Kayaking with Your Partner
Ok, we’re going to tackle it. . . If you’ve ever googled “kayak divorce” then you might know where we are coming from. You’ve seen advertisements of smiling couples in a bright, tandem kayak paddling along beautifully on placid waters.
As many, many people have discovered that image is blissful ignorance. Somehow two, normally agreeable and mature, adults get into a tandem kayak and the results are worse than a “Survivor” Vote Off episode. But we don’t want you to give up the dream.
Don’t give up on making kayaking a meaningful and shared experience with your significant other. You just need to go into it with eyes wide open. Let us offer a few insights on kayaking with your partner.
First, it might be worth noting that kayaks were first invented for solo paddlers. Canoes were a bit unwieldy and difficult for one rower (with a single paddle). Kayaks were developed by Eskimo tribes to be lightweight, quiet, maneuverable, agile, and propelled by ONE paddler (eventually with a double-sided paddle). Now, modern kayaks have been developed that put two people back on the boat.
So, in order to make kayaking with your partner the successful and enjoyable outing that you are hoping for, consider this first: tandem or not.
Partner Kayaking Tandem or as Singles? That is the question
We don’t want to completely scare you away from tandem kayaks. They do have a number of advantages for paired paddlers. Two paddlers are more efficient than one. And if you can find your rhythm, you can really pick up speed. If you are buying (or renting), you only need to purchase one vessel, transport one vessel, clean/store/maintain one vessel.
However, you might find that single kayaks are your jam. Having each paddler in his/her own kayak is also an excellent option. It gives freedom to paddle as you like AND opens up opportunities to paddle both together and separately.
Kayaking with Your Partner: Tandem Tips
If you decide to go the tandem route, good for you! Here are a few tips for the tandem kayakers.
Two person boats (like tandem kayaks and canoes) have been dubbed “bicker boats” for a reason, and it might just be related to this key. You need to get your strokes in sync. That may seem simple, but it isn’t. Because of the proximity of the paddlers in a kayak there is a high likelihood of hitting each other’s paddles if not timed properly. To avoid this remember the following:
- Front Paddler - The front paddler should control the rhythm. Because he/she can’t see behind that paddler should paddle freely and the rear paddler should follow them. The job of the front paddler is to simply paddle forward in a steady rhythm.
- Rear Paddler - The rear paddler should be the more experienced paddler. The job of the rear is to attempt to paddle in sync with the front paddler and provide course correction. When the needs arise, the rear paddler should maintain the rhythm as much as possible and simple correct with a more forceful, powerful stroke on the side opposite the direction you want to go. If greater correction is needed (backstroke or paddle ruddering), simply perform the maneuver and get back in sync as quickly as possible.
As in life, tandem kayaking is an exercise in communication as well as cooperation. It is extremely helpful to have a shared vocabulary and phrases that can be shared quickly by the paddlers. While the rear paddler is in charge of course corrections, it is important to relay the more drastic changes to the front paddler.
Kayaking with Your Partner: Single Kayaking Tips
This isn’t true only for tandem kayakers! If you choose to go the route of each having your own single kayak, it is still vitally important that you communicate. Don’t assume – as often happens in situations with romantic partners. Be clear, respectful, and abundant in your communication.
Whenever you are kayaking with someone else, be honest about the abilities and comfort levels of all kayakers. Experienced kayakers shouldn’t pressure newbies to force themselves. This way leads to disaster. Likewise, a new kayaker shouldn’t stay silent or extend themselves to save face. Everyone will have a better time if they are truthful about their needs and abilities.
Let everyone pitch in! When you share the load, it isn’t quite as overwhelming. Also, working toward a goal lends itself to ownership of the activity as well. Share the work and share the joy. Since you will have two kayaks, everything will be doubled so make sure everyone pitches in to prevent resentment.
Overall Kayaking Tips
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here are some tips for kayaking with your partner whether you are going solo or tandem.
- Wear a PDF. (Did you hear that? WEAR it, don’t just have it stashed on board “just in case”.)
- Plan your kayak route. If it is longer than a day or takes you far from shore, then share it with someone on shore. (They can be your emergency call if you don’t show up at an appointed time.)
- Practice kayak safety. Bring sunscreen/protection, extra paddle, first aid kit, signaling device, and hydration.
- Leave your ego behind. Whether you are the more experienced paddler or the new convert, major problems can develop with romantic partners when one takes the role of teacher and the other student. Both need to be aware of this phenomenon and prep a large dose of patience and understanding.
- Pack your sense of humor. Keeping up a positive attitude, laughing often, and looking on the bright side will make each kayak outing enjoyable.
Whether you find yourself in the camp of “kayak together, stay together” or the opposing camp “sleep tandem, paddle solo”, there is no reason to give up the dream of sharing kayaking adventures together. Being aware of the struggles can go a long way to helping you combat them. Happy partner paddling!!!
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