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How Do You Steer A Tandem Kayak? - Tandem Kayak Report

How Do You Steer A Tandem Kayak?


A tandem kayak is longer than a solo kayak and therefore more difficult to steer. It accommodates two people, on the front and the rear seats.

Launching a tandem kayak into the water without any preparation or knowledge of how to control it may be dangerous.

Here are some tips to help you and your kayaking partner develop some good steering techniques

Decide the sitting position

Size and experience should determine who will sit where. If you are the smaller one, you should take the front seat. The front of the kayak can’t handle large weights.

You should let an experienced person take the rear seat.  The person in the back seat naturally has more control of the steering.

Launching the kayak

One person should be seated in the front seat of the kayak while the other person is pushing the kayak into the water.  The person then jumps into their seat while you start peddling using the forward stroke action.

Synchronize your paddling

While you’re paddling towards the front, the person at the back seat imitates and matches your strokes and techniques. Synchronizing gives you control of your kayak’s movement.

It’s easy! When the front paddler does a stroke to the right, the person at the back seat makes a similar move at the exact time.

How Do You Steer A Tandem Kayak?

Complex moves

Steering a tandem kayak does not involve the forward stroke alone. You’ll have to turn at some point, when you want to change your direction or if you want to go back to shore. During complicated moves like turning, you can change up to half of the paddling routine.

The person seated at the front continues to paddle forward and the one at the back paddles backward to turn the kayak. For instance, if the person at the back reverses to the left, the kayak begins to turn in that direction.

Watch how to steer your kayak on YouTube

The Tandem Roll

You may need to learn the rolls before you are good to hit the water in your tandem kayak. Sometimes, the kayak may capsize and plunge both paddlers into the water.

A simple technique, the tandem roll, can help to restore your tandem kayak’s stability. You need to agree before going into the water on who should take the lead and on what type of signal they will give.

To succeed, you will have to work together to restore the tandem kayak into an upwards position. The stronger paddler will initiate the roll, followed by the second paddler.

When you reach the surface, you should keep your head down and drive forward to get upright. The tandem roll is easy, and you will get your kayak up and running again in no time.


It turns out steering a tandem kayak was not as complex as we thought. With these moves, you can learn how to tandem kayak in no time. Get yourself a kayak partner, practice and become a pro at steering a kayak.


About Author

Steve has been into sports all his life. As a young boy, he started with swimming; this only propelled him into more water sports. When he tried kayaking, the thrill captivated him and now, it is his favorite sport. As a ranger, Steve is always in the outdoors where he likes it. He became a ranger right after college. He is married and has three kids whom he loves going to expeditions with. When he is not at work or with his family, he loves writing. He is now the lead blogger at Tandem Kayak Report, always writing about his passion.

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