Sea Kayak Safely this Summer

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Press release

December 2020

Kayaks, dinghies and rafts can be fantastic tools for exploring New Zealand’s beautiful coastlines – or for catching kai moana (seafood) – and Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) is keen to ensure Kiwis can enjoy these craft safely over the summer.

“Our number one priority is ensuring that Kiwis make it home safe after a day at the beach,” says SLSNZ Chief Executive, Paul Dalton.

Paul says volunteer Surf Lifeguards conducted 577 rescues last season, and a number of these involved people who were participating in watercraft activities such as sea kayaking, surfing or SUPing.

As part of the charity’s Ready. Set. Summer campaign, SLSNZ is teaming up with water safety experts across a range of popular beach activities to share vital safety messages.

Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers (KASK) President, Shaun Maclaren, says there are several key measures that sea kayakers, as well as people using dinghies and rafts, should take when heading out for a day on the water.

“It’s vital to wear a lifejacket or PFD (personal floatation device) every time you head out on the water, even if you’re an experienced swimmer,” he says.

“You’ll need two forms of waterproof communication too, such as a hand-held VHF radio, a PLB (personal locator beacon) or a cell phone in a waterproof lanyard bag.”

Shaun also stresses that inflatable craft are not suitable for the surf.

“To paddle in the surf, your craft must be sturdy. Inflatable kayaks can be easily blown out to sea and there have even been cases where inflatable craft folded in half under a wave.”

Shaun says it’s important to check the forecast before heading out on the water – while the sea can look calm and inviting when you arrive, conditions can change rapidly.

Before heading to the beach, Shaun recommends that paddlers check:

  • The weather forecast
  • Wind strength and direction (now and forecast)
  • Tide height and flow if they are on the coast
  • Water temperature.

“To be safe on the water, you need to match your skill level with the conditions.”

If you’re new to using sea kayaks or other light watercraft, KASK recommends heading out with an experienced friend or family member to begin with – or, better yet, sign up for an accredited course.

Even if you’re paddling with others – which is always safest – ensure someone on shore knows you’re on the water, where you’re going, how long you’ll be and when you’ve arrived back.

KASK recommends people going out on the water in any craft should either inform Coastguard using their Log a Trip app, or someone close to them of their trip plans.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s National Coastal Safety Manager, Dr Mick Kearney, says KASK are experts when it comes to sea kayaking and following their advice is key to a safe day out on the water. 

“If you do find yourself in trouble on the water, stay with your vessel. If you’ve ignored KASK’s advice and don’t have means to communicate with emergency services on shore, put your hand up to signal for help. No matter what, do not try to swim to shore.”

Both KASK & SLSNZ recommend visiting the Safer Boating Forum website for detailed advice on how to stay safe while enjoying watercraft activities this summer.



SLSNZ is the national association representing 74 surf lifesaving clubs with 18,000+ members, including more than 4,500 volunteer Surf Lifeguards. Our lifeguards patrol over 90 locations each summer and provide emergency call-out rescue services throughout Aotearoa, saving hundreds of lives each year and ensuring thousands return home safe after a day at the beach.

We do all this as a charity and rely on the generosity of the public, commercial partners, foundations and trusts for donations and financial contributions in order to lead and support our incredible front-line volunteer lifeguarding services.

For more information, please contact:

Mackenzie Koppel
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving NZ
021 757 433