Kayaking Information

Kayaking & Canoeing information

This information has been prepared by Newcastle Bushwalking Club (NBC) to provide participants with some general information about safe canoeing. Safe canoeing skills are acquired over a period of time through a combination of experience, instruction and personal research.

  • There are risks associated with canoeing that you should consider and address to your satisfaction before deciding to participate.

  • It is the responsibility of each participant to ensure that they are adequately prepared for each trip.

  • All participants must have signed an Acknowlegement of Risk and Obligations prior to commencing club canoe trips (Note members of the club have done this as part of their online application or renewal).

Purchasers of Kayaks, Sit On Tops or Canoe

  1. Seek advice from experienced paddlers, in the club and on-line forums, about which craft to purchase.

  2. Minimum standard for craft: positive buoyancy, fitted with end loops, fitted with deck ropes, high visibility colour, equipped with bailer and sponge and/or bilge pump, and a paddle leash.

  3. Don't expect your craft to be suitable for all potential activities. Kayaks and canoes can be quite specialised.

The Trip Leader

  1. Prior to a club paddle, the leader will hold a Pre Activity Briefing (PAB). At the PAB the leader will explain the trip prospectus, the Activity Risk Assessment, participant responsibilities (this form) and contingency plans.

  2. For a multi-day trip, the trip leader will hold a preliminary meeting and/or organise an activity day (which will include the preliminary meeting). This activity should include a dry run of packing the boats and erecting tents etc to ensure that all required items are present.

  3. At the PAB, the leader will outline the trip prospectus, participant’s responsibilities, assess prospective participant’s competencies and capabilities, discuss the Activity Risk Assessment and determine potential participants ability to undertake the trip. The trip leader will encourage input and feedback from participants.

  4. To get potential participants up to the required standard, the trip leader may decide to hold additional training days.

  5. The leader may limit the number of participants.

  6. All trips shall have at least one qualified first aider.

  7. The leader should not allow persons to participate beyond their proven ability, nor allow inappropriate craft to start.

  8. The leader must review the NBC document "Canoeing – Risk Register ", and update the document to include any additional risks that may be identified for their trip but not covered by the document.

  9. The leader must ensure that every participant understands the Acknowledgement of Risk and Obligations.

  10. The leader ensures that every participant, while on the water, wears an appropriate Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with a whistle attached. Depending on the activity, this will be a Type 2 or 3. Type 1 may be prescribed for Ocean paddles.

  11. Inflatable PFD’s are NOT to be used on rivers where rapids, greater than Category 1, or submerged objects are expected.

  12. The leader may nominate the functions of other group members and the group formation on the water.

  13. The leader keeps the group together, especially when crossing open water. The leader may delegate stronger paddlers to act as a tail and initial rescue responders.

  14. The leader must know the range of predicted weather conditions which may occur and their influence on the water conditions and the precautions that should be taken if conditions deteriorate.

  15. The leader must postpone the trip if predicted weather conditions are extreme ie heat, cold, wind, electric storms etc.

  16. The leader pre-arranges regular rest breaks.

  17. If visual contact is lost with a paddler then the leader shall call for a break to regroup.

  18. The leader has a first aid kit, a tow line, Personal Location Beacon (PLB), flares (if required) and mobile phone and knows how to use them.

  19. The trip leader has a written contingency plan that covers all foreseeable events.

  20. If the Trip leader alters, cancels or stops the trip because of safety concerns, their decision is final.

  21. Prior to the trip, the leader shall have the contact details of participants, and a completed Float Plan and risk Assessment left with an NBC committee member.

The Paddler

  1. Must be able to swim and be confident in deep water, in their paddling clothing.

  2. Always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with a whistle attached, (either Type 2 or 3). This must be worn correctly at all times.

  3. Keep with the group or in pairs - but within sight of the group.

  4. Be honest with yourself about your ability. Paddling a canoe on quiet water doesn’t qualify you for more difficult trips or conditions. Start with an easy trip and work your way up to more demanding expeditions. Loaded kayaks / canoes respond differently to empty ones.

  5. Explain to the trip leader any medical conditions that you feel may affect the trip.

  6. The waters of rivers, lakes and oceans are all very different, they demand knowledge and skill. Develop your paddling incrementally, preferably with people more skilled than yourself. Ideally keep a log of trips and training.

