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Kayaking advice from instructor

17 October 2012

kayak kids Recreational kayaking for fun, exercise or fishing is one of the fastest growing recreation activities in Australia.

I am a kayak and canoe instructor and assessor with the Canoe SA Education and Technical Committee. Our job is to oversee the training and assessment of instructors.

I’m also a keen kayaker. Although a relatively safe activity, there is potential for an incident. Incidents are usually caused by lack of knowledge, incorrect equipment or poor weather.

These are the things I do to reduce risk, increase safety and improve my enjoyment:





- wear a properly fitting buoyancy vest at all times when on the water
- check your kayak, paddle and lifejacket (personal floatation device) is in good order before going out
- wear the right clothing for the conditions, and clothing that will keep you warm if you capsize or get wet
- always check the weather forecast. Consider cancelling if the wind is blowing strongly away from shore or there is a storm, change of wind direction or front approaching
- let someone know details before you go and of your safe return
- if you are going for a longer period of time take snacks, water and perhaps some extra clothes and personal first aid in a - water proof bag. A phone (in a water proof bag) is a good idea, and you can call 000/112 if you get into trouble
- take care lifting canoes and kayaks on to car roofs. Protect your back and reduce the chance of damage by using two people
- secure your kayak well with tie down straps or similar

On the water

- kayaking in a group is generally safer than kayaking on your own
- keep clear of hazards such as other boats, reefs, pipe outflows, turbulent or swift-flowing water
- do not throw away plastic wrappers for bait or other litter into any waterway
- learn how to control your craft and rescue it should it capsize in sheltered and protected conditions first. It is a good idea to undertake some skills and knowledge training with a qualified instructor
- take a bailer if it is not a sit on or self draining configuration
- take a buoyant, waterproof torch after sunset.

Recreational kayaking is a good foundation for other paddling activities including sea kayaking, sprint, marathon, canoe polo, Stand-up paddle boards and others.

If you would like more information about kayaking and canoeing education, sport or events go to the Canoe SA website at or, or phone 08 8240 3294.

Additional safety information is available at the Kayaking and canoe page of

Safe kayaking,
Scott Polley