By ‘tandem’ we mean two adults, since paddling with a child onboard is less of a challenge, at least in the W kayak.
A lot has been said about kayaking in tandem, and it usually confirms the observation that kayaks are basically meant to be solo boats more than anything else…
However, paddling in tandem can be fun and rewarding – if it’s done properly.
First, you need to address the problem of balance, especially if your partner is not experienced in W kayaking (assuming you’re a proficient W kayaker yourself). The way to do it is mount (ride) the back of the saddle and then let your partner in (slowly) and position himself or herself as forward as possible – in the riding position as well.
You will probably need to compensate for your partner’s lack of experience by taking extra care of balancing the boat yourself – at least in the beginning.
The second problem is synchronizing your paddle strokes. It’s less of a problem if both of you are using canoe paddles, or if the front paddler is using a canoe paddle and you are using a double blade one.
If both paddlers are using double blade paddles the front paddler should just make slow strokes, switching regularly from left to right, regardless of tracking, turning etc. The back paddler’s paddle should follow the front paddle in parallel, touching the water a fraction of a second after the front one did, and getting out immediately after the front one.
The back paddler is also the de facto skipper, and he or she should take care of tracking, turning etc… This task can be quite demanding, especially in moving water, and this is why you’d better practice tandem W paddling on flat water first.
It is very helpful to be aware of the possibilities offered by the extra long W paddle in terms of controlling the length and direction of the stroke, J strokes etc.
This video shows a couple of W kayakers paddling in tandem in the surf – Needless to remind the viewer that both of them have some experience in W kayaking.