Paddle craft

Find out how to paddle safe including safety equipment and tips, visibility, navigation lights, registration and preparing for your voyage.

  What is a paddle craft?

Recreational canoes, kayaks, surf skis, inflatables or similar paddle craft that are propelled by a person using a paddle who is on or in the craft must comply with WA marine laws*.

* WA marine laws do not apply to surfboards and stand up paddle boards.

  Safety equipment and tips

Paddle Craft safety guide
Paddle Craft safety guide

Like other vessels, paddle craft are required to carry safety equipment in accordance with the WA marine laws. Ensure safety equipment is in good working condition and is easily accessible.

Familiarise yourself and others on board with the location and operation of safety equipment.

Identify the safety equipment items that have an expiry date and record them on a Department of Transport Don't Expire sticker. Safety gear with an expiry date include distress flares, EPIRBs/PLBs and inflatable lifejackets.

Although operators of paddle craft without an engine are not required to hold a Recreational Skippers Ticket (RST), they are still considered to be a vessel master.

As with all vessel masters, they are deemed by law to be responsible for the safety of their vessel and any crew or passengers, this includes obeying the collision regulations that apply to all vessels.

The Paddle Safe brochure promotes safe paddling rules and guidelines that apply to these craft and will assist you being safer on the water.

Two people, wearing lifejackets, paddling a canoe in the ocean
Two people, wearing lifejackets, paddling a canoe in the ocean


It is a requirement that lifejackets are carried on the paddle craft when operating more than 400 metres offshore in unprotected waters. This lifejacket can be a Type 1, 2 or 3 (level 50S or higher). It is strongly recommended that an approved lifejacket is worn at all times when operating a paddle craft.

Find out more about lifejackets.

Visibility and Navigation lights

It is important to be clearly visible while on the water.

During the hours of sunset and sunrise, paddle craft operating on navigable waters must carry a torch or lantern capable of showing white light. This item must be ready for use and shall be shown in sufficient time to prevent a collision.

It is recommended that an all-round white light is displayed at all times when operating during the hours of sunset and sunrise on navigable waters.

Find out more about navigation lights.

Paddle craft are generally smaller than other vessels and sit lower in the water, making it difficult to be seen. Conflict between paddle craft and other vessels may occur in confined or busy navigable waters and care must be taken when operating near other vessels or crossing channels.


  • Dress brightly (preferably high visibility).
  • Paddle in tight formation when travelling with other paddlers.
  • Keep a proper lookout.
  • Stay close to shore.
  • Keep to the starboard (right hand) side of a channel.

  Voyage preparation

Familiarise yourself with the area you intend to paddle prior to commencing a voyage. This may include reviewing the local chart or Boating Guide and becoming aware of potential hazards in the area.

Prior to departing:

  • Check the latest weather update and tide information and plan your trip accordingly.
  • Check all your safety equipment is present in date and in working order.
  • Check the paddle craft is seaworthy and in working order.
  • Check any equipment is correctly stored to assist stability.

Always tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return.

If conducting an extended offshore voyage, consider travelling with another paddle craft or support craft and logging on and off with the local volunteer marine rescue group.

  Registration of paddle craft

Any paddle craft that has a motor including an electric motor, or is fitted for one must be registered, regardless of the size of that motor.

  Swift water paddling

The term 'swift water' or 'white water' is used to describe the state of a river after heavy rains or a dam release.

In WA, this flood state doesn't occur very often and a sudden deluge can often carry fallen trees and branches with it, causing dangerous obstacles to form. Existing foliage growth and rocks can form additional obstacles. Together with fast, turbulent water waves, rapids and eddies form in the river that are exciting and challenge even experienced paddlers.

The Swift Water paddling brochure below promotes safe paddling practices and provides guidelines to foster safety in a swift water environment.

Image of men in kayak

Page last updated: Thu Jul 4 2019 8:48:55 AM