One of the greatest things about kayaking is the option of getting a tandem kayak and having someone be able to kayak alongside you. Tandem kayaks are great if you want to bring along the wife, your kids, or just some friends. Usually, the typical tandem kayak is used by beginners and recreational kayaks and not by professionals most beginners don’t understand why but as you delve into the intricacies of a tandem kayak you start to realize the real reason and it has more to do with experience.
If you haven’t already chosen a tandem kayak you can go ahead and find a list of our favorite choices and our guide to tandem kayaks here.
Tandem kayaks are sometimes referred to as divorce boats, and there is a good reason for it. After the first initial fun and recreation with a friend if you choose to get serious with a tandem kayak and go out for more than a couple of hours a week you start to realize what the limitations really are.
Think about someone that you have lived with for the majority of your life after a while you begin to see small habits and intricacies in the way that they move or do things that become annoying to you. Now multiply that feeling by 100 since that same person is sitting right next to you and controls your movements and direction.
One of the biggest annoyances with tandem kayaking is when your partner cannot get the same rhythm as you and you end up swaying and doing uncontrollable turns around the lake or sea.
One of the easiest ways to remedy this specific situation comes from one of the oldest traditions in boat rowing, and that is the one-two count or cadence. You and your partner can quickly create a count that has them saying one, two.
This type of count makes sure that you both keep in sync and the kayak does not begin moving towards one direction or favouring one side. Of course, this will not always be perfect because sometimes a paddler may be stronger than the other for example if a more strong male is out paddling with a smaller female the discrepancy in strength may cause the kayak to sway when tracking. The issue of the paddle count and the strength discrepancy are notable physical limitations of tandem kayaks.
Another significant limitation is the mental one. Now there may be some criticism to this point since not everyone goes crazy after one hour next to their wife like I do but it is a downside for sure. If you are going on a large recreational trip in a tandem kayak the spacing becomes an issue.
A lot of kayaks come with some extra space between the two tandem seats however not all of them have this luxury and some put you very close to the other person. You should make sure before going in a tandem kayak that you have no prior issues of claustrophobia and if you do that you choose the kayak with the most substantial spacing between the two seats.
If you have a problem or a small case of claustrophobia being out on the sea or lake with little space between the two kayakers and nowhere to go may be extremely hard on you mentally and cause lots of issues. For people that have problems with space we recommend that you take two separate kayaks rather than a tandem kayak because this will become a massive issue for you.
Of course for shorter trips this usually is not that large of an issue since kayaking for 30 minutes next to someone does not cause any problems but where it does arise as a more significant problem is when you are going on a more extensive voyage or kayak fishing.
Fishing and tandem kayaking
Now another significant issue with tandem kayaking is when people decide to go fishing in a tandem kayak. Now, this may seem like a great idea to go with someone you know and enjoy the outdoors while fishing in proximity to someone and it may remind you of being next to your buddy on the peer and fishing, however, this is not the same thing.
When you are kayak fishing one of the largest issues becomes the lack of space and you being limited and controlled by the mobility of the other kayaker. When your friend or another kayaker for example decides to cast or move his line, the whole kayak will shake and destabilise not to mention the incredibly annoying issue of when you’re casting, and your line gets tangled up with your friend’s line. This is a common occurrence especially if there is some current or you don’t have an anchor, and your kayak is slightly turning you will undoubtedly run into issues where your line gets tangled up with your partner’s line.
Standup Fishing in Tandem Kayaks
The next issue with fishing becomes standup fishing. This is almost impossible with someone in a tandem kayak since they control a lot of your balance though the extra weight does help in a sense to balance your centre of gravity the lack of space makes it very limiting where you can stand and how you can cast. The final issue becomes the lack of space for tools and equipment a lot of kayak anglers like to bring along different casting equipment including different baits rods and coolers for their fish, if you have another tandem kayaker with you this becomes incredibly hard.
Safety considerations for a tandem kayak are very similar to regular kayaks you should wear a life vest and whoever is with you should bring the proper safety equipment like a GPS a whistle or anything else you may think of that you might need for a more extended trip. If your tandem kayak flips over you can quickly recover since it’s a larger vessel and easier to get into and your partner can then help in hoisting the other person back in.
From these points, it may sound like I am against tandem kayaking which is not the case at all. I think tandem kayaking is a fantastic and great way to explore the outdoors with a friend or partner however if you are going tandem kayaking or purchasing one make sure you know what you are getting into. I recommend a tandem kayak for recreational kayakers that just want to go out for a bit on the cottage waters or people that are not serious about’s fishing in a tandem kayak.