Qualification Scheme


Why get Qualified: Qualifications give you the authority to deliver training and are indicators of your ability to paddle on flat, white and/or sea waters. When you are deemed competent with a qualification, you will be reassured you have the knowledge and skills to paddle at that level, and others can be reassured that you are qualified to deliver paddling experiences to that level.

Once qualified as a Guide or Instructor you can use the PADDLE ED APP and deliver activities to School, or community groups in clubs and businesses and be fully insured when your group is registered.

A participant is encouraged to attend the training courses that will provide the basic skills & knowledge and then seek opportunities to practice and develop experience at this level before considering assessment for the qualification.

Differences between the Guide and Instructor Qualification

Holders of a Guide Qualification are qualified to lead or guide trips with Novice participants.

Holders of an Instructor Qualification have a much deeper understanding of the technical fundamentals of paddling technique and development. Instructors have been assessed at a higher level and are qualified to instruct and facilitate skill transfer to participants. These participants will then have the ability to act independently or with minimal supervision

All current courses available can be found below if you cannot find a course that suits your needs please complete the Expression of Interest form to submit an enquiry to your State Training provider. Alternatively below are a list of Providers.

Paddle Australia sets the framework for all PAQS qualifications. State Paddle Associations (SPAs) provide the administration and delivery of these courses.

All current courses available can be found below if you cannot find a course that suits your needs please complete the Expression of Interest form to submit an enquiry to your SPA.

Contact Your State Training Provider

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

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.

Paddle Log is an application which is available on Apple and Android devices. It is also available on desktop computers as a web address.

Paddle Log has been created to encourage paddlers to keep their log book up to date and to have easy access to qualification details and certificates, while also providing a simplified way to renew qualifications.

Using Paddle Log as part of the renewal process ensures that Paddle Australia receives consistent and high-quality information about the trips you have undertaken since your qualification was registered or last renewed.

The benefits of Paddle Log include:

  • Simplified re-registration process of qualifications (only when signed in)
  • Easy alignment of multiple qualifications (only when signed in)
  • Auto point calculation from log entries (only when signed in)
  • Ability to copy, edit and share logbook entries
  • Ability to export and import log for back-up and device transfer
  • Easy access to award details  (only when signed in)
  • Auto backup of logbook (only when signed in)

For information on the app, please click here. To go to the desktop version of Paddle Log, please click here.

My qualification expired more than 3 months ago!

If your qualification expired more than 3 months ago please see the below process:

  • 3 – 6 months: Please contact Paddle Australia on education@paddle.org.au and submit the below
    • Copy of logbook (export from Paddlelog)
  • 6 – 12 months: Please contact Paddle Australia on education@paddle.org.au and submit the below
    • Copy of logbook (export from Paddlelog)
    • Letter/email of support from a current PA leader of the same level
  • 12 plus months: Reassessment from a Current PA Assessor is required.

Please email information to: education@paddle.org.au

General Information

Programs PA leaders can offer

When you become a qualified PA Leader (Supervisor, Guide,Instructor), you have the ability to deliver a number of PA participation and training programs.

Basic skill programs

A basic skills award can be delivered by any PA qualified Leader (Supervisor, Guide, Instructor) These programs need to be created and participants submitted via Paddle Ed. A how-to video can be found here

Skills programs

Skills programs can be delivered by a current PA instructor. These programs need to be created and participants submitted via Paddle Ed. A how-to video can be found here

Leadership programs

Leadership programs can be delivered by a current PA Assessor upto the level of qualification the Assessor holds. These Assessors are referred to as External Assessors.

If an External Assessor wishes to run a PAQS Leadership program, then the program is required to be in association with one of the NTPs and a Request to Deliver form needs to be submitted to an NTP.

Benefits of being a PA Leader

  • State and national recognition of qualification
  • Proof of current skills, knowledge and experience
  • Peer validated scheme that is responsive to emerging trends and opportunities
  • Insurance cover when delivering courses in association with Paddle Australia
  • Conferences, training and networking opportunities
  • Access to world class expert advice


PA qualification holders are covered by insurance in the following circumstances:

  • When delivering an approved Paddle Australia Qualification Scheme (PAQS) course registered on the Paddle Education platform;
  • When delivering a Paddle Australia Skills program registered on the Paddle Education platform;
  • When providing services to an Affiliated Club, whether as a volunteer or in a paid capacity; or
  • When holding a Commercial Provider Membership.

