Kayak, Canoe, Raft and SUP Safety and Rescue Equipment

The key to safety in paddlesports, whether kayak, canoe, raft or SUP, is understanding: 

  • Weather Interpretation
  • Clothing
  • Basic Skills and Strokes
  • Self and Assisted rescues
  • Safety Equipment - everyday gear you should be carrying -  have it accessible and know how to use it
  • Rescue Kits - essential whitewater gear for your canoe/kayak/packraft trip or rafting trip.

You should also let someone know where you are going and when you are expected back - "Let someone know before you go"

Safety equipment For Human-Powered Vessels

When operating canoes, kayaks, row boats, surf skis and stand up paddle boards it is mandatory to carry the minimum safety equipment. Details of what safety equipment you need to can be found on the Minimum Safety Equipment section of this website. Note that this is a minimum legal requirement for Victorian waters - other states have different requirements. We also recommend carrying some additional safety gear.

All safety equipment carried onboard must be:

  • placed or located in a conspicuous and readily accessible position at all times
  • kept in good order at all times
  • maintained or serviced in a way that ensures it can be operated at all times in the way that it was designed to operate
  • serviced on or before the date specified by the manufacturer.

Make sure you are visible

As many human powered craft sit low in the water, other boats may not see you. At all times you must ensure you:

  • obey the rules of the waterway that you are operating on, be vigilant about your route and avoid shipping lanes
  • fit your Personal Floatation Device (PFD) with reflective tape and wear bright coloured clothing . It is also wise to add reflective tape to your kayak and paddle.
  • at night, carry a white light easily visible to approaching vessels. Ideally this is a light on a pole that is behind and above your head. It can be mounted on the kayak or the back of your PFD.
  • stay with your boat if you fall out. A kayak or paddle board is a lot easier to spot than a swimmer.

How many people can I carry?

If the vessel is a decked canoe or kayak or is otherwise fitted with individual cockpits, the number of persons carried on the vessel must not exceed the number of individual cockpits in the vessel, irrespective of the age of the person.  (Source: Maritime Safety Victoria).

Do I need a Licence?

In Victoria you are required to hold a recreational boat operator licence and register your vessel with VicRoads if the vessel is fitted with a means of propulsion (regardless of engine size). For more information see Marine Licensing. This currently includes small battery-operated motors utilised on some fishing kayaks.

Your kayak, canoe or paddle board does not need to registered, but you should identify your craft in case it is found "abandoned" (even if that's just you leaving it on the shore to get a coffee!). Write your name and mobile number somewhere prominent on your boat so you can be contacted if it is found apparently alone.