Paddle Safety

This page contains information and resources to help keep you safer on the water

To make sure you get the most out of your paddling journey, your local State Paddle Association or Paddle Club may run some Come and Try programs and courses or look up a local, Guide, or Instructor who can help develop your paddling skills and techniques to suit your ability and goals.

Put a name or number on your craft which can identify you. Your car registration or telephone number will help emergency services find you.

Being safe on the water starts with always wearing your lifejacket. A properly fitted lifejacket feels snug and comfortable to wear. Find one that suits you and your needs.

Let someone know before you go and tell them where you are going, your departure point and when you intend to return. If you change your plans, let them know

Stay clear of large vessels and keep out of shipping channels. Learn the right of way rules. You must always navigate on the right (starboard) side of a river or channel.

Paddle within your limits – and that includes your craft, your experience, the conditions on the day and your level of skills. Be realistic about your fitness and capabilities and save strength for the return journey.

Take note of these five vital checks when planning your boating trip: • Warnings current for your paddling area • Weather conditions affecting safe navigation and comfort • Wind conditions • Wave conditions • Tide times. Be prepared to defer your plans until another day if the winds are too strong and the waves are too big. Check the weather at

Stay attached – using a paddle leash will help prevent you being separated from your paddle if you capsize. If you do end up in the water, stay with your craft as it will be easier for rescuers to see you.

Paddle craft sit low to the water and can be difficult for other boats to see. Make yourself visible by wearing bright clothes and using reflective tap on your paddle. Consider fitting a flag to your craft, and use a bright all-round light at night

You may need to communicate in an emergency or advise someone of a change of plan. Your means of communication can range from a mobile phone, flares or a distress beacon. Mobile Telephone: Carry a mobile phone in a waterproof bag.

[expand title=”Read More”]In an emergency you can dial 000. Marine Radio: Marine radios are an important way of notifying others in an emergency. They can also be used to stay updated on the latest weather conditions. • Use VHF channel 16 to listen out for weather broadcasts. • Know the procedures and keep your message clear. • In an emergency use VHF channel 16 or on 27MHz use channel 88. Distress beacons: A registered 406 MHz distress beacon with GPS is your best chance of being rescued. • In an emergency, activate your beacon to alert search and rescue services. • For the best chances, choose a beacon with GPS, deploy it correctly, and look after it by storing it safely and keeping your batteries in date. Flares: Ensure your flares are in date and only activate when you believe that you will be seen.[/expand]

Keep watch as to what is ahead, behind and to either side of you. Look out for other craft, swimmers and potential danger at all times.

Paddle Smart is information that is relevant to us all.  As a reminder, local regulations may also be in place and the best place for information relevant to each state is the website of your local State Paddling Association and Maritime agencies below.

* New South Wales
(Transport for NSW – Safety and rules on NSW waterways)
* Queensland
(Maritime Safety Queensland – Safety equipment for boats in Queensland)
* Victoria
(Maritime Safety Victoria – Safety Equipment)

* South Australia
(SA.GOV.AU – Carrying suitable safety equipment)
* Western Australia
(Department of Transport – What safety equipment do I need)

* Tasmania
(MAST – Safety Equipment)
* Northern Territory
(NT.GOV.AU – Safety guide for recreational boating)

Paddle Prep has been designed for all paddlers: from those who are new to paddle sports to those that are already hooked on this great lifelong activity.

The objective of Paddle Prep is to provide guidance and education on safety matters to encourage paddlers to develop their skills, knowledge and experience safely while having fun on the water.

Paddle Prep is available on Apple and Android. There is also a desktop version which can be found HERE

Paddle skill videos

Tips and Tricks

Packing a Sea Kayak

If you are new to sea kayaking, new to overnight trips, or just haven’t gone out in a while, below are some tips and tricks that may help you when packing for your next adventure.


  • Assume your hatches will get wet, no matter how they have performed in the past.
  • Use several small dry bags rather than a couple of big ones.
  • If you don’t have access to dry bags, double bag items in good quality rubbish bags (pack a couple of spares in case of rips) and twist them closed.
  • If you only have a dry bag or two, use them for the important things like your sleeping bag and spare clothes.
  • Separate gear into groups so that is all stays together (e.g. all spare clothes in one
  • Use different coloured bags or number them so you can remember what’s inside without needing to open it.
  • Put light items in the ends of the kayak (e.g. sleeping mat and bag).
  • Leave items you will need during the day accessible.
  • Make sure you use all the little spaces.
  • If you have small hatches, put the bag in first then put the items in the bag.
  • Make sure your emergency gear is easily accessible.
  • Having a big bag to move the gear up and down the beach can save some trips (e.g. an Ikea bag works really well).
  • Do a test pack at home.


  • Remove all excess packaging.
  • Choose food that will last the duration of your trip.
  • Pre-cut food if possible.
  • Look for food in user-friendly containers (e.g. tuna in a sachet rather than a can).
  • Pack perishable items in hard containers (e.g. the billy is always a good place).
  • When deciding a menu, consider:
    – Cooking times
    – Pot size and how many are available.
  • Pack a small chopping board.
  • In hot climates, hard cheese like Parmesan will keep better.
  • Pack food into day portions (e.g. day 1 food, day 2 food etc).
  • Split trail mix into day bags (otherwise you’ll eat all the chocolate bits on day 1!).
  • Use small water bladders to carry extra water rather than one large one (in case it springs a leak).
  • Only take what you need, plus a little extra in case of an emergency (e.g. there’s no point taking 500g of pasta for one per person).

