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Kayaking and paddleboarding

The Bay of Plenty is a paddling paradise so here are some simple tips to keep you safe when you head out on the water.


  • Equipment: you MUST carry a correctly fitting lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD). We recommend you wear one at all times.
  • Make sure you have at least one form of waterproof communication, like a cell phone in a waterproof bag or a VHF radio.
  • Wear suitable warm clothing.
  • Carry a bailer or pump.
  • Check the weather and tides before heading out.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • Kayak with mates.
  • Be visible. Sticking reflective day glow or high visibility tape to your paddle blades is a good idea.
  • Know your limitations.
  • Talk to a local if you’re paddling in a new area - contact your local canoe/kayak retailer or local Coastguard unit.
  • Make sure your kayak is clearly marked with emergency contact details.

Whitewater kayaking on the Kaituna

If you are considering kayaking on the Kaituna River, please note that all vessels (including kayaks) are prohibited in the section named Pari Tūkino (commonly known as Gnarly gorge) from 1 May 2019 for six months to allow time for options to be explored for improving safety in the area. You can read more about the background to this decision and the Harbourmaster's direction.


  • Check the weather. It’s vital to know what the wind is forecast to do during your paddleboarding adventure.
  • Check the tides so you know what to expect during your time out on the water.
  • Avoid offshore winds. These are the ones that blow you away from the shore. Plan your trip and launching site with this in mind.
  • Paddle with a mate. It’s more fun and safer with a friend or in a group.
  • Carry at least one form of waterproof communications - this could be a VHF radio or cell phone in a waterproof bag.
  • Learning. Take a lesson from a professional paddleboard instructor to learn good techniques early and gain maximum enjoyment from this sport.
  • Safety. Avoid areas where there are lots of other boats, strong currents and dangerous rocks. Don’t be afraid to adopt the ‘safe position’ (paddle from a kneeling position) to get back to the shore if you’re finding it too hard or unstable, or there is too much wind.
  • When paddleboarding on flat water you must carry a PFD and we recommend you wear it at all times. Your paddleboard is the biggest flotation device you have, so stay with it. Wear a leash when paddling on flat water.
  • Stand up paddle boards in the surf are exempt from carrying communications or carrying a PFD, as long as you are wearing a leash.
  • In fast flowing rivers it is recommended that you wear a PFD but do not wear your leash.

Paddling at night

Maritime rules require kayakers to carry a torch to prevent collision. However, holding a torch may prevent you from paddling effectively and therefore being seen! Wearing a head torch allows your arms to be free to paddle. Or, mounting an all-round white light on your rear deck above head-height means you will be visible from all directions.