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Tandem Kayaks: What They Are And How To Use Them

If you’re looking for a kayak experience that can accommodate more than one person, then you may be wondering what is a tandem kayak.

A tandem or two-person kayak is a type of kayak that is designed for two people to use at the same time. Which is often wider and slower than other types of kayaks, making them ideal for beginners or those who want to paddle with a partner.

Tandem kayaks can be used for a variety of kayaking activities, including fishing, camping, touring, and just relaxing recreational paddling.

two kayakers out on the lake with a tandem kayak exploring the water - what is a tandem kayak

What Is a Tandem Kayak?

At its most basic it is a kayak built for two people. It will have two seats, typically one behind the other with each rider having their own personal double-bladed paddle.

Additionally, there are some recreational tandem kayaks that also come with another comfortable seat in the middle for a child or pet.

Tandem kayaks are often much wider than their single-rider kayak counterparts in order to accommodate two people, they come in either hard side or tandem inflatable options to be more portable.

This greater width can make them a bit slower and less maneuverable, but it also makes them more stable which is ideal for beginners or those who want to paddle with someone else.

Why Choose a Tandem Kayak?

When making a decision on choosing a kayak you need to think about why you would want to choose a tandem kayak over a single paddler kayak. Let’s cover some benefits and drawbacks of tandem kayaks.

Benefits of Using a Tandem Kayak

There are several reasons that people choose tandem kayaks:

Socializing Time

Tandem kayaks are great for couples or friends who want to paddle together. It can be a great bonding experience as you work together to paddle and steer the kayak.

They can also be perfect for a date as you have no access to cell phones and it allows for true interaction without the interruption a digital screen can provide.

Easier to Store

Tandem kayaks take up less space than two single kayaks making them easier to store. This is especially important if you have limited storage space at home or on your property.

Shared Weight and Paddling Power

With two people in the kayak, you will be able to evenly distribute the weight which can make it easier to paddle for long periods of time.

Additionally, with two people paddling you will have twice the power which can be helpful when trying to cover long distances or fight against currents.

More Gear Space

Tandem kayaks have a larger carrying capacity than their single-person counterparts. This can be helpful if you are planning on doing multi-day trips or want to bring along extra gear such as fishing equipment.

Perfect for First Time Kayakers

Where someone may be stressed to start their first time alone in their own kayak a tandem offers a much more relaxed environment.

This can help newcomers get used to the kayak and being on the water before paddling off on their own.

Drawbacks of Using a Tandem Kayak

While tandem kayaks have several benefits there are also some drawbacks that you should be aware of before making your purchase:

Tandem Kayaks Are Heavy

The weight of a tandem kayak is much more than a single kayak. This can make them difficult to transport and maneuver on your own.

They are also more difficult to get in and out of the water by yourself which can be a challenge if you plan on paddling solo sometimes.

Tandem Kayaks Can Be Tricky to Paddle

Tandem kayaks can be hard to paddle if you and your partner are not in sync. One person paddling faster or stronger than the other can make it difficult to go in a straight line.

It takes some practice to get used to paddling together, but once you find your rhythm it becomes much easier.

Less Maneuverability Overall

Due to being larger with more water surface area, a tandem kayak can have less overall maneuverability than a single kayak.

With two people in the tandem, it can be more difficult to make quick turns or maneuver around obstacles making for a more frustrating ride.

This can be very irritating if you are trying to paddle in tight spaces or want to explore a bit more while on the water.

Quite Pricey

Most tandem kayaks are going to be more expensive than a single kayak. This is due to the larger size and added weight capacity meaning more materials are needed to construct them.

This can make it difficult to justify the expense if you plan on only paddling with a partner some of the time.

Different Learning Approach

Unlike having to manage to paddle alone you need to quickly learn to work together with your partner which is a truly unique skill versus being on a single kayak.

This can take some serious adjustment and get used to as you have to communicate and paddle in sync with one another to truly move as one.

How to Paddle a Tandem Kayak

When you transition from a separate kayak to a two-person kayak you will have to adapt a bit in your paddling as now you are relying on another person.

Here are some tips to help get you started:

Timing Strokes Is Important

Paddling in unison is key to having a successful and enjoyable experience while in your tandem kayak.

This means you and your partner will need to time your strokes so they are working together instead of against one another.

To do this, both partners should start their paddle at the same time on opposite sides of the kayak.

This will help ensure that the kayak moves in a straight line and makes it easier to avoid going in circles.

The Front Paddler Should Control the Rhythm

The paddler up front should be managing the overall speed and rhythm of the tandem kayak.

This means that they will need to set the pace for the kayak and be aware of what is going on around them.

The back paddler can then adjust their speed and paddling strength to match what the front person is doing.

The Stronger Paddler In the Rear Spot

You want the person who is stronger and has more kayaking experience in the rear spot.

This will allow them to better control the tandem kayak and make it easier to paddle in a straight line.

The front paddler can then focus on what is ahead and be aware of any obstacles in the water.

If you are new to tandem kayaking it is important to remember that it takes some time to get used to paddling with a partner.

You will need to communicate and paddle in unison to truly move as one.

The Rear Paddler Should Make Course Corrections

If you want or need to make a turn or course correction, the paddler in the rear should be the one to initiate it.

This is because they have a better view of what is going on around the kayak and can more easily control it.

The front paddler can then help by paddling in the same direction as the rear person to make the turn easier.

Final Thoughts on Tandem Kayaks

Tandem kayaks are a great option for couples or friends who want to paddle together and get some time away from civilization and share an amazing kayaking experience.

They have several benefits such as being easier to store, having more gear space, and being perfect for beginner skill level kayakers.

However, they also have some drawbacks such as being heavy, difficult to paddle, and less maneuverable.

If you’re looking for a perfect way to have a kayaking partner, then a double kayak is a great option for an average kayaker or even the much more experienced kayakers to take.

Just be sure to practice getting paddle strokes aligned together before heading out on the water!

My Choice For Tandem Kayaking

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