When you first being paddle boarding, you’ll be lucky to stay on your board, so you won’t worry too much about how fast you can go. Paddle boarding is one water sport where speed is not so important. Paddling across the water is a relaxing activity and some paddlers prefer to move at slower speeds. There are so many things you can do on a SUP, such as yoga and touring, which don’t require you to go fast.
Some SUP activities, however, do need speed, so SUP racers and surfers will always try to go as fast as they can.
As you progress, it’s hard to work out how fast you are going on open water and getting the best speed from your board will depend on many factors.
Paddle board speeds
It’s no great surprise to hear that the fitter you are, the harder you are able to paddle and so the faster your paddle board will go.
If you’re new to paddling or gradually building up your fitness levels, you won’t be going very fast at all to start with. As you progress in the sport and your fitness and paddling technique improves, you’ll find you are able to paddle harder and glide more easily through the water, so your speed will automatically increase.
When you first set out on a paddle board, you’ll see people around you travelling a lot faster than you are. Don’t be put off by others who seem to be travelling at speed – they will have started out as a beginner too and it may have taken them a long time to be able to power their SUP so quickly.
2. Board size
The size of your paddle board can have a big effect on your speed. If you have the wrong size board you won’t get the best from it and this will affect how fast you can go. Calculating the volume of a board and buying the right size will mean that you will be able to maneuver it better through the water. The right volume board will mean that water is displaced at the right level and this will help you go faster.
If you have a small board, for example, and you’re large, you may find you have trouble keeping control, so your speed will be less than it should be.
3. Board type
Some boards are designed to go faster than others. Flatwater SUPs, while they can be used for surfing and racing, tend to be bigger boards so they won’t go quite so fast. As these are often used for fishing and yoga, they don’t really need to be built for speed.
Paddle boards designed for racing and surfing will go the fastest. These are narrower and longer so as to help the board glide swiftly through the water. Wider boards to tend to be slower ones.
4. Inflatable or Solid SUP
While inflatable boards can do everything (find reviews on the best inflatable SUP’s here) a solid board can do, there is a difference when it comes to speed. The hard construction of a solid board makes it easier to maneuver through the water, and it can move faster than an iSUP.
While you are on the water you probably won’t notice a difference, but experienced racers will, and they are the ones who really appreciate that extra turn of speed.
The weather has a big impact on all aspects of paddle boarding, not just your speed.
On a lovely sunny day, the only power you’ll get is from your own paddling, so unless you’re a very experienced paddler, you won’t go quite so fast. Downwinders are so called because they paddle with the wind behind them. Obviously this makes them go faster than trying to paddle against the wind, or being buffeted by a cross wind.
SUP speed records
A lot of races are paddled over 200m, and while the times may seem slow, these are races on water, using paddles and the boards are propelled using only the strength of the people paddling them. Racing over 200m can give a false impression of speed, as a quick burst of speed is easier to maintain than a race over many miles.
Most paddle boarding speed records come from racing and in 2016, Connor Baxter took the crown for the fastest paddler that year, by completing 200m in just 53.12 seconds, which converts to approximately 8.5 mph.
While most paddlers would love to be able to go that fast, in 2014 Danny Ching went even faster. He completed 200m in just 46.60 seconds. This converts to approximately 9.34 mph, but whether or not he could maintain that speed for an hour, who knows.
With advances in SUP technology, and improvements in techniques, SUP speeds are increasing all the time, and some unofficial tests carried out over 200m have averaged up to 17.7 mph.
Average SUP speeds
Some paddlers are disheartened when they realise how slow they go on a paddle board, but as they are the only thing powering it, reaching an average speed on a SUP is quite an achievement in itself. After all, trying to keep your balance on moving water while trying to propel yourself in a straight line is hard enough, without trying to add speed to it.
Most paddlers will move across the water at around 3.5 to 4.5 miles per hour, which is a nice, relaxing speed. Beginners will move more slowly to start, and recreational paddlers and tourers may conserve their energy for longer trips so they may not paddle quite so hard.
Racers will go faster, and for them the faster their board is, the better. With the right paddling and racing techniques, they can reach an average race speed of anything from 5-7 miles per hour. Obviously if a racer has the wind behind them, and they’ve invested a lot of time in the right board and learnt the best technique, they could go a bit faster.