Canoeing and Kayaking (Paddling)

Whether you’re paddling quietly on a smooth, crystal-clear lake or navigating heart-thumping rapids, canoeing and kayaking really make you feel alive.

One blade or two, paddling is a healthy way to make the most of Victoria’s magnificent waterways. You’ll improve your aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility without too much wear and tear on your joints.


Basic canoeing in a small dam or lake can usually be treated as a swimming activity, to be run by a Section Leader. It’ll need to be an enclosed area of water which is flat and unmoving. Plus all the normal swimming rules for Scouts apply, and the designated lifeguard must be able to reach participants without a rescue craft.

All other Canoe/Kayak Activities must be supervised or generally overseen by appropriately qualified Activity Leaders.

Here’s where the Canoe and Kayak team comes in. They can help with ‘come and try’ days or longer trips. And they can help Leaders with the training and assessment they’ll need to run these adventurous activities.

For more information on what you can do, check out our informative What am I allowed to do? information sheet.

Minimum Requirements – State Policy

While on the water, all participants must wear:

  • An appropriate personal flotation device, and
  • Suitable, enclosed footwear, and
  • An appropriate canoeing helmet*.

(* For flat water canoeing, the helmet requirement may be waived at the discretion of the Activity Leader in charge. For moving water, appropriate helmets are mandatory.)

All participants in all Canoe and Kayak courses must be able to swim 50 metres. 

Canoe and Kayak Courses

Scout Standard courses are conducted throughout the year in many and various locations. These courses are prerequisite to the higher level courses which are available as scheduled.

To find a Canoe or Kayak course, click the find a course button below and use the search courses function to find 'Canoe' or 'Kayak' as the course name. This is also where you can register for these courses.

Find a Course or Register

Boat inspections

Before the activity commences, the Leader in Charge must inspect all Canoes/Kayaks to ensure they comply with the safety requirements. Each craft must:

  • Have a permanent unique identifying name or number on its hull
  • Have sufficient secured positive buoyancy to keep the fully loaded canoe, its equipment and crew afloat when swamped to the gunwales. Foam buoyancy is recommended.
  • Have well-secured handholds at bow and stern, no more than 30cm from the end of the boat. These may take the form of loops of rope not less than 6mm, although thicker rope is desirable. The loop should be large enough to accommodate four fingers, but not so large as to allow the whole hand to pass through and become trapped. Toggles (about 10mm long and 15-20mm in diameter) are an alternative. Metal handles attached by screws are not acceptable. The use of painters is not recommended, but if they are used they must be quickly detachable (e.g. fitted with a karabiner) and stowed securely in the boat, preferably in a stuff bag. Painters do not negate the need for proper handholds.
  • Be of sound, strong and water tight construction in good condition, with no sharp edges or protrusions
  • Have paddles of proper size, shape and design, in good condition
  • Be equipped with bailers. If the bailers are tied in, lanyards should be as short as possible. A sponge is a suitable   replacement
  • Have a suitable approved Life Jacket (PFD) in a sound, undamaged condition for each crew member
  • Have footrests to prevent the paddler from sliding forward and becoming trapped. Canoes must have adjustable footrests fitted for the stern paddler. Kayaks must have adjustable footrests fitted.
  • Allow easy egress for the paddler in the cockpit (and spray deck if used), whether the craft is upright or capsized

Emergency repairs carried out to complete a trip or activities are to be made good before the canoe or kayak is used again.

Safety Equipment – for Canoe/Kayak activities

The following items should be carried with each group:

  1. First Aid Kit
  2. Throw bags (or line) 15 to 20m length (each leader)
  3. Repair Kit
  4. Spare Paddles
  5. Whistle, Map and Compass
  6. Leaders may choose to wear (or fit to boat) individual towlines with carabiner and quick release device
  7. Spare Clothing
  8. Bivvy Bag and Synthetic full zip sleeping bag for hypothermia treatment

NOTE: Items 1, 7, & 8 should be carried in a waterproof container unless on the bank near the activity.

Flat Water Rafting

Here’s a terrific way to combine construction skills and water activities. Get your group to build its own raft with drums, poles and lashing ropes. Or try something creative like milk cartons. (Avoid polystyrene foam or any hazard to wildlife and environment.)

Stay in calm, flat water and apply the same safety requirements as canoe/kayak activities. The rafts mustn’t venture more than 50 metres from waist deep water for the smallest crew member. Leaders need to watch for changing conditions, and an appropriate rescue craft must be on hand. 

Each activity must be under the control of a Leader who holds a C2 or K1 craft proficiency as a minimum. The State Canoeing Team can help arrange a qualified Leader.

Tyre Tube/Air Mattresses

Whatever floats your boat, make sure you take any extra safety steps to avoid sinking!

All of the normal rules for canoes/kayaks will apply if you plan a day on the water with tyre tubes or mattresses. The valve on any inflatable device must be firmly taped to the craft with strong, waterproof tape, so it’s completely covered and doesn’t protrude. 

Each activity must be under the control of a Leader who holds a C2 or K1 craft proficiency as a minimum. The State Canoeing Team can help arrange a qualified Leader.


State Leader - Canoe and Kayak

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