Which Is A Faster Kayak: Paddle Or Pedal?

Imagine sitting in a kayak, floating over the water peacefully, until you feel an abrupt, uneven bump. Almost toppling you over, you stagger forward only to realize you’re being dragged closer and closer to an impending doom…a waterfall!

I wish I was kidding. Unfortunately, I have experienced this exact sensation when on an unfamiliar body of water!

In that situation, I was thrilled to be in a kayak that was fast enough to allow me to break out of the waterfall’s current.

But, speed isn’t only valuable when your life is on the line. For example, speed is a huge benefit to pedal kayak fishing as you can more easily and quickly reach your favorite fishing spots.

While we get plenty of questions and tried our best to answer them in our ultimate guide to pedal kayaks, there are sometimes questions we didn’t get to answer yet!

One of the questions we get most frequently is: Which is faster a pedal kayak or a paddle kayak?

Let’s do our best to answer below!

Recreational Kayaks

Used for leisure time, these kayaks usually feature a wider hull which enables better stability and steering. Brands like Hobie, Old Town or NRS sell recreational kayaks ranging 12-10 feet long with a compulsory, small area to stash essentials in. Access is eased by a wider cockpit.

Most stores offer single ones but tandem kayaks are also available. They can be sit-on(wetting your legs and slightly damping you) or sit-in(keeping you good and dry)Their increased stability comes at the cost of paddling in a straight line.

Which is a faster kayak for recreation: Pedal or Paddle?

Paddling is the “best since baked bread” of kayaks. It’s the simplest and most affordable way of moving over the water. Paddling allows on-the-spot adjustments like maintaining your balance while trying to stand up. However, pedaling offers a hands-free method. A wing-shaped paddle or a rotational pedal can both overcome the loss of control over steering the perfect straight line.

According to the purpose intended here, pedals (push Hobie pedals are suggested) are the fastest option since they are better accustomed to cross larger bodies of water which makes them a more flexible choice.

White-water Kayaks

Ranging from 4-10 feet, whitewater kayaks are designed to navigate faster, rockier environments, such as rocky waterfalls or streams. They are the most hard-wearing of all kayaks on this list.

They are sold as a sit-in, who’d want to fall off a kayak as it pinball bumps between rocks! They can be used for leisure time or as a sport. Inflatable white water racks are sold within this category. There are two types of white-water kayaks:

Typically the shortest in the trade, playboats are the 4 foot long kayaks. The robustness is increased by the scooped bow and blunt stern. They are usually the lead in performing “water stunts” or tricks in a sport known as rodeo boating or whitewater rafting.

Highly resistant to damage, they excel every known kayak at battling the fast-flowing, rock conquered waters. This design comes short of stability in slow, open waters.

Longer and more volume-acquiring, marketed creek boats lean towards the 10 ft scale of white water kayaks. Sleek as can be, they run narrow,low-volume waterways. Their stability and less likeliness of toppling, creek boats are much more multi-purposed.

As accommodated by their volume for larger rivers, they better navigate flatter bodies of water and their stability tops the rapids. On the duller side of the coin, they don’t provide neither comfort nor storage space.

Which is faster kayak in white water: Pedal or Paddle?

Pedals allow better tracking control over larger bodies of water. While the stability paddles enable are unexchangeable, especially for a function or an environment as that of white water kayaking.

The highest reviewed white water kayaks are those with paddles, but that’s not enough. With playboats’ “petite” size as well as their instability in open waters, the control offered by paddles is most practical. On the other hand, creek boats may manage a pedal(a rotational one to be exact). In both cases, due to the brisque environment, white water rafting is, speed won’t be as primary a concern as safety, practicality, and stability.

Carbon fiber/fiberglass dihedral paddles are the most stable providing option.

Crossover Kayaks

Crossover kayaks bridge one style of a kayak and another so allowing the kayaker to tackle several different environments without the need to switch kayaks. The most common combination of kayaks marketed is recreational and whitewater. Crossover kayaks are known to be more versatile than any other type of kayak.

They are ideal for multi-purpose users, usually intermediate to advance leveled kayakers, and multi environments. Of the main features needed would be a medium width hull. If it’s too wide, it won’t be suitable for white water and vice versa. A drop-down skeg is also not preferred but necessary as a permanent one is prone to breakage in white water.

Many designs are on sale with extra facilities such as better storage space and the flexibility between sit on or sit in choices. In return, crossover hulls lack sleek, professional performance purposed kayaks offer.

Which is a faster crossover kayak: Pedal or Paddle?

