Coast to Coast Tandem Team | 5 Things You Should Know

Is the Tandem Team event at Coast to Coast 2018 on your radar? This is for you!

The popularity of racing in pairs and teams is taking off and I’ve met a number of people recently who are planning to race in a tandem team at Coast to Coast in 2018. The tandem team is different from the traditional relay-style team event, where instead of doing one or two stages of the race and then tagging your team mate, you complete the entire 2 day race alongside your team mate. I competed in the tandem team event at Coast earlier this year and had a blast. What I really enjoyed was that you have someone to banter and have a laugh with, someone there to help pull you through the dark moments, and someone else who really understands what you went through when you’re celebrating afterwards!

Stoke levels are high at the Coast to Coast finish line.

It’s now about 6 months out from race day. It might seem like plenty of time to get ready, but really the earlier you can start the better. So here’s what you need to know at this stage in the game.


Take a look through the Athlete Handbook. The version for next year isn’t published yet but most of the details for this years event will still apply. If it’s going to be your first time racing Coast to Coast get a good feel for the course – check out the route and elevation profile and browse the photos on the Coast to Coast Multisport Race Facebook page to get an idea of the environment where the racing magic happens.

You’ll find all the crucial information on the official Coast to Coast website and Facebook page. You can also join the Coast to Coast training group on Facebook – it’s a place where you can ask questions, find training buddies, and keep up to speed with the latest news and events. There’s a search function on the left sidebar of the Facebook page so you can check if your question has already been addressed. The Adventurous Kiwi, aka Hollie Woodhouse, has a great write up about what to expect on the mountain run through Goats Pass that you can read here.


If you are super keen to race in a tandem team and don’t yet have a team mate take a look at the Find a Team Mate page or put a shout out on Facebook. But if you’ve already locked in a partner in crime then start getting out and about together. Spend as much time as possible out on all kinds of training sessions and adventures. It can be anything from a 30 minute run around the neighbourhood to a multisport day in the hills. While you’ll certainly need to get some longer training miles under your belt, don’t underestimate the value of the shorter sessions too.

The Heights of Winter 12 hour rogaine at Ashburton Lakes – a fun way to train.

See if you can do some racing together before the Coast to Coast. You might think you know your team mate well, but strange and unexpected things can happen on race day. Here are some ideas:

  • Find some local rogaines or adventure races to participate in together.

  • Enter a few paddling, cycling or running events as individuals but make sure you stick together the whole way to simulate tandem racing for Coast.


You don’t need to go and spend your life savings on getting ready for the race, but there will be some costs you can’t avoid. If you’re just giving it a go and not sure if you’ll stick with this multisport thing, then borrow everything you can. But be careful not to skimp on quality when it comes to your safety and well-being. If you buy quality gear and look after it, you can still sell it for good money after the race.

Don’t settle for being uncomfortable when it comes to gear and equipment. You shouldn’t have to suffer with a sore back on the bike, or legs going numb in the kayak. Keep making adjustments, get a bike fit, try a new saddle, ask the right people the right questions. If you’re comfortable you will enjoy the experience a whole lot more, with the added bonus of probably going faster!

Speaking of comfort – are you left-handed? Are you using a paddle with the key in the right hand? And maybe feeling that something isn’t quite right? Well, I’m left-handed and tried a left-handed paddle after about 6 months of paddling. It changed my life! My paddling life at least. If this sounds like you please get in touch and I’ll fill you in on the details!

Here’s a guideline for what you can expect to spend. Bear in mind that this won’t be spent all at once. These are intended to be ball park figures for how you can expect to see your pennies disappearing to over the next 6 months.


  • Entry fee.

  • Grade 2 certificate – by the rules only one person in the tandem kayak needs a Grade 2 but I would really recommend you both complete the certificate. The importance of kayaking is, in general, severely under-rated. To try to flip this around it has its very own section below!

  • A kayak and accessories, if you decide to purchase your own. Note that you will still need your own PFD (personal flotation device), paddle, and kayak helmet for the event.

  • Guided river trips and additional kayak coaching.

  • Road bike and accessories including helmet, shoes, cycling clothes. The important thing is that your bike is serviced and safe to ride. You could be reaching speeds well over 50 km/h on some parts of the course. You don’t want a faulty bike to be throwing you on the deck at that speed.

  • Running shoes and backpack. The type of shoes suited to the mountain run is always a topic of discussion. Here is a summary put together by Anna Barrett and Bobby Dean of the gear used by the top 10 longest day competitors in 2017. At the end of the day it’s what you feel comfortable in but this will give you an idea of what works.

  • Compulsory gear – get this organised early.

  • Nutrition – if you’re consuming electrolytes, energy bars and gels during training and practise races this can certainly add up.

  • Travel, accommodation, and logistics for any training you intend to do on the course.

  • Travel, accommodation, food, and logistics for race weekend.

  • Support crew – I don’t like to think of this as a cost necessarily but you won’t be able to race without them, so put some thought into rewarding them handsomely for their time and effort!

