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Who should sit in front in a Tandem Kayak?

Mann und Frau im Tandem Kajak. Mann sitzt hinten im Tandem Kajak.

Not only since the advent of inflatable kayaks have kayaks enjoyed great popularity for two people. Solo kayaks are also a great piece of sports equipment. Water sports enthusiasts, who feel most comfortable on the water, can have a lot of fun with the small canoes.

However, if you want to share the great experience with a friend or family, it is better to choose a tandem kayak. Even if riding a tandem kayak is not easy at the beginning, paddling together is a lot of fun.

Kayaking is an excellent full-body workout and a great way to spend a day on the water. A two-person kayak turns water sports into a social experience. Ultimately, sharing experiences with someone else is the best experience.

It has already been mentioned that riding a tandem kayak is not easy. But even the correct sitting position is often discussed in forums. So: Who sits in front in a tandem kayak?

In a tandem kayak the experienced, heavy and stronger paddler should sit in the back. The person behind takes on the role of the helmsman. For this task you have to paddle more powerfully. It is better for the driving characteristics if the weight rests on the rear. In addition, the navigation of the boat requires experience.

The longer and wider two-person kayaks are more stable in the water than single-person kayaks. The two paddlers sit one behind the other in the kayak and it is important who sits in front and who sits behind in the tandem kayak.

Why is the correct sitting position important?

Kayak beginners should also make sure that the tall or heavy person sits in the back of the kayak. The reason for this is that on the one hand the paddler sitting in the back of the kayak is the helmsman (or the helmswoman). This means that this person has to paddle harder.

In addition, the boat tilts forward if the weight is unevenly distributed. On the one hand, this has an effect on the speed because it slows down the kayak. On the other hand, the tip of the kayak quickly dips into waves, even if the water is a little restless.

And on longer distances the worse tracking becomes a problem. If there is too much weight on the front part of the kayak, the boat tends to drift sideways. If you want to go on kayak tours, you should pay attention to the correct seating position.

The two seating positions

The design of the tandem kayaks means that there are two different seating positions: One paddler sits in the back (and is the helmsman) and one sits in the front. The front paddler sets the beat. The person behind has to adapt to the paddling speed.

The beat generator has to find and keep a rhythm. Especially at the beginning it is not easy for the back seated paddler to hit this beat and control the kayak at the same time. The control is done by stronger and weaker paddle strokes. If the helmsman uses powerful paddle strokes on the right side, the boat’s nose will also tilt slightly to the right.

Backstrokes are an alternative technique to steering. Simply hold the paddle in the water on the side you want to turn it into or move it against the direction of travel. The nose turns fast in the desired direction.

When driving straight ahead, the synchronous paddle is very important. Not only do the paddles collide when you get out of sync, you also lose a lot of power because the boat always zigzags slightly.

Demands on the rear paddler

Steering the kayak is not easy. It is therefore recommended that the stronger person sits in the back. More power and a better angle make paddling and steering more efficient.

Another factor is that the rear paddler should be more experienced. The last end is the power to paddle, but with a better paddling technique even a supposedly weaker paddler can progress more efficiently. Experienced paddlers can also react better to situations with which they are already familiar.

Many young parents like family kayaks. Kayaks for 2+1 persons are mostly used with children. The adult should sit in the back of the kayak. In this way you always have the child(s) in view and can still steer the boat effectively. With wider kayaks the children can sit next to each other in the middle of the boat. This ensures a better weight distribution. With two adults, however, the child is best placed in the middle.

Small children can also sit on the lap of an adult in calm water. For older children it is better to buy their own kayak seats. The right kayak life jacket for children should of course not be omitted.

Also in white water a kayaker with experience on the back seat is an advantage. The tandem whitewater kayak can be rolled alone by the helmsman. However, a test run is recommended.

You first have to get used to steering the kayak as the person behind you. On days with good weather even inexperienced kayak paddlers should try steering the boat. You can only improve by experience.

Further factors for the optimal seating position

The weight of the paddlers can be a knockout criterion. Kayaks ride best when the weight is evenly distributed. If one paddler weighs more than the other, the heavier kayaker should sit in the back. With the luggage and provisions, the load can also be distributed a little better.

More weight on the stern is usually better than additional load at the front of the boat. Only when paddling against strong winds or countercurrents is more weight in the front area advantageous.

With fishing kayaks, the angler should sit in the front of the boat so that he can concentrate fully on fishing, while the other paddler navigates the kayak. The same applies if a person wants to take (professional) photos.

Of course, it can also be a matter of personal preferences. Maybe a paddler would rather play captain. Another person prefers to be the crew member and wants to sit in the front of the boat.


Many circumstances can have an influence on the optimal seating sequence. In general, however, the rear seated kayaker should be more experienced, stronger and heavier. All three characteristics probably don’t apply to one of you, but the idea should be clear.

If you are riding a two-person kayak on your own, you should mount the seat as centrally as possible on the boat. With fixed kayak seats, the rear seat is more suitable. This gives you the best possible control.

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