Whilst we love the open water the thrill and excitement it brings, it can also been a challenging and dangerous place if we get into trouble and aren’t prepared.

For the 20 Beaches Ocean Classic we will be doing our utmost to make the race a safe and enjoyable experience.

However you are responsible for your safety on the water, whilst paddling buddies, emergency services and race organisers etc are there to assist, it is you who has the most influence on how a potentially dangerous situation can be speedily and safely resolved.

The following provides suggestions, tools and tips to assist you with your water safety. 

Your trip

  • Inform at least one land based person of your paddling plans – course, timing, weather, numbers paddling. Establish an escalation plan with this person if they have not heard from you by a certain time.

  • Carry a phone, whilst it maybe tricky to use this on the water, it is a valuable tool (more about this later), ensure you have the mobile numbers of all your paddling group

  • Ensure all your equipment is in good working order and well maintained

Safety Equipment

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – A Level 50S or greater PFD must be worn at all times in open water.


A Level 50S lifejacket must conform to at least one of the following standards:

AS 4758 – Level 50S

AS 2260-1996, Personal flotation devices - Type 3 (or any previous version of that standard)

ISO 12402-5: 2006 - Buoyancy aids (level 50)

EN 393-1993 Lifejackets 50N

AS 4758 – Level 50

AS 1499-1996, Personal flotation devices - Type 2 (or any previous version of that standard)

ISO 12402-5: 2006 - Buoyancy aids (level 50)

EN 393-1993 Lifejackets 50N

Whistle – a great addition for all PFDs, pea-less safety whistle - Click here for an example

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Flares and Laser Flares – To alert passers-by and to assist with location. Flares are handy, it is advisable to carry two flares, one to alert and one for location. They are bulky though and can be difficult to deploy. They also have an expiry. There is something else worth considering a laser flare – handy, long lasting. They have up to 40 hours of life and are visible for up to 4.8km during the day and 32 km at night

Here is an example of a laser flare (this is available at Whitworths) - Click here

Emergency position beacons – Using GPS tracking, these are most effective way to summon the emergency services to your position should you require rescuing.

EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon)

PLB (Personal Location Beacon)

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More information from Australian Maritime Safety Authority - Click here

Available online or from Whitworths - Click here

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Spot Gen3 – This is a great tool, it acts as a PLB as well as giving you the option to summon assistance from your own list of emergency contacts (a little pricey, but if gets you out of dangerous situation, well worthwhile) - More info


The Emergency positioning beacons and the Spot Gen3 (listed) work with GPS and satellite technology so will operate where a mobile phone won’t. They provide the best options and are recommended.

The following suggestions and the apps listed below all require a mobile phone connection of one type or other. This offers some cheaper alternatives and should work in most paddling environments as the Telstra network will work offshore. However Telstra make the following disclaimer

Telstra's network can typically extend 20 to 70 km out to sea from mobile base stations located near the coast. However, there are many factors such as the weather, tides, sea conditions and your antenna installation (type and height above sea level) that can significantly influence coverage, data speed and performance. 

As a result, you must not rely on the Telstra Mobile Network as a primary method of communication at sea. 

In order for a service at sea to work effectively, line of sight to the terrestrial base station is required. This is influenced by the height of the serving base station, land based obstructions and the general topography of the land, which can block signals. Coverage will not be reliable over the horizon from a mobile base station even though it may be usable at times.

If you intend to rely on any of the following as a safety tool please test them thoroughly so you are aware of their capabilities and potential limitations.

Mobile Phone – It is advisable to carry a mobile phone with you whilst paddling. Most smart phones can withstand getting wet so a smart phone in a waterproof pouch is a great addition.

The mobile phone can be used as a tracking device as well as for communication.

It can be difficult to operate a smart phone if you find yourself in the water. An alternative is a waterproof push button mobile phone, this can be purchased for under $50. Check out this link - Push button phone

Apps, Widgets and Features

There are apps, widgets and phone features that assist with making emergency calls.

iphone – Emergency SOS – Pressing the power button 5 times, triggers the Emergency SOS feature. To set this up on your phone - More info

Samsung SOS Messages – Pressing the power button 3 times sends an alert to your emergency contacts. To set this up on your phone - More info

Google does not natively include an SOS feature in the Android operating system, but you can add the feature with a third-party apps: 

Shake2Alert: This app allows you to send an alert message with location and audio/video to emergency contacts by shaking your phone. It also has a few helpful features such as automatically letting your emergency contacts know that you’ve arrived at a destination safely.

SOS Emergency App: A Robust SOS app with a wide variety of SOS messaging features. Includes emergency services contact information for every country.

Tracking Apps – These apps can be very useful as they offer live tracking, so you can be tracked during your activity and they also emergency features


The ROAD iD App is a real-time GPS tracking and safety app that works well for paddlers. With the eCrumb Tracking, a Stationary Alert, and a custom Lock Screen creator, the ROAD iD App is worth checking out.

We like this app as it allows you provide details of your paddle and not only tracks you but sends a historical trail, so if you lose contact, your direction and last known position is available.


The new Coast Guard SafeTrx App monitors your boat journeys and alerts emergency contacts should you fail to return on time.

Coast Guard SafeTrx is a Smartphone App for both Android & Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) that allows you to have your journey recorded and monitored by the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard 24 hours per day, every day of the year.

Directly from your smartphone you can enter your journey details and set off knowing that should you not return by the time given, our response team will be alerted and initiate appropriate action.

These are three popular tracking apps that would work on the water, although we haven’t tested them on the water.

Glympse Express

Glympse Express enables you to quickly share a temporary link so others can see your location on a live map

Life 360

Family Locator simplifies life in the digital world by making it easy to stay connected to the people who matter most.

GeoFamily - GPS Tracking

The app enables you to recognise the location and state of your family or friend in an intuitive way and assist them in daily life or in emergency situations.