What Are Tandem Kayaks and How to Paddle a Tandem Kayak? 2022 Solutions!

how to paddle a tandem kayak

Last updated on September 2, 2022

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A tandem kayak is a thrifty option if your family loves to go kayaking. Buying at least two tandem kayaks is more practical than purchasing one kayak for each family member. That said, go for tandem kayaks if you’re planning to kayak with people at home.

There are different kinds of tandem kayaks. Furthermore, they might be harder to use than single kayaks. That’s why I’m here to help. This article will be a definitive guide on what it is and how to paddle a tandem kayak.

What’s A Tandem Kayak?

A Tandem kayak is a kayak that can carry 2 to 3 persons at once. You can easily distinguish it from a single kayak because manufacturers installed it with a lot of seats. Furthermore, it’s cockpit is more spacious and even holds a lot of space for a single ride to walk on. That said, tandem kayaks are much much more significant and might be more substantial than single kayaks.

The tandem kayak first appeared in the U.S during the 1930s. Folbot that Jack Kissner owned was its first manufacturer. The first tandem kayak used a wooden frame. In connection, animal skin was used for its exterior. Its seats might be made out of soft leather.

The tandem kayak is available in different types. There are whitewater tandem kayak, inflatable tandem kayak, tandem sea kayak, and tandem recreational kayak. It can also be made from various materials such as polyethylene, fiberglass, plastic, or durable rubber.

The most portable tandem kayak is the inflatable tandem kayak. You can deflate and fold it easily when not in use. Furthermore, there’s no need for you to load it on the car roof rack. For large families, the inflatable tandem kayak is the best because kids can prepare it for kayaking by themselves.

In terms of whitewater kayaking, the fiberglass and plastic tandem kayak are the kings. It’s because they’re highly resistant against damage. Also, they’re more stable in rapid waters. Furthermore, they have more weight capacity compared to inflatable tandem kayaks.

For recreational and sea kayaking, you can opt to choose either fiberglass, plastic, or polyethylene tandem kayaks.

All tandem kayaks are sit-in kayaks. That means that whichever brand you choose, the design of a tandem kayak will always have a cockpit and pre-installed seats.

You should know that the self-bailing function isn’t available for all tandem kayaks. Self-bailing function pertains to the feature which prevents the tandem kayak’s cockpit from being filled with water. Usually, it’s rare to find inflatable tandem kayaks that have drain valves. In contrast, fiberglass and plastic kayaks commonly have drain valves no matter how cheap they are.

Also, most tandem kayaks come with a free set of paddles. There might be 2 or 3 of these. However, quality varies according to brand and price. Most expensive tandem kayaks have paddles that you’ll be happy with. On the other hand, most cheap tandem kayaks have paddles that you may give you difficulties.

Here are the specs of most tandem kayaks in general:

  • multiple seats: Yes for all
  • multiple adjustable seats: Yes for some
  • rod holders: Yes for some
  • storage compartment: Yes for some
  • a grab line and cargo net: Yes for some
  • free paddles: Yes for all
  • carrying handle: Yes for some
  • freehand pump: Yes for all inflatable kayaks
  • free storage bag: Yes for all inflatable kayaks
  • free repair patch: Yes for some inflatable kayaks
  • cup holder: Yes for some
  • pre-installed skeg: Yes for some
  • removable skeg: Yes for some

How To Paddle A Tandem Kayak?

Most think that riding a tandem kayak is more comfortable than riding a single kayak because two riders are working to move it forward. However, this is not the case. Riding the tandem kayak is more laborious than riding a single kayak due to stability issues that the riders might give to it.

People riding the tandem kayak for the first time might experience capsizing and wobbly rides. That is due to inefficient paddling. That said, you and your partner should know the correct paddling for tandem kayaks. Here are some of the tips that you might want to know.

Let The Most Experienced Rider Set The Pace

It would be best if you let the most experienced rider set the pace. Rhythm is essential for riding the kayak because it prevents wobbling and capsizing. That said, you shouldn’t paddle slower or faster than the person that you’re riding with. If you’re the most experienced rider, be sure that the person who’s riding with you isn’t lagging.

Typically, the one who sets the pace sits at the front of the kayak. 

Sitting at the front will allow the person who sets the pace to demonstrate how others should paddle with ease.

Paddles Don’t Have To Be The Same. 

It’s not necessary for you and the other person to have the same paddles. It’s okay for you to have a shorter or lighter paddle so long as your comfortable. Avoid using a paddle that’s uncomfortable because you’ll find it hard to keep up.

Avoid Paddling in Polar Opposites

Unison puts everything in order. For example, all instruments that comprise a musical composition have to meet at a single point to sound good. That is also true for tandem kayaking. Without unison, riding the tandem kayak will be a dizzying experience.

Don’t paddle in polar opposites. If your partner is doing strokes on the right side, do the same. Paddling left while your partner is paddling right will make the kayak unstable. Worse, this might even cause the tandem kayak to capsize.

The Rear Paddler Shout Set The Direction 

It’s better if beginners allow the rear paddler to set the direction. This means that the rear paddler should shoulder the task of deciding which way the kayak should go. The rear of the kayak is more sensitive to directional changes than the front. This is the reason why I recommend this.

Still, you and your partner can decide the direction of the kayak together. However, you can only do this if you and your partner fully understand each other.


Tandem kayaking is a good summer activity for your family. Kids and grownups will surely love it. Tandem kayaking prepares kids to ride the kayak on their own. It’s a great way for adults to settle differences and talk about things in a laid-back manner. If you’re looking for an activity that all will love, try tandem kayaking. It won’t disappoint your loved ones’ need for fun.

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