Paddling Tandem

I have been solo kayaking for years, but just got a great deal on a tandem. I plan on taking my husband out soon and want to know what the best technique is for paddling a tandem is without having WW III begin.

Paddle in sync on the same side
of the boat. I like the stronger paddler in the rear but I have heard mixed opinions on this. Let the rear paddler steer and the front paddler set the tempo.

This works for my wife and me. Hope you have fun.

Buy a tandem…
…with the cockpits far enough apart that you don’t have to paddle in sync. Otherwise, they’re known as ‘divorce boats’.

Lessons Learned
My wife and I have been paddling a tandem for several years. I am by far the more experienced paddler, and heavier too. With this in mind, we find it best for me to sit in back, and my wife to sit in front. The advantages:

Heavier person is in back. Otherwise, kayak wants to rotate.

Experienced/stronger paddler (me) is in back.

Front paddler does “her thing” while rear paddler tries to keep in synch with her. This is best way to avoid banging paddles.

Rear paddler can still handle boat while front paddler takes “time out”

There are times when it is best for me to sit in


To demonstrate certain paddling techniques. Careful! Don’t preach or criticize here!

Balance the boat going into wind/waves. Heavier person in front is better in such conditions.

After I’ve splashed her too many times.

On open lakes, trim (weight balance)is very important. Otherwise, tracking can be a serious problem. If tracking on lakes becomes a problem, consider the rudder kit, if available.

Oh, it would also be helpful for each person to take the boat out solo once in a while, just to get used to how it handles without you in it. Rear seat most likely.

twosome harmony?
MichiganSnorkeler’s message reminded me of a trip about three years ago on which a canoe came paddling down the river with obvious newbies. The trip reminded me of the “Tortoise and the Hare” in that they would pass us and we would pass them. As we passed them the first time, he was sweetly saying, “Honey, watch how you’re paddling. No, no, the other side.” Each time we passed them, one or the other was giving instructions on how to paddle, plus the conversations were gathering static and irritation. By the last time we passed them, he was yelling and calling her stupid, she was screaming at the top of her lungs for him to shut up and the names were no longer words of endearment nor printable.

This is why I do not paddle in the same boat, be my hubby’s card partner, or cook in the kitchen at the same time as he does. Though, I have learned that if it’s not done the way I do something–BIG FAT DEAL!! Granny was right! There’s more than one way to do a job! Tomorrow’s another day and I’ll not waste today by getting upset about minor things.

SK/MIchigan Nana

Are you beginning
to see why you got a “good deal” on the tandem?

That works well when lilly dippin’
but if you are paddling hard it’s still best to stay in synch. When out of synch the stern paddler will often stick his blade right into the whirl coming off of the front paddlers blade. For a second it feels like your paddle hit an air pocket in the water. It just feels ugly…

It’s better than divorcing your spouse…

– Last Updated: Feb-27-06 11:55 PM EST –

...but you are correct.

Stable, fast, spacious
I don’t necessarily enjoy tandem boats as much either, but if you have somewhere to go, they are fast, stable, and carry a good load. You will have no trouble, going in with the understanding that it will take a few tries to get the rythym working.

I would recommend you not settle into positions right away, but each try the bow and stern a few times.

A good friend responded “whatever you want” when I asked her if she would like bow or stern. I said bow, and she immediately jumped into the bow saying “well, I said whatever YOU want!”