How Fast Does a Paddle Board Go?

While it can vary, the speed of an average paddle board is between 3 and 4 knots, or about 4 miles per hour (MPH). Some renowned SUP riders have even achieved speeds of 17.7 MPH, but this is by no means the norm.

In this article, we will talk about all aspects of paddle board speed, including averages and what influences your own speed. Whether you want to get into SUP racing or just push yourself a little harder, this is the article for you, so don’t miss it.

How Fast Does a Paddle Board Go?

As we covered in the intro, on average, don’t expect to go very fast on a paddle board unless you’re racing. You might achieve speeds of three to four knots on a casual ride. That’s between 3.5 and 4.5 MPH. Now, roughly 5 MPH might not sound very fast. It’s roughly the same speed as a brisk jog.

That doesn’t mean you’re capped at 5 MPH forever. As you improve your skills, you’ll find yourself more comfortable on your paddle board. Eventually you will begin going faster. Should you decide to you want to get into racing on your SUP board, then you will have to increase your speeds as well. Most racers can achieve up to 7 MPH, with some able to ride even faster than that.

What Influences Speed?

If you’re looking to increase your own speed, you first must understand the factors that can play a role in the max MPH you can reach on your paddle board. Let’s talk about these now.

Experience

How many times have you rode a SUP board before? If you’ve only dabbled in this hobby, then you can’t expect to go very fast right off the bat. That’s not how it works. You must have some experience under your belt before you can begin incrementally boosting your speed.

In fact, beginner riders tend to go even slower than 3 MPH because they simply don’t know what they’re doing yet. That’s perfectly okay, as everyone has to start somewhere. The more you practice, the sooner you can get to average SUP speeds. Then you can concern yourself with going faster.

Skill

Another factor that plays a role in your max speed is your level of skill. Besides familiarizing yourself with your SUP board, you also have to know what you’re doing on it inside and out. That’s why you often see such high speeds reached during paddle board races. Those who sign up for these races are immensely skilled in SUP riding. For them, getting up to higher speeds isn’t that big of a challenge.

Physical Fitness

Beyond skill and experience, your physical fitness absolutely matters as you get into paddle boarding. In fact, you can increase your skill by getting as fit as possible for SUP riding. To succeed, you’ll need core strength to balance on a somewhat unsteady board.

It’s also best if you have powerful legs that can endure standing for long periods. You should work your arms so they can handle the repeated paddling. You must be able to handle your board as well, even if it’s heavier.  

The more SUP fit you get, the easier you’ll find it is to ride. Thus, you may just end up going faster for your efforts.

Board Type

Did you know the type of board you ride can impact the speeds you can reach? It’s true! In 2015, International Surf Ventures, Inc. compared hard epoxy paddle boards to inflatable ones to see which could go faster.  Both boards had the same width and length and weighed over 30 pounds apiece, but the epoxy board was naturally heavier. The inflatable boat also had about 0.5 inches of thickness over the epoxy SUP board.

Which one was faster? International Surf Ventures declared the epoxy board as the speedier of the two, with a speed rate of six percent higher than the inflatable paddle board. If going at a relaxed, casual rate, riders on the epoxy board reached up to 3.96 MPH. At the same pace, they only got to 3.78 MPH on the inflatable board.

When riders stroked at a more intense rate, they could achieve speeds of 5.21 MPH on the epoxy board and only 4.88 MPH on the inflatable board.

Board Size

Something more you should keep in mind as you try to achieve greater speeds on your SUP board: The size of the board itself. You need a paddle board sized to your height and weight. It’s not necessarily true that a smaller board will go faster, especially if you weigh more.

The opposite also applies. If you’re a tinier person and you have an oversized paddle board, that’s going to slow you down. Make sure your SUP board is commensurate to your size and weight.

Wind

When out on the water, the wind can be like a helping hand, guiding you along faster as you paddle. It’s always good to have the wind on your side, but things can just as easily go the other way. For instance, if the wind is pushing at you, then you’re not going to break any speed records. 

Water Conditions

The last factor you should consider before a SUP ride is the state of the water. An ocean with smooth but plentiful waves can create momentum you can then ride off, maintaining and maybe even increasing your speed. However, if the ocean gets too rough, it becomes more unpredictable and thus harder to navigate. Your speed could take a hit as a result.

If you’re SUP boarding in placid water like a lake, then it’s all on you to achieve and hold your speed. This is where physical fitness and conditioning really come into play.

Rider size and weight

Heavier paddle boarders will naturally create more board resistance with the water. The board bottom will set a little lower under the surface compared to how a lighter person’s board will set. This will slow speeds down due to more water friction.

Rider size also affects wind resistance. A larger person will be affected by any blowing wind more than a smaller person. This includes both height and weight.

How to go faster with the Paddle Board you have, Right Now!

So now we know what slows us down! let’s put into practice what makes us go faster. Without splashing out on new equipment.

  1. Choose a calm day, wear aerodynamic clothing. Use the thinnest of your paddleboards, if you have more than one. At the start line, focus on your breathing and quickly get into a rhythm of strong fluid paddle stokes, then slowly but consistently add to this efficient momentum and keep going.
  2. Keep focused and in the moment and before you know it. You will be at the finish line, no doubt first.

Take a look at my SUP technique article: How to Go Faster for a more comprehensive explanation.

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How Long does it take to Stand up Paddle Board 1 Mile at a relaxed pace?

  • 10′ Inflatable all-rounder Paddleboard = 15:08 minutes
  • 9’10 Epoxy all-rounder Hard paddleboard = 14:44 minutes
  • 12’6 inflatable touring paddleboard = 15:52 minutes
  • 12’6 Epoxy touring Paddleboard = 15:09 minutes

How Long does it take to Stand up Paddle Board 1 Mile at a fast pace?

  • 10′ Inflatable all-rounder Paddleboard = 13:23 minutes
  • 9’10 Epoxy all-rounder Hard paddleboard = 12:36 minutes
  • 12’6 inflatable touring paddleboard = 12:17 minutes
  • 12’6 Epoxy touring Paddleboard = 11:30 minutes

What muscles does stand-up Paddle Boarding work?

When paddle boarding, you trigger a variety of muscles. These include the neck, arms, shoulders, back, legs, and even the toes. Thus, there’s pretty much no need to hit the gym if you have a SUP board. Just ride for an hour or so instead. Be sure to check out which muscles does paddle boarding train.

Besides training certain muscles, you also improve your endurance, strength, and your balance on a SUP board. Remember, as we said before, it takes great core muscle strength to stay balanced on your paddle board while riding. Your endurance comes in handy too as you stand and paddle for hours at a time.

If you spend 60 minutes SUP touring and stick to a speed of about 3 MPH, you can torch 615 to 708 calories. In case you’re not familiar, SUP touring involves you riding on one continuous trek, often a long one.

Those who want a greater challenge, such as a SUP race, will burn even more calories. Depending on your weight, this may be between 713 and 1,125 calories. Yes, that’s just for an hour of racing. Since you’re putting so much effort into paddling and often going faster than tour riding, you exert yourself more and thus burn through calories more readily.

Summary

In short, a paddle board can go as fast as you can paddle, although design, type, material and weather affect top speeds. While top racers max out at 18 mph, it’s likely that advances in design and harder training by racers will slowly raise that upper boundary, just as with any other sport.

But for recreational boarders, 4-5 mph is about as fast as you will see most of the time. Stay safe and have fun.