What Is a Tandem Kayak?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

A tandem kayak is a vessel made for two people. Much like a single-person kayak, the tandem kayak has storage space in the bow and stern and can be used in the same way as a traditional kayak. By allowing two persons to ride in the tandem kayak, a less experienced paddler is able to witness the boat control a more experienced paddler exerts. Whether it be used for training, companionship or long-range paddling, the two-person version of the kayak can be an enjoyable entry into a sport that often pits a single operator against the forces of nature.

Consisting of a longer hull than the traditional single-person kayak, the tandem kayak is able to accommodate two adults along with their gear comfortably. Often used as a fishing boat with the angler positioned ahead of the paddler, this version of a kayak is easily navigated through the most difficult waters to allow a fisherman or woman the opportunity to catch hard-to-find fish. This boat is also a useful training tool for the beginner paddler.

By placing a beginning paddler in the front seat of a tandem kayak, the novice is able to feel the proper boat control methods and get a sense of what the boat should feel like when navigating treacherous waters. This is also a benefit for the teacher, as it is no longer required to focus attention on a solo boat while attempting to maintain control over his own vessel in dangerous waters. Some couples enjoy the companionship that a tandem kayak provides while paddling. The close proximity of the pair allows conversation and camaraderie that is often lost when each person is in a separate boat.

While it is possible for a single operator to paddle a tandem kayak, it is more difficult to control. The added length of the kayak along with the off-center positioning of the paddler creates an uneven and out-of-balance condition that is difficult to overcome. In some cases, this condition is balanced by placing all of the supplies and even a rock to be used as ballast in the open paddler compartment. The added weight placed in the seating position intended for a second paddler can tend to make the boat balanced and more easily managed by the solo operator.

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    • Woman with hand on her hip
      Woman with hand on her hip