Waka Ama : Personal & Equipment Safety

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  • Gain Achievement - Student can describe safety issues relevant to paddling.
  • Gain Merit - Student can describe safety issues relevant to paddling and can verbally demonstrate safety checks prior to paddling. Student can capsize and reenter the waka with assistance.
  • Gain Excellence - Student can describe safety issues relevant to paddling and can verbally demonstrate safety checks prior to paddling. Student can capsize and reenter the waka without assistance.

As the sport of Waka Ama expands, there is a need for appropriate safety systems and procedures to be developed and nurtured, by coaches, clubs and experienced paddlers.  All new paddlers entering the sport must be made aware of the risks and be provided with the skills needed to avoid unnecessary risk situations or, in the event of an incident occurring, have the knowledge to deal with it appropriately.

In short, it is essential that the risks to both paddlers and other water users are minimised through the adoption of a code of safe practice for Waka Ama. By implementing safety procedures, the highest level of safe, responsible practice can be said to have been put in place, thereby minimising risk to all concerned both on and off the water. Taking the 'safe' option is not to suggest we wrap the sport in cotton wool and never push our equipment or ourselves, but simply that it is done within safe limitations .

It is important to stress from the outset that these are Safety Guidelines and not an actual Safe Operating Plan. It is envisaged that each club will develop its own personalised safety plans based on the Safety Guidelines, in accordance with the local conditions within which they operate.


  • Knowledge of swamping, capsizing safety procedure
  • The ability to swim at least 50 metres
  • Must be able to work within confined space.
  • Must be patient and resilient to cope with any situation as a result of intense training.
  • Must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the water.
  • Knowledge of Water Safety awareness.
  • Lifesaving skills preferred.
  • You have advised another person of your voyage.
  • You are confident & competent paddler to venture out to ocean.
  • You must wear a life jacket throughout your voyage if you cannot swim.
  • It is strongly recommended that all Junior 16/19 paddlers wear a life jacket when voyaging out to sea.
  • Also refer to Waka Ama Safety Guidelines by Maritime NZ in association with Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa, [www.stayontop.org.nz]


  1. All paddlers should successfully complete a safety workshop provided by their club.
  2. All paddlers should complete any Ocean Safety Form their club may have prior to voyage
  3. A full waka & equipment check prior to the voyage. 
  4. All paddlers are confident to tick all the guidelines.

Equipment Check includes

  • Suitable clothing for the weather
  • Life jacket
  • Snack Food
  • Bungs
  • Spare paddle
  • Water or sports drink (if over 1 hour)
  • Bailer
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When a Waka Capsizes

Waka leaders/Kaihautu must ensure at all times that there are sufficient crew members who are capable of taking charge of the situation in the event of the Waka swamping, rolling or capsizing.

In a swamp situation

  • Do not move from your position
  • Hold your hoe in tapäpa position
  • Do not lean or shift weight
  • Wait & listen for Kaihautu's commands

In a roll /capsizing situation

  • Do not let go of your hoe
  • Take hold of the Waka and use for extra buoyancy
  • Check to see where your partner is and if they're alright
  • Use your hoe to help others reach the Waka
  • Carry out a Roll call
  • Initiate Roll/capsize procedures

Righting Waka Ama   Capsize - Ka huri te Waka

  1. First and foremost Count heads - Kaihautu take control and have each paddler count off. If you come up one number short, start searching under the Waka.
  2. Everyone should have a job to do.
    • One person collect hoe (paddles), before they drift away.
    • Get two strongest paddlers to stand on the outer ends of the Kiato and reach over the hull grabbing onto the gunnels or Kiato and lift, at the same time another person pushes the ama up as the hull is being turned
  3. If done quickly enough the amount of water that fills the Waka can be minimised. Have someone ready with a bailing bucket to start bailing and steers person to quickly align waka against the swell.
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  • A big bucket will cut down bailing time - two will make the Waka drier faster
  • A length of rubber inner tube can repair any loosened rigging, a broken Kiato or ama and tie paddles together
  • Repair faulty flotation tanks, loose or worn rigging, weak or broken kiato or ama, jagged edges or bolts before reusing waka.

Waka ama safety guidelines (n.d.)[1] has been used to develop this page.

Icon Reference.png References

  1. Maritime New Zealand. (n.d.). Waka ama safety guidelines. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from http://www.wri.net.nz/docs/wakaama_safety_guidelines.pdf

NZ/NCEA/Level2/PhysicalEducation/WakaAma/Safety. (2024). In WikiEducator. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from https://wikieducator.org/NZ/NCEA/Level2/PhysicalEducation/WakaAma/Safety    (zotero)