Paddle Australia (Previously Australian Canoeing) is the peak national canoeing body recognised by the Federal government, and the Paddle Australia Qualification Scheme (PAQS) is the national benchmark for paddling, formulated over many years as the collective work of paddlers of authority and experience. Quality assurance of the PAQS is provided by PA Instructors. The Scheme presents the highest standards of skills and safety to the public, recreational paddlers, commercial operators and administrative officials.

Paddling is a rewarding sport and recreational activity carried out on most Australian waters from rivers, lakes and paddling venues through to white water and the sea. Paddling is carried out both by individuals or groups of friends or family, supervised or unsupervised. The award scheme has been created for paddler development in both skills and knowledge to enrich paddlers’ enjoyment of the sport and to develop safe practices amongst all paddlers.

The scheme is designed to allow anyone to enter at any level. The skills awards are milestones that many may chose to ignore even when they are operating at skill levels above those stipulated. The Skill Awards, however, help define minimum paddling skills for those who wish to guide or instruct. The Guide and Instructor Awards represent industry quality paddling awards recognised throughout Australia for use in industry, education and clubs.

The skill awards are more than just competency based. Holders of a given skill award have a well-tested and Australia-wide moderated set of paddling skills that allow those paddlers to operate confidently and safely within their tested conditions. Instructor awards are given only to those who have demonstrated perfected skills, good teaching abilities and leadership qualities through examination.

PA appoints assessors after they have completed an PA Assessor course. These people are Instructors who have additional experience and the ability to judge the standards of other paddlers.

PAQS is administered through a network of National Training Providers (NTPs), which are required to adhere to a strict set of training and assessment criteria that meet national safety standards and exceed VET requirements.

The qualification scheme is reviewed every three years, and PA welcomes input into the Scheme. Comments and criticisms may be directed to the Education and Safety Advisory group for consideration and elucidation. Contact with the Education and Safety Advisory group can be made directly through the Paddle Australia participation and training manager:

Mission and Aims

PAQS: Leader in Paddle Sports Education

The Paddle Australia Qualification Scheme (PAQS) is designed to meet the needs of the Paddling industry. This includes, clubs, commercial operators, freelance instructors and those that wish to improve there personal paddling skills, knowledge and safety.

Vision: Develop and maintain a quality paddling education pathway for all Australian’s.

Mission: To provide training and certification for Paddle sports leaders through a Nationally recognised assessment and registration system.

PAQS priorities:

Qualifications and Training: Ensuring PAQS provides quality professional qualifications making it the wanted award in the outdoor and paddling industry.

Professional Community: Ensuring PAQS meets current and future Guide and Instructor needs.

Leadership: Building relationships with Key stakeholders in the Paddling and Outdoor Industry.

Operational: Organised, current, consistent and knowledgeable department.

Sustainable: For the PAQS to e accessible and sustainable to its users.

AQF – Australian qualification framework.

Canoe- Open canoes are best suited to sheltered inland waters as they are badly affected by wind and wave. They are normally paddled with single blade paddles. Those used on whitewater, up to Grade 2, are fitted with large airbags taking up any space not occupied by the paddlers.

Co-requisite – Where an PA rescue award is called for, a demonstration of the necessary rescue skills during the assessment process will be adequate.

Flatwater Definition

Flatwater areas are areas such as lakes, dams, slow moving rivers, etc. An area should not be classified as flatwater if any of the following apply:

  • rapids of any grade
  • surf (of any size) entry or exit
  • if the area is in the entrance structure to an estuary or embayment
  • an area affected by swell
  • documented tidal rips (see chart)
  • documented tidal current greater than 1 knot (see chart)
  • any area where the tide (rise or fall) removes a landing area or makes it unsuitable
  • distances greater than 400 metres from shore
  • fetch greater than 1 nautical mile.

The transition from flatwater to moving water will often occur in the area of the following features:

  • major river bend
  • barrier sand bar structure
  • constriction in river.

