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How to Paddle a Tandem Kayak

Tandem kayaks, or doubles, are a great way for two people to get out on the water together.

Wide, Stable, Recreation 

Tandems are typically wider than single kayaks, which makes them very stable, and therefore a great way for introducing new paddlers to the sport. In fact, you can take almost anyone kayaking in a recreational tandem. They're great for kids, parents, grandparents, or even your dog! Your passenger doesn't even need to paddle if they don't want to. Just sit them in the bow and take them on a tour of the bay. Although tandems provide a great opportunity for taking a passenger for a ride, if both people are paddling, tandems can travel surprisingly quickly.


The most efficient way of paddling them is by doing so in unison. Not only will you power your kayak forward most quickly, but you'll also avoid the clashing of paddles.

Strength in the Back 

If there's one paddler who's physically stronger than the other, it makes sense for them to sit in the back seat, while the weaker sits up front and dictates the paddling pace. From the back, the stronger paddler can modify their stroke to keep pace, and will also have enough control over the boat to keep paddling if the person up front wants to take a break.

Turning a Tandem 

Some tandems are equipped with a rudder, which can really help to keep the boat running straight, or to make light course corrections. When it comes to actively turning though, the best solution involves a little teamwork instead of the rudder. Ideally, the front paddler takes a forward sweep on one side, while the stirring paddler performs a reverse sweep on the opposite side of the kayak. In unison, this can turn a boat surprisingly quickly while stationary.

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