Safe Practice Guidelines – Kayaking

The same principles of safe practice apply to all activities.  We need to:

  • Be capable of doing the activity
  • Have proper equipment including a first aid kit
  • Stay with the group
  • Be aware of where others are, especially those behind us.

By not complying with the above, everyone in the group is affected and undue stress is placed on the leader.

The following guidelines apply to kayaking but are also relevant in principle to cycling and hiking.

For kayaking, equipment is particularly important:

  • A well maintained kayak, with at least 2 bulkheads and secondary buoyancy
  • Fixed deck lines (to enable a rescue and to grab onto in event of a capsize)
  • Paddle, paddle leash
  • Spray skirt, mandatory for open water conditions
  • Sponge, bailer, hand pump
  • Australian or NZ standards approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with a whistle attached by a lanyard
  • Paddle jacket for wind protection (accessible from cockpit), sun protective clothing, hat,
  • Water (min 1 litre for morning paddle, 2 litres for day paddle), sunscreen, emergency food
  • Footwear (suitable for walking on rocks or oysters) that does not float away in a capsize

The leader should:

  • Be able to perform an assisted rescue and tow another kayaker
  • Understand marine weather forecasts
  • Give a briefing at the start of the paddle including target destination, rest stops, expected weather conditions, potential risks or hazards
  • Appoint a deputy, tail-ender
  • Check that participants have appropriate kayaking equipment for the conditions expected. The leader has the right to refuse any participant who does not meet the required standard of ability and/or equipment for the trip
  • Demonstrate signals to be used to communicate e.g. “stop,” “come to me”
  • Cancel or shorten the trip if conditions become unsafe
  • Ensure everyone finishes

Participants should:

  • Be able to swim
  • Disclose medical issues that may affect their ability to participate
  • Be open with the leader regarding their level of fitness
  • Follow the Leader’s instructions
  • Stay with the group
  • Help other paddlers where needed and where possible

Additional equipment and precautions are required for open water kayaking.  Open water is any expanse of water, river, lake or bay wider than a kilometre which will be exposed to wind and therefore becomes dangerous is severe weather conditions.  There is a wealth of information about kayaking skills, open water and ocean kayaking at NSW Sea Kayaker Association

(Acknowledgements – Kathie Webb, Jack Gal, Peter Bique)