Tandem with Kid?

I’m a beginning kayaker: several hours on Lake Champlain in a small kayak (maybe a Dagger – I never used to pay attention to make or model), a half-day guided sea kayak trip in the Florida Keys a couple years ago and, just three weeks ago, a 2-hour guided sea kayak trip on the coast of Maine.

On the Maine trip, I took my seven-year-old daughter with me. We were in a Boreal Design Esperanto. Very stable over the choppy waters, although I found it to be somewhat ponderous and slow. My daughter absolutely loved the trip.

So last weekend, I visited the local kayak store. The sales person recomended not to get a tandem, but to get two individual kayaks – she recommended the WS Zidago for my daughter.

I mentioned this to my neighbor, who also does kayaking up in Maine, and has an 11-year-old daughter. He said I should stick with a tandem for at least the next 3-5 years if I intend to be on the ocean. He has a WS tandem (presumably the Northstar). As he put it: wouldn’t it be better to have your kid in the same boat as you when she decides to stop paddling?

I would love to hear the views of others on this. I noticed that most tandems tend to be in the 90-lb range, except for a new one by Current Designs called the Double Vision (which weighs 60). Anyone know anything about this model?

Thanks for any thoughts.

Good advice from your neighbour
At seven years old, your daughter is not going to have enough strength and stamina to paddle more than a mile or so.

I have three kids (now 10, 13, and 15) and all three have been paddling for the past 6-7 years – they all started paddling in a double kayak. My youngest now has her own kayak but we still use the double on longer trips (anything over 4-5 miles). A double kayak allows you to travel a lot further distance in a day with a child. When taking my kids in the double, I resolve myself that I will do all the paddling and look at it as a workout.

Never push your daughter – if you do, she’ll not want to go anymore because it won’t be fun. Bottom line is that if it’s not fun for her, it won’t be fun for you. You need to make it fun. And you can do that by ensuring that she never has to work too hard – as adults, if we get tired we can pull over for 15 or 20 minutes, rest up and can be back on our merry way – kids can’t do this. Once they’re tired, that’s it.

It’s also important to keep kids well nourished and hydrated – I always have “deck snacks” on hand and lots of water and drinks. Also, if weather conditions are a bit on the cool side, make sure your daughter is sufficiently dressed to keep her warm – if she’s not paddling as much as you she’ll get colder faster – warm clothing is a must. Everything is about comfort. More comfort equates to a happier kid.

My 13 year old daughter started paddling a single kayak a little over a year ago and can now paddle upwards of 15 miles in a day. My 15 year old son is much stronger and can comfortably paddle up to 25 miles in a single day.

So if you’re looking at doing some kayak tripping, I’d recommend the double until your daughter is a bit older and has more strength and stamina. Your neighbours suggestion of waiting 3-5 years is a good one – you’ll enjoy it more and most importantly, your daughter will enjoy it more.

Paddling with my kids has been a most satisfying and rewarding experience for me and I know the kids love it too. I do a big trip with my two oldest kids each year – next year we’ll include my youngest daughter. Last year we paddled 10 days on the Bowron Lakes in BC, this year we paddled 12 days in the Deer Group on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

You can read about our Bowron Lake trip here:


A few photos of our recent Deer Group trip are here:


If you have any more questions about paddling with kids, feel free to e-mail me and I’ll do my best to answer.

Hope this helps,



for the time being anyway—your daughter is not strong enough at her age to paddle very far on her own—if you do get her a single be sure to by yourself a tow harness and wear it so you can tow her when you have to.

This is great advice from someone who’s “been there”. I’ll focus on a tandem. Also thanks for the other advice in your message (hydration, snacks, fun, etc). Finally, I loved your slide report of your previous trip (20 reasons not to visit…).

Thanks also
for your advice. I would rather have the extra exercise of paddling a tandem than have to tow my daughter in another boat. When we were on the Maine trip, my daughter didn’t paddle probably 1/3 of the time – either to start singing or to call out to (imaginary) porpoises.

Deck Snacks!
Deck snacks is a good name for them. And yes, I’d recommend bringing them along to keep moods up.

As for weight, they will all weigh more than you’d like them to so you should just get a wheelie cart. Look for the one that straps to the middle of the boat rather than around one of the ends.

The dual cockpit models you are referencing are a step up from the “recreational tandem" category. That said, if you are also considering somthing in recreational range, the Pamlico T gets lots of good press on the review page here and I’d also recommend checking out the Acadia II.

Let us know what you end up with.


consider going with outfitters…
With a child, you might consider continuing to go with outfitters for a while, whenever you’ll be heading out into big water (the ocean, the coast, a great lake…). Tandems are heavy and expensive, and with a child, it’s always good to have a guide along until you’re much more experienced.

If you’ll be paddling on ponds and small lakes, her own little kayak might be a great idea (then go with an outfitter on larger outings).

If you do buy a tandem, you should be able to sell it easily when she gets tired of paddling with you. Seda makes a good tandem the Tango), and also a ‘convertible’, the Amigo (that you can paddle as a single or a tandem). Eddyline also has a fairly light tandem, the Whisper. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be much much safer in a tandem that has bulkheads in between the two cockpits. Many tandems don’t bother with this, but if you capsize without bulkheads separating the two cockpits, the swamped boat becomes a monster to deal with.

Have fun!

We do it both ways.
We discovered quite a while ago that our trips are quieter if our kids are separated. So we bought a tandem this year. We ended up with a Necky Manitou II. We originally pictured one of the kids paddling in the bow with Dad in the stern. Lately, we’ve been paddling with mom in the bow, Dad in the stern, 8yo girl between us in a canoe chair and 9yo boy in my Carolina, often in tow. The Necky comes with a little bitty seat for a kid in the middle, but it wasn’t comfortable. We have a nice little wooden canoe chair that fits in there.

I was a little worried about towing at first, but we’ve been doing it for a while now and have been out in a variety of conditions (nothing serious - we’re talking about kids here) and so far it seems pretty seaworthy. He paddles reasonably well, but runs out of gas quickly.

The Necky weighs in around 70 pounds, I believe. Not too bad for a 14.5 foot tandem. It does lack a bulkhead between the cockpits, which is what allows the child to fit in the middle. I have wondered about what it would be like swamped, as we haven’t done that yet. It has one dry storage and a foam in the bow… let’s hope we’d stay afloat. I like this boat so much better than I expected to like a tandem.

That said, we don’t expect to set the world on fire paddling with kids. We seek out trips that have features to entertain them (islands to pull out on, baby ducks, a stop at a park along the way, etc).


Thanks to all
for responding. I appreciate the thoughts. I’ll start looking around for end-of-season bargains, and stock up on deck snacks (for my daughter, of course).