How to Paddle a Tandem Kayak
It’s a situation that has played out millions of times before. Chances are you’ll recognize it yourself. You and a friend decide it would be fun to kayak together. Doing so will guarantee you’re always within speaking distance, plus with both of you paddling, your kayak will cut through the water twice as fast as it otherwise would. Going kayaking together would also be a lot safer. As they say, two heads is better than one.
Maybe things start off well until it’s time to turn. Often times, you won’t even get that far. Your kayak seems to stop and start; the person in back receives mouthfuls of water; the paddles smack each other constantly; eventually, your goal just becomes turning the vessel around.
If this sounds familiar to you, keep on reading to learn how to paddle a tandem kayak.
Start with the Paddle
Before you begin taking chops at the water, let’s cover the basics of your technique. You should be holding the shaft of your paddle at just a little bit further than shoulder width apart. Keep in mind, you’re only holding the paddle, not trying to break it with your grip. Squeezing hard will not make your paddling any better; in fact, it will do just the opposite.
Here’s a video on how to properly hold a kayak paddle:
Now Sit Down
Be sure you’re sitting all the way back in your kayak’s cockpit. You should be able to adjust the backrest as necessary to make sure you’re sitting up straight, yet comfortably. Before you begin paddling away, make sure your foot braces are where you like them to be.
Although this may seem like the basics, if both of you don’t have a reliable technique, you’ll both suffer equally.
Strongest in the Back
Whoever is the stronger of the two individuals should take the backseat of the kayak. This will not only help propel the vessel better, it will make for smoother propulsion. That’s because the stronger of the two can adjust their stroke to match the person in front of them. If the stronger person sits up front, their partner may have a hard time keeping up with the pace they set.
The person in back needs to match not just the tempo, but the actual sides the person in front is paddling on as well. So when their paddle enters the water on the right, the person in back should be doing the same thing.
Here’s where duos can often get in trouble when they share a kayak. Turning can be extremely easy when your canoe comes with a rudder. The person in back simply adjusts the rudder to make sure the kayak is being propelled in the right direction. Even when you have a rudder though, there will be times when it makes more sense to take an active role in turning.
At these times, turning means teamwork. Generally the person in back tells the person in front which side they need to start paddling backward on. Then, just like paddling forward, the person in back mimics it exactly.
Try It Before You Buy It
If you’re planning on purchasing a tandem kayak for you and someone else, be sure to give these directions a shot first. Make sure it’s with the person who will be sharing the kayak as well. Many people discover tandem kayaking simply isn’t for them and it’s better you find out for yourself before spending money on a new kayak. A great solution would usually be to rent a tandem kayak locally, to give it a try.
Even with the above directions, it will take some practice to become proficient in tandem kayaking. Don’t give up simply because you don’t get the hang of it right away. Paddling a kayak with another person requires patience. It will also require a lot of very clear communication at the beginning. Once you have the technique down, though, you can reliably kayak at a much faster speed and enjoy the activity with someone else.