
However, not every kayak can be mounted with a trolling motor. This takes a lot of engineering and the user weight capacity of the boat would also dictate whether you can install one or not. The battery could already weigh about 30-40 pounds. If you only have a 250-pound limit, it might be impossible to reinforce the vessel with this motor.
2. Get the right paddle
Many paddle types and designs are made for different purposes. First, choose only between fiberglass or carbon-fiber material. All these are sturdy and it won’t slow you down because of a broken oar or a cracked blade. If you’re thinking how to increase kayak speed, start on the paddles.
Once you got the right material, check for the design. A high angle, or wider blade, would be best for speed as it has a bigger rib that will distribute the water equally on the bigger sides of the blade. So the best combination here is a dihedral, wide blades for the best tracking. Paddles without a rib on its center tend to flutter while in use. The glide of the kayak is also reduced a bit.
3. The right hull for the job
The bottom part of your kayak is the one in contact with the water, thus it will play a big role in the speed of tracking. Kayaks have varying hull designs that can either be dedicated to speed or stability. It’s hard to enjoy the best of best worlds but if you’re keen on finding it, choose between a rounded or V-shaped hull.
A rounded hull has less water resistance that will result in better speed. It’s also easier to maneuver as well as stable for its kind. The other one is the V-shaped hull that’s used to increase the kayak’s ability to cut through water. This is considerably faster than the rounded hull but a bit tippy than the latter.
4. Sand the kayak’s bottom
Yes, dings and dents slow you down a bit but not really too observable. But if you’re serious about how to increase kayak speed, you might as well sand the hull of the kayak using a 400-grit sandpaper. Taming those dents would restore some of the smoothness of the hull that will add speed while you’re on the water.
Some kayakers think that a little roughness at the boat’s bottom could actually equalize the friction and make it work for your pace. Also, the dents on the kayak tend to be the storing spaces for mineral buildup. That won’t only slow you down but it will also damage your kayak in the long run.
5. The longer the better
Long kayaks have a lower pull that the water sends to the hull of the boat. Investing in a long but thin vessel would be the most efficient way of making your boat a speeder. This will slice through water smoothly as the water is displaced longer than in shorter kayaks.
When it comes to thickness, the thinnest would be the best but this would depend on your body size and the equipment you’re intending to load on it. The thinner the kayak, the lesser surfaces the water would have contact to and conduct friction. This is the same thing with choosing the design of the hull as to how to increase kayak speed.
6. Apply gel coats
If the dents on the kayak are too much to handle using sandpaper, it’s better to apply a gel coat to smoothen the hull. This will lessen the friction that the kayak will conduct during a paddling trip, thus faster tracking. A gel coat finish makes the kayak have the crystal, sparkly finish like a surface of a fiberglass.
However, applying gel coats requires specific equipment and techniques so it would be better to let a professional do it for you. Keep in mind that gel coats might not be the best kayak materials, but if you have a fiberglass boat, there would be no problem about it as long as it’s done properly.
7. Learn to use sweep strokes properly
Sweep strokes are large forward strokes used to maneuver a kayak. The paddling would go from the feet up to the farthest that the kayaker could reach from his back. If done alternately on each side, these massive strokes would be the answer on how to increase kayak speed. But the problem here is that lack of training would tire a paddler easily. It takes strength practices to be on par with the massive paddling of dragon boat teams if ever you’re into kayak racing.
This stroke would need upper body strength as you have to twist your torso to achieve the tip-to-tip arches on the water.
8. Straight is the way to go
When you’re kayaking, avoid watching the paddle as this tends to slow you down and steer you away from the straight direction. When you go on a curved trail, you’ll consume more distance and effort to reach your destination. This will slow down the overall speed of your trip.
Maneuvering a kayak takes time especially if you keep on zig-zagging on the water. This is especially true if you are in a tandem kayak. If you want a speedy tandem boat, make sure that the rear paddler is in sync with the front paddler who sets the rhythm.
If you’re wondering how to increase kayak speed, these eight tips would be the answer. Some are common while others are usually overlooked. The most important thing here is that you learn how to make your kayak work for you. Even if you have all these features on the boat, it would still be a lazy-moving vessel if the paddler doesn’t know how to weather the tides. Do you agree? Share your thoughts with us!