Tandem canoeing, i.e. canoeing with two in the one boat, is quite a distinctive experience. With one person in the bow and the other in the stern, both facing forwards, they can be paddling for an entire day whilst barely catching a glimpse of one another’s face. Thus, in a sense they are practically anonymous. However, with communication being key and their both being in the same boat there is no lack of contact whatsoever.
Unless they were to paddle along an impossibly long, straight section of river containing no obstacles, by necessity they must relay information to each other regarding the state of the water ahead and how to approach it. With the bow paddler obstructing a great deal of the view in front, they must call out anything that should be avoided. With the stern paddler being the only one able to see the other’s body position, they typically instruct as to what type of stroke to engage and when. The former is an unavoidable consequence of tandem canoeing, though conceivably the latter could be mitigated through a high level of familiarity between the two persons.
There is also a strong physical connection between the two paddlers. Because they are literally in the same boat they are both sensitive to its balance, and thus by extension to the other person’s weight and its subtle effects on the degree of list. What each person is, or is not doing with their paddle also has a noticeably effect. With both people paddling effectively in unison, they should be able to travel in a straight line, or smoothly around a bend. If one begins to paddle with greater or lesser strength then not only is the difficulty of keeping up the pace affected, but also the line that the boat is taking.
These combined make for an activity with a rare combination of qualities. I spent four days in a boat with one person, barely seeing them save for when we were on land, yet always conscious of their presence. Despite the obviously huge difference in strenuousness between the two pasttimes, I can personally relate the base activity closest to playing co-operative video games online. The other participant is invisible, yet communication is essential and the effects of it breaking down or the lack of engagement on behalf of the other become quickly apparent.