How to stay safe beyond the festive season

20 December 2022

You’ve got a shiny new kayak or paddleboard for Christmas. Maybe your back pocket is stuffed with Chrissie cash or vouchers and you are eyeing up that jetski...

But if you want your enjoyment of hitting the water, and maybe even your life, to last longer than the festive-season sales, then there are some things to consider.

The water can look calm and inviting but it can sometimes be dangerous and deadly, says Matt Wood, Maritime NZ’s Principal Advisor, Recreational Craft.

Twenty-two people died in New Zealand’s waters in 2021, in incidents involving a variety of recreational craft; Summer and Spring were the most dangerous seasons, accounting for 16 deaths, and there were fatalities involving kayaks and jetskis.

Tragically, 10 of those 22 were not wearing lifejackets, despite those being available on their craft.

One of your gifts under the tree this year might be a stand-up paddleboard.

It’s a popular, fast-growing water activity, and one that appears pretty safe.

But looks can be deceiving, says Bill Dawes, of NZ Stand Up Paddling.

“The biggest risk with stand-up paddling is that people don't even appreciate that there is a risk,” he says. “But every year, paddleboarders get into trouble, get rescued, and sometimes there isn't a happy ending.”

Anyone looking to head out with their new paddleboard should consider other items to ensure they return safely.

“Every paddleboarder needs a personal flotation device,” says Bill Dawes. “Even more importantly, a leash appropriate to the conditions should always be worn.”

Also, he suggests novices start on flat, calm water, avoiding areas with fast-moving currents.

People can go to for information about the correct equipment and various courses.

And they can go to Consumer’s online product reviews to check out how to spend that Xmas cash and vouchers on the best and most appropriate safety equipment.

Consumer Cover

Maritime NZ and the Safer Boating Forum teamed up with Consumer magazine to organise rigorous, independent reviews of lifejackets and beacons, including advice on what is appropriate and where, and how they have saved lives.

It’s essential reading for anyone looking to hit the water this Summer, says Matt Wood.

That reading should also include general safer boating knowledge, Coastguard boating courses, and “activity-specific knowledge for the actual craft you have, whether it is a kayak, SUP, jetski or power boat”, he says.

Beyond that, people need to wear a life jacket that is the right size and type, take two waterproof ways to call for help and check the marine weather.

“If you have purchased a new boat, SUP, kayak or anything for the water, make sure you have also purchased the correct number of fitted lifejackets and have enough forms of communication.

“It’s a big part of kia mataara, our behaviour change programme – know the ways of the water before you let go of the land.

“We want you to have fun, but return home safely.”

People can find more information at

Follow us News feed

Call the MNZ media line