Guide – A person who leads or guides a group without the intention of imparting skills or knowledge beyond that which is necessary to participate safely and adequately in the activity. At the end of a session or program with a guide, the intent is not for the participant to have acquired the skills to independently participate in the activity.

ICF – International Canoe Federation.

Instructor – A person who facilitates skill transfer or development to participants in order that they may act independently or with minimal supervision. This requires the instructor to be able to critique technique, apply a variety of appropriate instructional strategies and may require them to assess participant’s skill acquisition at the end of a program or session. Instructor awards include all the elements of the related Guide awards.

Kayak- Kayaks are normally decked and paddled with two-bladed paddles by paddlers sitting inside an enclosed cockpit. Spraydecks are used to minimise water into the cockpit, providing better protection for paddlers and reducing the likelihood of hypothermia. Safe use of spraydecks requires training. Training in rescue procedures is required for all kayaks, and techniques vary according to craft type and environment.

Flatwater kayaks: Relatively short (about 3.0 to 4.5 m for singles) and wide, with large open cockpits. They are suited to flat, sheltered waters only.

Sea kayaks:  4.5 to 6 m in length, with bulkheads, deck lines, grab handles and hatches, hands-free pump systems and other equipment are intended for open sea conditions.

Whitewater kayaks: Several categories of whitewater kayaks are in use — mainly river runner, creek and freestyle — all with spraydecks, grab handles and flotation.

Leader – A person giving direction to a group. This includes PA lifeguards, Instructors, Guides and Sea leaders

Novice – A person that is new and inexperienced in paddling, the paddling environment and or craft  they intend to paddle.

PA – Paddle Australia

Participant – A person who has the necessary competencies to participate independently or under supervision in an outdoor activity. The ability to demonstrate participatory skills to the appropriate standard is a pre-requisite to performing as a Guide or Instructor in outdoor recreation.

PAQS – Paddle Australia Qualification Scheme

Peer Activity – A paddling activity where no instructional or guiding structure exists and it is the responsibility of each member of the group to ensure the suitability of their equipment and themselves for the activity.

Prerequisite – Where an PA paddling Skill Award is called for, a demonstration throughout the assessment process will be adequate.

Re-registration – The process of renewing Guide or Instructor awards at their three year expiry by providing evidence of continued participation at the appropriate level.

RTO – Registered training organisation

Sea Leader – A Sea leader is a holder of the PA Sea leader award and is qualified to lead Sea skills holders.

Skill Award – Skill Awards are a demonstration that a paddler has achieved a certain level of skills and knowledge, and are prerequisites for training to Guide and Instructor awards. They have no expiry date, and it is the responsibility of holders to maintain skill and expertise to be able to participate at the appropriate level.
Lack of a Skill Award in no way precludes any paddler from paddling within their limits and should not be seen as a necessary requirement for paddling. It is merely a formal statement of demonstrated skills.

SOT- Sit On Top: SOT kayaks are a popular choice among recreational paddlers. Recovery after a capsize is easy; right the boat and re-board. On the other hand, paddlers are more exposed to the elements and more care is needed to minimise sunburn and hypothermia.

Damaged or loose fittings and hatch covers or hull damage may allow the entry of water: these craft are not unsinkable.

Several categories exist:

  • Recreational types single and double, are fairly short and wide. Being susceptible to wind, they are suitable only for flat sheltered water.
  • Touring SOTs are longer and able to cope with estuary and bay conditions. They are favoured by the kayak fishing community.
  • Seagoing SOTs (Skis and Ocean skis)  have performance and features similar to sea kayaks but without the enclosed cockpit.
  • Specialist SOTs for whitewater and surf use are available.

On open water, tethers can prevent separation of craft and paddler after capsize. There is the danger of entanglement. This is true also of paddle leashes and fishing lines.

SUP – Stand up Paddle board

VET – Vocational Education and Training.



Enclosed waters with no or little current, little wind influence and very small waves. Hazards are minimal and there is ready access to safe landing.

The sea ranges from easy conditions close inshore with ready access to safe landings to open ocean with heavy swells, surf, and few safe landings. Away from the shelter of land, wind can generate choppy conditions. Knowledge of tides and weather is essential.

