How To Paddle A Tandem Kayak

When looking for an outdoor activity to share with a friend, learn how to paddle a tandem kayak. Tandem kayaks provide a cardiovascular workout while allowing boaters to enjoy the nature that surrounds them.  This boating activity is easy to learn and does not require lessons or prior training. When first learning how to paddle a tandem kayak, beginners should seek out a slow moving river or large lake before attempting more difficult waterways.

When learning how to paddle a tandem kayak, you will need:

  • two paddles
  • tandem kayak
  • two boaters
  • life jackets

Instructions for learning how to paddle a tandem kayak:

  1. Put on life jackets. Even if you’re a proficient swimmer, do not forego a life jacket. Swimming skills will not serve you well if you are knocked unconscious by a paddle or rock.
  2. Launch boat from the shore.  Launch your kayak from the shore of a lake or river.  To launch, drag your boat into the water. Get into the boat and use your paddle to push off by digging it into the lake floor.
  3. Synchronize paddling.  Once the boat is afloat, paddlers should find a rhythm of dipping the paddles into the water on the same side of the boat, alternating sides. Good communication is key to understanding paddle synchronization. When first learning how to paddle a tandem kayak, this is an important skill otherwise paddlers will find their kayak spinning in circles.
  4. Practice paddling. Paddling a kayak is different from paddling a canoe.  Because boaters sit high in a canoe, they have a different source of momentum than they would in a kayak. When manning a canoe, the paddle is dipped deeply into the water. When paddling a kayak the paddle skims the water’s surface. The key to good technique is in the punching action the raised arm performs as the lowered arm dips the paddle into the water. Both arms work together to produce momentum and force.
  5. Turn your kayak by paddling together. It is advised to practice turning before you begin your adventure when first learning how to paddle a tandem kayak. There are two methods to turn a tandem kayak. For the first method, both boaters will paddle on the same side. Place the paddle in front of you and sweep from front to back, digging hard into the water. This method works well when not attempting a sharp turn.
  6. Turn your kayak by using a rear stopping maneuver. When a sharp turn is required, the front paddler should continue paddling as normal. The rear paddler will use his paddle as a rudder by putting his paddle into the water at a perpendicular angle on the side in which he wishes to turn. This technique causes a breaking motion on one side of the boat, bringing the boat around quickly. Some tandem kayaks come with a rear rudder controlled by foot pedals. This provides a simple way to maneuver the boat around sharp turns.


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