Paddle Smart | 10 tips for safer kayaking

23 March 2016

Ten simple steps

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.

Our Wear A Lifejacket website has everything you need to know about: what jacket you need to wear, when; choosing the right lifejacket for your lifestyle; and looking after your lifejacket.

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 fluorescent paint on your paddle. Consider fitting a flag to your kayak, and use a bright all-round light at night.

The maintenance and preparation section explains how to ensure your craft is fit for purpose and well-maintained.

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.

Our website has a full list of safety equipment, including more information on the individual items and how to use them.

You are responsible for keeping watch as to what is ahead, behind and to either side of you.

Look out for other vessels, swimmers and potential danger at all times. And always allow plenty of time and space in which to carry out any manoeuvre.

Make sure you know the safe operating rules before you head out.

Many collisions between vessels result from a lack of understanding of the rules of safe navigation. 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.

Take a look at the steering and sailing rules section of our website for more information.

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. Give them a description or photo of your craft and details of the number of people on board. This will assist emergency services, should the need arise.

Always check the weather before heading out. Be prepared to defer your plans until another day if the winds are too strong and the waves are too big.

The weather and tides page lists the five vital checks you need to carry out and shows you how to access and understand the weather forecasts and warnings published by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Learn how to avoid ending up in the water by using support and bracing techniques. Learn how to use a paddle float and stirrup.

For decked kayaks the Eskimo roll is the best and fastest self-rescue.

Practice these skills before they are really needed!

You may need to communicate in an emergency or advise someone of a change of plan, so always carry a mobile phone, flares or a distress beacon. Our website explains what to do in an emergency and the different ways you can raise the alarm.

Also, put something on your craft which can identify you such as a name and phone number. This will help emergency services find you.

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.

If you would like us to send you an "I've gone paddling" flyer – and a Paddle Safe Paddle Smart brochure – email your name and full postal address to