Tandem surfing
Striking a Balance

At Mākaha Beach, a photographer captures the agility and eloquence of tandem surfing, an innovation of the sport that began in Hawai‘i.

Text By
Matthew Dekneef
Images By
Josiah Patterson
Tandem surfing
Tandem surfing

Together in Tandem

Season 2 Episode 1
Tandem surfing is defined as when two people, generally a man and a woman, ride together on a board. While the practice gained prominence in the 1930s in Waikīkī with beach boys and tourists, ancient Hawaiian legends reveal tandem surfing was common and popular in the islands long before. Mākaha is often considered the preeminent arena for its thrilling stunts, such as when the woman balances on one foot on her escort’s shoulder or encircles him in a round-the-world twist.
Surfers paddling out to sea
Black and white photo of tandem surfers paddling out to surf
One of tandem’s compulsory and most difficult rides is when the man extends the woman into the air and she strikes a swan position. “The girls deserve an earthquake of applause,” Duke Kahanamoku wrote in the his manual Duke Kahanamoku’s World of Surfing, “for their daring contributions to the bigger and better surfing meets.”
Black and white photo of tandem surfers paddling out
Tandem surfers doing tricks while catching waves
Underwater photo of a surf board and surfer paddling
Jordan Patterson tandem surfs with his sister Keala Patterson
Jordan Patterson, who is ranked one of the top tandem surfers in the world, surfs with his sister Keala Patterson.
Jordan and Keala tandem surfing
Tandem surfing over-head tricks
The multitude of manuevers of tandem surfing and how finely developed it has become over the decades illustrate the dedication and creativity of the sport’s performers. Tandem surf duos often take liberties with classic maneuvers to push limits and expectations, and in turn, wow the crowd.
Jordan and Keala walking back to shore with their surfboard
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