How fast someone can go on a stand-up paddleboard is a more complicated question than it appears. Many factors go into it, including the current, the wind speed, and how big the waves are. Even so, based on my experience and a bit of research, I can give you a good answer.
Stand-up paddleboard racers can sustain about 8 mph as their average speed while most amateurs can average about 4 mph. However, on a windless day, with no current or chop, most ordinary people will paddle about 2-3 mph at most.
As I stated, other factors can slow you down or speed you up. Here are the things you have to consider when determining how fast you can go on a stand-up paddleboard:
- What is the wind speed?
- What are the water conditions?
- Is there any current?
- How fit are you?
- How far are you paddling?
- What type of board are you using?
Let’s take a closer look at each factor.
Wind makes a HUGE difference when you are trying to measure your speed. It can make the difference between humming along at 15 mph or more and going backward. I have been out on a windy day where I could barely make progress because of a gusty headwind.
On a paddleboard, not only does the wind blow against the board but especially against you. Standing up against a strong wind, the paddler becomes a sail that is fighting against the wind. Paddling with the wind is great, though. It seems like every stroke pulls you 50 yards down the shore. Heck, sometimes with a strong tailwind, you hardly have to paddle at all.
What are the Water Conditions?
For you to paddle you and your board the fastest, you want as calm of water as possible. Now, if you are talking about overall speed, it would be helpful if big swells were coming from behind you. Some other conditions that might affect your paddleboard’s speed would be debris in the water (submerged stumps, mats of algae, floating logs, etc.)
I once paddled on a lake after a long dry spell, and it was like paddling through the mud. The algae and aquatic flora were so dense I could barely make forward progress.
The depth, or more precisely, the lack of depth, will also slow you down, sometimes quite rapidly. I like to paddle through the tidal grasses near my home. At low tide, I make sure I take my time because even if my fin clears the bottom, my paddle hits it. Without getting the full paddle into the water, I move much slower.
Is There Any Current?
Current in the water will give you a boost or hinder your progress. It could be a tide change whipping through an inlet. It could be a fast-moving river, or even windblown current generated far out to sea. No matter what the cause, currently affects your speed. I hate fighting a current, paddling with all my might, and I look to my side and see an old lady on the beach passing me using a walker.
How Fit Are You?
If you have a hard time walking out to the mailbox before getting winded, then you might not be able to paddle a SUP as fast as others. If you don’t have a whole lot of upper body and core strength, you won’t be able to move as much water as quickly as a stronger person. So again, you won’t go as fast. The good news is that speed is overrated, and even if speed is what you are after, the mere act of paddling your SUP will make you stronger…and faster.
How Far Are You Traveling?
Are you timing yourself going 200m or 20 miles? Your average times on those two will probably be significantly different. The record for a sprinter running a 100-meter dash on land is going about 27mph. If he could keep that up, he’d finish a marathon (26.2 miles) in just over an hour, but of course, he can’t keep that pace up.
The top marathoners are going about half that speed. So take into consideration travel distance when calculating your rate of speed.
What Type of Board Are You Using?
This is a significant consideration. So much so that it has its own subcategories. And here they are; Inflatable SUP versus Hardshell SUP and Surfing SUP versus Touring SUP versus Racing SUP. So let’s dive in.
Inflatable Versus Hardshell
There is so much information to be shared on this topic that it would take a full post or two to discuss it all, so I will stick with how the boards affect speed.
- Inflatables are lighter than traditional boards, so you think they would be faster, but you would be wrong. When we tested the two, my all-around epoxy board tracked straighter, glided farther per stroke, and was less affected by wind than the inflatable.
- The traditional hardboard outperformed the inflatable every time. The only time trial where the inflatable came close was when we timed ourselves paddling only downwind on a breezy day.
So, If you are looking to go faster, a traditional board would be your best option. The speed difference was about 10%, except for the downwind trial, which was only 2%.
Surfing Shape vs. Touring Shape vs. Racing Shape
You might think that having a “racing” board would, by definition, make it faster, and you’d be right. So, let’s talk about why a racing board is faster than surfing or touring boards.
- A racing board is generally thinner and longer than the other two types of boards. It is built for speed.
- Surfing SUPs are built short for maximum maneuverability. They don’t track nearly as straight or glide as well as a racer.
- Touring or All-Around boards are also wider and have more flotation. They are built for stability, not speed. That’s not to say that you can’t go fast on an all-around, just that with the same exertion, you’d go more quickly on a racer.
So, a person could expect to comfortably paddleboard between 2-4 mph with no assisting or hindering factors, without too much effort. If you want to go faster, you’ll have to work harder to put the wind and current at your back.
There is more to speed to paddleboarding, though my racing friends would disagree. Most of the time I enjoy being on the water and soaking in the natural world and its beauty. Speed has its place when outrunning competitors or a pop-up thunderstorm. If you focus too much on speed, you might miss all the fun.
What Paddle Board is Built for Speed?
I bet all of you can answer this after reading my post. It’s a long, traditional, racing-style SUP.
Does Wind Slow You Down on a SUP?
Yes, it does, except if the wind is at your back. If it gets windy, paddleboarding can become a chore. So I avoid paddling on super windy days.