What is Tandem Surfing: Everything You Need to Know


It isn’t every day that you see two people practicing tandem surfing. Most of the time, it is just one person on the board surfing the waves. Nonetheless, if you want to try something new, why not grab a large board and surf with a partner? However, be cautious. Tandem surfing is not as easy as it sounds. It requires practice and mastery of skills and techniques.

Tandem surfing is more than just surfing. It has influences of gymnastics, and even figure skating. It requires timing, coordination, and strength. If you want to try tandem surfing but clueless about how to do it, keep on reading and learn from the insights we’ll share.

What is Tandem Surfing?

Technically, tandem surfing is all about two people riding one surfboard at the same time. It is also considered as a sub-genre of surfing, which often involves two people of the opposite sex. It is believed to have started in Waikiki in the 1920s when a surfer boy is hired by women to carry them on the wave.

Today, tandem surfing is considered by many to be Cirque de Soleil on a surfboard. It is more than just a hobby but a show that includes acrobatics. It is a visual feast. Even in global surfing championships, tandem surfing is recognized.

To put it simply, you can also see tandem surfing as lifting, protecting, and displaying the beauty of a woman while putting her trust in a man. It is a competitive sport, although, some people do it as a hobby. Especially surf instructors, it isn’t unusual to see them carrying another person as they show off their skills and conquer challenging waves.

The Rules of Competitive Tandem Surfing

Before talking about the rules that are present, we would like to mention that there is an organization responsible for running the competitions and protecting the history of this kind of surfing – the International Tandem Surfing Association. This is a regional organization that also includes fans and supporters.

Based on the rules of tandem surfing, the performance will have a 20-point scoring system – 10 points for wave riding and 10 points for lifting. Every lift has a corresponding point depending on the level of difficulty. Only the top four tricks shown by the participants will get a score in every wave. If there are falls and other mistakes, they will correspond to point deductions. Another major requirement is the full execution of every lift for at least three seconds.

Finding a Partner

For the success of tandem surfing, one of the most important is having the right partner. It requires teamwork, so work with someone you are comfortable with. You should complement each other’s skills, making it easier to ensure timing and coordination.

For males, physique and strength are two of the most critical. It involves lifting the other surfer, so the male surfer must be physically able to do so while riding the waves. Acrobatic experience also helps.

On the other hand, for females, find someone who is petite and athletic, preferably, a person with experience in gymnastics. Being flexible is a must. Lightweight and short girls are also great because they are easier to lift.

Finding a Board

Aside from working with the right partner, you also need to choose the right board. Pay attention to the rules and regulations of the competition. Using the wrong board can be a reason for disqualification regardless of how good you are.

Compared to the standard longboards, tandem surfboards are thicker, longer, and wider since it has to accommodate two people at a time. It must be strong enough to support the weight of the two people who are riding the board. The length is usually 11 to 12 inches. Meanwhile, the usual width is from 27 to 29 inches and the thickness is anywhere from 3 ¾ to 5 inches.

Communication is Crucial

Tandem surfers need to maintain constant communication when showing off their tricks. Because tandem surfing is a complicated and difficult four-footed art, constantly communicating with your partners makes it less likely that you will commit mistakes.

Communication is especially important when someone is about to fall. You need to inform your partner so that he or she knows what to do to remedy the situation or to prevent a serious injury upon falling off.

Striking a Balance

Balance is important for tandem surfers, making it possible to stay on the board despite the waves. It is already hard being on the board on your own, so imagine how much more difficult it is when there are two people at the board. Striking a balance and staying charming can be a difficult endeavor.

For the surfer who is carrying the other person, it is important to maintain a proper stance. To add, physical strength, especially of the core, legs, and arms is also crucial to strike a balance. For the person being lifted, make sure to maintain a stable position and avoid unnecessary movements while keeping the weight at a minimum.

Doing It with Kids

Most of the time, tandem surfing is done as a competition. In instances when it is done as a hobby, it is commonly seen among parents and their children. It is easier for an adult to carry a child when surfing compared to having two adults on the board. To add, tandem surfing with children is a good way to let the little ones overcome their fear of water and to guide them as they learn how to surf.


In sum, tandem surfing is a sport and an art. It involves two people surfing on a board with elements of acrobatics or gymnastics. It is a century-old practice and now the subject of several surfing competitions. From the right choice of a partner to the right board, consider the things mentioned above if you are interested in trying tandem surfing.

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