Choosing a Tandem

Our paddling group is:

husband = 162 lbs, 5’9"

wife = 103 lbs, 5’3"

daughter1 = 50 lbs, 4’2" (10 years old)

daughter2 = 48 lbs, 4’0" (8 years old)

We are novices, just started kayaking. We are currently doing some easy lake paddles to get the feel of kayaking in general and to get the feel of a Wilderness Systems Tsunami-145 and Tsunami-SP that we recently bought. We hope to build toward some weekend or maybe longer touring/camping trips on NC/Va lakes and on the sound-side of the NC coast. The camping is obviously a ways off for us, but it is the goal after we’ve built our skills, confidence, etc. We’re not interested in open ocean water while our daughters are this age. Maybe it’ll prove to be something we can’t resist, though, as we gain experience, who kows …

The idea of tandem is appealing to us. It would allow one of our daughters to be (essentially) resting in the front seat of the tandem at any time (with adult in rear seat) wile the other daughter paddles the Tsunami-SP and the other adult paddles the Tsunami-145. (Also, our car rack will only hold 3 boats!)

We can’t afford the best, lightest, etc. boats. You probably understood that from the relatively inexpensive starter boats we’ve already bought. However, we also don’t want to really get into this and then have to buy a new boat.

So, after all that background, I’m hoping that someone out there might have some ideas to share — specific boats we might consider, issues we haven’t considered, etc. — or past experiences that might be instructive for us.

Thanks very much,


How about a used tandem?
Have you taken a look at used tandems?

Or, another option might be to build a tandem…a great family project for the winter months?

I have either built or purchased used boats for years…

Good luck…


If your vehicle will only hold three …
boats then you don’t have too much choice except have you considered a canoe for your third boat rather than a tandem kayak?

My wife and I paddle both canoes and kayaks and enjoy them equally as well.

With the type of paddling that you will be doing a canoe would fit into the picture pretty nice.

Many of our friends paddle both, and when there are a group of us paddling together we all stay together.

The stern paddler in the canoe can either padle with a J stroke or switch sides, while the little one in front enjoys the ride.

This will also introduce the little ones to the best of both worlds.



I would consider the canoe as well,
especially if you’re not doing any open water. One reason is that depending on the weight of your “resting” daughter in the forward seat of the tandem, she might not be able to trim the boat out well enough for you to paddle it efficiently.

hmm daughters will grow and you can always put a little weight forward if needs be. since you don’t need expedition storage, the impex temiskawa is a very nice manageable tandem if you can afford a glass boat. Wilderness Systems makes a servicable plastic tandem (Northstar)and so does Necky (Amaruk). Both are a bit heavy, but you can often find one used or as a demo boat. try calling the outfitter on Ocracoke (kitty hawk kites)–often has good deals and you can make pick up into a vacation. if you want to build, clc has the widest kit selection.

Are you paddling your tsunamis with spray skirts on, or are you leaving the cockpits open?

If having spray skirts is not a prerequisite, I’d recommend you check out some of the single cockpit tandems. WS-Pamlico or Perception -Acadia. Both are stable and have plenty of room for future camping. The single cockpit makes them more likely to swamp if you are ever caught in conditions where the waves are breaking over the boat. We use a nylon “splash deck” to keep the paddle drips off of our laps, but any serious water coming over the bow or gunnels will find it’s way into the boat. That said, we love our tandem and have found it a very reliable boat.

One more thought… rudder. Happiness in a tandem is having your feet on the rudder petals.

  • Tom.

Thanks for the good input so far …

… which I’ll factor in to our thinking. Keep it coming, the more ideas the better.

We have spray skirts, which we’re not using yet. No need on the calm lake and the girls have expressed some nervousness about using them (understandable!). So we won’t use them until after a lesson / and until needed.

We looked at a WS Echo tandem, kevlar. Light, so we can lift it onto the roof rack. On sale where we looked, but still pretty expensive (>$2500). Would be good if we did move up to some camping trips.

Thanks again.

poly can handle more abuse
are your current boats poly or kevlar/glass? For the beginner, poly boats are a lot more forgiving when it comes to launching from and landing on a rocky shore. Just a thought.

Let us know what you decide on…

Old Town Loon 160T
At 74 lbs, it’s a heavy beast, but it’s very stable, reasonably easy to control and used ones can often be found for about $500.

Perception Carolina II 17.5

Anyone have any experience with this boat?

92 pounds … not light.


Bumping to the top …

… since we haven’t yet bought a tandem and my perfect advice might be lurking out there, ungiven.



I also was/am looking for a tandem for my daughter and me. I did a lot of research right at the end of summer but had to put it on hold for the last eight weeks while coaching my son’s little league baseball team. Some thoughts, for what they’re worth:

– Many of the ones mentioned are quite heavy, which you may want to factor in: WS Northstar (94#), Perception Carolina (92#), etc.

– Some are a little lighter: Eddyline Whisper CL (73#), Seda Tango 21 f-glass (82#).

– Check the reviews on this website. Some of the models (the Perception was one) got mixed reviews.

– I spoke to a tour guide who told me that she has found the Necky Amurak to be a nice choice for beginner to intermediate levels.

– The owner of a kakak store told me she kayaked with her own kids on a CD Libra XT, which she described as a “very stable barge” (92#, 21’8").

Hope this helps. Now that baseball season is over, I will resume my search – maybe actually even try a kayak on the water. Best of luck in your search.

light people

– Last Updated: Oct-24-07 7:45 PM EST –

don't get big boats. Pamlico 145T or Necky Manitou II.


Eider double

Current Designs Crosswind
The Crosswind is a very stable poly tandem kayak. Many places that provide kayak tours use them, so you could possibly pick up a used one. Fall is a great time to take advantage of those end-of-season sales!