Double up and double the fun. Tandem sea kayaks are an excellent option for a pair of paddlers who want to stay close. It’s true that some guides and outfitters assign two-person sea kayaks the cheeky moniker “divorce boat” because of the bickering that happens when two paddlers disagree about direction but only one person controls the steering. Still, spending time in a tandem touring kayak with the right person is a blast.
Some of my most rewarding experiences as a sea kayaking guide have been with paddlers who may not have been able to control a kayak on their own. For young kids, adults with mobility issues, or just folks worried about keeping up with the rest of the group, a tandem can be the perfect solution. The key is finding the best double sea kayak for that paddler.
Top picks: Best tandem sea kayaks for 2023
Best Tandem Sea Kayaks
BKC TK122 Angler Tandem Coastal Cruiser Kayak
AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite
Mirage Tandem Island
Shop tandem sea kayaks
While there are not as many tandem touring sea kayak options compared to single sea kayaks, there are still many choices on the market. Our Paddling Buyer’s Guide showcases every tandem touring kayak available, complete with the specifications, prices and places to buy them. Use the links below to jump to tandem kayaks, sorted by type or brand, within the Buyer’s Guide.
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Shopping for a used tandem sea kayak?
For buyers looking to maximize their dollar value on a tandem sea kayak, Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace or other online classifieds are a terrific resource. However, it is not as easy as flipping through a catalogue and selecting the boat you’d like. Consider setting an alert for certain parameters and have a price range in mind. Some deals seem too good to be true—and they probably are.
Outfitters often carry tandem sea kayaks which get rented out to beginner paddlers. They may be selling them at the end of the season, but they will need a thorough inspection before purchasing. Here are two essential things to look for when buying a used tandem touring kayak.
A two-person sea kayak has different wear spots than a single sea kayak. When inspecting the hull, thoroughly examine the areas under the seats. These are often weak points because they lack structural reinforcement. This area can be susceptible to flexing and cracking if the kayak is not stored or transported correctly.
Look into a backlit cockpit and see if there are any spots where light is shining through, indicating thin points. This might be a clue that the kayak has been dragged along beaches or scraped on rocks.
A rudder is necessary to turn long tandem sea kayaks efficiently. Inspect the rudder cables thoroughly. Also, check that the rope and pulley system used to deploy the rudder is in good working condition and that the rudder has a full range of motion when engaged.
New rudders and cables are an easy fix, but ensure that the replacement parts are available before buying the boat.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
Tandem sea kayak buying guide
It is important to remember that the best tandem sea kayak for someone else may not be the best for you and your partner. Carefully read the descriptions of specific kayaks and consider how you plan to use it.
Tandem sea kayaks vary greatly in terms of performance. Some lighter, narrow models can easily keep up with or even outperform single kayaks. These are good kayaks for paddlers who travel light, or only plan on taking shorter trips. If this is what you are looking for, consider a composite kayak less than 26 inches (66 cm) wide.
Other tandems serve more like floating barges; they are extremely stable sea kayaks capable of hauling loads of gear. For those who like to pack everything but the kitchen sink, these high-volume tandem kayaks are ideal. Higher volume kayaks are often extremely stable, ideal for bringing along beginners or kayakers who cannot control a boat on their own. These kayaks are available in all materials, and are wider than 26’’.
Some tandem sea kayaks come with a hatch between the two cockpits. This is an excellent place to store bulky items, but it will add volume, length and weight to the kayak. Forgoing the middle hatch is fine for minimalist travellers or those who plan on taking shorter trips. Short tandem sea kayaks can be less than 19 feet, making the boats easier to store and transport. Touring tandems with a middle hatch and bulkhead will be 20 feet or longer to accommodate the extra space.
Like other sea kayaks, most tandems are made from plastic or composite materials like fiberglass. Plastic boats will be less expensive but heavier and slower. They can withstand repeated impacts, but a hole in the hull will be challenging to fix.
Fiberglass tandem sea kayaks will be lighter than their plastic counterparts but are more expensive. They will be faster on the water, and although they cannot handle repeated impacts, minor holes or abrasions are easy to repair.
From a safety perspective, a tandem sea kayak will often be much more stable than a single sea kayak. However, in the unlikely event of a tandem kayak capsizing, it is still crucial to know reliable re-entry methods. A sea kayak course with a certified kayak instructor will help teach re-entry methods that work for the boat and paddlers.
It is a two-person sea kayak, so the decision to buy or not to buy needs to take the comfort of both paddlers into account. Both prospective users should test-paddle the bow and stern positions and make sure the footpegs and seating areas are comfortable.
Kayak design and materials will affect the price of the boat. A general rule is that the lighter the material, the more it will cost. But weight is not necessarily inversely related to price. Additional hatches, or longer kayaks can cost more simply because more material and time goes into manufacturing.
Touring sit-in tandems can range from $2,200 to $5,000 USD depending on the model and features of the craft.
Single vs double sea kayaks
It seems obvious, but the most significant benefit to buying a tandem or double sea kayak over a single sea kayak is that it is one kayak that accommodates two paddlers. Only owning one kayak will save storage space in the garage and on your car or trailer. Tandem sea kayaks or other tandem touring kayaks are perfect for partners who wish to paddle together but have varying abilities or skill levels. There is no worry about falling behind if you are in the same boat!
Having two single sea kayaks will give both paddlers the option to paddle wherever they would like. Some people prefer to hug the coast, while others want to stay further out. They can also both have the exact kayak they would like rather than a compromise. Usually, two hulls also offer more hatches and more total space, although this may depend on the designs.
Tandem sea kayak reviews
Begin to explore the tandem kayak market by reading our expert reviews. Keep in mind what you are looking for in the kayak, and familiar patterns will begin to appear regarding the desired design and features.