  7. Beware of cold water and weather extremes. Swimming ability and PFD's cannot counteract for long the effects of very cold water. Wetsuits may sometimes be essential for safety.

  8. Be equipped for the conditions that could occur. Secure your spectacles, have appropriate footwear, allow for protection against the sun, wind, and rain. Carry spare glasses, hats and other essential equipment or required medications.

  9. Learn how to capsize, wet exit, rescue yourself and others, towing kayaks/canoes and learn first aid, so that you are prepared for an emergency.

  10. Before seeking to undertake a club trip, enquire about:

· the leader

· The trip itself, meeting places, paddling distance, expected duration, river/lake/ocean, expected weather, etc. If it is a multi-day trip, campsites, transport, food and water quality and availability etc.

· Trip cancellation procedures.

· If you are interested, give the leader a frank assessment of your skill and experience and your full cooperation.

11. If prospective participants of multi-day trips are unable to attend the planning days, it is their responsibility to organise another meeting with the trip leader.

12. Sign the Acknowledgement of Risks and Obligations before departure

13. Signing the Acknowledgement of Risks and Obligations also implies understanding and acceptance of the risk assessment and the participant's responsibilities

14. Carry a first aid kit (refer NBC web site) and tow rope.

15. To reduce the risk of hypothermia, carry a towel and dry set of clothing.


  1. Ensure you have the right craft for the trip! Discuss with the trip leader.

  2. Test new and unfamiliar equipment before undertaking a club trip. This includes alterations to gear.

  3. The craft must be in good condition before starting a trip.

  4. The craft, when filled with water, must be able to support its crew and sodden gear in deep water. Use expanded plastics or buoyancy bags or sealed air tight compartments.

  5. Use spray covers whenever there is any possibility that water may come into the craft in quantity. The cover release must be immediate and function perfectly.

  6. However, do not use spray skirts unless you can repeatedly wet exit while wearing one.

  7. Carry appropriate repair equipment, torch, map, compass and survival kit on wilderness trips leave a plan of your trip with a responsible person and an expected time of arrival at your destination.

On Rivers

  1. Each participant should be aware of group plans, formations, the general nature of the river ahead, the location of any special gear and the signals to be used.

  2. The lead boat crew scouts all doubtful parts of the river, sets the course, and is never passed.

  3. Do not enter a rapid until it is obvious that the previous boat has exited the rapid.

  4. The rear boats are equipped and trained for rescue.

  5. Each craft has a responsibility to the craft behind. Do not lose visual contact with it

  6. Pass on signals, point out obstacles and try to prevent your errors being repeated.

  7. The party needs to be compact. Large formations should sub-divide into independent groups with an overall plan. If sub-groups are formed they should organise regular rendezvous to pass on any relevant information.

On Lakes

  1. Do not travel beyond a comfortable distance from shore under the worst conditions possible.

  2. Know the weather range. Have a current forecast. Conditions can change within minutes. Beware of off-shore winds

  3. Have a sound knowledge of the effects of tides.

  4. Formation positions should be nominated to prevent craft from being dangerously dispersed.

  5. Open water crossings shall only be attempted as a compact group.

  6. Paddlers, prior to an activity, should practice wet exits and team rescue drill so that a capsized craft can be righted, emptied and the crew re-embark.

In the Event of a Capsize

  1. Keep calm but very much alert.

  2. If worn, release your spray skirt and exit your craft. Move to and stay on the upstream side of your craft.

  3. If necessary assist your partner (in the case of pairs).

  4. Follow your rescuers' instructions.

  5. Leave your craft only if this improves your safety. If rescue is not close at hand and the water is dangerously cold or worse rapids follow, then swim in the appropriate direction for the nearest point of personal safety. The loss of the finest craft is not worth even the risk of personal safety.

  6. If swept into a rapid, exit the craft and float feet first on your back. Try to keep your craft downstream of yourself. If this is not possible try to keep aware of the position of your craft. Keep your head clear of the water for good visibility

  7. As a Rescuer - Go after the crew. The craft and equipment can wait until the crew and you are safe.