Why are beginners placed in tandems?

I can think of several reasons, good and bad (more bad IMO), but want to see others thoughts on this.

So they never want to paddle again?
The whitewater club I paddle with likes to start canoeists in tandems. They say it’s because there is more power with two paddlers. I say that’s why there are so many more whitewater yakkers.

I’ll guess in touring kayaks it might be that tandems tend to be wider, more stable and again stronger than two solo boats.

I still think it would be better to start them in solo boats. Tandem (in any boat) is an advanced skill IMO.

Save on parking spaces . .
That’s it Tommie! We have enough paddlers already clogging the put-ins!



If you talk to outfitters you hear …
that it is an easier and safer way to accomodate kids and tandems can carry a lot of gear. So, for example, I have seen a guide embark on a multi-day trip with a family (Mom, Dad, 2 kids) and she put a parent and child in each tandem and stuffed most of the camping gear into them as well. She herself then got to paddle an inuit style boat that is a lot more fun but has limited space. When we went to Alaska we had to talk and argue with two different outfitters to get them to give us singles. The reasons in that case were, again, the gear argument and the belief that beginners should be in a tandem.

On Tours…
They are more stable and with two people paddling they are usually faster than a weak or tired solo that will really slow up the group… a tired paddler can rest and still maintain some speed.

I have never had to tow a tandom…

We bought a tandem yak
for our first purchase. We did it for a few reasons:

My wife and kids would not have tried paddling without a tandem

Tandems are fast; even recreational ones with 28-29" beams and relatively flat bottoms

Our tandem is very stable

When one person wants to rest, the other can continue paddling

Because one of the hardest things about
paddling a canoe solo is just learning to get it to go straight, at a useful speed. If one starts beginners in tandems, one can move them quickly up through class one, two, and three whitewater while they learn the basic strokes and the strategies of negotiating rapids.

THEN you can put them in solo boats, have them spend a little time on flat or smooth water getting the hang of making the boat go fast enough to nail an eddy, or get back out in the current, and you’re in business.

I’ll respectfully disagree with you g2d

That’s the argument they use here.

I’ve seen too many folks give it up due to frustration with incompatable or nonexistant partners.

I say put in the time to learn to control a solo up front. Why let the yakkers have all the fun?

I have singles and doubles
and usually allow the customer to have their choice. If I feel they should be in a double then I recommend that. However, many times after a trip, I bring the ‘tandem’ paddlers out for a half hour or so to play ina single to see the difference, that way they understand that tripping in tandem and in single are two different expierences.

We DON’T put them in doubles so ‘they will never paddle again’, contrary to the beleif listed above. They are tandem KAYAKS, same as a single is a single KAYAK.

tandems vs. singles
What I often tell people is that tandems are easier to paddle but harder to learn paddling skills in. Single kayaks give a lot more boat-to-paddler feedback and encourage involvement of the whole body in paddling. You wear a single and sit in a tandem, etc. So it depends what your goals are. If beginning paddlers just want to “get somewhere,” then a tandem is probably best. But if those paddlers want to learn kayaking (and have adequate strength, endurance, and learning ability) then single kayaks are the way to go.

As an outfitter, I most often provide singles, but make tandems available to youth groups and to those who request them.

Note: executing advanced strokes & manoeuvers in a tandem requires a high degree of skill on the part of both paddlers, but these strokes are best learned first by each paddler individually in a single.

IMO The same goes for canoes.

Missing the point
When I taught canoeing I would place couples together, especially if the woman was interesting and attractive. When the inevitable fallout took place, I was there for “support”. After being teamed with her control-freak boyfriend/husband, getting into my boat wa san eye-opener for her.

Low hangin’ fruit!


just kidding, of course

Because they think they need
somebody else to help them paddle that huge kayak/canoe and need to lean on that person for support. They can blame the other person for capsizing…


– Last Updated: Mar-01-05 6:51 PM EST –

I thought the catagory was "kayak"?

In that case, others had already pointed out, tandems are great at "going places" while singles are better teaching tools.

I don't know of any outfitters that puts LEARNING beginers in tandems. But for touring, it's not neccessary the "beginer" even cares to "learn" how to paddle. They may only be interested in "getting there" for the experience of BEING at a place you can't get to from land. Tandem sounds perfect for that.

Another thing hadn't been mentioned. With tandems you ended up with half as many boats as with singles. A lot easier to keep the smaller group (of 1/2 boats) togather in wind and current, expecially with beginers who had trouble controlling where their craft goes.

Scary comment!
"…for touring, it’s not neccessary the “beginer” even cares to “learn” how to paddle"

Outfitters encourage that sort of thinking - and put two of those sort of people in the same kayak?

Kayaking (yes, category was kayak) requires some learning for participants to be safe. Throwing them into a bigger wider boat is a terrible substitute for teaching basic safety skills. Having two clueless paddlers in the same boat more than doubles the chances of a mishap - and more than halves their ability to help each other - potentially placing even more burden on an outfitter.

I really don’t get it. Sounds like $ over safety to me. Selling paddling as 100% safe, fun, and easy - and completely ignoring the potential risks is pretty sad. Sure, risks are minimal for those interested in learning - but not so minimal at all for the clueless (who are relying on their outfitters to let them know what they should expect - as the recent Gulf incident sadly reminds us).

Picture This…

A family with two kids, or just a few couples on vacation looking for an adventure or just something to do for an afternoon, never kayaked before…

Wants to take a 3 hour kayak tour with a guide… Winds are 10-15kts.

Would you make them take a kayak intro course or put them in singles, just pop them in a couple tandems show them how to hold the paddle and use the rudder. Take a few pictures of them with their camera and they had a great experience to tell their friends about when they get home. And maybe a nice tip…

Like I said…
… it’s more about making money than making kayakers.

Not a judgment - just a fact. It is what it is.

Probably best I stay out of the business. I wouldn’t last long. As an outfitter/guide - I’d want to make kayakers first, money second. I love the sport more than I love money. Give and get.

I understand the business realities, but I don’t agree that everyone that wants to do it on a whim for some laughs/photos necessarily belongs in a kayak just because they have a Visa card.

Sure it’s mostly safe and easy - and most of the time it’s no problem just handing folks a paddle and shoving off. Even more so in the warm and usually mild Keys where you lead trips Grayhawk - but when there are problems, things can go South mighty fast. Things that all too often could have been avoided.

An ounce of prevention… But you’re right - expecting people to learn anything about kayaking BEFORE actually kayaking would really cut down on those rentals. Not realistic to expect anything more.

I think it is a money reason.
The cost of buying one double is a lot cheaper than buying 2 singles. Less to haul to the put in, less to store, less yaks to look out for,

Keep your day job… :wink:
We do talk to the people before assigning them boats, evaluate the weather to choose the location, and it’s my call if I don’t feel comfortable with the trip.

Sure it’s a business but a Tourist business and we want them to have a pleasant experience.

There are not that many purist shops still in business, a LOT more SOTs, rec boats and $100 paddles are sold than composites and wing paddles…

I know…
… you do - and you and FBO staff are great (but how many do you really turn away? :slight_smile:

I simply don’t like how the low end gear and use tends to drag everything down with it - and opens us all up to potential litigation/regulation. As paddlers we all have a stake in this. Entry level experiences are the place to instill the right mindset.

Yes, rental/rec gear is the point of entry to the sport. It is also as far as most paddlers ever take it - so will always be where the volume is.

Still, I think we should be careful not let the most unskilled and uninformed customers lower the bar simply because they are impatient and have cash.