There is sufficient flow to produce small waves or riffles but not stoppers or standing waves. Obstacles are few and safe paths are easy to see and follow. Hazards are overhanging trees and submerged branches and fences.

Qualifications and awards that can be used across multi disciplines.

Minimum age for Leadership Qualifications

Participants must be over 18 years of age to obtain a Leadership qualification.

Minimum First aid requirements

PA recommends that all Leaders hold a current first aid qualification appropriate to the area of operation from a recognised provider.

Assessor requirements

To become an PAQS assessor for leadership awards candidates must apply to PA.

PAQS assessors are appointed by PA for a period of three years.

Assessors can assess up to and including those awards for which they have held the equivalent level instructor for a minimum of three years.

PAQS assessor candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have operated as an PA Instructor for at least three years
  • Have paddled for at least five years
  • Hold a current Apply first aid certificate
  • Have delivered components of at least three Instructional programs under the direction of an NTP
  • Have observed or assisted in three PA assessment programs.

Assessor application process

Candidates for appointment as PA Assessors must apply in writing to PA. The application is to include:

  • Copies of the paddler’s logbook for the past three years
  • A letter from an Assessor supporting the application
  • A letter from an NTP supporting the application. This letter must include the following:
  • Duration of knowledge of the applicant
  • Areas where the applicant has been observed
  • Programs in which the applicant has been observed instructing
  • Programs in which the applicant has been observed assisting or observing assessment
  • Verification that the applicant operates safely as an instructor within the NTP.
  • Completed Assessment record, signed off by an Assessor

Quality assessment

PA National Training Providers provide quality assessment

The following items form part of the auditing of PA NTPs:

1.1 NTPs collect feedback after assessment programs, using the information to maintain a culture of safety and continuous improvement

1.2 NTPs use the PAQS assessment tools which meet training package requirements. NTPs are required to provide PA with regular feedback on the assessment tools

1.4 Assessment is conducted by current PA Assessors under the supervision of a current AC NTP

1.5 RPL is available, however to ensure consistency in national safety, technique and injury prevention standards, the technical skills must be assessed by a current PA assessor.

2.1 NTPs continuously improve client services through 1.1 and via continuous national education and networking programs.

2.2 Candidates for assessment have free access to assessment standards and summaries and detailed information about their rights and obligations

2.3 Both the PAQS and NTPs have open channels for review and development with assessors and candidates.

2.4 Within the framework of nationally consistent standards of technique, injury prevention and safety, individuals receive support and assessment to meet their needs

2.5 Candidates have access to their results

2.6 Complaints are dealt with directly by Assessors or through their associated NTPs. Where parties are dissatisfied with the results, complaints can be taken to the PA Education and Safety Advisory group.

3.1 The PAQS is reviewed every three years and as a result of request for review of specific areas. NTPs are required to implement updates as well as continuously monitoring and using a system of continuous improvement on their management systems

3.2 NTPs ensure they deliver PAQS components as required by PA.

3.3 NTPs must keep copies of all assessment documents including assessment summaries, exams, assessor’s notes and log books for a minimum of seven years. Details of student enrolment and results must be kept for 30 years

Assessment evidence

Evidence Guides help to ensure consistent assessment of Skills, Knowledge, Experience, Communication and Leadership are being conducted around Australia. These are to assist Instructors and Assessors in the training and assessing of the PAQS.

Instructors and Assessors are to follow these guides when assessing against an PA award.

General Assessment Standards

All assessments should be separate to training. Competency observed during training should be assessed at a distinctly separate time to ensure that it is learning that is being observed and not simply the ability to copy and repeat.

