Paddle safety equipment

This page outlines the minimum safety equipment requirements for non-motorised kayaks, canoes and rowing boats operating both under and over 2nm from shore, as well as other safety equipment we highly recommend you carry.

Mandatory safety equipment <2nm from shore

This is the minimum safety equipment required when operating non-motorised paddle craft less than 2nm from shore.

Lifejackets

When operating non-motorised canoes, kayaks, row boats or surf skis you are required by law to wear:

  • A Type 1, 2 or 3 (Level 100+, Level 50 or level 50S) lifejacket at all times when the vessel is underway on any waterway. 

When operating non-motorised stand up paddle boards you must wear:

  • A Type 1, 2 or 3 (Level 100+, Level 50 or level 50S) lifejacket at all times when the vessel is underway when more than 400m from the shore of any waterway.

Bilge pump or bailer

When operating non-motorised canoes, kayaks, row boats or surf skis you are required by law to carry either:

  • An electric or manual bilge pumping system (if vessel has covered bilge or closed underfloor compartments other than air tight void spaces)
  • A bailer or sponge (if no electric or manual bilge pumping system).

Recommended additional safety equipment for all paddlers

While not required by law, we strongly recommend paddlers invest in - and learn how to use - the following safety equipment.

Paddle leash 

Paddle leashA paddle leash will keep your paddle nearby and acting as a sea anchor while you right your craft and get back in.

Paddle float

Inflatable paddle floats are low-cost, lightweight and can greatly assist in self rescue. It slips onto one end of your paddle and is then inflated. Once the float is inflated, the other end of the paddle is slid under your deck grab lines and the paddle float acts as an outrigger, stabilising the kayak while you climb back in and then bail out water. 

Here's a great step-by-step animated guide, but it's always best to attend a professional training course.

Image of a man using a paddle float 

Personal locator beacon

Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) may be carried instead of EPIRBs if you are paddling less that 2nm from shore. To be found more quickly be sure to select a beacon that has GPS as well. And make sure you know how to use them - the AMSA website has some great information.

Photo of a kayaker wearing a PLB 

Suitable clothing

Clothing is one of the key considerations when going paddling - you must get this right in order to enjoy kayak safely and make the most of your day paddle. Never wear cotton. Not even jocks or socks! When it gets wet, cotton doesn't dry and remains cold and heavy! 

The Golden Rules when it comes to paddling clothes are that they:

  • Stay warm when wet and dry quickly
  • Block wind, sun, rain and sea spray!
  • Protect from rocks, barnacles, oysters, sandflies and mosquitoes
  • Are highly visible and reflective - you want to be seen by other water users day and night!

The East Coast Kayaks website has some great information on what to wear when kayaking in Victoria.

Photo of a man kayak fishing

Additional mandatory safety equipment >2nm from shore

This is the minimum additional safety equipment required when operating non-motorised paddle craft more than 2nm from shore.

Torch

Must be waterproof and buoyant.

Spare oars

One pair of spare oars or paddles with rowlocks.

Two hand held orange smoke signals

These can be seen for up to 4km (10km by aircraft). They should be used in daylight to pinpoint your position. They must comply with Australian Standard AS 2092 "Pyrotechnic marine distress flares and signals for pleasure craft". The In an emergency section of our website has information on how to use distress flares.

Two hand held red distress flares

These have a visibility range of 10km, are designed for use at night but can also be seen during the day. They must comply with Australian Standard AS 2092 "Pyrotechnic marine distress flares and signals for pleasure craft". The In an emergency section of our website has information on how to use distress flares.

EPIRB

406M Hz EPIRBS only. Must be registered with Australian Maritime Safety Authority and comply with Australian and New Zealand standards. The In an emergency section of our website has information on using distress beacons.

Compass

A magnetic compass is the most important piece of direction finding equipment a master can have, particularly in bad visibility or out of sight of land. Electronic equipment such as a GPS and battery operated hand held devices are useful supplements but can fail when electrical power runs low.