Where to sit in a tandem kayak? It matters a lot!

Tandem Kayak Seating Position

If you just bought or are thinking about buying a tandem kayak, you will probably be wondering about seating arrangements.

Who sits where? And what if you’re paddling solo?

Here is everything you need to know about the proper sitting positions in a tandem kayak. The same seating principles apply to both inflatable kayaks, and hard shell ones as well.

Where does a solo paddler sit in a tandem kayak?

Kayaks perform best, when they are loaded evenly. This means, that it is best to sit in the middle of the kayak when paddling solo.

You can rearrange the seats in most inflatable tandem kayaks. If this is made possible in your kayak, remove one of the seats and secure your seat right in the middle of the kayak. This will achieve optimal control and performance.

If you know you will be paddling along often, but still want a tandem kayak just in case, it’s a good idea to get a convertible tandem inflatable kayak that makes this possible. This one from Advanced Elements is the best at this.

Advanced Elements Advancedframe Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak
Tandem Kayak Solo Paddler

But can one person control a tandem kayak if the seats cannot be rearranged?

Yes, don’t worry. I’ll tell you how.

You need to sit in the back seat of it and try to even out the weight distribution by placing something (gear, weights, cooler, etc.) in the front. While the performance of the kayak will not be optimal, you will still have good control.

Sitting in the front of the kayak when paddling solo is not recommended. It is hard to control the boat from that position.

Paddling solo with kids (non-paddling passenger)

Kids love being paddled around in a tandem kayak. And so do dogs by the way.

If you have a guest who will not be doing any paddling, they need to sit in the front (bow) of the kayak. By sitting in the rear seat, you have better control of the kayak and can also keep an eye on your crew.

Tip for paddling with kids: Don’t let them know the rear seat is the captain’s seat in a tandem kayak. They would want to be captain. Before boarding the kayak, just ask “Who sits in front in the kayak today?”. Kids always want to sit in the front…

Who sits where in a tandem kayak, if 2 people are paddling?

Deciding who sits in the front and back of a tandem kayak is important, because it affects stability, maneuverability and safety.

To determine the best seating arrangement, you need to consider a few things:

  • What is the weight of each paddler: If the weight of the paddlers is not the same, the heavier/stronger person should sit in the back of the kayak. This raises the nose of the boat slightly, and improves handling. If the nose would dig into the water, you lose speed and your control suffers.
    But if you are paddling against strong winds, you may actually want the nose of the kayak low. In this case, the heavier paddler should sit in the front.
  • The experience of the kayakers: The person in the back will usually be steering the kayak. Because of this, it is best if the more experienced paddler sits in the back if water and weather conditions are a little rough.
    But if the weather plays nice, it is definitely a good idea to allow the new kayaker in the back seat. They will become more experienced and confident at controlling a kayak. The only way for newbies to train their kayaking muscles is to let them get experience at it.
  • Practicality: Keeping the above in mind, it wouldn’t be practical to put a small, experienced paddler in the rear, with a person 2x the size sitting in front.

Kayak seating rules of thumb

Deciding on who sits where is not rocket science, do what feels right.

Keep these general rules in mind, and let your adventure begin:

  • Kids sit in the front for safety reasons.
  • Try to even out the weight, this optimizes control.
  • The rear seat is the captain’s seat. Controlling the kayak is easier from the back.
  • When paddling solo, try to sit in the middle, or add weight to the front if you have to sit in the back.

It will only take a couple of trips to get a feel for your kayak in order to understand the way it maneuvers.

After some practice and paddling, you will gain enough experience to know who should sit where in a tandem kayak. Keep your paddles in sync, and have fun!

Are you new to the world of inflatable boats? Then my Getting Started Guide is for you. You’ll find tips, tricks, and how-to articles to start off right.

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