Assessors are required to clearly inform candidates that they are under assessment and:

  • The candidate’s performance is being observed
  • The candidate has the right to appeal the assessment findings
  • The candidate’s performance will be assessed against the evidence guidelines.
  • They may not meet certain criteria
  • In the event of group assessment:
  • They will be required to demonstrate performance in front of their peers
  • They may be asked in front of their peers to demonstrate performance a second time
  • The assessor may need to cease an activity or demonstrate an activity differently to how it was by the candidate due to safety or injury prevention concerns

The assessor can cease assessment due to safety or injury prevention concerns at any time. Assessment is to be against the guidelines. If an Assessor is concerned about the performance of a candidate but due to logistics, environmental or other assessment constraints, cannot confirm a result against the guidelines, assessment may be suspended; however a negative result may not be recorded against the criteria.

If a candidate is found not competent in any part of the assessment process, re-assessment should not be conducted within the next four weeks. The assessor may relax this requirement if they feel the context leads itself to earlier re-assessment.

Knowledge assessment standards

Knowledge can be assessed through a variety of formats including written exams, short questions, presentations, discussion and questioning, etc.

Critical areas include safety, injury prevention and group management. To be determined competent in these areas you must:

  • Not indicate by word or action any action that would place people in greater risk.

Technical skills assessment standards

Technical skills must be assessed in the context of the award (i.e. water grade, sea state, sea environment, etc.)

Consistency in technical skills is paramount and assessors should confirm the ability to repeat critical skills such as rolling in a variety of contexts.

Logbook standards and Timelines

Logbooks for Lifeguard, Guide and Instructor awards need to be submitted to the Assessor Prior to an assessment or at Assessors discretion. Failure to do so may mean a reassessment is required.

Candidates should be recommended to use the Paddle log system on either the app or desktop version and to log every paddle they undertake.

Summaries such as ‘5 paddles during December, various locations’ are considered unverifiable and inadmissible in courts as evidence of currency and therefore are unacceptable when applying for or re-registering an award.

Experience standards

Candidates are required to demonstrate a level of experience for all awards above Basic Skills. This experience should be logged in the paddle log system as stated above.

  • Experience must be in the previous three years
  • Experience must cover the upper limits of the required operational or assessment conditions.

General assessment

Overarching Methodology

The assessment of an PAQS award should be performed in as near real conditions as possible and should be designed to clearly confirm the ability of a candidate to perform at the award level in other circumstances.

The PAQS is not a VET qualification, however its standards of information, training and assessment meet or exceed that required by the Outdoor Recreation Training Package, a path for recognition under that scheme for some awards is maintained via PA.

All assessments must be conducted by a current PA assessor whilst in the employment or under contract to a current PA National Training Provider (organisation).

Assessments must follow the standards set out under Assessment Standards below.

Nationally consistent

Individuals expect that they can use the skills from PAQS qualifications across Australia and employers expect that the staff they hire have the same skills no matter where they were assessed. It is important that assessment is not contextualized to a level that makes it non-transferable.


The standards for PAQS and NTPs have been simplified and streamlined to focus on outcomes. PAQS 2018 places the emphasis on providing a sound development tool to the non-competitive paddler.


Assessment  guidelines and handbooks are readily accessible to all PA NTPS.


All PAQS resources are copyright to Australian Canoeing and exclusively for the use of PAQS Qualification holders working within the National Training Provider Structure. All other use, copying or distribution requires written permission from Paddle Australia.

Assessment requirements

All assessments must be conducted in accordance with PA requirements and is to be holistic; the candidate for an PA award is to operate in the full capacity of the award (cover all elements of the award being assessed) and in context with the award being assessed and is to be:

  • Valid—Assessors must see original work which is relevant to the award and which addresses and demonstrates practical application of the knowledge and skills
  • Sufficient—It must demonstrate that the level of skill or knowledge can be reached in a real workplace across differing conditions and contexts. It must not simply be evidence of a one-off performance
  • Reliable—If a skill or knowledge area is not directly assessed, the evidence used must match the level of evidence provided by a direct assessment
  • Current—Evidence of performing an award role (leader, guide or instructor) must relate to performance in the last three years. Log book evidence of experience and skill levels must relate to performance in the last three years
  • Authentic—The evidence must clearly refer to the work of the individual (not a group effort) and must be validated by signatures and third party contact details.
  • Types of evidence:
    • Direct—Direct observation by the assessor of performance of an award role.
    • Indirect—Includes simulations, role plays or problem responses. This type of evidence is not allowed for on water skills.
    • Supplementary—Competence inferred by testimonials, academic statements and interviews.