Sample gear lists can be found on the Paddle Prep app or Paddle Prep webpage.

We hope this helps with the packing for your next adventure. There are many more tips and tricks out there. If you have any tips that you would like to share, please email them to

What to wear paddling

Outer layers, inner layers, clothes for warm weather, clothes for cool weather: we’ve put together some tips for what you should consider wearing when you’re getting ready for your next paddle.

Paddling can be done in all weather conditions – from humid tropical heat waves to alpine blizzards. It is important however that paddlers always ‘dress for a swim’ and be prepared for the eventuality of prolonged immersions. This can be confusing when dealing with warm weather and cold water or vice versa.

Paddle Australia © Salty Dingo 2020 CG

As with most outdoor activities, appropriate layering of clothing is best to prepare for all eventualities. For cold weather or water, a thermal base layer, mid weight insulation layer and outer shell works best along with gloves or pogies and a beanie. For warmer locations, simply remove the outer layers or use a similar layering system but with short sleeves. If you are in doubt, take the pessimistic view and add a layer. On the water, it is usually easier to take off a layer than add one. Carry spare clothing in the boat for when you arrive at your destination or to cover contingencies.

Inner Layer: Thinner neoprene tops are popular as they can still allow enough shoulder and arm movement so as not to hinder paddling. These also provide good sun protection. Thermals, rash shirts and long sleeve sun shirts also are a well-used option.

Outer Layer: The outer layer can be in the form of a splash jacket (Cag) normally with adjustable neck and arms. These are not waterproof in the event of a capsize but will keep the wind off you once paddling again. A dry suit is a good option when dealing with extremely cold water as these are waterproof but do require some practise to use.

Sun Protection
As a paddler, you are very much out in the open, exposed not only to direct radiation but also what is reflected from the water surface. Long sleeves and either a hat with full brim or legionnaire- style cap, tied on, at the very least. Sunscreen on all exposed skin, including the lips, and reapply regularly as required. To cover the backs of the hands, fingerless gloves give good protection. Sunglasses to protect the eyes from the UV. If you wear a helmet, as in surfing, a visor gives some protection.

You may find yourself walking on sharp rocks, broken shells (or glass) and other uncomfortable surfaces. There is a wide range of wetsuit boots, aquatic sports shoes, and sandals available. Old sneakers are often worn, although they tend to be bulky. Choose something that is comfortable both on the ground (and does not pull off in mud) and in the boat, remembering that straps and laces must not tangle in footrests.

You need to be easily visible at all times, both to other water users and your fellow paddlers. A lifejacket level 50 is a better choice than a level 50s because of its colour (in a standardised yellow–red range). Similarly, your outer jacket should be a light, bright colour. Helmets (if being worn) should also be of bright colours, and a strip of reflective tape can help you stand out. Stealth has no place in paddling: bright colours always.

Random Tips and Tricks

Whether you’re new to paddling or you’ve been paddling for a while, we’ve put together some random tips and ideas that could change your world 😊

• A flyscreen drop sheet at the tent door will aid in keeping sand out of the tent.

• Talcum powder works a treat to get sand off your feet.

• Luci lights are solar powered and waterproof, so are great to charge on the deck of your craft while paddling.

• Many air beds placed directly on the tent floor squeak when you move. Put the air bed into a sleeping bag inner, preferably silk, and the noise stops. This also gives you a sheet to sleep on if it is hot.

• Leave a set of ear plugs wrapped up in your tent. You never know when you might need them!

• When packing rolled up items like tents or sleeping mats in dry bags, after rolling tightly, keep them tight by wrapping a piece of double-sided velcro around the roll. This makes it much easier to get the item inside the dry bag, especially if it’s a tight fit.

• Carry a set of carry straps, you never know when you may have to carry your craft a long distance, especially on multi day trips.

• Face wipes work well to help you feel fresh at the end of the day if no water is available.

If you have any tips that you would like to share, please email them to

Night paddling

Paddling at night can give you an experience on the water like you have never had before. Many people never experience night paddling because of the fear of the unknown however you can have a fun and rewarding time if you plan carefully.

Below are a few tips that may assist you with your current night paddles or maybe even inspire, educate, and comfort you to get out there and give it a go!


  • Never paddle alone.
  • When paddling in a group, stay close together so that you can be seen better and can verbally communicate with each other.
  • Know your personal and craft abilities.
  • Keep eyes and ears out for other water users.
  • Determine an action plan in case of separation or capsize.
  • Do not push your limits.
  • Consider a numbering system of participants, as you can’t count in the dark, but can always number off.


  • Always wear a lifejacket.
  • Make sure your lights meet local regulations.
  • Consider putting reflective tape on your craft and paddle to help others see you.
  • Use a paddle leash in case you drop your paddle.
  • Carry a bright waterproof head torch that you can use if required.
  • Carry appropriate communication for your location.


  • Plan your trip, making sure to consider the influence of tides and wind.
  • Learn how to identify navigational aids by lights displayed.
  • Learn how to identify other craft by lights displayed.
  • In urban areas, be aware that it can be difficult to determine the difference between craft and navigational lights to house and city lights.

If you have any other tips that you would like to see or share with the paddling community, please email

Paddle Safety Videos

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