For most people, stand up paddling isn’t a sport that requires maximum speed. Typically, even the biggest SUP enthusiasts prefer to have a comfortable and relaxed time on the board. But then again, some more ambitious paddlers may eventually want to test their racing SUP speed and learn to go a little faster.
At moderate speed, less skilled paddlers can average 6 to 8 miles (10-15 km) per day, while professionals with more endurance and strength can go much faster over much longer distances. Hourly speeds can thus vary from 2 to over 8 mph (3-16 km/h) and depend on individual skill, as well as weather conditions, current, and board type.
If you’re planning your next trip and want to know how far YOU could go on a paddle board in a day, learn all about SUP speed and what it depends on in this guide.
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How Far Can You Paddle Board in a Day?
Beginners can cover 6-9 miles (10-15 km) per day, even paddling at a relatively leisurely pace, and still improve their technique. Advanced paddlers can easily cover 18-30 miles (30-50 km) per day, depending on current, wind and weather, fitness and experience.
Just to put this in perspective: The world record for a distance on a SUP board is 120.42 miles (193.8 km) in 24 hours. The greatest distance covered by a woman on a SUP in the same time is 110.47 miles (177.79 km).
Why Is SUP Speed Important?
At some point, many people want to do more with their stand up paddle board than just splash around on the lake and do lap after lap. With an advanced technique, anyone can discover new places, have adventures, and go on a real SUP tour that lasts for days.
Still, we want to know exactly what distance you can cover in an hour or in a day on a SUP. This is what matters when planning tours and trips. Knowing how fast you can get from A to B also determines when you paddle, how much food and water you take, what the relevant weather forecast is, and so on.
Planning to take your SUP to your beach holiday? Read all about using an inflatable SUP in the ocean.
The world record for stand up paddling is 745 miles (1,200 km) in just over 7 days. This is equivalent to crossing Lake Tahoe lengthwise around 35 times back and forth. To do this in 7 days, you would only need to sleep 2 hours a day. That’s certainly not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be.
When planning a trip, think realistically about the maximum number of miles or kilometers you can paddle per day. Experienced stand-up paddlers with a good paddling technique can easily handle trips of about 18 miles, or 30 kilometers.
However, a tour of 18-20 miles can actually take a full day, especially if you take breaks along the way. Especially with inflatable boards, an average speed of over 3 mph (5 km/h) over the entire distance is already very sporty. In the end, that’s 6 hours of pure paddling time alone!
What Influences SUP Speed?
SUP speed can be influenced by several factors, including:
- Fitness Level
Above all, the muscle strength in the arms and back has an influence on the speed on the SUP board. But endurance, coordination, and the correct execution of the paddling movements also play a role.
- Current and Waves
Depending on how strong the current is, your speed can vary greatly. Therefore, in calm lakes, the speed is lower than in rivers with strong currents. On the sea, waves must also be taken into account, as they often slow you down.
- Tailwind or Headwind
If you are paddling with a tailwind, you will be much faster than against it. Depending on the current wind direction, the speed will be lower or higher.
- Board Type
There is the typical beginner board, also called all-round board. Due to its shape, this board glides slower through the water than a touring or race board. In comparison, the race board is designed for the highest SUP board speeds and competitions, while the touring board is designed more for good performance on long distances.
- Board Width and Length
Narrower and longer boards are harder to ride, but faster on the water. Wider beginner boards are shorter and more tippy, but also a bit slower.
- Paddle Material
Last but not least, the SUP paddle also determines the speed of the board. The stiffer it is, the better the power transmission. Models made of carbon are often the best choice here when it comes to speed. They are also significantly lighter than aluminum paddles. On longer tours, this definitely has an effect on endurance and thus on speed.
How Far Can You Paddle Board in an Hour?
Most stand up paddlers ride at a moderate speed of 2.5-4.5 mph (4-7 km/h) with no tailwind. True professionals ride at 5-7.5 mph (8-12 km/h), although top speeds can be even higher for well-trained SUP athletes and under optimal conditions.
As a purely recreational paddler, moderate SUP board speed is important if you don’t want to reach your limits prematurely.
This depends mainly on the conditions, i.e. whether you are paddling on a river or a lake, on choppy or flat water. The shape of your board also plays a role.
|SUP Type||Lake (flat)||Sea (choppy)||Upriver||Downriver||Headwind||Tailwind|
|All-round||2 mph||4 mph||1.5 mph||4.5 mph||1.5 mph||5 mph|
|Touring||3 mph||5 mph||2 mph||5.5 mph||2 mph||6 mph|
|Race||4 mph||6 mph||3 mph||6.5 mph||3 mph||8 mph|
The combination of various factors and your physical fitness will naturally result in varying paddleboard speeds. There is no warranty that you will reach a racing speed, but either way, you will get an excellent workout and are guaranteed to have fun.
How Long Does It Take to Paddle Board 1 Mile?
At a leisurely pace, you should be able to paddle a mile in about 15 to 30 minutes. Of course, it’s hard to judge this without considering the conditions described above. The fastest measured speed on a SUP is 9.34 mph (15.45 km/h), although most of us are unlikely to reach that speed consistently.
Can it get too windy to SUP? Learn more about paddle boarding wind speeds.