If you are unsure whether programs fall into either of these categories or you have any questions around insurance coverage, please contact education@paddle.org.au.

Appeals and Complaints


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 in writing (education@paddle.org.au).

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

Any concerns or complaints about the operation of an Assessor should be made in writing to the NTP in question and PA (education@paddle.org.au).

Complaints 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.


Paddle Australia (PA), previously Australian Canoeing, is the peak national canoeing body recognised by the federal government. Paddling is a rewarding sport and recreational activity which is carried out on most Australian waters from rivers, lakes, and paddling venues, on flat water, white water and sea environments. Paddling is carried out by individuals and groups, supervised or unsupervised.

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 PAQS is provided by PA Instructors. PAQS presents the highest standards of skills and safety to the public, recreational paddlers, commercial operators and administrative officials.

PAQS 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.

PAQS 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 an industry quality which are 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 a PA Assessor course. Assessors are Instructors who have additional experience along with the ability to judge the standards of other paddlers.

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

PAQS is reviewed every three years, and PA welcomes input into the scheme. Feedback may be directed to the Education and Safety Advisory group for consideration. Contact with the Education and Safety Advisory group can be made directly through the Paddle Australia Participation and Training Manager at education@paddle.org.au


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 another course must be undertaken concurrently as the given course. Where a PA Rescue Award is a co-requisite, 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 so 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 Supervisors, 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.

NTP – A National Training provider is one of the six State Paddle Associations

PA – Paddle Australia

Packraft – Inflatable 1 – 2 person kayak. used mostly on moving and whitewater.

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.

Pre-requisite – Where another course must be undertaken prior to the given course. Where a PA Skill Award is called for, a demonstration throughout the assessment process will be adequate.

Rafting- 4 – 8 person inflatable raft, controlled and guided by the guide in the back of the Raft

Re-registration – The process of renewing an award on 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.

Sit On Top (SOT) – 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.



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 Australians.

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 sought after 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: To be accessible and sustainable to its users.

Registration fees

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

Age and First aid requirements

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.

Statement of attainments

Currently gaining a statement of attainment is under review and currently unavailable. This page will be updated once a process has been developed.

The Paddle Australia Qualification Scheme (PAQS) is the industry benchmark certification designed to meet the needs of the paddling Guide and Instructor industry for education, recreational and tourism sectors nation wide.

Assessor Application Process

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

  •  Be at least 18 years of age
    • Have operated as a 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.
    • Completed the online quiz.
    • Provide a letter from an Assessor supporting the application
    • Provide a letter from a NTP supporting the application.
    • Completed assessment record, signed off an Assessor

Assessment Requirements

All assessments must be conducted in accordance with PA requirements. The candidate for a PA qualification must be assessed to operate in the full capacity of the qualification, i.e. cover all elements of the award being assessed, and the assessment 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 context 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 a qualification 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 a qualification 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.

Assessment Evidence

Evidence Guidelines 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 PAQS.

Instructors and Assessors are to follow these Guidelines when assessing against a PA qualifications

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.

Technical Skills Assessment Standards

Technical skills must be assessed in the context of the qualification (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.

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Assessment for recognition of prior learning without attending a training course requires an evidence based review.  The evidence needs to include previous qualifications, work experience and log books outlining the experience in the water and conditions of the qualification before a practical review is conducted

In order to apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) you will need to contact your local National Training Provider (NTP). The NTP will determine the level of RPL they are able to offer from the information you supply. (A cost will be determined by the NTP dependant on the work required)

We do suggest that prior to contacting an NTP you collect together the following information:

  • Log book
  • A CV of your paddling experience
  • A reference from a company or paddle club
  • Anything else which may support your application
  • Copy of previous qualifications


Paddle Australia sets the framework for all PAQS qualifications. State Paddle Associations (SPAs) provide the administration and delivery of these courses.

Range of information video clips

Videos on Learning