What Is A Tandem Kayak And How Do You Use It?

Tandem Kayak Explained

If you got interested in water sports recently and you started observing all there is, from paddle boards to canoes and kayaks, you may have noticed a tandem kayak or two passing you by with two people on it paddling. So now, you are left wondering just what that two-person kayak is.

Well, that’s a tandem kayak or double kayak as they call it too, and today I’m talking all about it.

If you were wondering if a tandem kayak is right for you, below, you have all the pros and cons of using a tandem kayak and all the possible occasions in which you can use one and why it is good.

Hint: it is much cheaper to get a tandem kayak for two people than getting two separate kayaks.

With that said, let’s talk double kayaks!

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What Is a Tandem Kayak?

Tandem kayaks are the type of boats that fit two people inside on their 18 to 24 feet extended deck. The two people that are sitting in the kayak have to paddle together simultaneously at all times.

Once they are used to the activity and are synchronized, the movement looks beautiful, and they can travel far, but in the beginning, it may be tricky.

You see, on a 2 person kayak, you have two people’s movements, ideas, and agility being mixed on one enclosed space where they have to get used to the other person’s moves to make it work. There’s a lot of confusion at first and plenty of mishaps, and can be quite challenging to get used to at first.

However, as I said, once both persons master the process and learn each other’s movements, they say they prefer the tandem kayak over any other type of kayak. People love to enjoy water with one other person. They get to traverse and see nature with their friends, family, or significant others.

This allows for memorable trips at any time.

With that said, here are the pros and cons of owning and kayaking in a 2 person kayak.


The pros of using a tandem kayak

Here are some great reasons why people prefer tandem kayaks over single kayaks. You may come up with your own reasons as to why you love kayaking in 2, but these are some of my personal and my friends’ experiences so far.

Socializing Time

When kayaking on a tandem kayak, it’s like a bonding exercise. I mean, you ride around and paddle with another person getting used to their ways, so you cannot help but bond with them more quickly than in any other way.

Basically, learning how to work together while hanging out is a great bonding experience.


Great for Introducing Newcomers

If someone’s a beginner and they have never been on a kayak before, starting out with another person on board will prove much more comfortable than starting alone.

By using a tandem kayak, you get introduced to the world of kayaking in a much safer and more comfortable way. There is someone else with you to teach you how to paddle, how to get around the kayak, and how to keep balance no matter what you are doing.

You will definitely enjoy being able to ride around in pairs rather than alone.

More Packing Space

If you make camping trips often, then you will be thrilled to learn that the 2 person kayak offers a great deal of storage space—way more than what you would fit on a single kayak.

This makes trips very convenient, plus you don’t have to think about storing two kayaks during your trips but just one.


Easier to Store

I already mentioned that a tandem kayak is more comfortable to store when you are on a camping trip, but this also goes for everyday storage at home.

If you only have a limited amount of storage space available to you, two solo kayaks will be a hassle to store protected. Sure, a tandem kayak is slightly longer, but it still is lighter and takes up less space than 2 single kayaks stored together. So, a double kayak is practically saving you space in the end.

The cons of using a tandem kayak

Whatever has pros has downsides too. But weighing them will help you make the final decision.

So, to see the whole picture, here are some of the cons of owning a tandem kayak:

Tandem Kayaks Are Heavy

While one tandem kayak is lighter than two separate kayaks and easier to store, it still beats one single kayak by weight and length.

Good-quality double kayaks can weigh anywhere from 35 to 50 kilos, so you will always need a hand when lifting it and transporting it.

On the other hand, lower-quality models will weigh less.

The “Divorce” Kayaks

Tandem kayaks are also called the “divorce” kayaks jokingly because they can make two people paddling fight and quarrel over the paddling and maneuvering motion.

You will need some good practice and patience while you synchronize with your paddling partner so that you both control the kayak in the same manner.

In the beginning, you might end up quarreling more than you are paddling, but with practice, you two can kayak more productively than any other single kayaker.

Quite Pricey

If you are only buying for the price, then you should instead go for 2 cheaper (lower quality) kayaks rather than one good tandem kayak.

I did say tandem kayaks tend to be cheaper than 2 separate kayaks, but that’s if you are buying a good quality of both. Otherwise, this won’t always be true.

The thing is, good quality tandem kayaks usually come with a rudder, which makes them more expensive in the end when compared to buying two solo kayaks of lower quality.

This is why, if you are going for the price, consider 2 single kayaks, but if you are buying for the experience, then a tandem kayak is what you should be getting.


Less Freedom

In some ways, a tandem kayak limits your movement because you cannot control it in the water all by yourself. So, if you cannot find a kayaking partner at that moment, you will end up not going at all, and that may suck at times.

Different Learning Approach

While learning to kayak on a tandem kayak may be a safer and more secure option because of the increased stability and sense of safety, it does have a different approach at teaching you how to kayak in general.