How Do You Measure Your SUP Speed
Use the following methods to measure your SUP speed and other data relevant to water sports:
1. Sports Watch
A sports watch is the best way to record and evaluate a SUP trip. Among other statistics, you can measure your average and maximum speed, distance covered per stroke, or the total number of strokes.
2. Smartphone App
A smartphone is also suitable for recording a SUP trip. Most smartphones already have a GPS sensor built-in, so you can record your trips with apps like Runtastic or Komoot.
The downside is that the smartphone has to be stowed somewhere on the board or on your body in a waterproof case. This, of course, makes it more difficult and time-consuming to use. Also, the battery gets weaker over time, so it may not last for long distances.
If you are more likely to cover only short distances on the SUP board and only want to measure your top speed, you can do so with a simple classic stopwatch. However, beyond that, a stopwatch does not provide functions that are important for stand up paddling.
4. SUP GPS
Another option would be to invest in a SUP gps. They usually come with an app that allows you to track and evaluate your paddling speed with advanced metrics, such as distance per stroke and number of strokes.
Can a SUP Keep Up With a Kayak?
Most kayakers reach an average speed of about 2-3 mph when paddling for several hours. For shorter trips or if you are very fit, you can of course reach higher speeds. Compared to SUP speed, this is not a huge advantage, but there are some things that can be an argument in favor of the kayak.
Since kayaks, unlike SUP boards, are ridden sitting down, your weight is closer to the water. Because of this, you have a lower center of gravity on a kayak than on a stand-up paddle board, which gives you more stability as a paddler. In turn, the stability you gain allows you to paddle faster and even on waters with stronger currents.
What’s more, on a kayak you usually use a dual-blade paddle which means that you get a higher stroke rate. It will be easier to track in a straight line on a kayak and put more power into every stroke to propel yourself forward.
Ultimately, kayaking can be much more energy efficient because you are sitting the whole time and not using your lower body to paddle. This means that even at a slower speed, you can cover a longer distance in one day or several consecutive days, making the kayak a better choice for longer trips.
How to Improve SUP Speed
In order to go faster on a paddle board, you need to improve your paddling technique, increase your overall fitness, and gain more practice and experience. Ultimately, you could also invest in a paddle board designed for a faster ride, one with a long and narrow hull.
Paddles are very important for speed. This is understandable because paddles with larger blades can push more water away, but also lead to fatigue more quickly due to the higher load and resistance.
A heavy aluminum paddle is also rather unsuitable for a long SUP tour, as they can feel very cumbersome after a while. After all, the entire weight has to be moved with every stroke, putting extra strain on your arms and shoulders. So it’s definitely worth investing in a slightly better and lighter SUP paddle if you want to paddle far!
It is also advisable to choose a paddle that has a sturdy blade, in case you paddle in very shallow water or bump into rocks and reefs.
The perfect paddling technique saves power and energy. Here are the phases of a perfect paddle stroke:
- Dip the paddle blade as far forward as possible into the water without splashing. While doing this, fully extend the front arm.
- Bend your knees, lean forward slightly, and prepare to pull back with the shoulder blade of the arm holding the paddle handle.
- Once the paddle blade is fully submerged in the water up to the base of the shaft, pull it backward with due force. When pulling, the force comes not only from the arms but from the whole body.
- When the paddle blade reaches your body and is parallel to it, release and pull the paddle out of the water. Relax your arms and shoulders as you do this before extending the paddle forward again and repeating the stroke.
It is important to keep the paddle close to the board when it enters the water. The further the paddle is pulled away from the board, the more the board will move in a certain direction. So pull the paddle close to the edge of your SUP board, but not so close that it scrapes it. This way you will move in a straighter line and reach higher speeds.
As you gain experience, you become faster and faster in your paddle strokes and quickly internalize the proper technique.
Fitness and Practice
Once you’ve mastered standing on the board and can paddle upright for longer distances, you’ll start out only reaching about 1.2-2 miles per hour (2-3 mph).
As you practice, you will paddle more and more powerfully through the water. Depending on your level of training and arm strength, gradually increase your speed.
Strength training for the upper body as well as core and leg exercises will help you achieve a strong and firm stance on the paddle board. You will also have better endurance and be able to paddle longer with stronger strokes.
The more explosive your paddle strokes are and the less fatigue you develop, the faster you will be and the greater distances you will achieve.
Touring and Race Boards
SUP Racers are the boards for real speed maximizers. Where touring boards still make sacrifices in favor of stability, race SUP boards are designed entirely for speed.
Race SUP boards are inspired by sleek racing rowboats. The elongated lightweight construction, along with streamlined underwater hulls, provides little water resistance for higher speeds.
A narrow hull causes less drag than a wide one. In order for the paddler and board to stay afloat, the board must be longer to compensate. Because of their length of 14-15 feet (4.5 m), and in some cases more, racing boards are extremely true to track, making them a good choice for longer trips.
Final Thoughts On SUP Speed
SUP speed is highly dependent on your endurance and experience, but your board, paddle, as well as weather and water conditions also play an important role. Knowing your SUP speed is essential for planning trips and tours, as well as for training purposes. You can measure and track your paddle board speed with a sports watch, stopwatch or smartphone.
If you want to improve your SUP speed, you should focus on improving your paddling technique and overall fitness. This way, you can transform SUPing from the relaxed and idle activity it’s perceived as into a full-body cardio workout to keep you in shape.