This depends on where the kayaker plans to navigate, whether it would be in wide, ample waters or white waters. In ample waters from Swan Lake, pedaling, either by a propeller pedal or by a push pedal, provides the ultimate speed-and-endurance combination using your legs. Benefit from adjustable footrest pedals. Once you stop pedaling, the kayak rapidly slows down.

In rocky whitewater from Eyewitness, the environment’s already packed in fast, furious waters, so the aforementioned speed won’t be much of a concern as safety. Dihedral bladed paddles have two faces sloping down the middle to minimize flutter during strokes and allow a better grasp of the water.

Surf and Sea Kayaks

The jack of kayaking and surfing, surf kayaks are basically the crossover kayaks of seas and oceans. They can be 21 feet long and 20 inches wide. Their narrow front curvature allows them to cut or punch through large, broken waves. As typical as crossover kayaks, they allow the yakker to mix up the overzealous surfer mood with the kayak style. The main disadvantage would be their complete paralysis doing any other kayaking activity.

The sea kayak has a higher curve from bow to stern that rides it cresting into oncoming waves. At the expense of stability, the v-shaped front profile deals with rougher waters. Most marketable sea kayaks are a sit-in, no one wants to drown in the lips of an incoming wave!

More durable control and tracks, it is less likely to be toppled over by waves. A common major disadvantage in both surf and sea kayaks is their only ability to excel in one environment, not in any other.

Which is a faster kayak for the Sea: Pedal or Paddle?

Pedals are most practical for underwater cleared environments and slow-moving waters, so they won’t be suitable for usage in the sea. Pedals also need constant maintenance work, so sea wear-and-tear will simply hulk them apart. As a result,  paddles are used for better stability (Carbon paddles are suggested)

Race Kayaks

Race Kayaks are purposed for flatwater sprints and marathons, but the same kayaks can be used for descent racing.

Single kayaks are called K1s, doubles K2s and four rower boats as K4s.K1s are almost 5 ft long, K2s almost 6.5ft and K4s almost 11 ft. Weights may be fastened securely to the boats to ensure the minimum safe weight set by the country is attained.

Rudders are installed on all racer kayaks to aid steering. As unfortunate as a mentos in a cola, sprint race kayaks don’t perform very well as the roughness of the wind picks up on lakes or regattas.

Of the vital features of a race, kayak is perfect tracking. The boast needs to move in a perfectly straight line while simultaneously maintaining its stability. This is a hard balance since perfect stability cannot be achieved unless at the price of speed and vice versa.

Which is a faster kayak for racing: Pedal or Paddle?

Here, depending on the environment of the race itself (mostly flat water, so pedals can be at times ideal), pedals or paddles may be chosen. If the race relies on many rowers, paddles are better suited. When in tandem or as single as a toothpick, a rotational pedal would be best. Race kayaks can be bought as pedaled or paddled.

The perfect paddle would be wing-shaped with a shallow scooped shape need to increase the efficiency of the forward stroke.

Fishing Kayaks

As fishing regains its momentum, modern kayaks’ features are designed to grease the ever-locked rudders of the time-consuming hobby. Pole rests, flatter hulls, and pedal-powered water wheels lead up as the best-selling features. All to your convenience, to keep your hand focused on the fishing pole. Both sit in or sit on are suitable for this type of kayak.

These kayaks are designed to be transported on the trunk of your car. Opposing every convenience is an unfortunate disadvantage, here since it’s uncomfortable on long excursions.

Which is a faster kayak for fishing: Pedal or Paddle?

Paddling allows you to catch fish more leisurely. Fish can sense the differences in the water, so having paddles allows you to stop all motion in the water until you catch a fish. This is perhaps the most credible reason for choosing paddle over pedal.

Pedaling frees up your hands, and is faster, what more can you ask for?

Final Thoughts

All you have to do is find the perfect fit for you. Whether you need speed, stability or endurance, you’ll always find a kayak that caters to your needs, and for that here is a list of the Ultimate Pedal Kayak Buying Guide.


Pros of Pedaling:                                                        Pros of Paddling:     Faster                                                              Practical


Better endurance and exercise your legs                      Simple

Quiet                                                                              Lightweight

Hands free                                                                     Better Stability

Less energy needed                                                      Inexpensive

Stay Drier                                                                       Perfect for shallow waters

Less Skills needed                                                         Cons of Paddling:

Cons of Pedaling:                                                        Needs more skill

Doesn’t properly move in shallow waters                       Get wet

Heavy                                                                             Needs more energy

More expensive





Article Author
Robert Walker has been a Kayak enthusiast for over a decade. He's owned several different Kayak's, but only recently got into Pedal Kayaks in the last few years. This website is Robert's way of sharing his passion for Pedal Kayak's with the world.