-- Last Updated: Mar-28-13 12:09 PM EST --
Laine and I have always seemed to enjoy tandem paddling. I've had an Old Towne Loon 160T for years, likely similar to what you're looking into, and now have a Current Designs Unity, a sleek fancy one. I'm 6', she's 5'6". I have all kinds of paddles these days, but when using the Loon, I still usually grab a 230 cm, because it's a wide boat, and it usually goes out on pretty relaxed paddling days with a lower angle stroke. Laine sticks with her 215 cm paddle regardless of what she's paddling, and likes it just fine.
That said, if I were going for a 1 paddle solution, I would be happy in the 215 - 220 cm range, but wouldn't go 230. So depending upon heights, I might recommend scaling down to a pair of 215's, a 215 and 220, or somewhere in the 210 to 220 range depending upon your sizes and the kayak width at your individual seated positions. The paddles don't have to be the same length, same size, same kind. What's most important is that you can match your strokes if you're going for efficient travel. Giving the weaker person a longer paddle or bigger blades would slow things down, cause the weaker paddler to slow their cadence, which the stronger person must match, only they have less leverage (shorter paddle) or less purchase on the water or more slippage (smaller or less aggressive blades). Not a great way to go about things. Give the stronger person a bit more leverage, or better purchase on the water, and they can still match the weaker person's cadence, only do a little more work. And when the boat's moving faster because of the work, the weaker person's cadence can pick up without experiencing any more resistance. This is my experience anyway.
Now, have you ever heard folks say tandems are divorce boats? I don't buy into it. But I will give you a couple hints. The kayak in general will be easiest to control with equal weight in the front and back, but taking that possibility away, will be easiest with the heavier person in back.
Probably more important, the person in the stern controls direction. So if the person in the bow complains that the stern paddler isn't keeping things in the right direction, the person in the stern has to take it. If the stern paddler complains to the bow paddler that they aren't keeping things straight, they're almost always just wrong, beyond the bow paddler doing something obvious to create a strong turning force, such as dragging their paddle through the water or agressively sweeping one side - highly unlikely scenarios. The stern paddler can only become frustrated with themself if there are directional control issues. Now the bow paddler can start using bow rudders to help turn the kayak as you get good at it, but for beginners and the reasons they call tandem kayaks divorce kayaks, the stern paddler needs to handle directional control. As an example, I can put anybody you want into the bow of my Loon, and have, including kids, first timers, 2 dogs, and have no directional control issues. But I have watched a few different couples jump in and do nothing but snake back and forth in large S's, and get frustrated with each other, until I explain to them, and even demonstrate to the stern paddler, that they need to handle directional control. One fun thing to do to avoid all that would be to go out on flatwater a couple times working on nothing but turning strokes. Once you figure out how to turn a kayak, directional control becomes much easier.
Have fun. $250 a paddle should be more than adequate.
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer
2-3 Canoe/Kayak Trailer
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