By ‘tandem’ I mean two kids paddling together since a crew composed of an adult and a child is likely to work well without need for special instruction.
Having two adults paddling a W kayak together can pause a balance problem, which a junior tandem doesn’t have to face, and that’s a good start. However, there are some serious difficulties that a junior crew has to deal with, including propulsion, steering and tracking.
Paddling in tandem requires that each of the two paddlers understand their different roles and act accordingly in order to allow for efficient synchronization of their movements and effective control over the boat, that is its speed and direction.
It’s not easy for adults and it’s really hard for kids. Therefore, it’s best to start after each of the kids had gained some experience as a solo W paddler.
The two basic tandem paddler roles are similar to what they are for adults:
In case both paddlers use kayak paddles the less experienced paddler rides the saddle’s front part and simply paddles left and right following a slow and steady rhythm. The more experienced paddlers rides the saddle’s back and tries to keep his paddle going in parallel to the front paddler’s paddle. The trick is to do it while using different strokes of various strengths in order to track, and skipping some strokes on one side while applying stronger strokes on the opposite side while turning. It’s not easy at all, and it requires that both crew members understand what needs to be done and focus on achieving it.
The rest is practice, practice and more practice…
The result is very rewarding for both kids and parents.
When tandem W ‘canoing’ the boat needs to be paddled exactly as if it were a canoe, that is with each paddler paddling on a different side, and paddlers changing sides from time to time. Luckily, the W it tracks better than a traditional canoe, which facilitates the task.
It’s also possible to paddle in tandem with one canoe paddle and one kayak paddle, but since it’s more complicated I wouldn’t recommend it for kids.