How to stay safe beyond festive season

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.

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