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Your Yak Or Mine? It Takes Two To Tandem

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On: Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 2:06PM | By: Mel The Guide


Hi, all; welcome to the island, man. Pine Island and Matlacha, that is. The weather has been great and the kayaking and fishing has been at its best. The Trout and Snook season is closed, but they still give a good fight. I swear that the fish know that the season is closed, because the bite is on.

I had a phone call a few weeks back from a reader about a story I had written a month or so ago, about my native water craft, and how much I liked it. He wanted to know did I really think it was a good boat? Moreover, that he was going to get one on my recommendation. I said I loved my boat and use it almost every day. It has one of the best and most comfortable seats on the market. When you are on the water as much as I am you need a good seat.

Well, a few weeks later I get a call from Mr. Art Lewis, and he tells me he and his wife purchased a tandem kayak by Watercraft, and was having a few problems paddling it. I suggested he and his wife bring the boat down to the shop, behind the Olde Fish House Marina in Matlacha, and we could go out on a tour and I could help him with his problem.

A few days later Art and his lovely wife, who are in their late 70s, show up with a yellow tandem native craft on the top of the car. Art had made a real neat roller for the back of the car, to slide the boat on and off. I pass this on to you if you’re having a rough time getting your yak on the top of the car. I thought it was a pretty smart idea. He took the last cross-section of a stock roof rack apart and slid a piece of PVC pipe onto the rail, then put it back together. The pipe has to fit loose on the rack so it can roll. It works really well, and the price of a few feet of pipe is really CHEAP.

We unloaded the yak with ease and carried it to our floating dock. They had purchased a good set of Aqua Bond paddles, which are light yet strong. Art and his wife got in the yak with no problem. I asked what problems they were having with the boat, Art said that the boat kept going to one side, and it was hard to keep it on track.

I said let’s start from the beginning: how to hold the paddle, how to adjust the drip rings, how to sit in the boat with your back straight, and a slight bend in your knees. I watched as they paddled and saw some common mistakes that most folks make when trying to paddle a double.

First, they were not in synch with each other, which makes it almost impossible to gain any headway. Second, I saw that Art, who is stronger than his wife was stirring the stew, as I call it. He had his paddle deep in the water and was pulling hard like he was paddling a canoe. I tried to correct the things that jumped out to me. They got better, but still had a few small problems. As I spoke to Art’s wife I found out she was left-handed. (Nothing against left-handed folks; I am married to one.) Since the kayak kept heading to the right, I suggested that she lighten up on her stroke, especially when she pulled on the left, as this was her strong side. So many folks try to pull the stroke hard left, hard right; then what happens is the kayak sweeps left, then right. They spend half of their paddle swinging left and right and making little headway straight. LIGHTEN UP, try to look at the front of the yak, try not to pull so hard that the front is going back and forth. It should move in a straight path. Try to use only the lower third of the of the paddle to just draw the paddle towards you in a light sweep stroke.

This is just one of the problems that we all face in a tandem kayak. So, one more time let’s cover some basics: PRACTICE & RHYTHM. It’s important that one paddler not get ahead of the other. The person in the back should watch the stroke of the person in the front and mimic it. If the one in the front is paddling on the left and his paddle is in the water pulling towards him, then the person in the rear should have his paddle in the water and be pulling on the left towards the rear. If you don’t do this you will find that you look like a centipede with legs swinging in the air in every direction. The person in front may get hit in the head, which they may not like; then they will make a deep stroke and the person in the rear will get a face full of water.

Just a side note: we at gulf coast kayak have a standing policy for putting couples in a tandem kayak, Number one is when we see a young couple walking across the parking lot holding hands and being all kisses, and thinking all is well with the world, we put them in a kayak called Reality Check. Second couple walking up to the shack, and we hear them arguing about whether they should take a single or a tandem and the conversation is a little heated, we put them in our kayak called Divorce Court. And last, but not least, when we see a couple who are in a hot debate about who will sit in the front or who will sit in the back, and the young lady has arms that are larger than the man, we put them in our kayak called Widow Maker.

OK, back to the tips. Turns?? When you are about to make a turn the person in the back is in command. He should make the move to turn the kayak. Then get back in RHYTHM with the front kayaker.

Guys, there is a learning curve you will have to master before you will have it right. Don’t expect it to click right away, it takes time. Nevertheless, you will get the hang of in a short time; don’t rush it, relax and go out and have fun. Kayaking is all about fun, not a job you have to do. One other note is if you just can’t get the hang of it, you could always just have the person in the front read a book, take pictures, fish, or just be ‘Queen of the Nile’ and sit back and relax—this could save your marriage.

Well, that’s about it for now. Hope to see you on the water in a single or a tandem, whatever works for you. Just go get your paddle wet. Thanks for paddling with Mel, the Guide.




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