Paddle safety equipment

You must wear a lifejacket when paddling craft such as a kayak, canoe, surf ski, raft or row boat. You'll also need a way to remove water from your vessel.

There are extra requirements if your craft is motorised, or if you're heading more than 2 nautical miles offshore.

Mandatory safety equipment

This table shows the minimum safety equipment required when operating non-motorised paddle craft on inland waters, enclosed waters, and coastal waters less than 2nm from shore; and the extra equipment required when offshore more than 2nm from the coast.

If your paddle craft has a motor, refer to the safety equipment for powered vessels. Operators of certain low-powered electric kayaks and canoes have a modified safety equipment requirement.

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.

HUMAN POWERED VESSELS (INCLUDING KAYAK, CANOE, RAFT AND ROWING BOAT)

COASTAL OFFSHORE (>2nm from coast)

COASTAL INSHORE (<2nm from coast)

ENCLOSED (bays and estuaries)

INLAND (rivers, lakes and dams)

Lifejacket (per person on board/towed)

Type 1, 2 or 3

Type 1, 2 or 3

Type 1, 2 or 3

Type 1, 2 or 3

Waterproof buoyant torch

1

   

Bailer (if no electric or manual bilge pumping system)

1

1

1

1

Electric or manual bilge pumping system (if vessel has covered bilge or closed underfloor compartments other than airtight void spaces)

1

1

1

1

Spare oar with rowlock or spare paddle

1

   

Hand held orange smoke signals

2

   

Hand held red distress flares

2

   

Compass

1

   

Registered emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)

1

   

SUP lifejackets: When operating a non-motorised stand-up paddleboard more than 400m from the shore of any waterway, 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.

STAND UP PADDLEBOARD

FUNBOAT AND PEDALBOAT

COASTAL OFFSHORE

(>2nm from coast)

ALL OTHER WATERS

ALL WATERS

Lifejacket (per person on board/towed)

Type 1, 2 or 3

Type 1, 2 or 3

>400m from shore

Type 1, 2 or 3

Waterproof buoyant torch

1

  

Hand held orange smoke signals

2

  

Hand held red distress flares

2

  

Compass

1

  

Registered emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)

1

  

Learn more about lifejackets on our Wear a Lifejacket website.

Bilge pump on a kayak on land

A bilge pump helps you remove water from your vessel. You may also want a sponge to help mop up excess water.

Offshore equipment explained

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".

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".

Emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)

You must carry a digital 406 MHz EPIRB, registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). We recommend beacons with global positioning system (GPS) for enhanced location accuracy.

Learn all about beacons on the AMSA beacons website.

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.

Read about using this equipment: In an emergency

Equipment advice

  • Make sure your safety equipment is in good working condition and is easily accessible.
  • Make sure you are visible to other boaters. You will not always be seen because your vessel sits low on the water
  • Take a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch
  • Attach reflective tape to your vessel and paddles to increase visibility
  • Display some identification on your vessel. Your car registration or a telephone number are good examples. This may assist with identifying who you are, in the event you become separated from your vessel.

Recommended extra safety gear

While not required by law, we strongly recommend all 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.

Image of a man using a paddle float

Personal locator beacon

We recommend all paddlers carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) with GPS so you can raise the alarm and be quickly found in an emergency.

PLBs work best attached to your lifejacket, so they can be kept upright and out of the water if you fall in.

Note that an EPIRB is required when more than 2nm from shore. A PLB does not meet this requirement.

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 kayaking safely and make the most of your time on the water.

Don’t wear any cotton clothing when kayaking, not even jocks or socks. Wet cotton doesn't dry, and remains cold and heavy.

Choose clothing that will:

  • stay warm when wet and dry quickly
  • block wind, sun, rain and sea spray
  • protect from rocks, barnacles, oysters, sandflies and mosquitoes
  • is highly visible and reflective, so you can be seen by others, 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

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