Front seat paddling negatives...

Hi all,

My wife and I recently started kayaking. I fish most of the time and as the “stronger” paddler I know Im supposed to be in the back. However, for fishing purposes I’d much rather sit in the front. How will this effect tracking, paddling efficiency? Thanks

Weight and skill

– Last Updated: Nov-15-12 12:58 PM EST –

I think skill and weight have more to do with it than strength. Skill because the stern paddler does most of the steering and weight because, if you weight a lot more than her, your trim is going to be low in the front, not good for handling (that is unless you're fighting a head wind, in which case it would be a positive).

agree, weight and skill
Ideally, it would be nice to put the stronger paddler in front, because they can use all that strength for forward propulsion. It would seem better to have the weaker paddler modifying their forward stroke and performing turning strokes. In a tandem, turning strokes are typically easily executed from the back, a bit in the same way that a stern mounted rudder puts pressure directly on the point of the kayak where the least amount of pressure would need to be applied to get it to turn - on the very end of the stern. The rear paddler obviously doesn’t get to apply pressure directly to the end of the stern, but their contact point with the hull is still at a much more advantageous point than the center of the kayak.

In the real world, the stronger paddler is often heavier, but certainly not always the case. A heavier paddler up front often leads to needing much more directional control attention, and can also slow you down. So give it a try, and see how it handles. Make sure the wife understands that the stern paddler is pretty much 100% responsible for directional control. Make sure that it will work to have her making decisions about direction, that you can communicate it quite well if you’re typically the one making directional decisions, and that you have the patience to allow her to rudder you around while you do all the paddling during a turn if necessary during the learning curve.

Folks often call tandems divorce boats. But in my experience, there only needs to be one skilled paddler. The skilled paddler controlling direction and turns is best as the stern paddler. The person in front can be sloppy, unskilled, a complete newbie, and a skilled stern paddler should result in no issues. An understanding and acceptance of this by newbies would avoid most arguments. I’ve switched places from my single to the stern of a tandem to demonstrate to a frustrated couple that there shouldn’t be any arguing - the stern paddler needed to control the kayak. After demonstrating our ease of directional control, he stopped questioning the work of the front paddler, and directed all of his energy at the real source of the problem.

Beyond that, just remember that too much weight towards the bow does tend to create undue directional control issues. So don’t sit a 200 lb bloke in front of a little 135 lb miss and expect miracles from her.

Believe it or not, the stronger paddler
should be in the front.

With that said, the important thing is to have the boat trim, (not bow heavy or bow light)

Then the absolutely most important thing is to have both paddlers happy


my two cents
In a canoe you would put the stronger paddler in front, as long as the other paddler is experienced and the canoe can be balanced. In whitewater, the better river-reader goes up front where the view is unobstructed.

I had a double kayak, and pretty much the same idea applies. If the second paddler is inexperienced or unsure of themselves, the better all-around paddler goes in the stern where they can watch and coach the other.

To me, the topic is fishing
I wouldn’t put a fisher and a non-fisher in the same boat in any seating positions. It brings back traumatic memories to me of sitting in a rowboat as a boy bored to tears while my grandfather engaged in that most tedious of hobbies.

Do her a favor and get separate boats. Separate is better for most paddling purposes.

just as in a canoe
the stronger paddler should go up front.

And any errors in course are due to the stern paddlers lack of symmetrical strokes on each side.

So if you are a strong paddler in the stern with an imperfect stroke its your fault.

The good news is that weaker paddlers often work more on subtle aspects of blade mechanics.

Front paddler in tandem kayak
I have 2 Kaskazi Duo ARX tandem kayaks with rudders that we paddle in the Indian River lagoon and the ocean and both are set up with front seat controlled steering for several reasons

1 I can use a wing paddle in front because the Duo is a relatively narrow tandem and the beam upfront is narrower than many single kayaks

2 I can see oyster beds a lot easier in front

3 My wife likes that going through the surf I get the waves breaking on me not her

4 I can control the lines on my Kayaksailer rig from up front

I balance out the weight differences with a gallon jug full of water int the extreme stern of the Duo.

Again the Kaskazi Duo tandem is much narrower than most tandem kayaks and I had my choice of bow or stern steering set up when I ordered it

If your tandem kayak has no rudder then maybe having the heavier stronger paddler in the rear may be better

In our canoes I paddled in the stern and the sliding bucket seats let us trim the tandem canoe