Why Choose a Tandem?
Tandem (or double) kayaking is a great choice for a pair of paddling enthusiasts wishing to explore a destination together. Firstly, it’s faster than a solo kayak when paddled correctly (see points below). Secondly tandem kayaks are often wider and therefore a little more stable – which is perfect for beginners. Thirdly, it allows a more experienced paddler (e.g. mum or dad) to take a smaller child with them on the adventure when the younger paddler might otherwise struggle in a solo. Lastly, learning how to paddle a tandem kayak and enjoying the sights together is a lot of fun!
How to Paddle a Tandem Kayak
There are a few key factors to successfully paddling a tandem kayak;
1. Know your roles.
The more experienced paddler sits in the rear position and follows the stroke timing of the front paddler.
The rear paddler is in charge of steering. To steer – simply perform a backward stroke at the same time as the front paddler performs a forward stroke. Practicing with the strength of this stroke will help you guage how much you need for different angles of turn.
The front paddler dictates the pace.
The rear paddler may also want to learn the ‘Rudder Stroke’. This paddling technique will also help maintain a straight line when paddling in a tandem kayak, as well as aiding more subtle changes in direction. The video below explains how to perform the ‘rudder stroke’.
2. Paddle in unison.
Paddling in unison, i.e. both paddles are taking a stroke on same side at the same time, is the most efficient way to paddle. There is no chance of your blades hitting each other and furthermore you will travel in the water faster. The rhythm of you as a team is key.
3. Be patient.
Paddling a tandem kayak can be frustrating at times, especially if one or both of you are novices. It takes a while to learn how to paddle as a team. One of the downsides of a tandem is when you make a positive change in your paddling technique it might now be clear to you immediately as it is in a solo. The boat might not be going in the direction you want it to, and it might be hard to know whether that is down to you or your partner. Be patient whilst you learn how to paddle more efficiently and learn your roles in the boat and it will soon get easier.
4. Have fun!
Recreational sports such as tandem kayaking are all about exploring new waterways and getting into the great outdoors. Try not to let any frustration with how to paddle a tandem kayak ruin a beautiful day out. Just keep getting back in that kayak, and over a course of a few weeks and both you and your partner will find you have improved immensely.
Always remember to wear a PFD whilst out on the water.