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Is it possible to paddle a tandem kayak solo? - Tandem Kayak Report

Is it possible to paddle a tandem kayak solo?


Tandem kayaks are made with two people in mind. This means that two individuals have to synchronize their motions so as to get the most movement out of the kayak. If you are not able to synchronize your movements, you will end up hitting each other with the paddle or end up turning round in circles without making much headway.

Yet,  sometimes you find that you have to operate the tandem kayak alone if your kayaking partner is not available,  and you are faced with certain issues like whether  your weight will be able to keep the kayak stable, if we take into consideration that this is a boat that is made for two and not one person, and how will you manage to paddle on your own. Using a tandem boat alone in relatively calm waters is very easy but what happens when you use them in less-than-ideal situations.

Tandems are heavier than solo kayaks because of the fact that it is made for use by two people. This is, however, a good point because it makes the kayak very stable and you do not have to worry too much about it flipping over.  The fact that it is heavy makes it very hard for solo paddlers to operate it, however, if you have the option of rearranging the seats, or putting weights in the kayak, you will find that it becomes easier to operate.

So what can you do when using a tandem boat solo to make paddling easier?


Rearrange the seats.

Many tandem kayaks give you the choice of rearranging the seats. You can remove the extra seat and secure yours in the middle of the kayak. This allows you to have very good control thus getting the best out of your boat. If this is not possible, sit at the back end and put something with weight in the front so that it evens the weight distribution.  It may be a bit difficult for you to control the kayak from the back position if you’re to compare it with controlling it when you’re sitting in the middle. Sitting in the front may make it extremely difficult for you to control the kayak.

How do you turn  your tandem kayak into a solo kayak

  • Remove the front seat
  • Remove the rear pedals and put them in the track that was holding the front seat.
  • Move the rear seat towards the center of the boat and then lock the seat into position.

Cockpit positioning

If you have the option, look for a boat that has the rear cockpit and rudder towards the center so that you have more weight distribution towards the front.  Tandem boats are meant for two people and if it does not have enough weight, you may find that the wind may blow you around if it is very strong. You will also have a problem when you try to make a quick turn or try certain maneuvers.

Tandem boats were made to work when they sit flat in the water, if the weight distribution is not done well, one part will be slightly above the water meaning it becomes very unstable. This means that the boat may get a mind of its own depending on the weather conditions, for example, if windy, it may turn around without you wanting it to. You may, therefore, need to sit in the bow seat as you face the stern thus better distribution of your weight towards the center of the boat.


Sitting position

You can also explore the option of kneeling as opposed to sitting, but this may require some practice and it could hurt your knees. If you find that kneeling distributes the weight better the invest in some good knee pads or improve with a cushion or rolled-up towel. This will make the boat lie flat on the water thus more stability.

Kneeling also raises the bow of the canoe slightly so you have more control during the turns. It gives more weight to the boat thereby allowing you to glide in a straight line.


Trim the boat.

Get the boat to lie flat by adding or shifting the weight, this allows for optimal tracking resulting in better movement and control of the kayak. You can use any number of things to trim the weight including stones, sticks or even rocks. Try to achieve the weight of the person who usually uses the boat with you as much as possible so that your boat is stable when you put it in the water.

You also have the option of using the dry bags that are in the kayaks to give the kayak some weight. Simply make them wet and they become quite heavy. You can then place them at the tip of the canoe and the weight distribution will become better in the boat.


Lean the canoe to your paddling side.

If you want to control the boat better, you may consider leaning it too your paddling side. Be careful if you’ve never done this before because if you do it the wrong way you will tip over. Those who know how to use this technique find it easier to paddle with the boat on its side.  Use your knees to keel the kayak towards the side and get comfortable in that position. Be careful about getting water into the boat and also consider the wind conditions before you try this. Make sure you have enough practice before you apply this technique.


Learn the correct paddling techniques.

Anyone who is trained to use a tandem boat solo will tell you that the boat seems to get a mind of its own especially if your paddling technique is not very good. This is made worse by the wind conditions and how the water is. If the water is very rough, you will have a very tough time trying to paddle. If the wind is very strong, it may turn the boat round and round and you will quickly realize that you are going nowhere. No matter how strongly you paddle, you will make no headway if you do not have the right technique.

Use a forward stroke

Use a forward stroke, you do this by leaning towards to the paddling side, while holding the paddle in a vertical position, twist your torso so that the shoulder on the paddle faces the bow of the boat. Put the blade into the water and then let your body untwist. This will pull the canoe and when the paddle reaches your hips, pull it out and repeat the movements.

The draw stroke

The draw stroke allows you to pull your canoe towards the paddle side in a sideways motion.  Let your paddle be parallel to the centerline of the canoe with your thumb pointing towards the stern. While keeping the paddle vertical lean the boat towards the paddle then draw your canoe towards it.

The pry stroke

The pry stroke allows you to push your canoe away from the side of the paddle. Place the shaft of the paddle against the gunwale side while keeping it parallel to the center of the canoe.  slice the paddle at an angle so that the blade comes under the canoe and use the gunwales as pivot points, as you pull the handles to you.  Your body weight can help you get more power in the pry.

The C stroke

The C stroke combines the three canoe strokes to give you more control in paddling even on one side. If you use the draw stroke only it will be impossible to turn away from the paddle side unless your intention was to go around in circles. If you blend the draw stroke you will turn the boat towards the paddle, if you combine the forward, drive and pry stroke you’ll end up with a c stroke. This will make your canoe go in a straight line.

Remember to experiment with the different strokes until you get the combination right. You can use different obstacles like buoys to help you in learning how to control the paddles.  Put a weight in the boat so that it can resist strong wind and practice both clockwise and counterclockwise movements. Try and do the same from the stern position as was well.


Final thoughts.

It is quite easy to see that paddling a tandem boat solo is not easy. The important thing to do is make sure that the weight distribution is done well so that the boat stays flat on the water and also ensure that you have the correct technique for paddling. Practice as much as possible so that you paddle from one side if you hope to go in a strong line. If your technique is still not very good, you may consider putting off the pleasure of being in the water until you have a mastery of the techniques. If you’re not able to turn the tandem boat into a solo boat, you can still apply the techniques we have shared so that you can enjoy being in the water even without a partner.



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