Paddling a Tandem as a Solo...

Hi everyone.

I am just curious. Is it advisable at all to paddle a tandem boat as a solo?? Or is it simply not a great idea??

I ask because I see that some of the inflatables that I’ve been looking at for next season are two seaters that have the third seating position as an option for solo paddling. I’m a relatively large guy and need the nice weight capacity of some of the tandems, but I would be paddling it solo.

Just wondering if there would be any issues that I would run into.


What boat?

No problem…depending on boat
I don’t own a tandem, but I rent them when required for family get-togethers and/or trips with the dog. I give up my touring boat to my daughter and end up the pack mule and dog carrier. I’ve rented the native ultimate 14.5, the Dagger Blackwater 13, and a Pamlico (16 I think). For me, I prefer to stay under 16 feet for control purposes. My favorite by far is the ultimate. Stable, carries a lot (in solo config, payload is not great for two “full size” people and gear). The Dagger was sloppy as hell in a little breeze. Pamlico was ok boat, but my personal preference is the ultimate. It also has neat add-ons like skirts, removable seats (very comfortable) skeg option, etc. Good luck.

The only issues that occur to me are
1. On trips where you are relatively lightly loaded (just you and a lunch), you may be blown around by the wind. And, if you experience weathercocking, can you move the 3rd seat fore or aft to compensate?

2. In those (probably rare) situations where quick maneuverability is needed, a tandem will resist turning more.

3. You will have more wetted area, therefore more friction drag.

4. On the positive side, whenever you are on a river and are challenged by lateral turbulence, your tandem will feel lighter on the water and less pushed around. Usually.

5. Tandem takes longer to blow up.

Seen it done with a hardshell double
Seen this done a couple of times.

One of them looked like it was trimmed extremely poorly (bow sticking way up in the air), so this is something to watch out for. If the boat is seesawed, add some weight in the end that’s too light.

There are issues:

– Last Updated: Sep-21-08 11:18 PM EST –

Okay, so you're a large guy...But since you're
going the inflatable route anyway, there is no
need to think in terms of a tandem. Plenty of good solo duckies out there that should easily give you the stability and comfortable extra space you seek. (Unless you want the tandem's flexibility to take along your partner, a kid, a dog, or a whole lot of extra stuff you probably don't need to take along anyway.)

I've owned 4 IKs, both touring and whitewater.
I've paddled a number of others, all different brands, ranging from $100 Sevy Orange Torpedoes to $1400 high-end Custom Inflatables and Aire boats...And believe me: YOU-DO-NOT-WANT-TO-BE-TOUR-PADDLING-AN-EXTRA LONG-TANDEM-IK-BY YOURSELF, even in flatwater. And unless you've acquired some good swiftwater skills, you do not want to pilot a tandem IK down rapids so readily either. (Picture steering a large city bus down narrow jagged alleyways.) And in ocean surf, a tandem IK with solo paddler is an absolute uncontrolable bear...Myself, I'd shop around for a durable SOLO ducky that is rated to easily hold your weight and a bit leftover for gear. If you're significant other wants to come along, get a quality solo IK for her too...Where I paddle, we have a name for tandem inflatable kayaks: DIVORCE BOATS Pick something no more than 13 feet for your ducky-play, or you may get a nice floating couch that has plenty of room for sleeping, but ultimately gets you nowhere fast when the wind blows.

PS - Quality tandem inflatable kayaks work best with two fairly strong paddlers, who've probably also had at least some limited experience in canoes.

…the Innova Sunny is the boat in question.

It’s setup normally as a tandem, but it has the third seating location in it to be set as a “balanced single kayak for solo paddlers.”

I am currently paddling a Kwik Tek TK-1, and I really like it, but I’m looking for something that maybe has a bit more room for next year because I would like to start doing a little bit of camping with it.

I’m still looking at some solos, but the Sunny has caught my eye in particular!!

Thanks everyone!!

Innova is good quality.
And since that is under 13 feet,

it may be just the ticket for you.

Played with a friend’s Innova Safari,

loved it.

Good luck and enjoy!

Any other suggestions for something under 13 feet that would handle about 350 pounds of paddler and gear??

I will be doing only flatwater, slow moving rivers, and inland lakes.


Innova Sunny
The Sunny in single mode will handle you and your gear just fine. It does not do well with two people and a load of camping gear though, neither does the Helios. There’s only so much room in a 13 foot boat.

The Helios will paddle okay as a single but there needs to be some gear in the front of the boat or the bow will be airborne! From what I understand the rudder is a must if you’re paddling it as a single. Between the Sunny and the Helios, the Sunny is probably a better choice if you’ll be paddling it mostly solo.

Tandem as a solo
I’m in the final stages of building a tandem inflatabe. (See My son recently built a solo. Boat sets up from start to finish in about ten minutes and performs pretty much like our other sea kayaks. Costs about $400 to make. It’s easy to make.

Did you make your own sponsons for the double? How’d that work out?

I’m keen to build one of these in the next couple of years, but the sponsons are the problem. I’m too big for the boats with the folbot sponsons, so I’m keeping on eye out for a pvc welder that could fabricate some for me.

Ed Gillet
Only skimmed the post but didnt see anyone mention Ed quick google search should come up with something.

Long trip
You’d probably want to have at least a years experience before embarking on that kind of trip.

solo in a tandem kayak
I own a 16’ Loon. It is a tandem boat that has adjustable seats so I can use it with my grandson, who is just learning to paddle, with my son, who likes to fish while I paddle, and it easily converts to a solo craft. I’ve taken it on many river trips solo and it steers like a dream–no rudder, just paddle technique. I can load it with camping gear and enough food to go for several days. I like the sleekness, even though it is 16’ long and I like the storage capacity. For swifter rivers, I stick to a smaller craft, but the Loon is one of the most versa-tile crafts I’ve paddled and I love it.