Solo or tandem?
How do both types of kayaking differ?
Solo kayaking may be fun, but tandem kayaking is a wholesome experience.
You get to have conversations, click photos, check out new spots together and make lasting memories with your friends or family.
Solo kayaks are great to have adventures on rapids and white water, or to get some quality alone time on the weekend. But tandem kayaks are for socializing and fun.
That said, here is everything you need to know about tandem kayaks.
What is a Tandem Kayak?
A tandem kayak is a kayak that can accommodate more than one paddlers. For example, in a 2-person kayak, two paddlers simultaneously paddle the kayak. 3-person kayaks also exist, but only two paddlers can paddle paddle simultaneously, not anymore.
Tandem kayaks allow you to bond with fellow paddlers and passengers. You can make memories, have conversations, share experiences like photography and fishing.
Tandem kayaks are often jokingly called as divorce kayaks. This is because you have to learn to sync your paddling rhythm with the other paddler. Not being able to do so often leads to fights and arguments between couples.
Good for New Kayakers
Tandem kayaks are also a good way to introduce your friend or family members to kayaking. A beginner who has never been on a kayak before can find it scary to paddle a kayak by themselves.
They can sit as a passenger too, without having to paddle. This makes tandem kayaks good for recreation with your grandparents, kids, dogs or parents.
Tandem kayaks are also longer than solo kayaks since they accommodate more persons. They can be anywhere 18 to 24 feet long.
Tandem kayaks are also great when you are going camping since they have a whole lot of space to keep gear and supplies. Dedicate storage hatches and bulkheads allow you to keep a lot of stuff, even for multi-day trips.
Tandem kayaks can also be paddled solo. So if you are all alone and bored at home, you can take a tandem kayak for kayaking all by yourself.
Although tandem kayaks are a lot of fun, they are also more difficult to handle and maneuver than solo kayaks. The entire movement of the kayak is dependent upon the synergy between the two paddlers.
How to Paddle a Tandem Kayak
Sync the Rhythm
Tandem kayaks, also known as double kayaks, need to be paddled in unison. Both paddlers have to sync their paddling rhythms in order to maneuver the boat effectively. This ensures that your paddles don’t clash or collide with those of the other paddler.
If there is no synchronization between the paddling of both paddlers, the tandem kayak tends to move in a zig-zag motion like any other kayak. Also, since the paddlers sit a bit close to each other, their paddles can often hit each other if the timing of the strokes isn’t synced well.
The Stronger Paddler
If there is a stronger paddler out of the two, they should sit in the back. The front paddler can then set the paddling space. Maintaining speed and tweaking it is easy when you are in the back.
The Front Paddler Dictates the Rhythm
The front paddler can’t see the paddler in the back. Therefore, logic dictates that the front paddler should dictate the paddling rhythm. The front paddler can paddle freely while the back paddler can observe and sync the rhythm.
However, the front paddler should never try to steer the kayak as it won’t be effective and it will work against the paddling of the rear paddler.
This also allows the back paddler to single-handedly paddle the kayak when the paddler in the front gets tired and wants to take a break. Solo paddling is easier when sitting in the back.
The Rear Paddler Follows the Front Paddler
The rear paddler can see the front paddler’s strokes, so their job is to match the strokes of the front paddler. This synchronicity is the core of tandem paddling.
Should the kayak drift off course, the rear paddler should keep syncing with the front paddler and not lose the rhythm at any point. To get the boat on the right track, they should make a more powerful forward stroke on the side opposite of where they want the kayak to go.
Therefore, if the boat drifts off to the left and you want it to correct its course to right, make a strong forward stroke on the left side to bring it on the right track.
Making a Turn in a Tandem Kayak
Some tandem kayaks come with a rudder that makes it easy to keep the kayak moving in a straight line. It also helps you make slight turns. When you want to make significant turns though, you need to work in sync with the second paddler.
The right way to turn includes the front paddler taking a forward sweep on one side of the kayak while the rear paddler takes a reverse sweep on the other side of the kayak. When you sync your strokes, this turns the tandem kayak really quickly.
If the front paddler isn’t able to maneuver effectively when a significant turn is needed, the rear paddler should take the reins and make a few backstrokes to effectively turn the kayak in the right direction.
It is Not About Strength
Strength alone cannot do everything when it comes to paddling in a tandem kayak. In fact, if you try to overcompensate with strength, you will tire yourself out pretty quickly. Strength is also a lesser matter since in a tandem kayak, you get the support of the second paddler.
The key to smooth paddling in tandem kayaks is synergy. Synergy and synchronicity requires practice and repetition. So you should be patient with yourself and your fellow paddler if you cannot reach the perfect rhythm in the first few trials.
Tandem kayaking is a great way to spend some quality time with your friends or family.
However, it requires a bit of practice to paddle in sync with your fellow paddler.
So be patient, learn the right techniques and have fun!