Qualifications are registered for a period of 3 years. The fees vary depending on the type of award. details can be found here

Skills and knowledge are lost over time unless a person actively works to maintain them. The best way to demonstrate that your skills and knowledge are current is to maintain your qualification.

All Paddle Australia Qualifications (except Basic skills)  expire after a term of three (3) years. To re-register, the holder must be able to demonstrate that they have maintained a level of competency equivalent to or above the qualification that they hold.

How to re register my award/s

All  re registrations are processed through Paddle Log.

Paddle log is available on Apple and Android devices as well as desktop.



To re register a qualification you need to gain a minimum amount of points over the three year registration period.

Skills and Rescue qualifications require 50 points

Leadership qualifications require 100 points.

Points can be gained in a variety of areas, some areas have minimum requirements.

Below is an image of the points page that is automatically calculated in Paddle log from the logbook entries

A paper re registration form can be gained from PA on request. To request a paper form please email

How to use Paddle log

Video on basic operation can be found here

Video on how to renew an award can be found here

What is a peer reference?

A peer reference is a person that is happy to support a renewal application  and is agreeing that to the best of their knowledge the holders skills and knowledge are still at the qualification level.

My award expired more than 3 months ago!

If your qualification expired more than 3 months ago you will need to email to review what options you have available.

Options will be dependent on:

  • Time since award expired
  • Activity over past 3 years
  • Number of renewals performed
  • Other awards and qualifications held

When you become a qualified PA leader you have the ability to deliver a number of PA participation and training programs.

Paddle Oz

The Paddle Oz Program is designed to provide young people with an enjoyable introduction to paddling
that encourages lifelong participation. Experiential learning through participation in games and activities is
the focus of the first two levels in the program. These games allow the participants to develop the essential
skills and safety knowledge that underpin all future paddling pathways. Gaining knowledge of the different
forms of paddling, making links to local clubs and understanding further development pathways is an
important feature of the program.

Requirements to deliver Paddle Oz

o Hold a current PA Paddling Supervisor or
above award including all coaching awards
o Current first aid certificate
o Working with children card

To deliver Paddle Oz, down load the Paddle Oz app, details found here

Basic skills

The Basic Skills Award is purely an introduction and participant award that can be delivered and assessed by a current PA Supervisors, Guide, Coach or Instructor. The type of Basic skills award a leader is able to deliver is dependent on the craft the leadership award is held in. EG: Canoe can only assess Canoe, SOT can only assess SOT, Kayak can only assess Kayak and SOT and Sea kayak can assess, Kayak, SOT and Sea kayak.

Basic skills programs and awards are processed through Paddle Ed. Further details of Paddle Ed can be found here

A short video demonstration can be found here

Paper versions of the Assessment records can be found below




Skills awards

PAQS Instructors who have held their award for greater than twelve months or with prior approval from PA  are able to deliver and assess the below skills awards external from an NTP

Instructors delivering these awards will be covered by the Paddle Australia Insurance as long as all PA Guidelines and procedures are followed and the request to deliver a program from has been received and approved by PA.

If you wish to deliver a program, please complete and return the request form below. Once reviewed and accepted by PA, the appropriate paperwork will be sent to you.

All leadership awards require the Assessor to hold an Instructor award in the craft and environment or above the award being assessed as well as a PA Assessor award.

Flatwater Instructor 

Basic Skills

Flatwater Skills

Flatwater Instructor with Overnight Endorsement

Above plus Overnight Endorsement

Whitewater Instructor

Basic Skills

Flatwater Skills

Whitewater Skills

Whitewater Instructor with Overnight Endorsement

Above plus Overnight Endorsement

Enclosed Sea Instructor

Basic Skills

Flatwater Skills

Enclosed Sea Skills

Overnight Endorsement

Sea Instructor

Basic Skills

Flatwater Skills

Enclosed Sea Skills

Intro Sea Skills

Coastal Skills

Sea Skills

Overnight Endorsement

A statement of attainment can be issued for flatwater skills, guide and instructor award only. The PA assessor that is conducting the PA assessment must hold a TAE in training and assessment and must complete the paperwork below and submit to PA at the same time as the PAQS paperwork.