How so? Well, you aren’t the only one controlling the action of a two-person kayak, so at times it will be harder to understand how each of your movements and actions is affecting the boat. Especially if you are new to kayaking.

So, if you want to start fast and learn kayaking quickly to do this activity often, then a solo kayak might be the better choice.

When everyone has their own kayak you can still have a lot of fun together!

Single kayaks pros & cons

Now that we have compared the pros and cons of the tandem kayaks let’s quickly go over the pros and cons of single kayaks. This will give you a little bit of insight even if you don’t know anything about single kayaks yet.

Upsides of Single Kayaks

Freedom to Paddle and Learn Faster
You have all the freedom to paddle; however, you want and go into the water whenever you feel like it. You also get to have all the complete control over your kayak, and you will quickly learn the techniques for kayaking and staying balanced in the water.

Less Weight
Additionally, a single kayak weighs much less than a double kayak, so you will have a much easier time controlling it not only in water but also when transporting or storing it safely at home. You don’t have to call for help when you want to move your kayak anywhere because it isn’t as heavy-weighted as a tandem kayak.

Plethora of Activities
If you like fishing, you will find it much easier to fish solo in a single kayak than in doubles. Even though a tandem kayak can store so much more gear so it might be more convenient to go with it if you have a fishing buddy.

With activities like fishing a single kayak is surely recommended

Downsides of Single Kayaks

No Room for Socializing
If you want to kayak in pairs with your partner or children, doing that on a single kayak is impossible. However, going for a tour in the water with your child who’s unready to kayak by themselves can be a blast.

Pricey Deals
If you end up buying one single kayak and your partner or child really loves it, it will be much more expensive to buy 2 single kayaks than one tandem. Plus, the storage can be a hassle, so a tandem kayak makes all the more sense.


Best of Both Worlds: Tandem to Single Kayaks

If you truly want the diversity and you cannot make up your mind between a tandem and a single kayak, then there are converting kayaks on the market these days, which convert from tandem to a single with movable seats.

You can find some that also have a “jump seat” molded into the kayak, but no matter the model, they will all offer true tandem to solo conversion in a single step.

So you get the best of both models, you can enjoy tandem and solo paddling. Plus, if you have a small child, you can even place them between your partner and yourself in the middle so that you can all go on a close shore water tour.

The only downside to these conversion kayaks would be the type of center position if using the one with the molded-in seat.

How to paddle a tandem kayak

Now that we have compared the tandem and single kayaks and given you a third option, you indeed have a better idea as to which option will suit you best. So, if you’re still on board with the tandem kayak, let’s talk about the paddling moves in such a kayak.

Paddling in Unison

When paddling in unison, your tandem kayak will be surprisingly faster than a single kayak. By doing everything in synchronicity, you also avoid the clashing of paddles.

So, the person in the back seat should just follow the person in front while they paddle, and the one in the front should have quick, concise, and equal movements.

The Stronger/experienced Paddler in the Back

If out of the two partners paddling, one already has some kayaking experience or they are physically more robust than the other, then they should sit on the back seat. This way, from the backseat, they will modify the pace, the straight tracking, and their stroke.

Plus, since the person in the front dictates the paddling pace, they can rest if they need to while the person in the back can take control over the boat to keep paddling.


Turning a Tandem Kayak

Tandems are a tad bit difficult to turn or maneuver in general then single kayaks. But, the great thing is that you have two people on board who, if they know what they are doing, they will have a much easier time controlling than a person in a single kayak.

Additionally, you will find models of tandem kayaks that come with a rudder. This will help keep the boat running straight or to make some corrections in the tracking. However, if you want to turn the tandem kayak actively, this will require a lot more teamwork and a lot less rudder help.

So, to turn your kayak, the front Paddler will need to take a forward sweep on one side while the Paddler in the back performs a reverse sweep on the opposite side of the kayak. If they work simultaneously and in unison, they can turn a boat surprisingly quickly while stationary.

However, compared to how you can learn these strokes in a single kayak, it might prove a little more complicated but this isn’t anything to overly stress about since it all takes practice and patience.


Tandem Kayaks Give You a Stable Recreation

Tandem kayaks, because of their higher weight, are more stable in the water than single kayaks.

They are also of a wider build, so they make an excellent option for introducing new paddlers to the sport.

Also, if your partner or young child doesn’t know how to paddle, they can just sit in the front seat, and you can take the lead to paddle while they relax.


All in all, Tandem Kayaks Are Fun!

Tandem kayaks are a fantastic way to bond with your kayaking partner, and both enjoy the scenery of nature. Even if you end up quarreling while learning to paddle in unison, in the end, it still makes for a great way to traverse the waters and enjoy the outdoors together while staying active.

Have I helped you decide on your new kayak type?
What are your concerns or doubts, primarily?

Do not hesitate to ask any questions in the comment section below so that I can help you find the optimal model of kayak for your needs.

In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you on my Facebook, and Instagram account for more cool tips and recommendations on paddle boards and kayaks.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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