advice on tandems

i am considering two used sit in tandems for rides like monterey bay, maybe san juan islands etc
maybe narrowed down to Necky Amaruk or Wilderness Systems Northstar. i would appreciate any inputs, suggestions or advice

Both you listed are discontinued. That said if getting used one I would make sure paddles don’t hit if not paddled synchronized. I have a Current Designs Libra XT and at 22’ the paddles don’t hit but not by a huge amount. Those kayaks are shorter. They call them divorce boats but I love mine. If paddles hit it may be another story.

Rudder…Certain wind and sea can make those big boats hard to handle without a little trim control.

The rear paddler either meshes with the rate and rhythm of the lead paddler or you just aren’t doing it right. That said, tandems can be a good way to be together. They are often better for novices as they are much more forgiving (in general). That said, some common errors I’ve seen in tandems:

  • both looking down on the same side at the same time - instant capsize
  • neither paddler learning to control the boat due to too much reliance on the rudder
  • not sharing the load - same person in the bow and stern every time, so skills are not transferred (some of this is for reasons of trim, but each paddler should take a turn in the rear just in case something goes wrong)
  • not getting wet and dirty learning to control the boat
  • not learning surf entries and exits (and this is where coordination between paddlers is crucial) - like any team sport, it takes some time to learn the special skills needed for safe and fun surf work in a tandem

I get why all of this happens, but paddling a kayak is a wet sport. My philosophy is that the hull is not insulation from the water, it is the interface that puts one in touch with the water. As such, it is an enabler that allows one to observe, learn, and appreciate the forces of nature. The issues with tandems is that they require teamwork as well and that is an additional layer of complexity when things get challenging.


Stronger Paddler in back which is me. I cod never paddle like the wife in front seat. Didn’t see much difference paddling in sync . Actually paddling opposite strokes seems to work kayak with less rocking. We go for fun but I tell her hi hard at times for practice. She does good but can feel my strokes really push Libra forward.

Buy the Necky Amaruk in fiberglass, Amazing boat, well built. They are hard to find but I noticed one on CL in my area. I have paddled doubles for years. No worries about hitting paddles, best to stay synchronized anyway. Lighter weight is a plus, hefting a 90 to 100lb double on the roof of a car after a day of paddling is a challenge. The shorter length of the Amaruk is a positive thing, easier to find storage and manage the smaller size. There are other doubles that I like better like the Numbus Skana but the Necky Amaruk in fiberglass is a great boat. The plastic versions are not worthy of consideration.

The Amaruk in Plastic is a standard of many rental/tour fleets. Good, solid, reliable boats. Lots of stability. Beastly heavy for off-water moving.

It has been replaced with the Looksha-T. Only major difference is the Looksha-T has larger hatch openings, which make packing and unpacking easier.

Assuming you are in Monterey bay area, either kayak Connection or Monterey Bay Kayaks should carry the boats you are looking at. Might be worth the money to rent them and try them out. If you are looking to buy new, they may let you demo for free.

I own a WS Northstar and really LUV it on the water. I am a relatively novice kayaker but quite experienced with canoes and whitewater. I also have a Azul Aspen, a Delta 15.5 Expedition, a WS Cape Horn 140 (for my wife) and a little Perception Tribute for her and my daughters. The “Big Blue Beast” is my Tandem Northstar and it can handle some nasty water but MUST have a rudder in all but dead calm conditions. It has significant rocker and turns fantasticly when you want it to while holding a perfect course with my big Feathercraft rudder. This particular boat places the paddlers a few inches further apart than many other comparable length tandems (and even some longer ones) and my wife and I have never needed to be in-synch because our paddles never come close enough to touch. However she is only 5’2" and when my 5’5" daughter paddles in the bow we occasionally tap blades but still never feel necessary to paddle in synch WHICH IS GREAT! They both use a 230cm ( I think) Werner Athena paddle BTW. I highly recommend this boat IF you develop “out-of-water” handling strategies to deal with the 95lbs. I have learned many tricks and uses of rollers, carts and leverage to not hurt myself.