You can’t put a value on a dedicated support crew.


Don’t under-estimate the importance of the kayak leg. Even if you’re not out there to win, you still need to be paddling fit and confident on the river. This will immensely help the enjoyment factor too! So to avoid a long, uncomfortable 6-7 hours on the river on race day, here’s a few things you can do.

  • Book in a Grade 2 course for both of you. This isn’t imperative as the rules so far have stated that only one of you needs a Grade 2 certificate, however it is recommended for a number of reasons.

​a) It’s all part of the fun training journey together.

b) You will both be confident on the water on race day.

c) It allows for the unexpected. If something happens to one of you, maybe you have a bad day, or roll an ankle going through Goat Pass the day before meaning you can’t operate the steering in the tandem kayak, you will still be able to get down the river in one piece.

  • Join a local canoe or kayak club. A club can offer you access to equipment, coaching, group training sessions, and it’s a great place to meet other training buddies. I’ve listed a few below and a Google search will give you a website or Facebook page for contact details.

– Central Otago – Southern Lakes Multisport Club

– Christchurch – Arawa Canoe Club

– Nelson – Tasman Bay Kayak Racing

– Wellington – Kupe Canoe Club

– Auckland – Waitemata Canoe & Multisport Club

  • Get some technique analysis and additional coaching. Get your paddling technique sorted right from the start – it will save you pain in the long run. Yes it’s likely to be frustrating, you want to improve quickly, and you just want to go fast. I certainly know these feelings, I’ve been there. In fact I still feel that way some days. But putting in this work early on will give you a strong, efficient technique that means you can go faster for longer – not to mention more comfortably.

Comfortable, happy, and going fast!

  • Take a guided trip down the Coast to Coast course. Bonus if you can do this in a tandem kayak, but you’ll still gain a lot by going down in individual kayaks.

  • Do your best to spend some time paddling together in a double kayak to get a feel for it.This doesn’t have to be in the Barracuda AR Duo’s used at the race, any double will do. There might be one you can hire/use at the kayak club, or ask around and someone might have one hidden away. Here’s a few things I learnt:

– You can both get surprisingly wet just from the splash off the other persons paddle, even on flat water on a dry day.

– Use similar or the same size paddle blades. Otherwise the person with the larger blade can end up doing more work.

– Matching cadence between the two of you can take some work. Often the “comfortably hard” pace for the both of you doesn’t match up.

– Clear communication is important on all levels. It can help to have a process or key words that you generally use because it can get noisy on the river and hard to hear each other.

If you want to hire a Barracuda AR Duo for training there are a few options:

  • PaddlerZone in Christchurch have two available for hire.

  • Arawa Canoe Club in Christchurch may have a couple available for training. Check their website and Facebook page.

  • In the past there have been a couple of the Duo’s available for hire from Flock Hill Station (on the main road between Christchurch and the start of the kayak leg). Check the official Coast to Coast website and Facebook page for these details.


How are you going to fuel yourself while you are paddling on the river for 4+ hours? Are you going to stop paddling every time you need a drink or snack? I’ll cover a few options for this later down the track, but now is a good time to think about how you will approach nutrition on the kayak stage.

Getting in some extra fuel for the final bike leg.


Don’t be fooled by the stability of these kayaks. They handle quite well on the river, as long as the kayak knows that you are the one in charge. You need to be actively paddling, just like you would in a single person kayak. You might laugh or scoff at this, but here’s a little tale to help prove my point.

My teamie and I started in the last wave of competitors on our bikes from Klondyke on the second day – right at the back of the field. We passed a few people on the cycle leg to the get-in at Mt White bridge, but as we are both relatively strong paddlers once we got on the water we really started to make up ground on the teams that had left earlier.

However, the majority of the tandem kayaks that we passed were upside down at the bottom of a rapid!

This was of course great for us to make up some places, but just goes to show you can’t be lazy in those boats. We did, in fact, come tantalisingly close to a swim ourselves!

I also have the inside word that the winning tandem mixed team took a swim – and still won by a country mile. Don’t let this scare you though. Just put the work in and you will be rewarded.

For you competitive folk out there, being confident and capable on the river, and not taking a swim, could be the difference between the podium and a dirty ole 4th place. My team mate and I actually nabbed second place in the tandem mixed team category…by 3 minutes! So a swim for us would have been the difference between silver and bronze.


It might seem like a lot to take in at once, but just take away a few important things now, save the link and take another look a few weeks down the track.

If there’s something you want to know, don’t be afraid to ask. Something I really like about the multisport community is that people are willing to help! Ask at the kayak club or other local training groups. Ask your coach or jump onto the Coast to Coast training group on Facebook.

Or you can ask me of course! Flick me a message on the Make it Dirt Facebook page, email, or via the contact form at You can send me your questions or we can arrange a phone, FaceTime, or Skype call for a “Ask Me Anything” chat.

Happy training and adventuring!

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