Paddling is an awesome  sport and activity for people of all ages and abilities but the environment and nature of the sport presents some significant risk elements.

Making smart decisions, having suitable equipment and clothing and knowing what to do if it does go wrong are all vital factors paddlers need to consider to make sure you get home safe from every paddling session. Contact your local kayak club to learn about safe paddling practices through the Try-Learn-Explore paddling programme.


Here are  recommended actions for safe paddling in New Zealand:

  1. Wear a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD)  which suits you and your needs, as well as appropriate paddling attire for the conditions.
  2. Check the kayak weather forecast.
  3. Do not paddle alone.
  4. Carry two forms of waterproof communication which may include a mobile phone (in a waterproof bag), flares, a PLB (personal locator beacon) or VHF radio.
  5. Be seen – Use a light if paddling before sunrise or after sunset. Make sure you wear high-visibility clothing and put reflective tape on your paddle. 
  6. Let someone know where you are going, when you intend to return and procedures to follow should you not return as expected (call 111 and/or Coastguard).
  7. Paddle within your limits, considering the craft you paddle, water conditions, fitness and time/distance of your planned paddle.
  8. Know the rules – understand and follow maritime give-way rules, navigational buoys and beacons and appropriate actions when crossing channels or shipping lanes.
  9. Ensure your equipment is well maintained and you use/carry appropriate safety items. This includes airbags in kayaks and paddle/craft leash to prevent you from being separated from your paddle or craft if you capsize.
  10. Be aware of local hazards and risks and keep a look-out for potential danger, other craft and swimmers always. If unfamiliar to an area, find a local who can provide local knowledge.
  11. Have practiced and are competent with what to do in the event of a capsize, including remounting or returning to shore and emergency actions if required.
  12. Put a name, number and emergency contact number on your craft which can identify you and is useful for emergency services if you become separated from your craft.
We recommend Safety Boat and Support Vessel drivers undertake a Safety Boat operator course as can be found at the following Coastguard link:

For further information about ensuring you are safe on your paddles:

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