A statement of attainment cannot be gained on re registration of qualifications.

Statement of Attainment information

RPL enrollment form

Consent form

Information Guide

Paddle Australia in partnership with Scouts Australia are issuing the Statement of attainment set out below.

Flatwater skills Canoe

SISOCNE303A Apply canoeing skills

Flatwater skills kayak

SISOKYK302A Apply kayaking skills

Flatwater Guide Canoe

SISOCNE303A Apply canoeing skills

SISOCNE305A guide canoeing trips on flat and undemanding water

Flatwater Guide Kayak

SISOKYK302A Apply kayaking skills

SISOKYK304A guide kayaking trips on flat and undemanding water

Flatwater Instructor Canoe

SISOCNE303A Apply canoeing skills

SISOCNE305A guide canoeing trips on flat and undemanding water

SISOCNE306A Instruct canoeing skills on flat and undemanding water

Flatwater Instructor Kayak

SISOKYK302A Apply kayaking skills

SISOKYK304A guide kayaking trips on flat and undemanding water

SISOKYK407A Instruct kayaking skills on flat and undemanding water

Below are the members of the Education and Safety advisory group. If you need to contact any of these members please email

Mark Thurgood

Mark is the Participatipn and Training Manager for Paddle Australi. Mark has over a 20 years of experience in paddling and instructing, is a Paddle Australia qualified Assessor, Senior Sea Instructor and Flatwater Canoe Instructor,a SKOANZ guide and also holds a diploma in outdoor recreation as well as Instructor awards in many other outdoor pursuits

Rohan Klopher

Bio coming soon

Alex McWhirter

Bio coming soon

Allana Bold

Allana grew up in the Rosco Canoe family and by 1993 was enjoying her own paddling adventures.
Loving both canoeing and kayaking in all disciplines Allana has been an AC qualified Canoe and Kayak
Flatwater instructor since 2004 and recently became an Assessor as well as being an AC Level 1
Coach. Allana is 2017 Qld Canoeing Instructor of the Year is proactive in sharing her knowledge with

Mark Hessling


Mark began his involvement in paddle sports at an early age paddling canoes with his parents.
After a break of many years Mark returned to paddling when he joined QSKC to obtain some skills prior to paddling through the Svalbard Archipelago in 2012.
Through his involvement with QSKC Mark has qualified as a Sea Instructor and is a previous President and current Training Officer for QSKC.
Mark is also involved with QC conducting various recreation programs and conducts sea kayaking expeditions for schools.

Candidates can appeal against the results of their assessment. Appeals should be made in the first place to the NTP providing assessment, however if a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached an appeal can be lodged with PA.

Appeals must include the following:

  • Details of all parties (candidate, assessor, NTP)
  • Details of date, time and place of assessment
  • Conditions of assessment (river level, sea state, wind, etc.)
  • Specific details of the equipment used by the candidate in assessment
  • Specific details of the decision being appealed against. The details must include the performance criteria in question and the evidence that is under consideration.

Note: this is not a forum for general complaints against Instructors, Assessors or NTPs.

Complaints against Assessors

Concerns and complaints about the operation of an Assessor should be handled in the following way.

All concerns should first be taken to the NTP in question. When a complaint is brought before the PA Education and Safety Advisory group, evidence that the parties directly involved have been notified will be required.

Complaints which are referred to the PA Education and Safety Advisory are to be addressed to the Participation Manager and must include the following:

  • Details of all parties (complainant, Assessor, NTP)
  • Details of date, time and place of incident
  • Conditions at incident (river level, sea state, wind, etc.)
  • Specific details of any equipment involved in incident
  • Specific details of the incident.

Note: This is not a forum for general complaints against Instructors, Assessors or NTPs. Concerns and evidence must be specific.

Points Table