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What are Tandem Kayaks?

You might have seen them while paddling about by yourself, or while desperately trying to keep an eye on your partner who’s floating away.

people in a tandem kayak

Two people in one boat zipping through the water at speed or taking a slow glide past the sites. You might have found yourself thinking ‘what is that and how can I be a part of it?’

A traditional kayak is very much a solo activity, no matter how large a group you might go out with. The tandem kayak takes that activity and shares it.

Designed to accommodate two people, a tandem kayak presents an opportunity for bonding and discovery.

To use a tandem kayak is all about teamwork. The paddles need to move together to prevent clashing, and the speed of the stroke needs to be well-timed.

What is a tandem kayak

This means they can take some getting used to, even for more experienced users. However, once those hurdles have been crossed the unique benefits of a tandem kayak makes them quite special.

What are the benefits of a tandem kayak?


Kayaking is a perfect opportunity to see the world a little differently. A tandem kayak allows you to do that with someone you care about.

father and son kayak fishing in northwest arctic borough ak

It’s a fantastic bonding experience, as moving the kayak requires teamwork and communication.

Not to mention all the places that can be explored together. If you’re part of a family you want to encourage to get active, or you’re looking to spend some quality time with a loved one, then a tandem kayak has multiple benefits over an individual kayak.


If you are new to kayaking, or you want to introduce someone to kayaking, then a tandem kayak is the easier way to start. While a tandem kayak is built for two, only the person in the back needs to be paddling for it to move with speed.

couple in tandem kayak

If you want to introduce a child to kayaking but are worried they’ll become exhausted, then they can sit in the front while the experienced user can sit in the back and steer.

As the tandem requires synchronicity in each stroke to paddle safely, first timers will learn the importance of a strong, confident, rhythmic approach. All things which can be adapted for use on an individual level.


A tandem kayak is safer than a single kayak as it has an increased width. The larger weight creates stability in the water. This added layer of security is another benefit to learners.

two people in a tandem kayak

Not to mention the added bonus that if there are any issues, the situation doesn’t have to be dealt with alone. Especially if you’re a parent nervous about sending a child out alone, a tandem kayak ensures an extra layer of protection.


The larger size of the kayak comes with the bonus of more storage space. Ideal for campers who don’t want to carry around two kayaks plus all the baggage they might need for an overnight stay.

two people in a tandem kayak

Before buying make sure to check the weight capacity. While most can comfortably carry two adults, some have a smaller capacity than others.

What are the downsides to a tandem kayak?

For a start, they get heavy. The flip side of that stability in the water is that outside of the water a tandem kayak is a big item. Bulky and heavy to carry around, it often needs two people to lift.

people in kayaks

So if you’ve bought one to teach a child then be prepared to do some heavy lifting. The larger size also makes storage more difficult, although one tandem kayak is still easier to store than two single kayaks.

The greatest strength of a tandem kayak is also it’s biggest weakness. Tandem kayak’s require teamwork, and the awkward truth is that not every day out on the water is going to be an easy one.

Even the tiniest argument seems to take up a lot of space when confined to the area of a kayak. The synchronicity required to paddle is a must across the board. You have to be on the same page for issues of speed, distance, and direction. There’s nowhere to hide on a tandem kayak.

people in double kayak

In terms of price, it does depend on the kayak. One really good tandem kayak is cheaper than two really good single kayaks. Two good single kayaks are cheaper than one really good tandem kayak.

So it’s a matter of choice. If it’s quality that attracts you, then a tandem kayak will probably be the cheaper option. There are multiple options of every type, so you should be able to find something to fit your budget.

Finally, a tandem kayak is more difficult to maneuver. The extra length makes turning complicated, especially in tight corners. 

For Sharing and Experience

A tandem kayak is best for sharing and teaching. They’re ideal for families looking for a way to spend more time together, or those looking to get active. They aren’t always the easier option, but what they lack in maneuverability is gained back in safety.

What is a tandem kayak

If you enjoy kayaking but find it isolating, or you’re curious about trying but don’t want to go it alone, then the tandem kayak covers all the basics.

They might take some time to get used to, but once you and your companion have found a rhythm the ride is enjoyable.

What’s the difference between a tandem kayak and a double kayak?

Nothing, a tandem kayak and a double kayak are the same thing. Both are kayak’s designed to fit two people, one in the front and one in the back, who work together to steer and move the kayak.

two tandem kayaks

How do you paddle a tandem kayak?

The trick here is unison and coordination. A tandem kayak moves like a regular kayak only longer and heavier. If one person is a stronger paddler than the other, then they should sit in the back.

people in tandem kayaks

This way they can monitor the strokes of the person in front and adjust to match, avoiding clashing paddles. Another crucial component is having the right size paddles.

Final Thoughts

Tandem kayaks are a fantastic way to enjoy kayaking with someone close to you. It takes teamwork, communication, and it makes for an unforgettable experience.

Even if you flip over a couple of times, I recommend trying a tandem kayak with a friend at least once.

If you want to learn more about the other different types of kayaks, check out this fascinating read.

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