-- Last Updated: Jun-21-13 10:53 AM EST --
I have to agree with several of the points already made. This is too large an investment with too many complexities to purchase as a "surprise" for your husband. I know it's tempting to want the big "surprise" moment of revealing such a large gift, but I would suggest a clever stand-in, like a gift certificate tucked inside a small kayak toy. Perhaps joint lessons in kayaking or a guided outing in a good tandem and/or solo kayaks would be the best intro. You should have some knowledge and feel for what you really need and want before spending what will be at least $2,000 to $3,000 on boats and gear.
My sweetie and I (both active outdoor folk in our early 60's) paddle frequently, from large lake and coastal touring to small whitewater creeks. For most trips we use 2 solo kayaks. There are both functional and safety reasons for this. Tandems are heavy, and despite what many beginners think, it is not easier for two people (especially beginners) to propel a tandem than solo boats. Also, if you capsize a tandem there is not a second boat to help with recovery and re-entry. This can be a serious safety issue. Due to their volume, pumping out a swamped tandem is a real chore.
A tandem is also quite a barge for a solo paddler, unless it is a folding kayak (like a Feathercraft Klondike or a Pakboat XT-16) that can be rigged so the seat is in the center and that is much lighter weight than a plastic or composite boat.
When we tandem paddle, we use a canoe instead of a kayak. We have one that we are able to use in class I and II rivers. As others have said, a tandem kayak is quite unsuitable for fast rough water -- they are just not maneuverable enough. The canoe we use most is not costly or high-tech. It's a Mad River Adventure 16, rotomolded plastic and available just about everywhere for under $700. It tracks well in open water and handles decently for negotiating moderate rapids. And we don't mind beating it up on rocks and gravel bars. For kayaking we have several boats each but the ones we use most often are Venture Easky 15's (a standard one for him and a smaller LV model for me) which are mid-sized touring/sea kayaks. These are also moderately priced boats, around $1300 each new. They are good for conditions like Lake Tahoe due to the low profile and great handling in winds and waves. They track straight and are easy to paddle at reasonable speed. They are also 10 to 15 lbs lighter than most similar models by other makers, at around 46 lbs. A tandem kayak can weigh close to 100 lbs -- you need to factor in dry land wrangling when you choose a boat, too.
Anyway, I'm sure you will have other feedback to consider, but I thought hearing what another couple has settled on for our optimum paddling routines would be instructive. I know there are others who like tandem kayaks, but personally I have never enjoyed them. One of the great pleasures I get from kayaking is the freedom of controlling my own boat. It's also easier to talk with your companion (and photograph them) when they are in a separate boat. I am always hoarse after our tandem canoe trips from shouting over my shoulder.
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